A Saudi student made a provocative move when he refused to stand next to his Israeli counterpart during an awards ceremony at the 50th International Chemistry Olympiad in Slovakia and the Czech Republic Sunday.
In a video published online, a group of gold medal winners from several countries is seen standing on a stage, waving their national flags, with Badr Salman al-Mulhim, the Saudi student, standing on the far right. However, when the hosts summon the Israeli finalist on stage and he steps up to stand next to Mulhim, the Saudi immediately walks to the opposite end of the stage, landing next to Arshia Khadem, the Iranian finalist.
"This Saudi student is between a rock and a hard place," one tweet reads, referring to ongoing regional competition Riyadh engages in with both Tel Aviv and Tehran.
This Saudi student is between a rock and a hard place. 🤣 pic.twitter.com/FvVgL7sN7A— Mohammed Alyahya محمد اليحيا (@7yhy) 29 июля 2018 г.
Unsurprisingly, the move sparked fierce debate among those who took it more seriously.
How can you compare Iran and Israel? The kid had the right moral compass and the adults apparently don't! Shame on you for equating the two, no matter what we may think of Iranian foreign policy— Dr. Dana El Kurd (@danaelkurd) 29 июля 2018 г.
Arabic internet users supported the move, PressTV reports, quoting activists claiming saying the staging proves that Saudi people oppose Israel's conduct toward Palestinians. Others, however, argued that Iran was hardly a better choice for a neighbor.
Sorry but Iran has killed millions of people in Syria,Yemen and Iraq over the past decade they are worse than the current Israeli regime.— Khalila (@khalilaxa) 29 июля 2018 г.
Saudi Arabia is one of the main sponsors of the two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict, PressTV notes. While the Saudi kingdom has never before officially recognized any of Tel Aviv's rights to any land in the contested region, the state of things seems to be changing, as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in April acknowledged that both Palestinians and Israelis have equal rights to existence.
"I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land," Salman said in an interview to The Atlantic at the time.
There is an internationally recognized etiquette designed specifically to prevent similar issues when it comes to national flags. According to these rules, flags of different nations are usually displayed in alphabetical order from left to right.