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Posted at 12:11 PM ET, 12/28/2010

Doing nothing about Saudi promotion of Islamic extremism

By Jennifer Rubin

On July 9, 2010 the Gulf Institute issued a press release that read in part:

The Institute for Gulf Affairs has released a report comparing the current edition of Saudi textbooks to statements made by the regime, emphasizing the deception of Saudi officials and the failure of U.S. policy to adequately address this issue. The report, entitled "A State of Deception: The Continuation of Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Hate," investigates the Saudi government's refusal to alter its curriculum of intolerance and reform the hateful content of its textbooks.

Four years after a 2006 Saudi government agreement with the U.S. State Department to "remove all hateful and intolerant content" from the Saudi textbooks, a review conducted by IGA reveals that the current edition of Saudi textbooks remain rampant with the same hateful, intolerant, and extremist content as before. Saudi textbooks continue to convey virulent anti-Semitism, instill violent and hateful attitudes toward the other, and sanction the killing of "unbelievers."

The release went on to explain that based on the report, a Saudi ambassador's statement in 2006 (attesting to the kingdom's compliance with the agreement) "and many more like it, are not only patently false, but are also deliberately deceitful and misleading."

So we are we now, more than five months after that report? A State Department official authorized only to speak on background e-mails that there has "been no change since July."

A former Middle East hand tells me that the administration could certainly do more by publicly specifying the offending texts and denouncing the failure to remove the offending language. He says, "There is no reason we need to be silent, but everyone says, 'oh, the King's so old, and so nice, and a reformer, really.'" After all, before he thought better of it the Saudi King did promise to personally see to the scrubbing of Saudi textbooks. But, then, the King was also supposed to play a constructive role in the "peace process." Not so much on either count, it seems.

Leonard Leo, the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), tells me, "There has been no real progress in terms of Saudi Arabia cleaning up its Government-approved school textbooks, which contain numerous. . .hateful references against Christians and Jews. But without pressure coming to bear on the Saudis from the State Department, you won't see any."

Others are equally glum about the prospects for more serious action to stem the spread of Saudi textbooks peddling Islamic extremism. The problem extends beyond this administration. "This, unfortunately, is not surprising and is indicative of the double standards applied to abuses in the Middle East," Professor Gerald Steinberg, president of Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, tells me via e-mail. "Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that claim to protect human rights generally ignore systematic ant-Semitism and incitement to violence, rather than demanding that Saudi Arabia remove them. Similarly, international institutions including the United Nations give a free pass to such abuses and sources of discrimination and violence." He continues:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently published a brief report on Saudi Arabia that supposedly detailed its human rights abuses, yet the vast majority of systematic abuses in Saudi Arabia, such as the absence of religious and sexual freedom, were largely ignored. In sharp contrast, HRW's publications targeting Israel include many more allegations, and are accompanied by major publicity campaigns. The leadership of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division use their resources against Israel rather than demanding the far overdue changes in Saudi Arabia, Libya, and elsewhere."

I spoke to Abe Foxman, head of the ADL, by phone this morning. As he explained, "The problem is that there are no consequences for the failure to live up to their commitments." He points out that King Abdullah tries to project an "image of a changing Saudi Arabia" and has, for example, sponsored interfaith conferences. But, then, he points out, "it is contradictory" for the Saudis to spread extremism through textbooks.

What, if anything, can be done? Most experts agree that a "name and shame" approach offers the most hope for improvement. Foxman argues, "The only impact, the only vehicle is exposure and embarrassment. They do care." But that would take some initiative by the administration.

The lack of serious action by the administration on this issue, however, is not an isolated event. Earlier this year the USCIRF issued a report documenting that religious freedom was of "shrinking importance" in the Obama foreign policy agenda. That has contributed, according to the USCIRF, to the "disturbing trends that threaten freedom of religion across the globe."

For now, the administration's indifference continues. We've done nothing to cajole the Saudis into cleaning up their textbooks, which find their way into Muslim schools around the globe. We've seen bipartisan outrage over the treatment of Christians in Iraq. And what has the administration been doing? Aside from periodically throwing a rhetorical bone to human rights advocates, the Obama team shows little interest in doing something about the victims and potential victims of Islamic extremism. I suppose it gets in the way of its precious "Muslim outreach."

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 28, 2010; 12:11 PM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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If the agreement was made in 2006, why are you holding Obama and his administration responsible for failure to push the changes? What about Bush and his administration's failure to see these changes implemented?

Posted by: misc1997 | December 28, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Gosh misc1997 could it be because Bush is no longer in office and Obama is?

Whining about Bush won't change the past or impact the present. So only someone bereft of rational ideas would waste time on it.

Further, when will Obama actually do anything about the issue? As I stated he's in a position to effect something and Bush no longer has that authority.

Or has the ten year temper tantrum of the liberals left them without anything more to say. You know, like something useful?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 28, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

President Obama and Human Rights Watch have decided that only two countries in the world deserve censure for their terrible and ongoing abuse of human rights and women's rights, the United States and Israel.

Posted by: Beniyyar | December 28, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

President Obama and Human Rights Watch have decided that only two countries in the world deserve censure for their terrible and ongoing abuse of human rights and women's rights, the United States and Israel.
Posted by: Beniyyar

So lets bomb SA along with Iran for the sake of balance between our killing of Shia/Sunnis.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 28, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Where is the media pressure? The NYT spends their time critiquing Texas textbooks.

As to Bush43? He got the Saudis to agree to reform in writing. All Obama does is try to be NOTBush43, especially when it comes to religious freedom for Christians and Jews anywhere in the world.

