Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Dec. 24, 2002 / 19 Teves, 5763

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Who finances the fanatics? | The terrorist assault by suicidal Muslim fanatics stunned the nation and its leaders. To this day the fallout plagues America and the West. No, we're not talking 9/11. The date was Nov. 20, 1979. The place? Saudi Arabia. About 500 fundamentalists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the holiest site of Islam, and took 6,000 pilgrims hostage. It took two weeks for security forces to retake the mosque. Hundreds of pilgrims died. Sixty-three rebels were captured and beheaded.

The siege was a devastating blow to the House of Saud. It mocked their role as guardian of Islam's holy places and forced them to defend their religious legitimacy from the charge that they had failed to reject the self-indulgent temptations of western life. Saudi leaders were distressed. They understood the deep attachment of their people to their puritanical variant of Islam, Wahhabism. Once aroused, this was a force that could topple the regime. Their response? Co-opt the ideology of the Wahhabists and give Wahhabi clerics more control over the social, economic, and educational life of the kingdom. Even worse, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs was given billions of dollars to export Wahhabism to the Muslim world. It financed fundamentalist religious schools known as madrasahs in Pakistan and built Wahhabist-oriented mosques from the Balkans to Indonesia to America, where 60 percent are Wahhabi-funded.

The result was the emergence of a militant form of Islam that today pervades much of the Muslim world. Wahhabism has effectively replaced communism as the root of anti-Western ideology. The Wahhabi lobby reminds one of the old Kremlin-style propaganda in its paranoid delusions, but it is far more pernicious, an unending stream of the most vicious anti-American, antisemitic bigotry.

Effluent. Much of the funding for this toxic effluent comes from the wealthiest Saudis, through what they call "charities." Their purpose has been to fund the extremists in exchange for their promise not to direct their wrath against Saudi interests. The Saudi deflection of Wahhabism onto the world outside was clever, but it came at a price-the nourishment of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups hostile to the West.

A sea of Saudi money supports al Qaeda, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and other radical groups around the Muslim world. Canadian intelligence estimates that Saudi-based charities alone funnel between $1 million and $2 million a month to al Qaeda. In a recent report, the Council on Foreign Relations noted that "individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most important source of funds for al Qaeda, and for years Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem."

Osama bin Laden grew up in a culture that fostered the belief that the very existence of the West is an affront to Islam. Bin Laden sees his destiny as uniting all Muslim lands and re-establishing the original caliphate of a millennium ago. In this messianic view, the U.S.-led forces that remained in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War a decade ago are a violation of Islam's sanctuary-and further proof of the corruption of the House of Saud.

All this raises grave questions about the future of U.S.-Saudi relations. For years, America's easy access to Saudi oil was guaranteed by its protection of the kingdom from foreign threat. For America, the deal has had costs unrelated to providing protection. We have been seen as backing a corrupt, authoritarian regime even as we have become targets of Islamic fanatics fanning out of Saudi Arabia, funded by Saudis.

The Saudi regime was slow to awake to this problem, illuminated most recently by an Arabian night's tale involving the wife of the influential Saudi ambassador to Washington. Briefly, Princess Haifa authorized checks in excess of $100,000. The money, the princess said, was to have gone to pay medical expenses of a woman she had never met; somehow, however, much of it wound up in the hands of a man who helped two of the hijackers who piloted United Flight 77 into the Pentagon. Saudi authorities deny any ties to terrorists.

But this re-emphasized the danger of unaccountable Saudi petrodollars sent out to charities in the rest of the world without control and little concern for what happens outside the kingdom. Pressure is growing on the House of Saud to end its Faustian bargain with fanaticism. The Saudis, in response, have announced measures to provide more oversight of money going into charities directly or through their banks. So far, so good.

The Saudis must realize that President Bush sees 9/11 as a wake-up call. He has turned those events into the mission of his presidency, really, the mission of his life. He will not shrink from putting pressure on anyone who does not disown and delegitimize extremists who kill. The Saudis so far have avoided finding themselves in the terrorists' cross hairs. They will truly regret it if they get into the cross hairs of America.

