August 04, 2003

SADDAM'S EMBRACE

Where are these guys going to end up?

The 1,500 Palestinian refugees stranded inside the Haifa Sports Club were once part of former president Saddam Hussein's favorite foreign cause. He welcomed them after other Arab countries shut their doors, provided them with free housing, mentioned their political plight in major speeches and promised to liberate their homeland one day.

But with the collapse of Hussein's government in April, the estimated 70,000 Palestinians living in Iraq -- including some who arrived half a century ago and many who were born here -- lost a powerful patron. And in the chaotic, score-settling days that followed, a society that had embraced them for decades revealed an uglier face.

"We lived with our neighbors for years; we went to each other's parties; we took each other to the hospital. But after Saddam left, they told us there was no place for us in Iraq any more," said Feduah Abdel Ghani, 34, whose family moved into a tent last month after being forced from their home of 14 years. "I thought they liked me. It is a big shock."

Before the war, the ABC repeatedly tried to convince us that Saddam was liked by his people (I think the people here think that Saddam Hussein has done all that he can, Mark Willacy reported in March). Now it turns out they dont even like the people he liked.

(Via Zsa Zsa the alert.)

Posted by Tim Blair at August 4, 2003 01:03 PM
Comments

I love the text next to the graphic in the article,

"A Palestinian teenager is separated from his father after attempting to set afire a tent with his parents inside. Close living quarters and a lack of jobs have increased tensions within the camp"

Is it possible this was just a family of lunatics having a domestic - or is this a standard Palestinian response to unemployment and being forced to live in close proximity to other Palestinians.

Posted by: Gilly at August 4, 2003 at 04:09 PM

Possibly both.

But hang on. Palestinians denied space by Israelis. Palestinians denied space by Arabs.

I'm with the teenager. Burn down the freakin' tent.

Kid wants to hop on a plane to someplace else where his world hasn't gone totally crazy.

As another Palestinian was quoted saying 'I thought they liked me. It is a big shock.'

Posted by: ilibcc at August 4, 2003 at 05:13 PM

Granted...the Palestinians have some experience with this. They were pretty chummy with their Jewish neighbors in 1929 and 1939 and then when the Mufti of Jerusalem said...Kill...they went out and killed and raped the people they had been sharing tea and crumpets with the day before.

Posted by: Kin at August 4, 2003 at 07:44 PM

The Kuwaitis tossed out three hundred thousand Palestinians after Gulf War I. Now the Iraqis are getting rid of their Palestinians. Would someone remind me of why the Palestinian cause is dear to the hearts of all Arabs and the nub of all problems in the Middle East?

Posted by: Alex Bensky at August 4, 2003 at 11:24 PM

Nobody in the Middle East really likes the 'Palestinians' (i.e. Jordanian refugees). They tolerate them as a useful stick to beat Israel with and nothing more. You can bet that if the entire population of Israel was kidnapped by aliens tomorrow, the rest of the Arab world would be merrily slaughtering Palestinians by Christmas.

This is probably a good thing, on balance. The fuel of the Intifada isn't despair - it's hope. The Palestinians have felt they were bargaining from a position of strength. A lasting peace requires that perception to change.

Posted by: David Gillies at August 5, 2003 at 03:33 AM