Obama is too scared the Saudis will close the oil spigot and send gasoline prices back up above four dollars a gallon.

Thanks for the link to the Gulf Institute report. One of my favorite pasttimes is posting excerpts on Muslim hate-textbooks when any Palestinian-loving leftist whines about Israel.

Posted by: K2K2 | December 28, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for this wonderful article. I will be writing to my new Republican congressman, my senators, and the president. I will ask them to end this abuse by the Saudis and to make sure that these textbooks are withdrawn from all institutions in America that have received them from Saudi sponsors.

Posted by: JohnMarshall3 | December 28, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Human Rights Watch is a great organization.

Posted by: googleguy | December 28, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Sure, googleguy, a great organization. Saudi-sponsored, all but an official PR rep for Hamas, and on recently caught red-handed in lying about the Gaza war. Just your kind of folks. With all the humanitarian work on their plate, though, they forgot to coordinate with their bosses:

" a November 2010 interview given by Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad to the Al-Hayat newspaper, Hamad acknowledged that 600-700 Hamas members were killed in the Gaza fighting. This more than doubles the number of combatants published by the NGOs’ and Goldstone’s unreliable version of events, and is another example of false claims used to justify indictments against Israel." (NGO Monitor)

Oops! As the actual founder of HRW, Robert Bernstein a horrified critic of the ugly monster he inadvertantly created... said at a lecture at the University of Nebraska on November 10, 2010: “It will be interesting to see if the Goldstone Report and Human Rights Watch reports are reevaluated by them – all of which took the [original] Palestinians’ figures as fact.”

So, as a fan of the HRW, googleguy, perhaps you can tell us just when we might expect HRW's correction to be made public.

Posted by: p_kovachev | December 29, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

What about israeli racism:

Some 30 wives of rabbis are calling on Jewish girls not to date Arabs, work with them or perform national service in the same places where they work.

The statement was made in a letter organized by Lehava, an organization aimed at what it calls "saving the daughters of Israel" from assimilation. The group runs a shelter for Jewish women who have left their Arab partners and is calling for a boycott of a supermarket in Gush Etzion that employs Arab men and Jewish women.

Though parts of the letter refer to non-Jews in a generic way, other parts make it clear that the rabbis' wives - including Esther Lior, the wife of Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba, and Nitzhia Yosef, the wife of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Jerusalem and daughter-in-law of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef - are referring specifically to Arabs.

"Don't date non-Jews, don't work in places where there are non-Jews, and don't perform national service together with non-Jews," the letter urges.

In some of the places where Jewish girls might work, like supermarkets or hospitals, "there are no few Arab workers who use a Hebrew name," it states. "Yusuf turns into Yossi, Samir turns into Sami and Abed turns into Ami. They seek your company, try to get you to like them, and give you all the attention in the world."

But that won't last, the letter warns: "As soon as you're in their hands, in their village, under their control, everything changes."

The letter comes on the heels of a letter earlier this month endorsed by dozens of municipal rabbis that urged Jews not to rent or sell homes to non-Jews.

Posted by: googleguy | December 29, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse


But...but...but...what about ISRAELI RACISM?!?!? I take it you agree with my HRW pontifications and prefer to move onto the next bombastic anti-Israeli canard.

Alright, then. First of all, non-Muslim or liberal Arab women in Israel should be aware of what all modern, liberal or secular Arab women already know: Avoid Arab Palestinian men from the villages and clans who want to take you home to their families in the territories, or to their villages in the north. Bride murders by other wives, parents or husbands, honour killings, abuse and White slavery are distressing realities, since these women are socially isolated and sequestered in areas Israeli authorities stay away from. Those unfortunates who manage to escape or are lucky to be rescued can provide a lot of detail. Others can't because they are dead or disappeared without a trace. So, as shocking as it may seem to your isolated, pampered and sanitized sensitivities, the warning that "as soon as you're in their hands, in their village, under their control, everything changes" is quite sound.

That being said, the reason a handful of ultra-Orthodox wives wound up on the front page of Israeli papers with this letter is that racial discrimination in Israel is prohibited by law and is widely unpopular. So, we have another man-bites-dog story about Israel, which is being blown out of proportion and making the arounds among the usual suspects. The ultra-Orthodox frown on men and women...Jewish or otherwise... mixing socially and at work, so the protest about Muslim men working beside Jewish women is somewhat stupid. Besides, secular Israeli guys can be just as fresh and improper as their Arab counterparts. In any case, for those who may not know this, traditional Jews in Israel and abroad socially interact with and marry more visible long as they are genuine or properly converted Jews... than the supposedly liberal North Americans and Western Europeans. In Judaism, "race" as we understand it has no reality or religious status.

Now for a few questions of my own, gogleguy. Are you as alarmed about some American Black ministries who warn about intermarriage with Whites? Not non-Christians, but any Whites? Are you disturbed about the brutal and primitive kind of racial discrimination "white" Arabs practice against their Black co-religionists all over the Arab world? Are you at all cognisant, much less disturbed, by the growing Arab trade in Black slaves from the Sudan? I know it pales in comparison to the racially-inspired genocide of the Darfurians by the Sudanese Arabs, but I would imagine a fine American like you would find Black slavery a little over the top, no? And, have you wandered about why thousands of Sudanese and Somali Blacks risk their lives to make it to Israel? Perhaps that terrible "Israeli racism" which antisemites, of all people, froth about isn't what it's advertised to be?

Posted by: p_kovachev | December 29, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

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