New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's news company is teaming up with Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to launch "Alarab" next year, a 24/7 news network that is sure to reflect Alwaleed's anti-Israel viewpoint.
Bloomberg will provide Alarab with five hours of financial-related programming. The focus of the network is to cover the Arab Spring with an emphasis on free speech and press. The manager of the network, Jamal Khashoggi, says it is "going to be to the left of Al-Arabiya and to the right of Al-Jazeera." With an estimated networth of $19.6 billion, Prince Alwaleed will be in a position to influence the region like never before.
Alwaleed is the Saudi prince that sought to make a $10 million donation to New York City after the 9/11 attacks, only to have his check returned to him by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The mayor was offended at Alwaleed's response to the disaster. He said, "At times like this one, we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack. I believe the government of the United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause… Our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek," he said.
In other words, the "root cause" of the attacks was America's alliance with Israel, and if future attacks are to be avoided, that relationship must be downgraded. After Giuliani turned Alwaleed away, the Saudi prince said the mayor had caved to "Jewish pressure." Alwaleed apparently believes that the U.S. government is held hostage to the "Zionist lobby."
In 2002, Alwaleed donated $27 million to a telethon on Saudi television for the families of Palestinian "martyrs." The entire event brought in $155 million. This has led to reasonable allegations that Alwaleed was giving money to the families of suicide bombers, which is very possible. The Saudi government says this isn't so, and that the "martyrs" were "Palestinians victimized by Israeli terror and violence." He is also a co-owner of ART TV, a station that aired a fundraiser called, "Jihad in Palestine" that advocated violence.
Alwaleed has spent tens of millions of dollars to spread Saudi influence around the world, especially in the U.S. In many cases, this has benefited the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2002, for example, he donated $500,000 to the Council on American-Islamic Relations for a media campaign to defend Islam. The Islamic Society of North America got $1.5 million for a scholarship program. John Esposito, probably the Muslim Brotherhood's top non-Muslim advocate, founded Georgetown University's Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding with his support. Alwaleed's foundation is run by the daughter of Dr. Abdul-Hamid Abu-Sulayman, called "one of the most important figures in the history of the global Muslim Brotherhood."
Alwaleed does not disguise the fact that his donations are meant to change minds. He says that Arabs who boycott the U.S. are mistaken because "economic interests" bring more influence. "We have to be logical and understand that the U.S. administration is subject to U.S. public opinion…to bring the decision-maker on your side, you not only have to be active inside the U.S. Congress or the administration but also inside U.S. society," he said.
In keeping with this strategy, Alwaleed is the second largest shareholder of News Corp., the parent company of Fox News Channel. He has boasted that when he saw Fox describing Muslim riots in France as, well, Muslim riots, he called Rupert Murdoch and had the terminology changed within 30 minutes. News Corp. owns14.5% of Alwaleed's Rotana media group.
Alwaleed is known as a reformer by Saudi standards. He requires his female employees not to wear burqas or niqabs and gives them an allowance to buy other clothing. He wants to allow women to drive, and lets them do so on his private party even though Saudi Arabia bans it. He opposes the Ground Zero Mosque. "I am against putting the mosque there out of respect for those people who have been wounded there…The wound is still there. Just because the wound is healing you can't say, 'Let's just go back to where we were pre-9/11," he said. However, this doesn't change the fact that his foreign policy beliefs will influence this powerful station.
The director of Alarab will be Jamal Khashoggi. He grew up as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, though he says he has left the organization. He became close friends with Osama Bin Laden after meeting him in Jeddah in 1987. Khashoggi tried to convince Bin Laden to mend ties with the Saudi Royal Family in the 1990s, and condemns his acts of terrorism. He believes that only a state can declare jihad, and not an individual. He is also a vicious opponent of Israel and America's "unqualified" support for the Jewish state.
On the other hand, Khashoggi was fired as the editor in chief of a Saudi newspaper for printing criticisms of the security services and supporting women's rights. The final straw came when it printed a piece against Ibn Taymiyya, but he says he was on vacation and did not approve it.
Mayor Bloomberg, despite being Jewish, is supporting a network that will be hostile to Israel and likely won't counter the anti-American sentiments in the Middle East. This isn't that surprising, given that Bloomberg supports Sharia-Compliant Finance and supports the Ground Zero Mosque. He said that the government should not investigate Park51's finances and that it will be a "sad day for America" if the project is stopped.
Prince Alwaleed may be in favor of liberal reform in the Middle East, but his views will still contribute to hatred of the West, and his associations with the Muslim Brotherhood are worrisome. The U.S. needs friends to fight the ideological war against Islamism in the region, not another critic blaming America for the region's ills.