It was rightly said that the Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I should add that they also never failed to pay for these missed opportunities. Back in 1991 the PLO made a strategic mistake of siding with Saddam Hussein against the Gulf Arabs. The Palestinians and their leadership have never suffered from being too smart (Though I admit Palis can make a reasonably good humus from time to time). During the failed anti Gorbachiov coup in Moscow that barely lasted two or three days the PLO was the only state or semi state in the world that managed to send a congratulation telegram to the leaders of the coup before they were arrested.
Yet the Gulf War's blunder was huge even by the floor-level standards of the Palestinian statesmanship. By the end of the war Arafat found himself in Baghdad where he and his friend Saddam Hussein were doomed to spend their lives as pariahs shunned even by the Arabs themselves. The Saudis were rumored to be planning assassinating Arafat and other PLO leaders.
With the Gulf states cutting their economic support for the PLO and the Palestinians the Palestinian economic and political infrastructure was collapsing both on the territories and abroad. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from the Gulf, a small scale ethnic cleansing ignored by the world. I was at the Allenby bridge at that time. It was a flood of confused and bewildered people descending on the territories by thousands every day. Some of them spent decades living in the Gulf before they lost it all in one day.
Were it not for Shimon Peres and his Olso initiative the PLO may have not survived to this day. Oslo left some people wondering howcome this time the Palestinians got away with their idiotism so cheaply. Well. It's because the story was not over yet.
The Jerusalem Post
After 18 members of her family were brutally murdered by Shi'ite militiamen in Baghdad, Nadia Othman, a 36-year-old Palestinian mother of three, finally managed to escape to Jordan together with hundreds of Palestinian families that had been living in Iraq for decades.
In 2006, more than 600 Palestinians were killed in the Iraqi capital in what Palestinian leaders and political activists are describing as a "systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing." Thousands of Palestinian families have been forced to flee Iraq since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, but many still have no place to go to.
Iraq's Arab neighbors, Syria and Jordan, have imposed stringent restrictions on the entry of the refugees, leaving many of them stranded along the border in harsh and inhuman conditions.
Until three years ago, the number of Palestinians living in Iraq was estimated at 30,000. Under Saddam, Palestinians enjoyed many privileges that only a few Iraqis were entitled to: free accommodation, free health services and free education.
Nadia's decision to leave her home came shortly after one of her brothers, Muhammad Rashid, was killed by Shi'ite gunmen as he was on his way to the school where he worked as an Arabic language teacher.
"The murderers stopped him in the street, asked for his ID documents, and when they saw that he was a Palestinian refugee, they immediately fired three bullets at his head," she said. "On the same day, they kidnapped and murdered Farid Al-Sayed, chairman of the Palestinian-controlled Haifa Sports Club in Iraq."
Another Palestinian who fled Iraq and was recently reunited with his family in the northern West Bank described the campaign against the Palestinians in Iraq as "genocide." The Shi'ites, particularly the pro-Iranian Mahdi Army, are waging a war to eliminate the entire Palestinian population in Iraq, he told The Jerusalem Post. "This is a real genocide. Why isn't the international community doing anything to stop this? How come none of the Arab countries has even issued a statement condemning the atrocities?"
He said Palestinians who were still living in Baghdad are so afraid that they are using forged documents to conceal their true identity. "It's very dangerous to be a Palestinian in Iraq," he said. "The murderers stop you in the street and ask you to say a few sentences. If they see that you have a Palestinian accent, they make you stand against the wall and shoot you. These are ruthless murderers."
A Palestinian man who was released two weeks ago from prison in Iraq said his interrogators repeatedly accused him and all Palestinians of supporting Saddam Hussein's suppression of the Shi'ites over the past three decades. He had been kidnapped together with 40 Palestinians from the Amin neighborhood in Iraq.
"When we arrived at the prison," he said, "the Shi'ite militiamen began shouting, 'We have brought the Palestinians, we have brought the terrorists!' After they beat us for hours, they took us for questioning. They kept asking, 'Why do you Palestinians love Saddam Hussein so much? Why did you take to the streets to protest against his execution? We want all the Palestinians out of Iraq or else we will finish off all of you.'"
Want to hear an unlikely take on the impending execution of Saddam Hussein? No problem. It says right here that Saddam "will go to the gallows with his head held high, because he built a strong united Iraq without sectarianism. He was considered as a strategic regional power. And as he goes to the gallows, those who imprisoned him will stand with their heads bent with shame and embarrassment because they cannot hide their own crimes against the country and its people."
Says who? An unrepentant Iraqi Baathist? Saddam's uncle? No. It's Abdel Bari Atwan, the Palestinian journalist who writes for the London-based Arabic-language newspaper, Al Quds Al Arabi. . .
. . . Al Quds offers a predictable Arab Nationalist line, and brims with the usual conspiracies and exaggerations. In that sense, Atwan's tearful farewell to his hero Saddam is probably typical of Arab Nationalist reaction to the verdict. . .
. . . My favorite of Atwan's "concessions," however, is a remarkable formulation that mitigates Saddam's massive crimes by characterizing (if not actually slandering) his victims. He writes, "He attacked the extremists who opposed him with various weapons, yes."
(By various weapons Atwan probably means gasing Kurdish separatists and Iranians with mustard gas. NB)
Atwan is a Palestinian, and Saddam championed Palestinians even as he trod on Iraqis' necks. Indeed, the enthusiasm for Saddam of people like Atwan is one of the reasons that many Iraqis became ambivalent about the Palestinian cause; they felt that their own lives under Saddam had become hostage to that issue.
Khairiyeh Yehya, director of a think-tank organization in Jenin, said Palestinians in Iraq were paying a heavy price "just because of their nationality."
"The defenseless Palestinians... have become easy prey for the agents of the American occupation and all those who hate our people," she said. "How can anyone justify these killings?"
Atef Udwan, minister for refugees affairs in the Hamas-led government, said his office was searching for a way to allow the Palestinians in Iraq to move to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"This requires a political solution," he said. "We need to persuade Israel to give these poor people permission to enter our territories. This is a purely humanitarian issue that must be addressed urgently."
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