Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Jewish Congressman Was Refused Visa to Saudi Arabia; Was Allowed in Only After State Dep’t, Interven

February 25, 1975
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D. Calif.), who was refused a visa to enter Saudi Arabia as a member of an official Congressional mission because he is Jewish, has called on Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger to “personally review and report” on the U.S. government’s position toward Saudi Arabia’s visa policies.

In a letter to Kissinger the 35-year-old freshman Congressman charged that the U.S. government, military and business communities all excluded Jews from Saudi Arabian assignments in a policy of “appeasement and complacency” toward anti-Jewish discrimination.

Waxman eventually accompanied the House Armed Services Committee’s fact-finding mission to Saudi Arabia Feb. 7-17 after the State Department sent an urgent cable to the American Embassy in Riad to obtain a visa for him. In his letter to Kissinger, Waxman observed: “It is my unfortunate conclusion that had I not been a Congressman, my request to visit Saudi Arabia would have been denied and that the State Department would not have intervened on my behalf.”

State Department spokesman Robert Anderson told reporters today that he preferred to withhold “detailed comment” on Waxman’s letter until he saw it. Anderson indicated, however, that while Waxman had “a problem” it has been “solved” and the Congressman had gone with the committee on its trip.

Replying to questions, Anderson said he did not know Waxman’s religion and denied that the State Department had any discriminatory policy among its employes regarding race, creed, religion, sex or national origin. He noted that a regulation in effect since January, 1972 bans Department employes from stating their religious preferences.


Waxman’s letter to Kissinger reported on the fact-finding mission’s interview with King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Waxman said that when he asked the monarch about his country’s anti-Jewish policies, “he told us openly and publicly that there is no room for a Jewish homeland in the Middle East and that there is no room for Jews, even as visitors, in Saudi Arabia.” Waxman added that “the vehemence of his (Faisal’s) remarks left no doubt in my mind that the distinction he sometimes makes between Jews and Zionists is an academic one so far as Saudi Arabia is concerned.”

However, Waxman said in his letter, while he was in the Middle East, his staff discovered that all Jewish visa applications are forwarded to the Saudian Foreign Ministry and that “some Jews, almost exclusively ranking government and corporate persons, are admitted.” He added, “My staff also discovered that our government rarely takes issue with the Saudis.”

Recommended from JTA