The Princess Haifa, who has helped make Saudi Prince Bandar the rouge playboy of Arabia and a kind of Arabian King in Washington, seems to have overlooked some crucial elements of her father's assassaination in 1975. King Faisal had stood up to the American Empire and the Israelis using the 'oil weapon'. His demise just two years later was thought to be part of a CIA/Mossad plot to show who's really boss and frighten away any other Arab leaders who might have had standing up to the Empire in mind.
Another nail in the coffin of Arab-U.S. ties
By Linda S Heard
[Gulf Times - Athens - 3 Dec 2002]:
The latest slurs by certain members of Congress on the name of Princess Haifa Al Faisal, youngest daughter of the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, are indications of just how low some political manipulators are prepared to stoop.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Ambassador to U.S., told the New York Times that he was little concerned about the accusations against his wife, explaining that he has lived in Washington long enough to understand the political game.
The princess, herself, though is naturally upset, issuing the statement: "My father, King Faisal, was killed in a terrorist act in 1975. I find the accusations that I contributed funds to terrorists outrageous and completely irresponsible".
For the Washington rumour-mongers and their more gullible followers, ignorance of the Arab world and its customs has never been more evident. The American media has colluded too by offering forums to agenda-led individuals bent on expounding their implausible theories to a largely ill-informed audience as to the nuances of Saudi culture.
The accusation that Princess Haifa would knowingly channel money to Al Qaida hijackers Khaled Al Midhar and Nawaf Al Hazmi is entirely without basis.
Saudi Arabia and America have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for decades, and it was in no way in the interests of the Saudi royal family for those buildings in New York to topple.
Let's be realistic here. Even if, by a huge stretch of the imagination, a high profile Saudi princess harboured a secret agenda and wished to aid enemies of the U.S., does anyone seriously envisage that she would risk her reputation by sending the modest sum of $2,000 a month to Al Qaida members via unreliable third parties... and by cheque?
Surely, anyone who deliberately wanted to give a financial boost to terrorism would use untraceable bank notes, gems or gold, possibly the havala system, not an official, up front payment over a four-year period.
Further, we have been told over and over again that Osama bin Laden and his followers are in possession of substantial funds and that the hijackers themselves had access to large sums of Al Qaida money. The idea that they were in desperate need of a few thousand dollars, courtesy of Princess Haifa, would be laughable if it wasn't so shamefully insulting.
As regards the other flawed premise that Princess Haifa should have investigated the female recipient of her generosity, neither the princess nor any philanthropic individual or institution should be held accountable for where their charity ends up. This, taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that when we give to a hungry street dweller and that person uses our donation to buy crack cocaine we are guilty of propping up drug dealers.
Instead of condemning the princess, we should be praising her for her humanitarian concern. It is certainly no fault of her own that, in this isolated incident, her good deeds backfired.
But the princess isn't looking for praise, simply respect. She only did what her religion demands. One of the five pillars of Islam is Zakat, or the giving of alms. Many Saudi and Gulf sheikhas devote their lives to good works but these acts of kindness rarely get reported.
The Saudi government too takes its charitable responsibilities very seriously and during the period 1973-93 donated 5.5 per cent of its GNP to overseas aid. On the Saudi government's official website is written: "There is an interdependence, both moral and economic, between rich nations and poor".
Over the years Saudi Arabia has given away mini fortunes for international drought relief, post-earthquake reconstruction, and to both the World Food Programme and the Programme for River Blindness.
Anyone who takes the trouble to do a web search will find thousands of mosques, hospitals and schools around the world, which have been built with Saudi and Gulf finance or interest-free long-term loans.
More than that, there is a tradition of helping out the poor and needy by wealthy individuals in both Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region. Many Gulf sheikhs hold a Friday majlis (or informal get together) where nationals can go to request financial assistance for any emergency. They are rarely turned away empty handed.
Saudi and other Gulf royals receive thousands of pleas for help each month from as far away as China, South East Asia, East Europe and Africa.
Just recently General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and the UAE Minister of Defence, responded to an appeal from an Iraqi whose wife had given birth to conjoined twins. He reacted by sending his personal aeroplane to collect the tiny brothers and bring them to Dubai where they were separated successfully at his own cost.
Simply put, Westerners are being duped with regards to the intentions of Princess Haifa. When the sick wife of a Saudi national asked her for help, she responded as one human being to another.
True, she didn't send forth hordes of private investigators to ascertain whether the women and her request were legitimate. She only heard a call for help and answered in a way that, in a perfect world, we should all feel obliged to do.
It should further be taken into account that the princess's donations in question were made before September 11 when any thoughts of terrorism were on the backburner. Why should it have even occurred to Princess Haifa that her money would end up in the hands of hijackers?
Colin Powell, who is a long-term friend of the royal couple, has clearly indicated that the princess is entirely blameless, echoed by others in the higher echelons of the American government. But this doesn't stop the ugly snippets of "information" being allowed to filter down in an attempt by certain malicious individuals to compromise the Saudi leadership.
Thanks to the Saudis the U.S. has enjoyed the benefits of cheap oil for years, and its forces have been guests on Saudi soil. This is no way to treat a friend even if Saudi Arabia is not prepared to be involved on any future attack on Iraq. Even friends have the right to say a firm but polite 'no' when the affirmative would mean a negation of their own belief system and an affront to their conscience.
America must understand that even if it is the superpower it cannot always get its own way and to attempt to do so by smearing innocent individuals like Princess Haifa is not only below the belt but also reflects badly on its own reputation of being a just and decent society.
But America could have a lot more to lose than its reputation here. The attacks on the princess amount to another nail in the coffin of worsening Arab-U.S. relations.
Racial profiling at America's entry points and the mass imprisonment of Muslim suspects in the U.S. has already angered the Arab world, leading to the pullout of Arab students from American universities and a drop in Arab patronage of U.S. medical facilities.
Indeed, billionaire Saudi entrepreneur Prince Al Waleed bin Talal recently told The Times of London that there could be a massive upcoming transfer of private Saudi funds from the U.S. to Europe, the Gulf, Japan or South America. The American government, currently juggling with a fragile economy, would do well to take note.
The writer is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs.