Op-Ed: The Myth Of Saudi Arabian “Moderation” by Morton A. Klein, National President of the ZOA
April 29, 2002

We often hear that Saudi Arabia is a moderate, peace-seeking country. But what is the truth about this dictatorship in the desert?

A glimpse of Saudi Arabia’s extremism and support of Arab terrorism was provided earlier this month when the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Great Britain, Ghazi Algosaibi, published a poem praising a teenage Palestinian Arab suicide bomber Ayat Akhras as “Ayat, the bride of loftiness…Doors of heaven are opened for her” and referred to the “White House whose heart is filled with darkness.” It was a shock to many that the ambassador could write such words, in view of the fact that the U.S. saved Saudi Arabia from Iraq in the Gulf War, and the fact that President Bush has repeatedly appealed to Arab leaders to declare that the suicide bombers are “murderers, not martyrs.”

Even more troubling was the response of the Saudi leadership. They did not suspend the ambassador nor instruct him to retract his anti-American, pro-terrorism statements. They did not even issue a statement criticizing his outrageous remarks. In response to international criticism of the poem, Ambassador Algosaibi actually posted a letter on the Saudi Arabian embassy’s web site brazenly defending his poem.

When America began investigating the September 11 attacks, the Saudi Arabian government refused to fully cooperate. Although 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, the Saudis immediately flew a group of Saudi citizens out of the U.S., even though U.S. law enforcement officials believed some of them “could be potential witnesses” in the prosecution of the terrorists. The Saudi regime has also refused to provide the U.S. with lists of passengers on Saudi planes flying to the U.S. (even though 94 other airlines agreed to do so).

It gets worse. According to the New Republic, in March 1996, the government of Sudan, where Bin Laden was residing, told the U.S. it would arrest him if it could place him in Saudi custody; but the Saudis refused, and he escaped to Afghanistan.

In 1995, then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher revealed that the U.S. had a chance to capture Imad Mughniyah, leader of the Hezbollah terrorist group that slaughtered 241 Marines in Lebanon in 1983. The U.S. asked the Saudis to permit a landing on their soil of the plane in which Mughniyah was traveling, so that he could be arrested; the Saudis refused.

In 1998, Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh revealed that the Saudis had refused to refused to hand over forensic evidence, share intelligence, or permit the FBI to interview possible witnesses to the June 1996 terrorist attack at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in which 19 Americans were killed.

As a study by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University has pointed out, the Saudis also continue to give financial support to Hamas, which pioneered the tactic of suicide bombing and has murdered hundreds of Israelis (and 19 Americans). The Saudi government also provides payments of $5,333 to each family of “martyrs” killed while trying to murder Israelis. (New York Post, April 12, 2002) And a telethon on Saudi government television in recent weeks raised over $100-million for the “martyrs”. (New York Post, April 12, 2002; New York Sun, April 17, 2002)

Saudi Arabia’s domestic policies should upset Americans just as much as its pro-terrorist foreign policy. The Saudi government is a dictatorship; no democratic elections are ever held. There is no freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Women are second-class citizens at best; they are not even permitted to drive automobiles. The regime still maintains the barbaric practice of literally cutting off a convicted thief’s hand. Islam is the only legal religion and Christians have repeatedly been arrested, and sometimes tortured, for holding non-Islamic religious services in their private homes. American soldiers who were stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War —to save the Saudis from a possible Iraqi invasion— were forbidden from wearing crosses or Stars of David.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has noted that the Saudi government school system is “incubating religious hostility toward America and the west …the 10th-grade textbook for one of the five required religion classes taught in all Saudi public schools states: ‘It is compulsory for the Muslims to be loyal to each other and to consider the infidels their enemy.’ This hostile view of non-Muslims, which is particularly pronounced in the strict Saudi Wahhabit brand of Islam, is reinforced through Saudi sermons [and] TV shows” —that is, sermons by government appointed clergymen and TV shows on government-controlled TV.

The Saudis are anxious to present a “moderate” face to the West. They want America to come to their rescue if Saddam Hussein threatens them again. And they want to seem credible when they demand that the U.S. pressure Israel to retreat to the suicidal 1967 borders. But America should not be fooled. The Saudis are not moderate; they are not peace-seeking. The Saudi Arabian government is a pro-terrorist dictatorship, and should be recognized as such.

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