Giuliani's decision to return the money he had accepted Thursday (Oct. 11) from Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal -- a nephew of Saudi Arabian King Fahd -- is "unconscionable," declared a statement from Omar Ahmad, board chairman with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "The mayor's actions are in opposition to President Bush's repeated warnings not to turn the fight against terrorism into a war against Muslims or Arabs," Ahmad said.
During a visit Thursday to the site of the World Trade Center, the Saudi investor denounced the terrorist attack as "a tremendous crime" and said Osama bin Laden, suspected by U.S. officials of orchestrating the attacks, "does not belong to Islam." In a statement his publicist distributed during the visit, the prince 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."
Prince Alwaleed said he believed "Jewish pressure" caused Giuliani to spurn the $10 million offer. "The whole issue is that I spoke about their position (on the Middle East conflict) and they didn't like it because there are Jewish pressures and they were afraid of them," the prince said, according to the Associated Press. Giuliani's decision was an effort "to score points with the domestic lobby for a foreign government," Ahmad said.
In a letter to the prince, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., said she also was disappointed by Giuliani's decision. "Whether he agreed with you or not, I think he should have recognized your right to speak and make observations about a part of the world which you know so well," she wrote. A growing number of people in the United States "recognize, like you, that U.S. policy in the Middle East needs serious examination."
She noted that many Americans "have long been concerned about reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that reveal a pattern of excessive, and often indiscriminate, use of lethal force by Israeli security forces in situations where Palestinian demonstrators were unarmed and posed no threat of death or serious injury to the security forces or to others."
Such mistreatment "breeds a hotbed of anger and despair that destabilizes peace in the Middle East and elsewhere," McKinney said. "Until we confront the realities of events in the Middle East, our nation and the nations of the Middle East will be at risk," she said.
But Giuliani's actions drew praise from the Jewish Orthodox Union. "The Orthodox Union praises Mayor Giuliani for his principled position and rejection of the contribution, which are in keeping with the outstanding remarks he recently made at the United Nations, telling the world body that terrorism cannot be tolerated and that the so-called rationalizations of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are irrational and unacceptable," said the union, which represents about 1,000 synagogues.