Reprinted from Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio February 16, 1998

MY ENEMY'S FRIENDS

By Yedidya Atlas

In This Article:

1. ALBRIGHT AND ARAFAT: COMMUNICATION CRISIS

2. PALESTINIANS GO ALL OUT FOR SADDAM

3. ARAFAT/SADDAM CONTACTS HAVE NOT CEASED

4. NO AMERICAN RESPONSE

1. ALBRIGHT AND ARAFAT: COMMUNICATION CRISIS

During their Gaza meeting three weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Yasser Arafat that Palestinian support for Iraq must cease. Palestinians sources say that voices were raised at the meeting when Albright strongly insisted that Arafat do his share in fighting terror, and that she even threatened to leave the room at one point. "He doesn't seem to understand what I'm talking about!" she said with exasperation. The Secretary's entreaties were useless. The Palestinians say that as a result of the meeting, Arafat decided to send the PLO's ambassador to Iraq and PA Minister of Public Works, Azzam Al-Ahmed, with a letter of support to Iraq. But this is nothing new.

In a November 12, 1997 article in the official PA newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, the following appeared: "The aggression against Iraq is aggression against Palestine... anyone who does not say 'no' now to the United States is the enemy of Palestine..." A month later in a speech given at the Islamic Summit in Teheran, Arafat called for canceling the "cruel" UN sanctions against Iraq, as well as the sanctions against Libya and the Sudan.

2. PALESTINIANS GO ALL OUT FOR SADDAM

Since the stormy Albright-Arafat meeting, nearly all of the cities within the Palestinian Authority have had mass marches and demonstrations in public support of Saddam Hussein. The two recent large pro-Iraqi and anti-U.S. demonstrations in Ramallah and Jenin, accompanied by the commensurate burning of American and Israeli flags, were simply copies of a similar march in Bethlehem the day before which led to violence against Israeli soldiers stationed in Rachel's Tomb nearby. The frenzied chanting and the burning of American and Israeli flags led one TV journalist to comment, "if one didn't know these pictures were being taken in Ramallah, one could easily think it was in Baghdad or Teheran."

Strong and open support for Saddam Hussein has been officially expressed by the official Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda in its editorials. Senior PA officials openly declare their support for Saddam while attacking the United States. PA Minister of Communications and Postal Service, Immad Al-Faluji, for example, told the newspaper on February 2, 1998: "The US threat to strike Iraq exposes the double standards [of] American policies... Any American attack on Iraq would ruin stability as well as security for the Middle East."

But that was mild compared to the remarks of Sheik Isma'il Al-Nawahdha, in the weekly Friday prayer sermon broadcast on the PA's official Voice of Palestine radio station on January 30, 1998: "Oh Allah, divide our enemiesOh Allah, grant victory to the Iraqi Muslim People over the hateful America and its allies."

3. ARAFAT/SADDAM CONTACTS HAVE NOT CEASED

Considering that Arafat demonstratively backed Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War, the above should come as no surprise. An article in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, December 6, 1997, quoted PA Minister of Public Works, Azzam Al-Ahmed, as follows: "Contacts between Arafat and Saddam Hussein have not ceased for even a moment [throughout] the latest crisis in Iraq... Arafat has emphasized to Saddam that the Palestinian people stand by the side of their brothers, the Iraqi people, regarding the threats they face." A month later, Al-Ahmed, serving as the aforementioned special envoy from Arafat, brought Saddam a second letter with these sentiments.

Yasser Arafat, under the apparent assumption that he can spit in America's face and official Washington will comment about the rain, allowed his tightly-controlled Palestinian press to publish a provocative anti-American piece. The subject was a joint communique issued by PLO factions, under the leadership of Arafat's own Fatah, which was published in the eastern Jerusalem newspaper Al-Quds on January 19, 1998, just four days before Arafat's White House meeting with President Clinton.

The communique read: "The purpose of the American provocations against the Iraqi government and its people is to humiliate the Arab Nation and harm Iraq. The United States uses its influence to put pressure on the international [inspection] committee in a way that serves its purpose in continuing the siege on Iraq The PLO factions condemn the American policy that contains nothing but hatred of Iraq and the Arab people" While hardly the stuff to bring President Clinton closer to his cause, there were no reports of any public administration criticism of the Palestinian support for America's foe.

4. NO AMERICAN RESPONSE

While Arafat paid lip service to placate an embarrassed Clinton administration, and called for a halt to the public marches replete with televised anti-American chants and flag burnings, throngs of ranting Palestinians continued to march in Shechem (Nablus) and Hebron the next day. Considering Arafat's violent totalitarian regime, no such mass demonstrations could occur without, at least, his tacit approval. Meanwhile, Arafat sent another letter of support to Baghdad, and his special envoy, Azzam Al-Ahmed, told reporters: "We are informing President Saddam Hussein of the strong support of the Palestinian nation and the Palestinian Liberation Organization for Iraq, and of our firm objections to the American threats to use military strength."

While the Clinton administration remains publicly obtuse to Arafat's consistent support of the wrong side, it should consider an article by Hafez al-Barghuti, editor of Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda. Entitled "America's Arrogance", and published on November 15, 1997, the article reads, "History will not remember what is known as the United States, but it remembers Iraq, the cradle of civilization.... History remembers every piece of Arab land, because it is the bosom of human civilization, but the murderers of humanity, the creators of the barbaric culture and the blood-suckers of nations [i.e., the U.S.], are doomed to death and destined to shrink to a microscopic size."

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, speaking at a scholarship ceremony for Druze and other minority students in Acre last week, put it succinctly: "Whoever stands with Saddam Hussein, the symbol of mass destruction, does not stand for peace."

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Yedidya Atlas is a senior correspondent for Arutz-7 Israel National Radio and for Israel's conservative weekly newspaper Makor Rishon. Atlas also serves on the Advisory Committee of the Freeman Cneter For Strategic Studies.



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