Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday BookReview: Saudi Kingdom and the spread of jihad

[first published February 6, 2015]

by David Pence

After serving as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations in the late 1990s, Dore Gold wrote Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism.


Mr. Gold (talking here with Henry Kissinger) grew up in Hartford, Connecticut; and attended Columbia University.

This is an interesting video: Mr. Gold strolling for 20 minutes through Jerusalem, explaining the four quarters of the Old City to Sean Hannity. After his book on Saudi Arabia, Gold wrote The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, The West and the Future of the Holy City.

Here is a review of the Saudi Arabia book that appeared in 'Commentary' magazine (written by Alex Alexiev):
After a year and a half in which the war on terrorism consisted essentially of large tactical operations—liquidating the Taliban regime, destroying al Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan, rounding up Islamist agents around the world—the U.S. finally took its first step of truly strategic significance. Operation Iraqi Freedom was intended to deny to the Baghdad regime and its Islamist fellow-travelers the ability to develop and use weapons of mass destruction, thus removing one of the most urgent long-term threats to America and its allies. 
What will the next strategic stage in the war against terrorism look like? One might hope that it would be a campaign to destroy the vast infrastructure that begets, nurtures, and sustains Islamic extremism. To do that, the U.S. would have to accept a fact it has so far refused to face: that Saudi Arabia, our putative ally, has been and remains the chief ideological and financial enabler of our most virulent enemies. After Saddam, a showdown with the House of Saud is, or should be, inevitable. 
Hatred’s Kingdom, a timely new book by the Israeli scholar and diplomat Dore Gold, lays out the grounds for this looming confrontation more powerfully than any other recent writing on the subject. Gold’s lucid, dispassionate, impressively researched narrative debunks much of the conventional wisdom, establishing in a systematic way the dark reality of Saudi involvement in fomenting terror. 
To find the root causes of Arab terrorism, Gold argues, we must examine not mainstream Islam but Wahhabism, the hate-filled, extremist fringe of the religion that is the official Saudi creed. As he points out, many of the “innovations” introduced by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-91), the founder of Saudi Arabia’s state religion, were, in fact, major distortions and even outright falsifications of Islamic tradition. By declaring, for instance, that Muslims who rejected his own teachings were infidels who deserved death, al-Wahhab reversed two major tenets of Islam—that “there is no compulsion in religion” and that jihad against other Muslims is strictly prohibited. Yet, as the history of the House of Saud shows, the Wahhabis have almost invariably directed their murderous fury at fellow Muslims and, to this day, treat Shiites and Sufis like apostates. 
As for Jews and Christians, al-Wahhab explicitly rejected the (partial) measure of preference and protection that other monotheists had long received in Muslim lands. He insisted that these supposed “peoples of the book” were nothing more than sorcerers and devil-worshippers, fit for annihilation—a venomous dictum that Saudi mosques spew out to this day. 
Gold also explains the central role played by the Wahhabi sect in shaping the broader current of Islamic extremism. As he extensively documents, the Saudis have sheltered and co-opted virtually every Islamist ideologue and movement of the past century, from the leaders of previous generations like Muhammad Rida, Hasan al-Banna, and Abu al-Ala Mawdudi to more contemporary figures like Abdullah Azzam and Muhammad Qutb, the mentors of al Qaeda’s leadership. Wahhabism remains the prototype ideology of all violent Islamists. As Gold quotes one radical cleric, “Osama bin Laden is a natural continuation from Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.” 
As the Saudis began to grow flush with petrodollars in the 1970’s, Gold writes, they became the chief international financiers of Islamic extremism. Operating through a bewildering array of interlocking charities and front organizations, Riyadh provided most of the funding for a vast network devoted not just to indoctrination but to anti-Western violence. Gold guides us through this sinister network, on which, as the Saudis themselves have admitted, they had spent the gigantic sum of $70 billion by the end of last year. There can be little doubt that this money has been a key factor in creating the terrorist threat we now face. 
A further service performed by Hatred’s Kingdom is to dismantle the self-serving propaganda of Saudi Arabia and its apologists. Since the attacks of September 11, the Saudis have maintained, for instance, that terrorism is a result of America’s cruel indifference to the suffering of the Palestinians, a position to which many European governments and the American Left uncritically subscribe. Apart from the inconvenient fact that the vast majority of the more than 150,000 recent victims of Islamic terrorism have been Muslims, it is clear, as Gold demonstrates, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has never mattered much to Riyadh. Despite their visceral dislike of Jews, the Saudis historically have paid little attention to them, feeling much more threatened by rival Arab powers like the Hashemites in Transjordan and Iraq, Nasserite socialism in Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, and, more recently, the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. Indeed, the Saudis contributed no more than token aid to the Arab side in its various armed conflicts with Israel. 
In exposing the Saudi connection to the world of Islamic terror, Gold might have gone still farther. His brief analysis of Saudi activities in the United States is a bit disappointing. There is much more to be said about Wahhabi dominance of the American Muslim establishment and the considerable influence of the Saudis in Washington. Virtually all of the Muslim leaders who posed for photographs with President Bush after the attacks of September 11 have been shown to be part of the Wahhabi lobby and to have extremist connections. Nor does Gold have much to say about the increasing penetration of Saudi-funded terrorist groups in the Indian subcontinent, which has become a hotbed of violent Islamic activities. 
Still, these few oversights detract very little from Dore Gold’s outstanding contribution. For the general reader interested in the origins of Middle Eastern terrorism, Hatred’s Kingdom will shed a great deal of light; for policy-makers in Washington, it ought to be required reading.
President Obama with King Salman 

Don't miss our Map on Monday about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.
Another: Mapping the schools of Islamic Law and locating the epicenter of terror.

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