The Blog

The Saudi-Terror Subsidy

ADVANCE COPY from the May 20, 2002 issue.

6:00 PM, May 10, 2002 • By DAVID TELL, FOR THE EDITORS
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AT 7:53 A.M. local time on August 21, 1995, a Number 26 bus filled with Monday morning commuters slowed to a stop in front of Rene Kassem High School in the northern Ramat Eshkol suburb of Jerusalem. Rene Kassem just happened to be out of session that day; its students owe their lives to a fluke of the academic calendar. But passengers on the Number 26 were not so lucky, for sitting with them was Sufian Jabarin, a recent Hamas recruit, who chose that moment to blow himself up. The force of the explosion was enough to set adjacent traffic on fire and blow in windows hundreds of feet away. Witnesses reported seeing two small girls walk away from the immediate wreckage, covered in blood but without their clothes or hair and crying for their mother. Few of their fellow passengers could walk at all, however. One body was left suspended from a shard of metal on what had been the bus's roof. Others remained in their seats--mutilated, blackened by the flames, at least one of them decapitated.

Among the dead was 47-year-old schoolteacher Joan Davenny, an American from Woodbridge, Connecticut, who had just begun a fellowship sabbatical at Hebrew University. Today, almost seven years later, our State Department's Diplomatic Security Service still offers a reward of up to $5 million dollars for "information" leading to the arrest or conviction of "those persons responsible" for Davenny's murder.

Which is rather peculiar, since "information" is not what's needed to close the case. The bomber himself, Sufian Jabarin, is dead, of course. The mastermind of Jabarin's Hamas cell, Yahya Ayyash, the infamous "Engineer," was assassinated in January 1996. The man who gave Jabarin his explosives, Muhhi a-Din Sharif, killed himself by accident with another such device in 1998. Abdel Nasser Issa, who manufactured Jabarin's bomb, and Abd al-Majid Dudin, who trained him in the art of "martyrdom," are both in Israeli prisons. Only Muhammad Dief, the Hamas commander who authorized the attack that killed Joan Davenny, is still alive and free.

And where is Dief, exactly? The Weekly Standard has "learned"--because it has been a publicly acknowledged fact for years and years already; the State Department can keep its $5 million--that Yasser Arafat has him. Denying news reports that he has actually set the man loose on the sly, Yasser Arafat insists that Muhammad Dief remains in Palestinian Authority custody, at an undisclosed location, so as to protect him from arrest by the Israelis. In other words: Yasser Arafat, who the American government officially pretends is "indispensable to Middle East peace," is shielding a fugitive wanted in connection with the murder of a U.S. citizen. In fact, Yasser Arafat, who pretended to condemn that murder at the time, later threw a full state funeral for the murderer, suicide bomber Sufian Jabarin, after his body was returned by the Israelis in June of 2000. As thousands of Palestinians watched and cheered, Arafat's personal guard detail gave Jabarin a 21-gun hero's salute.

Arafat must think we Americans are fools.

And then there is the governing royal family of Saudi Arabia, which provides a handsome financial bounty to the surviving relatives of "martyrs" like Jabarin. Oh, sure, the Saudis reject the accusation. Just last week, responding to Israel's latest and best-yet effort to document the practice, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the kingdom's ambassador to the United States, denounced as "baseless" any suggestion that Saudi money "goes to evildoers." The Israelis, Prince Bandar complained, are engaged in a "shameful and counterproductive" attempt to discredit his family, "which has been a leading voice for peace." Any charge "that Saudi Arabia is paying suicide bombers," he reiterated, is "totally false."