Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who disappeared in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, is not quite the critic of the Saudi regime that the Western media says he is.
By As`ad AbuKhalil and cross-posted from Consortium Dreams
The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week has generated huge international publicity, but unsurprisingly, little in Saudi-controlled, Arab media. The Washington Post, for whom Khashoggi wrote, and other Western media, have kept the story alive, increasing the pressure on Riyadh to explain its role in the affair.
It’s been odd to read about Khashoggi in Western media. David Hirst in The Guardian claimed Khashoggi merely cared about absolutes such as “truth, democracy, and freedom”. Human Rights Watch’s director described him as representing “outspoken and critical journalism.”
But did he pursue those absolutes while working for Saudi princes?
Khashoggi was a loyal member of the Saudi propaganda apparatus. There is no journalism allowed in the kingdom: there have been courageous Saudi women and men who attempted to crack the wall of rigid political conformity and were persecuted and punished for their views. Khashoggi was not among them.
Some writers suffered while Khashoggi was their boss at Al-Watan newspaper. Khashoggi—contrary to what is being written—was never punished by the regime, except lightly two years ago, when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) banned him from tweeting and writing for Al-Hayat, the London-based, pan-Arab newspaper owned by Saudi Prince Khalid bin Sultan.
By historical contrast, Nasir As-Sa`id was a courageous secular Arab Nationalist writer who fled the kingdom in 1956 and settled in Cairo, and then Beirut. He authored a massive (though tabloid-like) volume about the history of the House of Saud. He was unrelenting in his attacks against the Saudi royal family.
For this, the Saudi regime paid a corrupt PLO leader in Beirut (Abu Az-Za`im, tied to Jordanian intelligence) to get rid of As-Sa`id. He kidnapped As-Sa`id from a crowded Beirut street in 1979 and delivered him to the Saudi embassy there. He was presumably tortured and killed (some say his body was tossed from a plane over the “empty quarter” desert in Saudi Arabia). Such is the track record of the regime…