Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's new ambassador to the United States, took issue yesterday with the Iranian president's description of the Holocaust as a myth, saying the "horrific genocide" is a "historical fact" no longer in dispute. The comments by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, broadcast live Wednesday on state-run Iranian television, have been condemned by Western countries, but Arab and other Muslim nations have remained largely silent. Turki made his comments in response to a question about Ahmadinejad's remarks during an interview yesterday with Washington Post reporters and editors.
"As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, that's a historical fact, you cannot deny that, and people should move forward from that," Turki said.
The extermination of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II "of course has affected our part of the world because much of the European and American sympathy for the Zionist movement stemmed from that horrific genocide," Turki said. "The occupation of Palestine since then has been a consequence of that."
Ahmadinejad's speech expanded on comments he made at a conference of Islamic nations in Saudi Arabia last week, when he suggested that a Jewish state should be carved out of Europe if Europeans felt guilty over the Holocaust. In October, speaking to a conference in Tehran titled "The World Without Zionism," Ahmadinejad declared that "Israel must be wiped off the map."
But Turki said the Arab world has "made our peace" with the creation of Israel. He noted that in 2002, the Arab League adopted a Saudi plan that committed Arab nations to a peace process that would result in the creation of Palestine and an acceptance of Israel, including normalization of relations, once it leaves territory occupied after the 1967 Six-Day War."It is a done deal for us," he said. "We are not going to go back on that."
Separately, Turki said he advocated giving women -- who are now banned from driving in the kingdom -- the right to obtain driver's licenses. He noted that the Saudi interior minister said the issue was a social issue, not a religious one, and that King Abdullah has remarked that many women already drive in the desert despite the prohibition.
During a visit to Jiddah in September, Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes caused a stir when she questioned the Saudi ban, telling a crowd of several hundred Saudi women that it had negatively shaped the image of Saudi society in the United States. "I believe women should be free and equal participants in society," Hughes said, reports Washington Post. I.L.