Friday, June 05, 2009

Which Side Are You On?

There's an old labor song by Florence Reece called "Which Side Are You On?" Sometimes self-styled Palestinian solidarity activists bring this tune to mind. For example, not long ago I attended a presentation at the Washtenaw Community College on the Michigan Peace Team by a designated representative of that organization. One of the low points of the talk was when the presenter flashed an anti-Jewish quote attributed to King Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia from 1937. It was a portion of the passage below:
'Our hatred for the Jews dates from God's condemnation of them for their persecution and rejection of Isa (Jesus Christ), and their subsequent rejection later of His chosen Prophet. It is beyond our understanding how your Government, representing the first Christian power in the world today, can wish to assist and reward these very same Jews who maltreated your Isa (Jesus).

''We Arabs have been the traditional friends of Great Britain for many years, and I, Bin Sa'ud, in particular have been your Government's firm friend all my life, what madness then is this which is leading on our Government to destroy this friendship of centuries, all for the sake of an accursed and stiffnecked race which has always bitten the hand of everyone who has helped it since the world began.*
What is the purpose of this? It was given in the context of Jewish Zionist statements about Palestinians but don't Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims already get enough bad press in the West as it is and isn't the Jews-as-victims drum banged loudly and often enough without "friends of Palestine" joining in? Doesn't this kind of stuff stem from genuflecting at the false idol of neutrality/objectivity?

In any case, I'm always skeptical of these kind of quotes. I mean, haven't we learned anything from the Zionist manipulation of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy? The quote was presented with no source citation but it's all over the Internet on mainly Zionist sites. The source appears to be a book, Islam in the modern world and other studies, by Elie Kedourie (pp. 69-74). Kedourie cites a British Foreign Office file as his source.

Unless another secondary source can be found confirming the existence of Kedourie's primary source and his accurate usage of it, it is certainly worth wondering if Kedourie hasn't fabricated the report. I say this because Kedourie was an ardent Zionist and an Orientalist. As Israel Shahak wrote:
... Israeli policies bear the easily recognizable imprint of Orientalist ‘expertise’ abounding in militarist and racist ideological prejudices. This 'expertise' is readily available in English, since its harbingers were the Jewish Orientalists living in English-speaking countries, like Bernard Lewis or the late Elie Kedourie who had visited Israel regularly for hobnobbing on the best of terms with the Israeli Security System. It was Kedourie who performed a particularly seminal role in fathering the assumptions on which Israeli policies rest and who consequently had in Israel a lot of influence. In Kedourie’s view, the peoples of the Middle East, with the 'self-evident' exception of Israel, would be best off if ruled by foreign imperial powers with a natural capacity to rule for a long time yet.
Kedourie was also reportedly a fan of Likud and the terrorist Menachem Begin. Kedourie was a frequent contributor to the American Jewish Committee's Zionist, neoconservative house rag, Commentary.

Even assuming the Foreign Office record actually exists and Kedourie has quoted it accurately there are still grounds for questions about it. First, it is the record of a retired British diplomat and colonial adminstrator, at the time, very evidently still in service to the Empire, Colonel H. R. P. Dickson. The report was duly submitted to George W. Rendel of the British Foreign Office. Dickson allegedly spoke with Abdul Aziz Al Saud in 1937 in the context of the great Palestinian uprising of 1936-1939, twenty years after the British government attached itself to the Zionist project with the Balfour Declaration. In his report, Dickson indicates that the Saudi monarch did not permit anyone else to listen to his words and that Dickson did not have a stenographer standing by or tape recorder running--his report is a post hoc paraphrase of a lengthy monologue. Dickson is no disinterested party, and there is, apparently, no independent confirmation of the British diplomat's account.

One other point worth making is that if the Dickson report is accurate and authentic it would tend to undermine a claim Kedourie makes later in his book. On page 116, he says: "There had never been a 'special connexion' between the Arabs in and outside Palestine, much less a 'special connexion' between Palestine and Saudi Arabia." But consider this excerpt from Dickson's report:
His Majesty early on turned to the subject obviously close to his heart, namely the Palestine tangle, and for close on an hour and a half delivered himself as follows. He spoke for the most part in low earnest voice ...

'We are most anxious that the British Government should send us every eight months or so an experienced officer whom they trust, or equally well an ex-official like yourself, who can listen personally to what we have on our minds, and what troubles our hearts, for times are deeply serious and full of danger these days. ...

'Today we and our subjects are deeply troubled over this Palestine question ...
But why should Kedourie care about what an Arab says? And why should peace activists leave off bashing Arabs with questionable quotes when it serves their own purposes?

* To see the text in its larger context go to and scroll down to "Report of Conversation of Col H.R.P. Dickson, with HRH Abd al Aziz ib Sa'ud, king of Saudi Arabia October 28, 1937". I haven't checked it real carefully but this appears to be an accurate rendition of the text in Kedourie's book.

Last revision: 1/15/2010

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