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Hugh Fitzgerald: Crown Prince Mohammad, Israel, and the Jews

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Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ended his two-week charm offensive in the United States by granting an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic. In it, he declared that his country recognized the right of the Jews “to their own land,” for which statement — the bar is set very low — he is being hailed as a veritable prince of peace. He did not forget to add that the “Palestinians” also had a right to their land, and there’s the rub. Which land is whose land? Does the Crown Prince think that Israel should be allowed to “live in peace” only if it retreats into its pre-1967 borders, that is, behind the armistice lines of 1949, which Abba Eban famously described as the “lines of Auschwitz”? Does he think that Israel, as the victor in a war of self-defense, having given back to the Arabs 95% of the territory it won by force of arms in the Six-Day War, is entitled to keep military control of the West Bank? What does Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman think of the key phrase in U.N. Resolution 242, which guarantees Israel’s right to “secure and recognized boundaries”? Who does he think should define them?

How does Crown Prince Mohammad explain the failure of any Arab leader, diplomat, or intellectual to mention the existence of a “Palestinian people” until well after the Six-Day War? Does he think it strange that the “Palestinian people” are nowhere mentioned in U.N.. Resolution 242? Would he agree that the phrase started to be used only many months after the June 1967 defeat, and that it was promoted by Arab propagandists who wished to redefine the Arab-Israeli conflict as one not between 22 Arab states and little Israel, but between “two tiny peoples — the Israelis and the “Palestinians” — each “struggling for its homeland”? Would the Crown Prince care to identify those features of language, religion, folklore, culture, that justify the claim of a separate peoplehood for the “Palestinians”? Or would he accept the proposition that the Arabs in Western Palestine are no different in any important respect from the Arabs in Eastern Palestine, that is, those Arabs we now call Jordanians?

Crown Prince Mohammad for now needs Israel as a partner in the colossal contest between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. As long as Iran remains an aggressive enemy, he is likely to turn his friendliest face toward Israel, and to want Israel to remain militarily strong, so as to be a useful ally in any potential confrontation with Iran. The “Palestinians,” who were once the main focus of Arab interest, are now relegated to the background; there is apparently no love lost between the Saudis and Egyptians and Emiratis on one hand, and the “Palestinians” who constantly demand both attention, and money, on the other. The Crown Prince knows that the “Palestinians” are indifferent to Saudi national interests, that is, to his country’s clear need, at present, for Israel to remain strong. Someday the Islamic Republic of Iran will implode, and then, perhaps, the Saudis will no longer need Israel, and can if they wish to revert to their previous hostility. But geopolitics makes strange bedfellows, and it may also be that after a decade or two of a quiet alliance with Israel, the Saudis will want that alliance to continue, in domains other than the military. For in that same interview in The Atlantic, the Crown Prince alluded to Israel as an economic powerhouse, punching far above its weight, and he clearly wants Saudi Arabia to be weaned from having an economy based solely on oil, to one that involves the kinds of things Israel has been so good at, with its innovative industry, especially its proven prowess in high tech and start-ups, and its unparalleled advances in agriculture for a desert climate (e.g., its drip irrigation systems). Perhaps this could turn out to be, as Rick tells Major Renaud, the beginning of a beautiful friendship — the kind based on national interests.

In the meantime, we could ask that the Crown Prince stick to that national-interest script, and not attempt the kind of taqiyya that calls his sincerity into question and makes some of us nervous. When he claims, for example, the following:

“Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend—he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe” we can’t let such mistatements pass unremarked.

“Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews”? Well, yes, since no Jews have been allowed to live in what is now Saudi Arabia for 1400 years, there wouldn’t be any occasion for such problems. But, just to remind the Crown Prince that we are not quite as gullible as he takes us to be, and that more and more Infidels are aware of how Jews are described in the Qur’an, here are the telling verses, as compiled by Robert Spencer:

The Qur’an depicts the Jews as inveterately evil and bent on destroying the wellbeing of the Muslims. They are the strongest of all people in enmity toward the Muslims (5:82); as fabricating things and falsely ascribing them to Allah (2:79; 3:75, 3:181); claiming that Allah’s power is limited (5:64); loving to listen to lies (5:41); disobeying Allah and never observing his commands (5:13); disputing and quarreling (2:247); hiding the truth and misleading people (3:78); staging rebellion against the prophets and rejecting their guidance (2:55); being hypocritical (2:14, 2:44); giving preference to their own interests over the teachings of Muhammad (2:87); wishing evil for people and trying to mislead them (2:109); feeling pain when others are happy or fortunate (3:120); being arrogant about their being Allah’s beloved people (5:18); devouring people’s wealth by subterfuge (4:161); slandering the true religion and being cursed by Allah (4:46); killing the prophets (2:61); being merciless and heartless (2:74); never keeping their promises or fulfilling their words (2:100); being unrestrained in committing sins (5:79); being cowardly (59:13-14); being miserly (4:53); being transformed into apes and pigs for breaking the Sabbath (2:63-65; 5:59-60; 7:166); and more.

The classic Qur’anic commentators not do not mitigate the Qur’an’s words against Jews, but only add fuel to the fire. Ibn Kathir explained Qur’an 2:61 (“They were covered with humiliation and misery; they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah”) this way: “This Ayah [verse] indicates that the Children of Israel were plagued with humiliation, and that this will continue, meaning that it will never cease. They will continue to suffer humiliation at the hands of all who interact with them, along with the disgrace that they feel inwardly.” Another Middle Ages commentator of lingering influence, Abdallah ibn Umar al-Baidawi, explains the same verse this way: “The Jews are mostly humiliated and wretched either of their own accord, or out of coercion of the fear of having their jizya [punitive tax] doubled.”

Ibn Kathir notes Islamic traditions that predict that at the end of the world, “the Jews will support the Dajjal (False Messiah), and the Muslims, along with ‘Isa [Jesus], son of Mary, will kill the Jews.” The idea in Islam that the end times will be marked by Muslims killing Jews comes from the prophet Muhammad himself, who said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.’” This is, not unexpectedly, a favorite motif among contemporary jihadists.”

Perhaps the Crown Prince ought to be asked to explain how, given so many antisemitic Qur’anic verses, he can claim that his country has “no problems with Jews.” Have the Saudis forgotten their Qur’ans?

And then he tells us, showing that Arabs have nothing against Jews, that “Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman.” That’s a curious way of describing what actually happened. Muhammed first took Saafiya as his sex-slave, having had her father killed, and her husband tortured and then killed. He manumitted Saafiya and then “married” her; this was hardly a “marriage” in the Western sense; she was loot won in the raid by Muhammad on the Khaybar Oasis. She had no choice but to “marry” her captor.

As for the “Jewish neighbors” of Muhammad, there was no “can-I-borrow-a-cup-of-sugar” neighborliness in Muhammad’s day. Those Jewish neighbors were tribes conquered by Muhammad, and then put to the sword, or forcibly converted, or allowed to survive, but only as dhimmis. Among those Jewish tribes, in Medina, were the Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Nadir, and Banu Qurayza. Not quite the “Jewish neighbors” that the Crown Prince’s midleading words suggest.

When the Crown Prince mentions that Jews live in Saudi Arabia today, he deliberately leaves the false impression that these Jews are permanent residents. They are nothing of the kind, but are only temporarily admitted, as diplomats or businessmen. There is no synagogue anywhere in Saudi Arabia, and never will be.

Finally, a word of advice to the Crown Prince: don’t describe the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, as “making Hitler look good.” That can only offend, and make others, and especially Jews, whom you have been courting, wonder if you fully understand what Hitler did. Khamenei is awful, agreed, but he cannot justly be described as “making Hitler look good.” Block that hitlerian hyperbole.

Israel and Saudi Arabia now have a marriage of military convenience, still in the honeymoon  stage, and always subject to the triple-talaq on either side, but likely to endure at least as long as Iran remains a threat, which could be for many decades. In the meantime, this odd couple might develop an economic entente, given Israel’s possible usefulness to the Saudis, who are determined to be weaned from their dependence on the sale of oil, and who could benefit from Israel’s experience in high tech, and in start-ups of all kinds, including those that provide advanced agricultural methods for desert conditions. The Saudis have long been tired of the “Palestinians”; now is  the perfect self-serving moment for the Kingdom to “give peace a chance.”

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