Lately, I’ve been reporting on the recent political realignments in the Middle East. In its effort to suppress Hamas Israel has garnered the overt and covert support of countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia… not so much because these countries are great friends of Israel—they are more like friends of convenience—but because they despise and fear Hamas more.
The Times of Israel reports on a Friday statement from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Clearly, the paper reports, the King has changed his policy:
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah condemned the war in Gaza Friday as a “collective massacre” and a crime against humanity, but stopped short of directly condemning Israel for its ground campaign against Hamas.
Unlike past Gaza wars, including the devastating 2008 offensive, the Saudi monarch did not condemn Israel outright for the conflict, which officials say has killed at least 1,500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, since it began on July 8. Israel says 63 of its soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been also killed. It says hundreds of the Gaza dead are Hamas gunmen.
Instead King Abdullah appeared to suggest that both Israel and Hamas were responsible, saying that the violence in Gaza has led to “various forms” of terrorism whether from groups, organizations or states.
Strikingly, for a country that has funded its share of terrorism, the King denounced Islamist extremism:
In his remarks, the king pressed Muslim leaders to unite against extremism, saying terrorists are wrongfully carrying out deadly acts in the name of Islam and tarnishing the religion’s “purity and humanity.”
His remarks appeared to be directed at groups like the Islamic State and its allies, which have taken over territory in Iraq and Syria and whose fighters view the Western-allied Saudi ruling family as enemies.
“It is shameful and disgraceful that these terrorists are doing this in the name of religion, killing the people whose killing Allah has forbidden, and mutilating their bodies and feeling proud in publishing this,” the statement said. “They have distorted the image of Islam with its purity and humanity and smeared it with all sorts of bad qualities by their actions, injustice and crimes.”
Beyond the politics, what matters most in this statement is the King’s idea that the reputation of Islam in the world depends in large part on the behavior of Muslims.
At a time when many Islamist organizations will denounce you as Islamophobic if you dare utter the least negative thought about Islam, the King has correctly placed the onus on Muslims themselves. Obviously, Muslims cannot police all of the extremists in their midst, but leaders like King Abdullah do well to shame the radicals and make clear to their coreligionists that their good name depends more on them than on the prejudices of their neighbors.
On the other side of the debate, Hamas supporters like Rashid Khalidi, close personal friend of Barack Obama are still blaming it all on Israel. So: Khalidi is more attuned to terrorists and extremists than the King of Saudi Arabia. Then again, so apparently is Obama.
Now, if only Saudi Arabia would open up its own society and cease the anti-Semitic propaganda.
That notwithstanding, King Abdullah has surely made a step in the right direction.