Saudi student refuses to stand next to Israeli, but ends up ‘worse’
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Saudi student refuses to stand next to Israeli, but ends up ‘worse’

Medalist in International Chemistry Olympiad moves next to flag of arch-rival Iran, stoking jokes and discussions whether he made the right choice

Saudi student Badr al-Mulhim (2R) is seen folding his flag and preparing to move away as Israeli student Raz Lotan (R) comes on stage with an Israeli flag, at the 50th International Chemistry Olympiad in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, in a video that went online on July 29, 2018. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Saudi student Badr al-Mulhim (2R) is seen folding his flag and preparing to move away as Israeli student Raz Lotan (R) comes on stage with an Israeli flag, at the 50th International Chemistry Olympiad in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, in a video that went online on July 29, 2018. (Screenshot: Twitter)

A young Saudi student who won an international chemistry tournament has become a topic of social media discussions after he refused to stand next to an Israeli teenager waving the Jewish state’s flag — instead choosing to stand next to an Iranian flag-bearer.

Many commentators pointed out that Iran is hardly a better choice than Israel at this time. Saudi Arabia views Tehran as its enemy, with relations at a nadir and both regimes supporting rivaling sides in civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

Meanwhile, Riyadh’s relations with Israel have seemed to improve, with 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman saying in a magazine interview in April that Israelis as well as Palestinians “have the right to have their own land.”

In a widely shared video, Saudi student Badr al-Mulhim is seen waving the Saudi flag after winning a gold medal at the 50th International Chemistry Olympiad in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, which ended on Sunday.

But when Raz Lotan, an Israeli high school student from Tel Aviv who won a silver medal, is called to the stage holding an Israeli flag, Mulhim immediately moves to the far side of the stage, and ends up beside an Iranian student.

The incident quickly became the subject of social media jokes, with London-based journalist and analyst Mohammed Alyahya commenting on Twitter, “This Saudi student is between a rock and a hard place.”

Responses to the tweet were mixed. One user wrote: “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.”

But another user responded by writing that Tehran was worse than Jerusalem: “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.”

Many similar discussions were held among Saudi and Arab social media users, with some merely praising Mulhim for his “heroism” in refusing to stand next to the Israeli flag.

AFP contributed to this report.

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