The dis­ap­pear­ance of Khashoggi and the Is­rael-Saudi al­liance

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL - By Asa Win­stan­ley

The ap­par­ent kid­nap­ping and pos­si­ble mur­der of jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi by Saudi Ara­bia is a shock­ing in­dict­ment of a regime en­tirely without re­deem­ing fea­tures. He walked into the Saudi em­bassy in Turkey last week to ob­tain doc­u­men­ta­tion fi­nal­iz­ing his di­vorce, but he has yet to re­turn. His fi­ancée waited out­side the em­bassy in vain for him to emerge.

As a Saudi jour­nal­ist, Khashoggi had lat­terly be­come a critic of Crown Prince Mo­ham­mad Bin Sal­man, the de facto ruler of the King­dom. He spent much of his ca­reer as, in the words of the Wash­ing­ton Post, “a part of Saudi Ara­bia’s es­tab­lish­ment, en­sconced in its rul­ing cir­cles.”

Bin Sal­man is first in line to the throne and seems to be send­ing the sig­nal that no­body must chal­lenge him, even in the most timid of ways. Khashoggi was a mild critic, not chal­leng­ing the Saudi regime in any fun­da­men­tal way, or call­ing into ques­tion its right to rule. The Times on Wed­nes­day sum­ma­rized that Khashoggi’s Wash­ing­ton Post col­umns amounted to “fairly mild ar­ti­cles on as­pects of Saudi pol­icy.”

How­ever, it’s now clear that even this was too much for Bin Sal­man and the rest of the rul­ing Saudi clique. In crude power terms, it looks as if Khashoggi backed the wrong princes.

The en­tirely jus­ti­fied main­stream me­dia and tooth­less Western govern­ment out­rage at Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance masks a wider truth; this is only the lat­est in a long list of ex­am­ples of Saudi op­pres­sion tar­get­ing dis­si­dents and crit­ics.

In­ter­est­ingly, on this oc­ca­sion there are also ques­tions be­ing asked about whether Saudi Ara­bia had help in the op­er­a­tion against Khashoggi. Left-wing Le­banese-Amer­i­can aca­demic and com­men­ta­tor As`ad AbuKhalil, a long-term critic of the Saudi regime, wrote im­me­di­ately that he sus­pects Is­raeli in­volve­ment. He added later that gov­ern­ments other than the Saudis were in­volved, prob­a­bly in­clud­ing Egypt and Is­rael.

The Times re­ported that one of the two pri­vate Saudi jets sus­pected of fer­ry­ing a “hit squad” be­tween the King­dom and Turkey stopped over in Egypt on its way home, be­fore de­part­ing for its fi­nal des­ti­na­tion in Riyadh. See the graphic in the Times re­port via the link. The other jet which al­legedly brought this Saudi death squad into Turkey, made a stopover in the United Arab Emi­rates.

What of any Is­raeli con­nec­tion? Right now there doesn’t seem to be any solid ev­i­dence, but it would not be without prece­dent. Once some­thing of an open se­cret, the col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Is­raeli and Saudi regimes has burst into the open in re­cent years. There is no longer any doubt that the two coun­tries’ spy agen­cies are work­ing to­gether on projects of mu­tual in­ter­est.

Both Is­rael and the Saudis have an in­ter­est, for ex­am­ple, in fight­ing Iran, each in sim­i­lar sec­tar­ian terms. Is­raeli spy agen­cies have in the past as­sas­si­nated Ira­nian sci­en­tists, along with Pales­tinian re­sis­tance ac­tivists and fight­ers — armed and un­armed alike — as well as com­pletely in­no­cent Pales­tinian by­standers.

Times jour­nal­ist Richard Spencer has been cov­er­ing the Khashoggi story. He wrote an in­ter­est­ing anal­y­sis on Wed­nes­day in which – without specif­i­cally spec­u­lat­ing that Is­rael may have been in­volved in the jour­nal­ist’s dis­ap­pear­ance – he out­lined some of the his­tor­i­cal prece­dents of Is­rael kid­nap­ping and/or mur­der­ing “trou­ble­some” crit­ics of despotic or au­to­cratic regimes al­lied to the self-styled Jewish regime.

Is­rael’s Mos­sad in­tel­li­gence agency has “devel­oped an ex­per­tise in kid­nap­ping peo­ple and smug­gling them across in­ter­na­tional bound­aries us­ing diplo­matic cover,” wrote Spencer. He cited the 1984 ex­am­ple of Umaru Dikko, a Nige­rian politi­cian ex­iled to Lon­don the year be­fore, af­ter a coup in his home coun­try. The man was “found in a crate at Stansted air­port, alive and drugged, hav­ing been seized by two cur­rent or for­mer Mos­sad agents work­ing for the Nige­rian govern­ment.”

The crate was sup­posed to be pro­tected by diplo­matic im­mu­nity, but “the Bri­tish po­lice cited its lack of proper seals and doc­u­men­ta­tion as a rea­son to break in and search it.” Mos­sad’s much vaunted and feared “ex­per­tise” in such mat­ters clearly failed in that par­tic­u­lar op­er­a­tion. We don’t know whether or not Is­rael was in­volved in this par­tic­u­lar kid­nap­ping in Is­tan­bul, but it’s cer­tainly a valid av­enue of en­quiry for in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

In one re­spect, the Is­rael-Saudi al­liance now seems com­plete: pro­pa­ganda.

An emerg­ing Saudi pro­pa­ganda theme seems to be that all the cur­rent crit­i­cism of the King­dom over its al­leged kid­nap­ping and mur­der of a mild critic of its Crown Prince is noth­ing more than “Arabo­pho­bia” or “Saudi­pho­bia”. In other words – stop me if you’ve heard this one be­fore – such crit­i­cism is not mo­ti­vated by con­cern for the ba­sic hu­man rights of Saudi dis­si­dents but by anti-Arab racism. If that sounds fa­mil­iar, it should. The Saudis are us­ing the same tired tem­plate that Is­rael uses to dis­credit any and all crit­ics of its mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tinian land, or its found­ing ide­ol­ogy, Zion­ism; that is, the old lie that all crit­ics are “anti-Semites”.

While it goes without say­ing that anti-Arab racism and anti-Semitism are both real and un­ac­cept­able is­sues, such cyn­i­cal ma­nip­u­la­tion of gen­uine con­cerns by despotic regimes seek­ing to di­vert at­ten­tion from their crimes should be treated with the con­tempt that it de­serves. The Is­rael-Saudi al­liance, it seems, has come full cir­cle.

An emerg­ing Saudi pro­pa­ganda theme seems to be that all the cur­rent crit­i­cism of the King­dom over its al­leged kid­nap­ping and mur­der of a mild critic of its Crown Prince is noth­ing more than “Arabo­pho­bia” or “Saudi­pho­bia”.

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