Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.
Have we entered a new period of sweetness and light with our Arab neighbors? On Monday The Atlantic published an interview the magazine’s editor Jeffrey Goldberg conducted with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
Hours after its publication, the responses began pouring in.
The basic line, repeated by all major newspapers, is that the Saudi crown prince recognized Israel’s right to exist. Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt gushed about it on his Twitter feed.
Referring to the interview as “amazing,” Greenblatt wrote that “all should watch [Muhammad bin Salman].
He is far from perfect [and] there is a long road ahead, but in a region long dominated by hateful despots, [the prince] envisions a very different future for Muslims, Jews, Christians and all in the Middle East.”
Other commentators were even more exhilarated.
Are the prince’s fans correct? Is his ascendance to the Saudi crown the harbinger of a reformation of Islam and the beginning of a new era in Islamic relations with the Jews and the world as a whole? Not really.
Most of the reports on the interview have focused on the prince’s remarks in which he ostensibly recognized Israel’s right to exist. But did he actually recognize Israel’s right to exist? Did he distinguish himself from all the other Arab leaders who to date have recognized that Israel exists but not admitted it has a right to exist? Let’s check the text.
Goldberg asked the prince, “Do you believe the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland?” Muhammad replied, “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”
Does this mean that he recognized Israel’s right to exist in the Land of Israel? Maybe. Maybe not.
Where is the Israelis’ “own land”? In Jerusalem? In New York? Goldberg tried to find out. He asked, “You have no religious-based objection to the existence of Israel?” Muhammad responded, “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.”
In other words, it certainly appears that the prince has a religious-based objection to the existence of Israel.
As Dr. Harold Rhode, a recently retired adviser on Islamic Affairs in the Office of the US Secretary of Defense explains, during much of his conversation with Goldberg, Muhammad engaged in the Islamic practice of “taqiyya,” or dissimulation for the benefit of Islam. According to the Koran, Muslims are permitted to lie about Islam to advance the faith.
This conclusion is easily reached when considering his responses to other questions, which like his answer regarding Israel, were deliberately imprecise. Goldberg asked Muhammad simple direct questions and he responded with answers that were either misleading or open to multiple interpretations.
Consider their discussion of Wahhabism. Since Saudi Arabia was established 85 years ago, it has been governed under Wahhabist Islam. Wahhabism, a school of Islam founded in the 18th century by the radical Islamic scholar Ibn Abdel el-Wahhab, views itself as the only legitimate version of Islam. Wahhabism calls for the abrogation of all novel interpretations of Islam. It aspires to Islamic global dominion. And upholds jihad.
Since at least 1979, the Saudis have invested billions of petro-dollars in spreading Wahhabist Islam throughout the world.
But when Goldberg asked Muhammad about those petro dollars, the crown prince acted like he didn’t know what Goldberg was talking about.
“This Wahhabism, please define it for us. We’re not familiar with it. We don’t know about it,” Muhammad said innocently.
Goldberg responded with amazement, “What do you mean you don’t know about it?” Unmoved, he responded, “What is Wahhabism?” Goldberg replied, “You’re the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. You know what Wahhabism is.”
Muhammad countered, “No one can define this Wahhabism.”
He then proceeded to deny any connection with the creed of Saudi Arabia while boldly and entirely dishonestly presenting the kingdom as a paragon of religious tolerance where all forms of Islam, including Shi’ite Islam, are treated equally.
Another statement from Muhammad that generated significant interest was his claim that there is no Islamic religious duty to propagate Islam in the non-Islamic world today.
In his words, “Today in non-Muslim countries, every human being has the right to choose his or her belief.
Religious books can be bought in every country. The message is delivered. Now it is no longer a duty for us to fight for the propagation of Islam.”
While Muhammad’s statement is refreshingly straightforward, its meaning is less so. He made his statement as a way of arguing that the calls for jihad and the establishment of a caliphate by the Muslim Brotherhood are un-Islamic.
Certainly, it would be significant if the Saudis stopped funding the radical mosques they founded worldwide.
It would be even more significant if he said that his regime is ordering the mosques the Saudis established throughout the world to preach peaceful coexistence with the non-Islamic world and to reject jihad. But he said nothing of the sort.
Moreover, it is hard to take his claims seriously since he then went on to deny any familiarity with Wahhabism, the creed that has ruled his kingdom for four generations.
Perhaps Muhammad’s most creative mendacity came in his remarks regarding the status of women in his kingdom.
Goldberg began, “Do you believe in women’s equality?” The prince responded shrewdly, “I support Saudi Arabia, and half of Saudi Arabia is women. So I support women.”
Goldberg asked the prince if he intends to abrogate the so called “guardianship laws,” which prohibit women from leaving their homes without a male relative accompanying them.
“We want to move on it and figure out a way to treat this that doesn’t harm families and doesn’t harm the culture,” he replied In other words: Absolutely not.
So it went over and over again throughout the interview.
In short, Muhammad said nothing revolutionary.
He bore no glad tidings of a strategic shift in the Saudi Islam or in the manner that the Saudis relate to the world, including the Jews.
Which brings us back to the main question. What did we learn from this interview? The most significant thing that came out of the interview is that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is very keen to cooperate with the US and with Israel in everything related to defeating what he refers to as the “triangle of evil.”
The three sides of his triangle are Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the terrorist groups the Muslim Brotherhood has spawned, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
As far as Iran is concerned, Rhode explains that the primary enemy of the Khomeinist revolution was not the US or Israel.
“Khomeini exploited pan-Islamic hatred for Israel and the US to win legitimacy from the Sunni Muslim world which he and his successors aspire to lead, alongside the Shi’ite Muslim world.”
“For them,” Rhode continues, “hatred of ‘the little Satan’ and ‘the great Satan’ is a means to achieve their true goal of destroying Saudi Arabia and every other Sunni regime and dominating the entire Islamic world.”
As far as the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist offshoots are concerned, following the so-called Arab Spring, the Saudis recognized that the Muslim Brotherhood is the only actor in the Sunni Arab world capable of overthrowing their regime.
In other interviews, Muhammad has listed Turkey’s neo-Ottoman leader, President Recep Erdogan, as the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. As such, Muhammad considers Erdogan an enemy no less than Iran.
Given Turkish behavior in the region and globally, there is every reason to agree with his assessment.
Whatever the case, Muhammad’s interview with Goldberg provides further proof – if any was needed – that the Saudi crown prince is very eager to receive American and Israeli cooperation in his bid to defeat the “triangle of evil.”
To be sure, it is fantastic that the Saudi leader wishes to cooperate with Israel in defeating our common foes.
But Rhode warns that we need to take his commitment to tactical cooperation with Israel with a grain of salt.
It isn’t that Muhammad is insincere, Rhode says.
The problem is that Muhammad’s regime is built on shaky foundations. Muhammad instigated a blood feud with powerful forces within his family when he carried out a string of arrests last year. Among those arrested were several prominent princes.
Rhode explains that the Saudi ruling clan divvied up the organs of government among branches of the family. For instance, one branch controls the Defense Ministry, another controls the Education Ministry, and so on down the line.
“In the Islamic world, humiliation is worse than death,” Rhode notes.
“When Muhammad arrested the other princes, he humiliated them,” Rhode says.
“And they will never forgive him. They will wait for the day they can exact revenge for their humiliation even if it only comes when their great-grandchildren have succeeded them.”
Under these conditions, there is a significant danger that Muhammad will sabotaged by forces within his own extended family. Israel must take this danger into consideration with every step it takes in Muhammad’s direction. Even if Muhammad acts in good faith, there is reason to suspect those around him will use his cooperation with Israel to harm him – and Israel.
Does this man that Israel should keep Muhammad at arm’s length? Of course it doesn’t. But it does mean that Israel mustn’t assume that since he holds absolute power, his power is unchallenged.
As to the great promise Muhammad embodies (or doesn’t embody), here the situation is cut and dry.
Prince Muhammad is obviously a partner in everything relating to fighting Iran and the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas. But given the tactical nature of his commitment to Israel, and the absence of any indication that he intends to reform Islam in any significant way, Israel has no interest in making any concessions to him in exchange for its relations with him. The Saudis will not take their tactical alliance with Israel out of the (admittedly see-through, proverbial) closet.
For now, we have a Saudi ally in the young crown prince. So long as no one in Israel loses his head, and no one in Saudi Arabia exploits the alliance to chop off Muhammad’s head, we will be able to work together to achieve common goals. That is a glad tiding, even if it doesn’t include signing ceremonies with doves and balloons.
Chinese Tourists on Temple Mount with Israeli Flag (Photo via Facebook Stand With Us)
The last time the Israeli flag flew on the Temple Mount was for a very brief time after the IDF conquered the site in the 1967 Six Day War, but on Wednesday, a group of Chinese Christian tourists posed with a flag on the steps leading up to the Dome of the Rock.
