Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The King and I: Eyewitness to History

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The King and I: Eyewitness to History

Article excerpt

The King and I: Eyewitness to History

By Alfred M. Lilienthal

In December a group of leaders from the American Jewish Committee traveled to Riyadh to see King Fahd. Their visit was to express their concern lest new surveillance satellite photos purchased by a Saudi Arabian company be used for military purposes against Israel. The King assured them the information would be used only for commercial purposes.

The leadership boasted of its accomplishment, and were portrayed by the U.S. media as the first Jews ever to be received in the Saudi Kingdom by a reigning monarch.

Like so much of the propaganda emanating from Zionist sources, this was pure myth-information. Thirty-nine years earlier, in 1955, I had visited Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia as the guest of His Majesty King Saud and was subsequently received over the years by his successors and brothers, Kings Faisal, Khalid, and Fahd.

I have no idea of how many hundreds, or thousands, of American Jews have visited Saudi Arabia since then. Each press entourage that accompanied U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on his many visits to the Kingdom contained Jewish journalists, none of whom encountered problems or we would have read about them in their reports.

My own first visit was in 1955, a year after my book What Price Israel? had been published in the United States and had become a solid hit. It was then translated into Arabic in Beirut as Themen Israel? and went into seven printings. By the time I arrived in the Lebanese capital on my second visit to that country, I recall that my arrival was trumpeted on the front pages, and I was received as a conquering hero. Arab officials and media pundits vied in honoring the one U.S. writer who had effectively defied the Zionist movement.

A grand reception was tendered me at the American University of Beirut Alumni Club, where 200 people turned out as guests of the minister of information. It was a beautiful affair, and my first visit to the famed educational institution where I was to lecture later. The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon was present, and in congratulating me he said, "We should bring you to the Kingdom."

Though the Arabic version of the book had been successful, I had received not a penny in royalties. The translation had been pirated. At an embassy reception, I accosted the two young publishers and said to them: "Don't you agree that I deserve a few Lebanese pounds for the 10,000 copies you have sold?" Their quick answer: "We pay you? We made you popular. You ought to pay us."

They were right, at least, about the popularity. I had understood from those who had already arranged visits for me to Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq that a visa for Saudi Arabia would be impossible to obtain because I was a Jew. But now my popularity had extended to Saudi Arabia and in the spring of 1955 I was invited to come to the Kingdom. I was met at the airport by the military aide to His Majesty King Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz, and by my sponsor, Minister of Information Abdullah Bulkhair, who had persuaded King Saud of the wisdom of my visit.

From the airport I was taken in an official car, with flags flying, to the Al-Yamama Hotel, where I had a beautiful suite, rested and then was brought to Nassariya Palace. I arrived there shortly before prayer time and was seated in an anteroom through whose open door I could look into the room where the King and his court were at prayer.

When the King's prayers were completed, I was introduced to him. As we shook hands, he said, "Ahlan wa Sahlan [welcome], Dr. Lilienthal." Then we proceeded to the dining room, followed by his ministers and some of his sons. This dinner with the son and first heir to the founder of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud Ibn Abdul Rahman Al Saud, was one I shall always remember. Standing behind each of us was a servant. If you momentarily turned away from your plate for conversation with your neighbor--bingo! …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.