Commentary Magazine


Re: The Jewish Left Celebrates

Jonathan, the extent of Chas Freeman’s extremism and the degree to which the left has embraced anti-American quackery should not be shocking. But it is troubling. This exchange from The Washington Institute’s Soref Symposium in  2002 is telling:

Satloff: Ambassador Freeman, is it legitimate for Americans to focus on internal cultural affairs, including tolerance and education, in a place like Saudi Arabia? Have Saudis done any serious introspection on this set of issues since September 11?

Freeman: I urge anyone who has not done so to read the most profoundly self-reflective speech by a political leader that I have seen in the last quarter-century: Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah’s December 2001 address to the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Muscat. In that speech he calls for Arabs and Muslims to examine their own consciences and practices and to accept part of the blame for the sad state of affairs between them and the rest of the world. More to the point, concrete steps have been taken to implement his vision. Let me outline a few of these steps.

It seems to be a basic law of human knowledge that the less time people spend in Saudi Arabia, the more they know about its educational curriculum and social practices. I am not impressed by the conventional wisdom in the United States, even among so-called experts on this issue.

First, the Saudis have quietly conducted a high-level review of their curriculum under the chairmanship of Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister. The Saudis have eliminated about 5 percent of the material and placed another 15 percent under continuing review. The government has even suspended some teachers who were overstepping the bounds.

Second, Saudis and other Gulf Arabs were shocked by the level of ignorance and antipathy displayed by Americans toward them and toward Islam after September 11. The connection between Islam and suicide bombing is a false connection. Kamikaze pilots were not Muslims. And in the Palestinian arena, it is an issue of nationalism, not religion. Secular Palestinians are increasingly adopting this tactic.

Islam completely condemns the idea of suicide. Indeed, the ulama throughout the region, the Grand Mufti in Saudi Arabia, and other religious leaders throughout the Gulf condemned suicide carried out for this purpose and issued statements of sympathy to the United States and the American people within days of September 11. None of this was reported in the U.S. press.

Saudi Arabia, which has historically been much more difficult for journalists to get to than Tibet, has recently been quite open to journalists. Western journalists have turned from criticizing Saudi Arabia for imaginary faults to criticizing it for real faults. That is progress. We should not criticize people we know nothing about.

Crown Prince Abdullah’s peace initiative — which would not only normalize Saudi relations with Israel but would lead an Arab-wide effort to bring about full normalization in the Arab world toward Israel — is also a result of this introspection.

And what of America’s lack of introspection about September 11? Instead of asking what might have caused the attack, or questioning the propriety of the national response to it, there is an ugly mood of chauvinism. Before Americans call on others to examine themselves, we should examine ourselves.

Satloff: I find it difficult to accept that the people who were on the receiving end of the September 11 attacks should begin by focusing on what they did to deserve it.

Freeman: My point is that cause and effect work both ways. They exist in both directions, whatever the moral consequences might be.

So you see, the responsibility for 9-11 flows both ways. This is the man now heading the National Intelligence Council.