Washington, D.C. (CNSNews.com) - Chanting, praying and waving placards, Jews, college students and Christians gathered outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in the nation's capital Wednesday to protest that country's alleged support and funding of terrorism.
"Saudi $ = terror," read one sign, "President Bush, Time to Get Tough with Saudis," read another. Chants of "Export Oil, Not Terror" filled the air.
"We're here today because the Jewish community thinks it's about time that the complicity of the government of Saudi Arabia and the citizens of Saudi Arabia in the funding of terrorism is brought to the attention of the American people," said Sophie Hoffman, president of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, which sponsored the demonstration.
Hoffman said the Saudi government is directly tied to terrorist suicide bombing occurring in the West Bank of Israel, citing recent articles in the New York Times, Newsweek and Time magazine.
"Saudi Arabia is a major financer of Hamas, which along with Al Aqsa Brigade, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah are the major obstacles to peace in the Middle East," Hoffman explained. "The terrorists don't want Israel to exist. They want to obliterate Israel. They think they can do it a handful of Israelis at a time, blowing up women and children, but they're wrong. They just strengthen the resolve of the Israelis."
The New York Times, citing unnamed American law enforcement officials, American diplomats in the Middle East and Israeli officials, reported that at least 50 percent of Hamas' $10 million annual operating budget comes from Saudi citizens. But Adel al-Jubeir, foreign affairs advisor to Saudi Prince Abdullah, called that a "ridiculous" accusation.
"No Saudi government money goes to Hamas, directly or indirectly," al-Jubeir was quoted by the Times as saying. "Why on earth would we not stop this kind of funding? Why on earth would our crown prince say we do not support Hamas and then allow people to do this under the table?"
Some Saudi embassy personnel watched Wednesday's protest but declined to be interviewed.
"It should come as no surprise that the Saudi Arabian government is supplying terrorist organizations with the funding they need to carry out their murderous missions. Let me be clear about Saudi Arabia: It is the native land of Osama bin Laden, as well as 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said, speaking through a bullhorn outside the Saudi Embassy.
"It is a nation whose state-sponsored religion is Wahhabism, a militant form of Islam that emphasizes hatred of Jews," Nadler continued. "It is an absolute monarchy; it rules over its people by force and fear; jobs and wealth are determined by loyalty to the royal family; women and religious minorities have no rights; anti-Semitism is not only rampant but encouraged in the government-controlled press and in schools and mosques."
But according to Hoffman, the school-based teaching of hate extends even to American soil.
"Right here in Virginia, the Saudi Islamic Academy, funded largely by Saudi Arabia, was found to be using textbooks which preach hatred of other religions," Hoffman told the crowd.
She added that the United Nations, which President Bush addressed in a speech Tuesday urging assistance with the rebuilding of Iraq, has furthered the cause of terrorists.
"Since its founding, the United Nations has passed over a thousand different resolutions condemning Israel, but not one, never one, explicitly naming the groups that are responsible for terror," Hoffman said.
Saudi-funded advertising campaigns have run in 25 American cities, falsely "praising the shared values" between Saudi Arabia and the United States, according to Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of the Bnai Tzedek synagogue in Potomac, Md.
"We are here to unmask the Saudis," Weinblatt said. "What values could (they) possibly be talking about? I don't see too much in common. Do we Americans tolerate racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian messages being taught to our children in our schools?"
"No," the crowd answered emphatically.
"Well, the Saudis do," Weinblatt asserted.
Weinblatt also pointed to cultural differences between the two nations. He referred to a Sept. 9 ban he said had been imposed by the Saudi religious police against Barbie dolls.
The ban, Weinblatt said, was enacted because the dolls were believed to pose a threat to morality. Holding a Barbie doll aloft across the street from the Saudi embassy, Weinblatt said, "Make no mistake about it, we Americans like our Barbie dolls."
Bush administration officials have said they believe the Saudi government's denials of funding terrorism.
"I've got an absolute sense (from the Saudis) that there are no holds barred in going after the money and the terrorists," U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said last week after meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
During a television interview last week, Vice President Dick Cheney called the Saudis "very good partners" in helping U.S. forces hunt down members of al Qaeda.
Yet some lawmakers are not so sure. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing Tuesday to investigate Saudi Arabia's cooperation in battling terrorists.
"The administration has more faith in the Saudis than I do," Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who chairs the committee, said Tuesday on Fox News. "I think that the Saudis have such a checkered history when it comes to the funding of terrorist groups that I would prefer our government take stronger action."
Listen to audio for this story.
E-mail a news tip to Steve Brown.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.