Like this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


12/19/02: Put-up or shut-up time
12/09/02: Sheep, wolves, and reality
11/21/02: Curing the uncommon cold
11/12/02: Everybody has the right to be wrong but the Dems have been abusing the privilege
11/05/02: Force vs. fanaticism
10/30/02: Land of the sinking sun
10/22/02: No more cat and mouse
10/15/02: And pigs will fly
10/07/02: A shameful contagion
09/26/02: Calling a madman's number
09/23/02: Our rainbow underclass
09/13/02: Why America must act
09/04/02: After bubbles, a double dip?
08/20/02: No time for equivocation
08/06/02: No time for politics
07/30/02: Getting off the dime
07/17/02: What scandal cannot dim
06/18/02: Time to crack down: Where is the outrage?
06/05/02: The next new thing
04/30/02: Roller-coaster nation
04/25/02: A critical tipping point
04/15/02: Israel's endgame will impact the free world
03/21/02: In the face of pure evil
03/14/02: A man on a mission
03/07/02: Land of the Sinking Sun
02/12/02: Speaking truth about energy
01/15/02: Putting our house in order
01/12/02: Talking points for 2002
12/24/01: The shape of things to come
12/11/01: Finally, a clarity of vision
12/04/01: Apocalypse now
11/26/01: The Big Apple's core
11/06/01: What it will take to win
10/22/01: Getting the mayor's message
10/08/01: A remedy for repair
10/01/01: A question of priorities
09/26/01: Our mission, our moment
09/11/01: Running the asylum
08/29/01: Hail, brave consumer
06/14/01: Blackouts --- or blackmail?
06/01/01: A time to reap --- and sow
05/25/01: A question of confidence
05/18/01: A question of confidence
05/04/01: Making the grade
04/26/01: The caribou conundrum
04/19/01: Chinese boomerang
03/27/01: The man of the moment
03/20/01: The Fed must be bold
03/15/01: Japan on the brink
03/01/01: Rethinking the next war
02/09/01: The education paradox
01/08/01: How the bottom fell out
01/03/01: Quipping in the new year
12/20/00: A time for healing
11/13/00: The need for legitimacy
10/30/00: Arafat's bloody cynicism
10/18/00: Arafat torches peace
10/03/00: A great step backward
09/08/00: The Perfect Storm
08/29/00: Don't blow the surplus
08/15/00: Voting for grown-ups
08/01/00: Arafat's lack of nerve
07/17/00: Can there be a new peace between old enemies? Or will new enemies regress to an old state of war?
07/11/00: A time to celebrate
06/19/00: A bit of straight talk
06/08/00: Using hate against Israel
05/26/00: Is the Federal Reserve trigger-happy?
04/18/00: Tensions on the 'Net
04/13/00: A paranoid power
03/10/00: Fuel prices in the red zone
02/25/00: Web wake-up call
02/18/00: Back to the future
01/21/00: Whistling while we work
01/11/00: Loose lips, fast quips
12/23/99: The times of our lives
12/14/99: Hey, big spender
11/18/99: Fountain of Youth
11/04/99: An impossible partner
10/14/99: A nation divided
10/05/99: India at center stage
09/21/99: Along with good cops, we need a better probation system
09/08/99: Though plundered and confused, Russia can solve its problems
08/31/99: The military should spend more on forces and less on facilities
08/05/99: Squandering the surplus
07/06/99: More than ever, America's unique promise is a reality
06/24/99: The time has come to hit the brakes on affirmative action
06/15/99: America should take pride in honoring its responsibilities
06/02/99: The Middle Kingdom shows its antagonistic side
05/11/99: Technology's transforming power is giving a lift to everything
05/04/99: The big game gets bigger
04/30/99: On Kosovo, Russia talked loudly and carried a small stick
04/21/99: No time to go wobbly
04/13/99: The Evil of two lessers

© 2001, Mortimer Zuckerman