Prince Alwaleed's 'McAuliffe' moment

Diana West
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Posted: Dec 19, 2005 12:05 AM

There's one good thing about the news that Alwaleed bin Talal, the richest Saudi prince in the world, just bought Harvard and Georgetown universities -- or, at least buried them up to their ivy in $40 million.

It gives everybody reason to relive a McAuliffe moment. McAuliffe, of course, was Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, who, in response to a Nazi invitation to surrender during the 1944 Battle of the Bulge, sent back a one-word reply: "NUTS."

In kindred spirit, but in a very different war, Rudy Giuliani gave the United States a McAuliffe moment after he realized that Mr. Alwaleed's $10 million donation to help rebuild the Twin Towers after 9/11 was in fact the price of principle. Having signed his hefty check, Mr. Alwaleed spoke his nasty piece: basically, that the United States had it coming -- "it" being 9/11 -- given America's support of Israel.

Rudy didn't say "nuts," but he immediately returned the money. "Not only are those statements wrong," Mr. Giuliani said, "they're part of the problem."

Sigh. That was then. Now, Mr. "Part of the Problem" is a Crimson sugar daddy, a Hoya honey pot, whose millions will buy a colossal expansion of Saudi-friendly Islamic studies at the heart of the Ivy League and inside the Beltway.

Smart. Not that anybody ever said a man worth $23.7 billion wasn't smart. But Mr. Alwaleed explains his largesse this way: "Bridging the understanding between East and West is important for peace and tolerance." Funny how that bridge goes only one-way. We won't ever, for example, see a Saudi prince (or anyone else) plunk down cold cash to expand -- or even establish -- Christian studies in Saudi Arabia, where exercising freedom of a non-Islamic religion is a crime.

This doesn't stop Mr. Alwaleed from chattering about "bridges between East and West." Maybe that's because, as a mega-mogul of the East with major holdings in the West, he crosses them all the time.

Take his media holdings. In the West, they include a sizeable stake in Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which owns Fox News, "fair and balanced" pride of any parent company. And Mr. Alwaleed takes pride -- pride of ownership, anyway -- in Fox as well. "During last month's street protests in France," he bragged to an audience at a Dubai media conference, according to Middle East Online, "Fox ran a banner saying: 'Muslim riots.' I picked up the phone and called Murdoch" - Rupert -- "to tell him these are not Muslim riots, these are riots out of poverty. Within 30 minutes," the prince recalled, "the title was changed from 'Muslim riots' to 'civil riots.'"

I guess money -- oops, I mean, peace and tolerance -- talks. Why else, as noted by Accuracy in Media (AIM), would News Corporation's Harper Collins have published the prince's "authorized biography"? In the DVD documentary accompanying the book -- a royal bonus -- Rupert Murdoch makes a cameo appearance (presumably "authorized") to praise Mr. Alwaleed, dismissing Mr. Giuliani's rejection as so much "politics."

Mr. Murdoch might well have added that not everyone is too proud to take the prince's, well, princely sums. In 2002, Mr. Alwaleed contributed $27 million to a Saudi government telethon that raised more than $100 million for the families of Palestinian "martyrs." Like Harvard and Georgetown -- like Andover ($500,000), like the Carter Center ($5 million) -- no Hamas or Al Aqsa alums or legacies (survivors?) were about to give any bucks back.

And why should they? Harvard may have a record of Arab gifts gone wrong, including a $2.5 million donation the divinity school returned following revelations of the donor's anti-Semitic, anti-American leanings. "But," as the Boston Globe noted, "problems with the Alwaleed donation do not seem probable."

Here's one. Prince "Crimson bin Hoya" is now not only one of American academia's most generous benefactors ever, he's co-owner of ART TV network, the Saudi company that includes what Steven Stalinsky of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has described in the New York Sun as "the anti-American, anti-Semitic, pro-Jihad Arabic TV channel Iqra."

That's putting it mildly. Programming, Mr. Stalinsky writes, includes telethons -- the notorious terrorist fundraiser (mentioned above) of 2002, and an August 2005 fundraiser for "Jihad in Palestine"; lectures that endorse suicide bombing and exhort Muslims to triumph over the West by the "slitting of throats and shattering skulls"; 9/11 conspiracy theories blaming the United States, Israel and the Vatican; children's shows that instruct parents to teach their children to pray for "martyrdom"; a soap opera with Jews casting spells on Muhammad; and talk shows on wife-beating. I'd say it's about time Rupert picked up the phone.

As for Harvard and Georgetown -- NUTS.