Establishing peaceful relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors has been a goal of U.S. presidents since the modern Jewish state was established in 1948. While President Trump made important progress, it will soon fall to President-elect Joe Biden to build on that success. This won’t be an easy task.
When Trump entered office, the only Arab nations with diplomatic relations with Israel were Egypt and Jordan. Trump succeeded in brokering agreements normalizing relations and paving the way for diplomatic recognition between Israel and four more Arab states — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. But much to his disappointment, he failed in his efforts to get the Palestinians and oil-rich Saudi Arabia to sign peace agreements with Israel.
Don’t expect Biden to have better luck with the Palestinians, whose wildly unrealistic demands, refusal to make significant concessions, and rejection of generous peace plans offered by Israel over the decades show no signs of abating.
While reports have surfaced that Saudi Arabia might join the four Arab nations that have normalized relations with Israel during the Trump administration, the chances of that happening are slim so long as ailing 84-year-old King Salman remains in power.
Most analysts say King Salman’s support for the Palestinians and their desire for statehood is the main obstacle to Saudi Arabia and Israel normalizing relations. But all the evidence points to a far more likely reason: the king’s long history of virulent anti-Semitism.
In fact, Saudi Arabia may be the most anti-Semitic country on Earth. King Ibn Saud (the father of King Salman), who founded Saudi Arabia and ruled until his death in 1953, said: “Our hatred for the Jews dates from God’s condemnation of them for their persecution and rejection of Isa (Jesus) and their subsequent rejection of His chosen Prophet.”
King Ibn Saud added “that for a Muslim to kill a Jew, or for him to be killed by a Jew ensures him an immediate entry into Heaven and into the august presence of God Almighty.”
Saudi Arabian King Salman at the Arab League summit in Tunis, Tunisia (AP file Photo, March 31, 2019)
King Ibn Saud’s successor, his son King Saud, wrote to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower with a proposal to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The king had a “simple” and “unrealistic solution,” Eisenhower said: “the destruction of Israel.”
King Saud was succeeded by his brother, King Faisal, who followed in his family’s anti-Semitic footsteps. He told a congressman from San Francisco how much he liked the city, especially the signs in stores that said, “No dogs or Jews allowed.”
On a visit to Paris, King Faisal falsely claimed that five children were murdered, and their blood drained by Jews so they could use it to make Passover matzoh.
Faisal was also known for giving visitors copies of the “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”— a forgery filled with lies about the Jews that is described by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as “the most notorious and widely distributed anti-Semitic publication of modern times” designed “to spread hatred of Jews.”
In 1973, Saudi Arabia embargoed oil to the United States. When U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger went to Riyadh to try to persuade Faisal to lift the embargo, the king said the U.S. would have to first force Israel to withdraw to its 1967 boundaries and allow the Palestinians to establish a homeland with Jerusalem as its capital.
When Kissinger asked what would then become of the Wailing [Western] Wall, Judaism’s holiest place, Faisal replied that another wall could be built somewhere else where the Jews could wail.
Faisal also said he intended to stop the Jews’ efforts to “run the world” with his “oil weapon.”
The Saudis were leaders of the Arab boycott against Jews, which was declared in 1945, nearly three years before Israel became independent of Britain. The Arab League declared that “Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries.”
In 1970, Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, made public for the first time a list of about 1,500 American firms on the Saudi blacklist, including companies like Coca-Cola, RCA and Ford. This made the public aware of the scope of the Arab boycott and its harmful impact on U.S. companies.
Even after anti-boycott legislation was passed in 1977, the Saudis continued to enforce the boycott. Saudi Arabia was required to cease its boycott of Israel in 2005 as a condition of joining the World Trade Organization. A Saudi ambassador later admitted his country still enforced the boycott in violation of promises made to the U.S.
The Saudis discriminated against American Jews for decades. In 1959, the U.S. Senate adopted an amendment opposing foreign aid to countries that discriminate against Americans on the grounds of religion. The primary motivation for this and other early legislative efforts was the policy of Arab nations of refusing visas to American Jews — and more specifically, the Saudis’ refusal to permit Jews to be stationed at the U.S. Air Force base at Dhahran.
Only in the Orwellian world of the United Nations Human Rights Commission could the Saudi delegate get away with this remark: “The Talmud says that if a Jew does not drink every year the blood of a non-Jewish man, he will be damned for eternity.” Similar blood libels have appeared in the Saudi press.
As recently as 2004, the official website of the Saudi Supreme Commission for Tourism said the policy of the Saudi Arabian government was to deny visas to “Jewish People.” The language was changed after it was publicized in the media by Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, the Saudi interior minister said: “We know that the Jews have manipulated the Sept. 11 incidents and turned American public opinion against Arabs and Muslims. … We still ask ourselves: Who has benefited from Sept. 11 attacks? I think they [the Jews] were the protagonists of such attacks.”
Saudi children are taught intolerance in schools. A study of Saudi textbooks by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom cited many examples of anti-Semitic tropes. One referred to the “plotting of the Jews, and their effort to divide the ranks of Islam.”
A frequently quoted passage from Islamic scripture also appears in a school textbook: “The Hour will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims will kill them until the Jews will hide behind the rocks and the trees. The rocks and the trees will say: ‘O Muslim, O servant of God, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’”
U.S. officials have repeatedly raised the issue of anti-Semitism with the Saudi government, but the State Department, in its decades-long desire to avoid offending the kingdom, has made excuses for the failure to reform the education system.
Some improvements have been made in recent textbooks, but Jews are still accused of being assassins and described as monkeys.
Meanwhile, the Saudis seek to indoctrinate American Muslims with their extremist Wahhabi beliefs. The Washington Post published an expose in 2002 about the Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) in Fairfax, Va., where students were taught that the “Jews conspired against Islam.”
An 11th grade textbook repeated the story about killing Jews hiding behind rocks and trees. Students told a Post reporter that in Islamic studies they were taught that they should shun or dislike Christians, Jews and Shiite Muslims.
Two years later, even Muslim groups complained that first graders at the school were being taught an extreme version of Islam that promotes contempt for other religions. For example, a 12th grade Islamic studies textbook quoted a Koranic verse: “It is said: The apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews.”
If this is what they taught in Virginia, imagine what Saudi-funded schools were teaching in Pakistan. The Virginia school closed in 2016 and was replaced by the King Abdullah Academy.
The current monarch, King Salman, follows in the footsteps of his father Ibn Saud and the long tradition of Jew-hatred in the kingdom.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman and his heir apparent, wants to be seen as a reformer and a modern leader with tolerant views (unless you’re an outspoken woman or dissident journalist). He may be prepared to finally enter relations with the Jewish state that his father and uncles spent decades trying first to prevent from being established and then hoped to destroy.
Once he becomes king, perhaps Mohammed can be enticed, like his neighbors, to normalize relations with Israel by winning permission from the U.S. to buy stealth fighter planes or other weapons. But before the U.S. OKs such a deal, our government must require that Mohammed also commit to fighting anti-Semitism in his kingdom and reforming the education system to reflect a tolerance of Jews presently lacking.
If Saudi Arabia continues to poison the minds of children to make them grow up hating Jews, anti-Semitism will continue to thrive in the kingdom.