WASHINGTON (Jun. 22)
U.S. officials, hosts to King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, were surprised and embarrassed today by sweeping, high-pitched, and bitter anti-Jewish remarks by the king.
King Faisal’s remarks came in response to questions addressed to him at a luncheon tendered in his honor by the Washington press corps. Defending the Arab boycott of U.S. firms trading with Israel, the king accounted for his stand by stating that “the Jews throughout the world support Israel.” He added: “We consider those who provide assistance to our enemy as our own enemy.”
While he assailed Israel and world Jewry, the king was mild in his references to Egypt. He bristled when a reporter asked whether Saudi Arabia considered Egypt or Israel a greater enemy. He replied: “I regret deeply this question. It is (based on a premise) very much contrary to truth.” He described Egypt as a “sister country” and the Egyptians as “our brethren.” He stressed that, despite differences between Saudi Arabians and Egyptians, “they remain our brethren.”
But his answers to questions pertaining to Israel lacked the restraint exhibited on the Egyptian issue. He said of Israel: “I would like to dwell on this point.” He said an impression of unreasonable Arab hostility against Israel was “spread around by Jewish propaganda.” He asserted that “it has never been our aim to exterminate Israel and throw it into the sea.” He then gave his interpretation of Israel’s emergence. He said that Jews were always recognized as co-citizens of Arabs in Palestine, but “Zionist aggression occupied the country, threw out the (Arab) people, many became refugees. Jews from outside came into the country. Jews from outside are aliens. By aggression they have taken over the land.”
The king said “the Jews” had been guilty of “violation of every human right” of the Arabs and had denied the Arabs “the right of a person to his own home.” The intensity of King Faisal’s anti-Jewish outburst shocked Washington officials. One highly-placed official attending the luncheon voiced private regret that the king had spoken so immoderately and undiplomatically at a time when President Johnson was seeking to improve Saudi Arabia’s image among the American people. The thrust of the king’s outburst appeared more anti-Jewish than anti-Israel, although he said at another point that Saudi Arabia had “no aggressive intentions against any country or any religion.”