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Friday, March 11, 2005

Saudi spokeperson condemns terror - except against Israel

No surprise here, but the idea of the Saudi official running away from a press conference rather than show himself to be a hypocrite and liar is priceless.
Adel al-Jubeir is the national spokesperson of Saudi Arabia, the face that the kingdom likes to show in the West. In contrast with most Saudi Arabians, he is clean-shaven, and his English is polished and almost unaccented. If he has any traditional Arab clothes, he hides them in the closet in his house in Saudi Arabia. In Western countries, he is careful to appear only in expensive, quietly fashionable, and conservative suits, which, together with his receding hairline, lend him the appearance of a senior accountant.

He speaks softly, but in tones of authority, backed by his senior status in Saudi Arabia foreign affairs adviser to Prince Abdullah, the acting ruler of the kingdom. His voice is the voice of his masters, dubbed for Western ears, and that is the source of his power. He is said to be the best Arab spokesperson today.

On Tuesday, at a press conference at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, al-Jubeir launched a campaign to improve Saudi Arabia’s image in the US, under the slogan, “We’re fighting terrorism.” The fact that someone of his stature has been assigned to orchestrate the campaign shows how Saudi Arabia’s image has deteriorated in US public opinion.

Now, however, al-Jubeir wants Americans to believe that Saudia Arabia is remaking itself that what it has been is not what it will be. As he puts it, "The bottom line is that no Saudi citizen will be able to escape the clear message that intolerance, violence and extremism are not part of our Islamic faith, or of Saudi culture or traditions.”

Asked how Saudi Arabia defines terrorism, al-Jubeir said that the kingdom had adopted the UN’s formula, which defines terrorism as an act that causes victims among civilians, “anywhere.”

"Globes’" reporter, who identified himself as an Israeli journalist, wanted to hear how Saudi Arabia defines Palestinian organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other like them. Are these terrorist organizations? Does Saudi Arabia support them, and will it continue to do so? The reporter also asked whether the Saudi Arabian royal family would agree to diplomatic relations with Israel after implementation of the disengagement plan.

Without blinking, al-Jubeir answered, “Let’s wait a minute with that. Let’s finish with the subject of terrorism.” He turned to two other reporters, unexpectedly stopped the press conference, and quickly left the room. Several people, apparently employees of the Saudi Arabian embassy, physically blocked access to the retreating spokesperson. A group of Arab journalists began to shout, “What about the briefing in Arabic that you promised us?”, but al-Jubeir was already out of hearing.