Within the past few weeks, Palestinian Authority media outlets suddenly have started reporting on the fact that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is at the forefront of Arab support for the Palestinian intifada, lending some credence to Bush administration arguments that Saddam is a dangerous force against Western interests in the region.
Since April, Hussein has been a chief cheerleader for the Palestinian uprising, but PA newspapers had been largely mute about it.
The PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported last week on an event held by the Iraqi-sponsored Arab Liberation Front, which was held in the Hebron home of the family of Marwan Zalum, the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade who was killed by Israeli forces in April.
The paper said donations from Saddam were distributed to Zalum’s family, as well as other families of intifada martyrs, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI.
The Hebron affair was not the first time the Iraqi leader had donated funds to families of martyrs, but it was the first time PA newspapers reported on the donations extensively, said MEMRI, which tracks Arab media reports.
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported that $10,000 each was given to 12 martyrs’ families, while an Arab Liberation Front official “praised the prominent role martyrs had played and still play in developing the Palestinian national struggle,” MEMRI said.
Al-Hajj Rateb Al-‘Amleh, leader of the Arab Liberation Front, said Saddam harbored friendship for the families of martyrs and for Palestinian forces battling Israel, stressing the need to unite around “resisting the enemy until liberation.”
MEMRI’s latest analysis also included excerpts of a speech by Saddam at a meeting in Baghdad with Palestine Liberation Organization Bureau Chief Farouq Al-Qaddoumi, Fatah Central Committee Member Abbas Zaki, and head of the Arab Department of the PLO Political Bureau Omar Al-Shak’a, where the Iraqi leader expounded upon his efforts to support the PA-led intifada.
“The intifada demands steadfastness,” Saddam said, according to the translation. “We have asked the [Arab] politicians not to pretend they know better than the Palestinian people what they want and what the fighters want, but to cooperate with them. …”
Saddam said it was the “duty” of Arab leaders to be Palestinian partners “in blood, money, and weapons, as [if they share] a common fate.”
“They have a right to consult with Palestine and its people, but not to take their place,” he said. “[Only] when we bear arms, shed blood and rebuild what has been destroyed will we have the right to a status nearly equal to that of the representative of the Palestinian people in discussing their problem.”
The Iraqi leader denounced a need for “further plans,” saying that the “basic plan” should be to “support the Palestinian people” in their “armed fighting” against Israel.
“If we are incapable of offering aid to the armies, our support should be by [giving] money or buying them arms, or by giving Muslims and Arabs the option of volunteering” to assist Palestinian fighters.
Praising the efforts of Palestinians as “surpassing” his expectations of them, Saddam also discussed the amounts of money Iraq has given to the cause.
“At first we made $5 million available to help the wounded and the families of the Palestinian martyrs,” he said. “After a short time, the man in charge of [distributing the money] came to us and said that sum … was finished. I told him: ‘How can you say this? Keep [distributing money] even if we reach a state where we must sell the clothes off our backs.”
He also pledged further support.
“Tell [the Palestinians] that Saddam Hussein says that Arafat can consider Iraq’s capabilities to be Palestine’s capabilities, and his decisions will be binding [upon us].”
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