King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia passed away last month after a long illness. Western leaders and media hurried to eulogize Abdullah and to laud his ‘life-time achievements’.
Secretary of State John Kerry called Abdullah “a man of wisdom and vision” and “a revered leader.”
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Abdullah ”worked for peace and prosperity and strengthened understanding between faiths.” Former British PM Tony Blair joined the chorus of praise and claimed that the Saudi king was a “patient and skillful modernizer.” Flags in England were flown at half-mast after the announcement of Abdullah’s death.
US President Obama spoke of a ”genuine and warm friendship” and cut short his official visit to India and flew to Riyadh to pay his respects. In an official statement, Obama praised the king’s efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Arab world. Obama was referring to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 that was endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 and 2007.
Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, even announced a research and essay competition, to be run through National Defense University, to honor King Abdullah. “This is an important opportunity to honor the memory of the king, while also fostering scholarly research on the Arab-Muslim world,” Dempsey said in a statement. He characterized the king as a “man of remarkable character and courage.”
Israeli commentators sharply criticized these eulogies and ridiculed the ”sycophantic pilgrimage” to Riyadh by world leaders after Abdullah’s death.
These analysts mainly focused on the abysmal state of affairs of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Jerusalem Post editor Seth Franzman was one of the Israeli critics. He gave some examples of human rights abuses in the Saudi Kingdom.
Here’s what he wrote:
One wonders if Sri Lankan maid Rizana Nafeek saw the great wisdom of Abdullah when she was dragged from a van by Saudi soldiers last year and executed publicly by a sword-wielding man in a white robe, as crowds looked on in pleasure. She was sentenced to death at the age of 17 in 2007 after her employers claimed she was responsible for the death of their child, that she was taking care of as part of her duties as a housemaid. A video posted online shows the gruesome ceremony, the result of the great wisdom Western leaders showed such fawning appreciation for.
Did Burmese maid Layla Bint Abdul Mutaleb Bassim share the “modern” vision of the king as she was dragged through the streets and then beheaded in public while being held by four soldiers on January 18 of this year? She pleaded for her life and declared her innocence. It is tradition in Saudi Arabia’s injustice system that executioners ask those they kill for forgiveness prior to beheading them. But the young Bassim shouted in the street, blindfolded and with her arms tied behind her back: “haram [forbidden], haram, haram, I did not kill, I do not forgive you, this is an injustice.” And then the sword of modernity, of progress, of “warm and genuine friendship,” fell on her neck – three times, as the executioner could not kill her in one stroke. The man who filmed the gruesome legal murder of Bassim was arrested.
Franzman ridiculed India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who called Abdullah “ an important voice which left a lasting impact on his country and a guiding voice.”
“Modi is right, in a sense. The Saudi king indeed left a ‘lasting impact’: bloodstained streets and scarred backs. He made a lasting impact on thousands of poor people from families throughout Asia, such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, India and Burma, whose loved ones who were beheaded after working as semi-enslaved housekeepers in the kingdom. When the Times said Abdullah ‘re-shaped’ Saudi Arabia, it was correct; decapitating people is re-shaping them indeed,” Franzman wrote.
He concluded: “ It is time to wake up from the slumber of hypocrisy and moral relativism. Saudi Arabia is not a role model, and leaders who laud it as one deserve to be called onto the carpet.”
Another Israeli commentator criticized President Obama’s silence on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and compared that to his criticism of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.
Saudi Arabia beheaded 80 people last year, and it is one of several Arab countries in which Jews are forbidden to live. The most recent State Department report on international religious freedom contained the following comment on Saudi Arabia: “Freedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under the law and the government severely restricted it in practice,” and all practices of non-Muslim worship are illegal.
