The Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House of Saud
by Saïd K. Aburish
New York: St. Martin's, 1994. 328 pp. $24.95.
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
Aburish, a Palestinian journalist with books on such varied subjects as the bar at Beirut's St. George Hotel and his ancestral town of Bethany, writes about the Saudi dynasty with a rare hatred. His readiness to debunk Saudi pretensions is a welcome antidote to the endless drivel this subject usually inspires, but he ends up blinded by his hatred, to the point that the violence of his emotions undermines his own case. Contrary to Aburish's assertion, it is not a "simple, undeniable fact" that "behind Ibn Saud's rise to power was Britain's interest is finding someone to deputize for it"; to the contrary, this is nonsense. No less preposterous are his strained efforts to compare Ibn Saud with Hitler, his viewing immigrant labor as "officially sanctioned slavery," or his insistence that the House of Saud pumps "more oil than it needs."
The value of Aburish's well-written polemic lies less in its factual base or its considered judgments than in its being a passionate screed. However flawed its execution, the book constitutes a powerful attempt by an informed writer to make Westerners aware of the horrors lurking in this "Bedouin police state." He tells of massacres, of grotesque family corruption, and of sheer evil. Most significant of all for a foreign audience, he warns of the "coming fall" of the Saudi dynasty. To ward off this disaster, Aburish calls for a "total reversal of policy" in which the Western powers get the regime to bring its finances in order, establish a legislature, and decide on the current king's successor. Sounds like one Middle Easterner longs for the good old days of European colonialism, an eccentric opinion that these days seems to find increasing support.
Related Topics: Daniel Pipes | March 1996 MEQ
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