Precinct 333

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Do Saudis Support Terrorism Against Israel?

Adel al-Jubeir is the official spokesman for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In that capacity, he recently addressed the issue of Saudi involvement in the war on terrorism. His response was interesting, though quite telling on one point.

Now, however, al-Jubeir wants Americans to believe that Saudi Arabia is remaking itself that what it has been is not what it will be. As he puts it, "The bottom line is that no Saudi citizen will be able to escape the clear message that intolerance, violence and extremism are not part of our Islamic faith, or of Saudi culture or traditions.”

Asked how Saudi Arabia defines terrorism, al-Jubeir said that the kingdom had adopted the UN’s formula, which defines terrorism as an act that causes victims among civilians, “anywhere.”

Sounds good, doesn't it? Saudi Arabia opposes terrorism, and rejects the notion that it is acceptable under the teachings of Islam. We should all celebrate and honor the Saudis as full partners in the war on terrorism, and those Saudis (including Osama and most of the 9/11 hijackers) were acting outside of the acceptable norms of Saudi religion, culture, and history.

And then came the ever so inconvenient question from an Israeli reporter from the Israeli business news website, Globes.

"Globes’" reporter, who identified himself as an Israeli journalist, wanted to hear how Saudi Arabia defines Palestinian organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other like them. Are these terrorist organizations? Does Saudi Arabia support them, and will it continue to do so? The reporter also asked whether the Saudi Arabian royal family would agree to diplomatic relations with Israel after implementation of the disengagement plan.

Without blinking, al-Jubeir answered, “Let’s wait a minute with that. Let’s finish with the subject of terrorism.” He turned to two other reporters, unexpectedly stopped the press conference, and quickly left the room. Several people, apparently employees of the Saudi Arabian embassy, physically blocked access to the retreating spokesperson. A group of Arab journalists began to shout, “What about the briefing in Arabic that you promised us?”, but al-Jubeir was already out of hearing.

In other words, al-Jubeir chose to cut and run rather than offer an answer that legitimized Israel or condemned the many acts of terrorism committed against it by Palestinian terrorist groups. He refused to say that the use of terrorism against Israel is "intolerance, violence and extremism [that] are not part of our Islamic faith, or of Saudi culture or traditions." One can only presume, then, that his original answer was a lie, and that terrorism is a part of Saudi tradition, culture, and religion -- at least if the victims are Jews. And if terrorism is acceptable against Israel, why should we believe his assurances that terrorism is unacceptable elsewhere. After all, al-Jubeir chose not to disclose the "Israeli exception" in his initial answer. Why should we presume that there is not also a "US exception" or a "Christian exception" to the Saudi condemnation of terrorism?

In any case, before his tactical retreat, al-Jubeir demonstrated amazing command of the art of spin. Imams giving poisonous sermons against the West? In the US, al-Jubeir says, the Ku Klux Klan delivers poisonous messages ostensibly based on the principles of Christianity. Would anybody say that the US is a racist country, or that Christianity spreads hatred? The Ku Klux Klan hijacked Christianity, and uses it for its own ends. Extremist Muslims in Saudi Arabia have hijacked Islam, and are using it for their own ends.

”We won’t let deviants distort our religion,” al-Jubeir said, “We’re overhauling our educational system to instill the true values of our religion.”

Except, of course, that imams in Saudi Arabia are paid by the government, and preach only with government approval. That isn't true of clergy in the US. The extremist teachings of the imams are common in Saudi Arabia, while those of the Klan are the exception and nearly universally condemned in the US and by Christians generally. When the Klan holds an event, they are usually outnumbered 10-to-1 by their opponents, while that is not the case with the extremist imams in Saudi Arabia.

So when will the US pressure the Saudis to condemn all terrorism, including attacks against Jews intended to force Israeli concessions to the Palestinians? When will we pressure them to recognize Israel? Or will we continue to pretend that the Saudis are really our allies in the war on terrorism, rather than the source of the problem?


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