Apart from Obama’s silence on Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record, there is another mind-boggling aspect to his attitudes towards Abdullah. We are not talking here about the fact that he bowed to the Saudi king during his first visit to Abdullah, but about his praise for the king’s contribution to peace between Israel and the Arab world. The fact of the matter is that the late king was never a promoter of peace in the region. On the contrary, Abdullah was part of a government that sponsored terrorism and refused to take Osama bin Laden into custody in 1996 and to arrest Hezbollah terror mastermind Imad Mugniyeh when he was in Saudi Arabia
As for the Arab Peace Initiative that Abdullah instigated, this was in fact nothing more than a restatement of the Arab interpretation of UNSC resolution 242 of November 22, 1967. That resolution called upon Israel “to withdraw from” territories occupied during the Six Day War in 1967 in exchange for peace–and not, as Abdullah’s initiative demanded, “all territories.” The Arab peace plan called also for a just solution for the Palestinian refugees, meaning that Israel should accept the influx of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
These conditions for peace would in fact have meant that Israel committed suicide, and it was the main reason for the Israeli rejection of Abdullah’s “peace plan.”
But before that happened, however, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offered to discuss the plan with the Arab League. When he didn’t receive an answer, Sharon directly invited Abdullah to Israel to discuss the plan. Abdullah didn’t respond either.
At the same time that the then-prince Abdullah wrote his peace initiative, the Saudi government was busy sponsoring Palestinian terror groups. During the Second Intifada, when the IDF launched Operation Protective Shield to stop the wave of suicide attacks on Israeli citizens, the Israeli army captured many documents showing that hundreds of thousands of dollars were being distributed to the families of terrorists by Saudi Arabia. Israel also released a Saudi spreadsheet that recorded a payment to the suicide bomber who detonated himself in a bus in Jerusalem on August 21, 1995. A press release from the Saudi embassy in Washington in January 2001 described the Saudi support for the Al-Aqsa Intifada and boasted that Saudi Arabia had distributed $33 million to the families of Palestinian ‘martyrs.’
The second reason why Obama was wrong when he branded Abdullah a peacemaker is the fact that he was part of the Saudi leadership that has been promoting the same Wahhabi ideology that has been adopted by Islamist groups that are now terrorizing large parts of the world.
One of these groups is Al-Qaeda, responsible for the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September 2011. Fifteen of the nineteen terrorists who were responsible for the death of almost 3000 Americans were Saudi citizens. Dick Ganon, the former head of the State Department’s Office of Counter-Terrorism, said at the time: “We’ve got information about who’s backing Bin Laden, and in lot of cases it goes back to the royal family.” According to the Sunday Times, the Saudis paid at least $300 million in “protection money” to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. This also explains why Al-Qaeda did not attack targets in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi monarchy also bankrolled programs that propagate the militant Wahhabi version of Islam. It is commonly known that Saudi Arabia funded Islamic schools and madrassas around the world.
But it didn’t stop there. For example, in the United States, the Middle East Studies centers in universities offered a curriculum that was paid for by the Saudis. These centers do not have scholars on Israel and are primarily inhabited by faculty hostile to Israel. Saudi Arabia also directly funded universities in the United States. More than $130 million was donated between 1986 and 2007. Harvard, for example, received a $20,000,000 donation from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. Harvard Law received $5,000,000 from the King Fahd Fund for Islamic Shariah.
As a result, universities in the United States have become hotbeds of anti-Israel activity. Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh once said that on US university campuses, there is more sympathy for Hamas than there is in Ramallah.
The same goes for Britain. As long ago as 2008, the director-general of MI5, Jonathan Evans, said that the Saudi government’s multi-million dollar investments in British universities had led to a dangerous increase in the spread of extremism on leading university campuses.
This is the true story about King Abdullah and Saudi Arabia.
His successor, King Salman, will no doubt be hailed as a reformer and a modernizer too. During the first week of his reign, four people were beheaded; the media only reported about his ‘reforms.’ The new king decided to reshuffle the government and ordered the payment of two months of bonus salary to all government employees and to retired government workers. He also ordered payments to students and grants to all sorts of cultural institutions and sport clubs.
Reuters wrote that Salman’s handouts were related to the economy because the expected growth in GDP will be 3.2 percent this year, down from 3.6 percent in 2014.
In reality, Salman fears for the future of the Saudi monarchy now that Islamic State has announced that Saudi Arabia is the next target; and Iran-backed Houthi rebels are threatening the south of the country after taking over Yemen last week.
Despite Obama’s emollient words about that “genuine and warm friendship,” Salman knows he cannot rely on the US administration to secure his rule. That’s why he decided to buy the support of the Saudi population and to build a wall along the Iraqi border after the Islamic State attacked Saudi Arabia and killed three border guards last month.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom