Saudi Arabia's telethon for the families of Palestinian "martyrs," sponsored by the Saudi Committee for Support of the Al Aqsa Intifada, raised some $92 million in 11 hours. A similar telethon in Abu Dhabi -- dubbed "For You, Palestine" -- raised more than $50 million, while a Bahrain martyr-thon raised $10 million.
On "Meet the Press," Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign policy adviser to the Saudi crown prince, told NBC's Tim Russert: "The term 'martyr' refers to anyone who died innocently. That's what we mean." Of course, if that's what the Saudis really meant, they'd also be sending money to the families of Israelis who died in homicide bombings, so it's not what they mean. Especially not when al-Jazeera television aired a tape titled, "The Wills of New York and Washington Battle Martyrs," at about the same time.
Jubeir added that the money for martyrs "is not going to support the suicide bombers." (Of course not -- dead men don't cash checks.) Instead, he said, "the funds are going to put food on the tables of Palestinian families who can't find it." (Which sounds like: widows whose husbands went kaboom.)
The Intifada is uncivilized. There is no other word for it. It sends young people out to deliberately slaughter civilians and children. And there is no other word for neighbors who choose to subsidize the recruitment of teen-agers and young adults to kill other children and civilian adults.
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Anna Badkhen interviewed Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who recruits so-called suicide bombers. But when Rantisi's son, who is in medical school, said he would be honored to be a "martyr," Rantisi scoffed that his son didn't know what he was saying "because of his youth." Then: "Some men must grow up to become doctors. But for that to happen, others have to sacrifice
themselves and become martyrs."
Suha Arafat, Yasser Arafat's wife, recently said that if she had a son -- which she conveniently doesn't -- she could imagine "no greater honor" than for Junior to be a killer-bomber.
"I want to be a martyr, martyr, martyr, martyr," her husband recently crowed. (If so, Arafat might want to dispense with his bodyguards.)
The Saudi ambassador to Britain recently published a poem praising an 18-year-old Palestinian woman who injured 28 people and killed two people as she blew up herself. "O bride of spears," he gushed. "May all beauty be sacrifice for your eyes."
He's no poet, but President Bush said it better when he asked for the world to recognize the so-called suicide bomber for what he or she really is, "just a murderer."
This week, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah -- ostensibly an American ally -- visits President Bush in Crawford, Texas. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he will bring up the martyr telethon when they meet. Powell can bring it up, but he shouldn't expect to shame people who bankroll the intentional murder of civilians and children. He shouldn't expect to shame people who fund these bombings unhampered by the knowledge that many Palestinians often die killing only themselves when they're caught at an Israeli checkpoint.
After Russert pushed Jubeir on the Saudi support of bomber-killers, Jubeir responded, "We have condemned the killing of innocent lives because it's against the teachings of our faith." It was such a legalistic, insincere response. The Saudis oppose terrorism because it's against their religious tenets? You'd think the subject was eating pork, not killing civilians.
Indeed, while the Saudis are legalistic in their denunciation of terrorism, Prince Abdullah has voiced outrage at Palestinian "humiliation" experienced at Israeli checkpoints. You get the feeling that the Saudi royal family values the feelings of their Muslim neighbors more than they value the lives of their Muslim neighbors.