2002 Speech

Ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar bin Sultan gives a speech at the University of Oklahoma at Norman, Oklahoma

I’m proud and not ashamed to be a friend of the United States.  But I’m frustrated.

The Palestinian people are at present burdened by tremendous suffering and calamity as a result of the ongoing aggression of the Israeli Government, and the insane policies of its leader, who has a violent past in Lebanon and in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in 1982, and is currently acting violently as the elected Prime Minister of Israel.

While I believe that all Islamic countries should continue to focus on fighting international terrorism in principle, in practical terms, they should give priority to confronting Israeli violence against the Palestinians.  I am also very sympathetic to the suffering of the American people and the anger of the American leadership due to the terrorist attacks on the United States.

However, I feel a great sympathy with the suffering of the Palestinian people and the anger of the Palestinian leadership due to the terrorist Israeli aggression against them.  At the same time, I am saddened and still in pain for what happened to three thousand innocent people in the terrorist attack of September 11.  However, I feel the pain and the suffering of three million innocent Palestinians due to a terrorist Israeli operation that is still continuing.

I understand and respect the priorities of the United States, but I also respect and understand the priorities of three million unarmed Palestinians.  I acknowledge that the Palestinians’ greatest crime is their insistence on resisting the military occupation of their country.  This strange principle of resistance to military occupation of one’s country seems to be difficult for many American political, intellectual, and media elite to comprehend - even though it was practiced by other strange people in the past, such as Mr. Nelson Mandela in South Africa under apartheid and General George Washington during British colonial rule and even Menachem Begin during the British Mandate of Palestine.  These leaders who are from different countries and different continents share one thing in common.  They were all labeled as terrorists by the occupying military force at the time.  So what is the real crime when the Palestinians resist the Israeli military occupation of their country?

No sensible person can accept or support the killing of innocent people anywhere in the world -- and that includes innocent Israelis.  This also applies to the innocent Palestinians.

No sensible or decent person can accept the degradation of the dignity of an innocent person anywhere in the world -- including the dignity of innocent Israelis.  This also applies to the innocent Palestinians.

It makes no sense to ask President Yasser Arafat, who was elected by the Palestinian people and who is currently under siege inside two rooms, to stop the violence in the Occupied Territories while the Israeli forces are destroying all his security apparatus and killing and detaining his security officers.

This is not an opinion, it is a fact.  No leader in the world can guarantee 100% that no one will resort to violence;  but I can guarantee 100% that a desperate and oppressed person whose dignity has been insulted and who is willing to die cannot be stopped by any means.  I am also sure that the attitude of the Israeli army in detaining and humiliating thousands of Palestinians in order to arrest a single terrorist, will incite dozens of Palestinians to become suicide bombers.

I’m therefore convinced that the government, army, and the security agencies of Israel have lost the war regardless of how many battles they win.  Regardless of their acts of violence and their ability to inflict more severe pain upon the Palestinian people, this will not change the ultimate result.

The Palestinians are victims of the Israeli occupation.  The Israeli people are also victims of the Israeli occupation.  And now America’s worldwide interests are victims of the Israeli occupation.  Therefore, the policies of the Israeli government continue to prove that Israel is a strategic burden on the United States in times of crisis in the Middle East. This is evidenced by what happened in 1991 when the U.S. was engaged in a war in the Middle East and the most important condition for its success was to avoid any Israeli involvement because that would have shattered the Arab, American, and international coalition.

Now history is repeating itself in 2002.  Israel’s policy of violence against three million Palestinians, Christians as well as Muslims, is seriously jeopardizing the extent to which the U.S. policy may succeed in its declared war on international terrorism, which has enjoyed the support of the Islamic world from Pakistan in central Asia to Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean.

I believe that the Islamic world with its 1.2 billion people will continue to fight terrorism, yet priority should be given to a united stance in the face of Israel’s terrorism against three million Palestinians.  Israel’s actions are definitely changing the equation of, and seriously affecting, the international war on terrorism.  This change has been imposed on us as Arabs and Muslims and we did not choose it.

Accordingly, the Israeli government should bear the full responsibility for this change in the position of the Islamic world.  This is not a threat.  It is a reality.  It is also my personal view.  I do not arrogantly presume to speak on behalf of the leaders and peoples of the Islamic world.  But something tells me that if the near future proves that my feelings reflect those of the leaders and peoples of the Islamic world, then the danger is grave and imminent and there should be no surprise for what might happen.

I am sure that the intentions of the American people and government are good and they are definitely capable of safeguarding their national interests.  I am also sure that the intentions of the leaders and people of the Islamic world are good and they are capable of safeguarding their national interests.

But the big losers in the end will be the Israeli people because they elected a prime minister whose past was flawed as documented by the Sabra and Shatila massacres of thousands of innocent Palestinians in 1982 for which he was held personally accountable by an Israeli commission and forced to resign from the cabinet in disgrace.  His political adventures affected Israel for twenty years in a losing war in Lebanon that ended with Israel’s withdrawal from most of southern Lebanon.  Now, the same person has reappeared in a horror sequel and has the audacity to compare Israel’s violence against the Palestinians with what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan.

This is a big lie.  The U.S. did not occupy Afghanistan and it did not build settlements in Afghanistan and it did not attack or humiliate the Afghan people.  Based on international laws and norms, the U.S. was justified in defending itself following the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, directed by the officials in Afghanistan and their terrorist allies at the time.  What Israel is doing now is the exact opposite.

It is shameful to make such a comparison.  This comparison is an insult to the U.S. and its people, and especially the victims of the evil and vicious terrorist attack of September 11.

I condemn acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians but I support resisting the military occupation that is imposed on three million Palestinians who have been collectively punished and humiliated by Israel on a daily basis over the past thirty-five years.

If this is not depressing enough, imagine how bankrupt the Israeli body politic is when it is Binjamin Netanyahu who is now the spokesman representing Israel before the international media.  Yes, Binjamin Netanyahu.

Believe it or not, this extremist and failed political lightweight, is the same person who forcefully and successfully incited extremist Jews to assassinate Israel's former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, a wise and brave man.  This fact is well known in Israel.  This is the Netanyahu from whom Rabin’s widow, Leah, refused to accept condolences at her husband's funeral.  I am sure that if Rabin were still alive, and had not been assassinated by Jewish terrorists who support Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu, Rabin would have achieved peace with the Arabs.

I am saddened by what the Israeli people are encountering and will encounter for having elected a fanatical government that cares nothing for peace and is unable to achieve security for them.  Life is choices, and we all live with our choices.

I will leave you with an idea and two choices.  The idea is that peace is a worthy cause.

The first choice: 

The Arabs have offered an initiative for peace in which the Israelis and Arabs live together in total peace and security, living together a normal life as peoples and sovereign nations.  This is what the Arab leaders committed themselves unanimously to at the Beirut Summit on March 27, 2002 based on the initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia which was endorsed worldwide, including the United States.

Compare this with the second choice:

The Israeli government has rejected the Arab offer of peace and responded to it with violence, destruction and collective punishment against three million Palestinians.

Is this a difficult choice?  Am I insane or fanatic because I choose the Arabs' offer for peace?

Am I insane or fanatic because I condemn the acts of violence against innocent Israelis?

Am I insane or fanatic when I condemn the Israeli oppression of three million Palestinians?

Am I insane or fanatic because I condemn violence against innocent Palestinians?

Is it difficult for the political, intellectual and media elite in the United States to decide between these two choices?

Life is choices, so let us choose good over evil.