On Wednesday, Stand With Us, a non-profit pro-Israel education and advocacy organization based in Los Angeles posted the photo on their Facebook page, saying:
Delegation of UN ambassadors joining the 30th ‘March of the Living’ Pilgrimage at the Auschwitz-Buchenau concentration camp. (Courtesy: American Zionist Movement)
Thirteen ambassadors to the United Nations from Africa, Europe and Latin America visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camps in Poland today on Yom Hashoah (Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day), as part of the 30th annual “March of the Living.”
The delegation organized by the American Zionist Movement, in conjunction with Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, will visit Israel next week for Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) celebrations following their visit to Poland. They will be joined by an additional 27 U.N. ambassadors.
Though strongly backing US-led airstrikes, Jerusalem also reportedly worried Putin may now supply Assad with advanced air-defense systems, reducing Israel’s air supremacy
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and US President Donald Trump in the White House Oval Office, March 5, 2018 (Haim Tzach/GPO)
While Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firmly backed the US-led airstrikes on Syria in the wake of its use of chemical weapons, Israeli security chiefs made clear on Saturday night that Israel fears the Trump Administration will now consider that its work in Syria is done, and leave Israel alone to face the dangers posed by Iran’s growing military presence in Syria.
Israel’s defense chiefs are also reportedly worried that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, seeing Syria under US-led attack, may provide President Bashar Assad with more advanced air defense systems — which could reduce Israel’s air supremacy in the skies of Syria and Lebanon. A Russian general indicated such an arms supply was possible in comments on Saturday.
The remains of the Syrian regime’s Scientific Research Centre in Damascus following coalition airstrikes, April 14, 2018. Photo: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday declared Israel’s “full support” for Friday’s US-led air strikes in Syria.
The US, allied with France and Britain, struck targets in and around Damascus in response to the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against rebel-held targets in the town of Douma. The Douma attack killed over 40 people, with hundreds wounded by exposure to chemical agents. The coalition strikes reportedly caused heavy damage to Syria’s chemical weapons infrastructure.
Monica Unikel has been leading tours for 23 years. But she’s also helped to create a cultural center inside one of the oldest synagogues in the Mexican capital.
Monica Unikel has been leading tours for 23 years. But she’s also helped to create a cultural center inside one of the oldest synagogues in the Mexican capital.
To mark Day of the Dead on Nov. 1, thousands of Mexican families will flock to the Pantheon of Dolores, one of Mexico City’s biggest cemeteries, to light candles, play mariachi songs, and eat food on the graves of their dead relatives. Right across the street, in the smaller Ashkenazi cemetery, Monica Unikel will be leading an exclusive tour to make up for the lack of Jewish-Mexican rituals to mark the day
The Syrian government’s chemical attack on civilians in the rebel-held suburb of Douma this weekend is the complete responsibility of the war criminal Bashar Assad, his Russian bedfellows, and his Iranian bankers. However, the fact that President Trump had announced that the U.S. is nearly finished its mission to defeat ISIS (which is questionable) and wants to leave Syria quickly may have encouraged the others to speed up their efforts to divide Syria’s corpse.
It’s safe to say that every year since the Holocaust ended, one could safely say Holocaust commemoration and education has never been more important. That’s especially in the past generation as survivors, whose first hand testimony to the unspeakable horrors they suffered, during which six million Jews were murdered, age and die.
Yet, as much as it’s been incredibly important every year to remember and educate about the Holocaust, this year it is in fact more important than ever.
We know the world is hypocritical, but if we needed further proof that the human rights discourse and the rights organizations have nothing to do with human ethics, the past few days have provided that proof.
The volume of criticism against Israel over the casualties of the “March of Return” is larger than the volume of criticism against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ongoing massacre of his own citizens. And in general, there are more international demands for an investigation against Israel than demands for an investigation against the butcher of Damascus.
The public record is clear: Terrorist group Hamas started this fight. The “March of Return,” deceptively billed as a “peaceful and nonviolent” protest along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, turned violent from day one, as armed terrorists mingled with women and children, and several militants tried to breach the border of the sovereign nation of Israel.
Hamas is desperately trying to pick a fight with Israel that results in civilian casualties among the very people they claim to represent. While proclaiming over loudspeakers “we are with you,” they rally women, children and the elderly to the border and mix them lethally with armed militants.
In a conversation with several of his acquaintances on the eve of the Passover holiday, former Minister Rafi Eitan revealed that he planned to approach President Reuven Rivlin with a request to pardon former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert so that his criminal record be expunged. Olmert was released from prison last year after serving 16 months for “disgraceful” — ethical — offenses. A person convicted of such crimes is ineligible for several public offices, including the premiership