Recent events call for a dramatic reexamination of the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia. A radical Wahhabism Islamic regime that keeps women in the stone age is not a country American would normally have friendly relations with. Yet, we have been forced against our will into partnership with this unsavory desert nation out of our need for oil. We depended on them for the commodity and were therefore forced to turn our check at the vicious cruelty and injustice that they committed. But this can be tolerated no more. It is time that we start prioritizing American values in our foreign policy, rather than greed and gain. We must make the tenants of our democracy our guiding light when dealing overseas. The United States prides itself on human rights, a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. We believe in freedom of speech and religion, freedom of the press and assembly. Yet we support a regime that beheads dissidents, forces women to walk around with a male guardian and supports a global radical Islamic terror network in league with groups like Al Qaeda. The current Saudi regime mastermind by Mohammed bin Salman has perpetrated violent aggressions against the Yemeni people, committing war crimes and other unspeakable acts while we stand idly by and even support them to an extent.
I believe this current situation must be stopped at all costs. Our moral authority is at stake. For the Jewish people, in particular, this issue should have particular resonance because as a people who have been persecuted, we know what it is like when the good guys turn their cheek to evil. Ending our help to Saudi Arabia is a big step towards tikkun olam and making the world a better place.
But ending our support for the war in Yemen is not nearly enough. For decades we have tolerated the Saudi regime to operate freely and commit evil all over the globe. Why do we not allow our most precious freedoms to be shared with the Saudi people? The time for this to end has come. If we, as Americans and Jews, believe in freedom of speech, then we should believe in freedom of speech everywhere. If we believe in freedom of religion for all, not just for those who agree with us, we should be in favor of freedom of religion everywhere. We believe in the freedom of the press, which should help extend that practice globally. We believe in these freedoms as our creed, our natural rights and it is time that we start spreading these freedoms to the world instead of suppressing them. We should advocate our values with our diplomacy, our political might, our money, and yes, if need be, militarily. Let our foreign policy be our bill of rights, our constitution. Let our main export be freedom and democracy for all. Let us use every resource we have to bring about these changes to the world.
It is time for the Saudi royal family to go and if need be, by our hand. We must advocate this with all of our might. The people of Saudi Arabia are yearning to be free and they deserve our total support. Some may say this will cause grave instability in the region and the world, that it would cause a world war or worse. But I would respond that the world as we know it is gone if we cannot advocate freedom for all who want it. So yes, the Saudi royal family should be overthrown, and America must be instrumental in bringing about that change. Furthermore, there must be free and fair elections in Saudi Arabia. The United States must view its foreign policy role as that of a liberator, and a cradle of freedom. And yes, we must be the world’s policeman to ensure that we live in a society that is strong and free. The world must be a better place and America must facilitate this because maybe someday, with this outlook, we will see a vibrant, strong and democratic Saudi Arabia under a popularly elected government.
For the Jewish people, this is particularly meaningful, for our creed is “Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo atah ben chorin l’hivatel mimena,” which means that you are not required to finish fixing the world, but you are not permitted to desist from fixing it. I see no better way to advocate this idea and tikkun olam as a whole then calling for the United States to free Saudi Arabia from its oppression. Let us work together and make the world a better and freer place for all, whether we are Jewish, Christian or Muslim.
This issue is particularly relevant for this week’s Torah parsha, Bo. As we read about God freeing us from our oppressors it is important to remember that he has not yet come for everyone and many peoples are still yearning to be free. There are too many Pharaohs left in the world and not enough Moseses. So, I hope that as we go into this Shabbat, we reflect on how we are blessed to be free, but our work is far from done.
Yoav Shames is a sophomore at The Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan.
Please note that the opinions in this piece are presented solely by the author, and neither The New York Jewish Week nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.