23 December 09
Talk about a tough sale. Imagine being Saudi Arabia’s public relations firm in the United States in the months after the 9/11 attacks, which were perpetrated by 19 terrorists, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals. Shilling for a tarnished Saudi Arabia was the daunting task that faced Qorvis, a Washington-based PR company. The $14 million contract surely compensated.
In their 2002 contract, Qorvis promised to “draft and/or distribute talking points, press releases, fact sheets, and op-ed pieces in order to promote the [Saudi] Kingdom, its commitment to the war against terrorism, peace in the Middle East, and other issues pertinent to the Kingdom.”
Soon thereafter, a new organization appeared on the American scene, the “Alliance of Peace and Justice in the Middle East.” In April 2002, the organization ran radio spots on dozens of stations across the U.S. extolling the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by then-Crown Prince Abdullah and attacking Israel’s settlements.
According to one ad: “The [Saudis’] fair plan [would] end the senseless violence in the Mideast.” The plan involved Israel’s “withdrawal from the Palestinian land it has unjustly occupied for years. … There will be no more midnight raids and random searches, no more violence.” “Start the peace — end the occupation” is the phrase that ends the ads. It is followed by the words “paid for by the Alliance of Peace and Justice.”
Who was behind the alliance? One American Jewish activist tracked them back to a Virginia address, which just happened to be the offices of Qorvis.
Eight months later, in documents submitted to the U.S. Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Office (FARA), Qorvis began to fess up. They listed receipt of $679,000 from the Alliance of Peace and Justice for “payment for radio, television, and print ads.”