The Khashoggi Affair – did I dream this up?

People who say “can’t make this up” should know that as writers, this is what we do.

Jack Engelhard

OpEds King Salman and Recep Tayyip Erdogan
King Salman and Recep Tayyip Erdogan
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

Putin has them poisoned…Obama had them intimidated and arrested…and Saudi Arabia chops up disagreeable journalists and feeds them to the dogs.

We are talking about a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who lived here in America, wrote for The Washington Post, but wrote nothing too favorable about the Saudi rulers.

The top ruler would be fresh Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who took over the shop some 17 months ago with promises to modernize the system. Indeed, women are now allowed to drive. Other than that, who knows? We only know what we read in the papers, and when this news came along, well, that is why novelists were invented.

People who say “can’t make this up” should know that as writers, this is what we do. Real life we use for material.

As soon as the story of Khashoggi began unfolding, I began thinking that something like this, so fantastic, needs to be turned into a book – about a trap set for a dissident journalist. To make him pay, he is cordially invited back home to make amends over coffee and donuts. He falls for it, and 15 bruisers hack him to death, then hide the remains.

That, apparently, is how it turned out for Khashoggi, only it happened in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

From all sides, President Trump is being urged to punish the Saudis, with no trust that he sees the big picture, as he surely does, and is being temperate in our national interest.

It’s a big bad world out there and America’s choices are seldom ideal.

So this is another one of those plots where it is difficult to find the good guys. You cannot tell a story where everybody is rotten. That never sells. Who did this, so we can come up with villains and heroes? The world wants to know, and since it happened in Istanbul, Turkey has volunteered to provide the answers.

But Erdogan? This is nobody’s idea of a hero. Certainly, nobody in the United States or Israel trusts or believes this guy.  

His jails overflow with journalists…and I’m guessing he’s done in hundreds like Khashoggi, only we’ll never know. Think Midnight Express and think Pastor Brunson.  

Saudi Arabia? Yes, it is an ally, and, in relative terms, something of a friend towards Israel, lately, hesitantly. But that is also where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from.    

There is not much tolerance for free-thinking journalists there, either. Khashoggi, for example.

There is not much tolerance for free-thinking journalists there, either. Khashoggi, for example. That is why most reporters file from Jerusalem.
That is why most reporters file from Jerusalem.

Humbly, where do I come in?

So I started getting emails and phone calls from readers and friends, saying, this Saudi plot sounds familiar. Didn’t you write a book about this?

That would be a book that traces a 3,000-year-old Biblical event and brings it to today’s New York City newsroom where an anti-Semitic reporter is sent to Hamas, his friends.

Then the consequences when his friends turn out to be not so friendly.

That is “The Bathsheba Deadline” and of course it is much more complicated than that, certainly in the particulars.

Certainly, the unholy love triangle is only in the book.

But leave it to my astute readers to point out the similarities as to the plotting that sealed Khashoggi’s fate and brought him to his doom.  

“Did the Saudi’s read your book?” asked one reader, who noted how the book’s fictional Phil Crawford shared a coincidental trait with Khashoggi – both terminally anti-Israel.

“You were robbed,” said another. “You should sue.”

No. but I will be awfully careful about what I think up next.

Yet the book was written at a time when journalists were viewed as heroic figures.

For that, we turned to The Wall Street Journal’s foreign correspondent Daniel Pearl for inspiration. We found it when he dared to enter Pakistan during the worst of times…and then at his beheading by Islamic terrorists uttered these defiant words – “I’m a Jewish American. My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I’m Jewish.”

Such courage -- Can’t make that up.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.

He is the author of the international book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal” and most recently the classic noir novel “Slot Attendant,” plus the two inside journalism thrillers “The Bathsheba Deadline” and “News Anchor Sweetheart, Hollywood Edition.” Engelhard is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: