Saddam and Arafat in happier days (BBC photo)
The tiny minority of extremists was downhearted yesterday: “Palestinians in the West Bank reacted with shock and disbelief to the capture of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, with many expressing deep disappointment that the man who symbolized defiance against the US and Israel surrendered without resistance.” This from the Jerusalem Post, with thanks to Maria Sliwa.
“For many ordinary Palestinians, the TV footage of a disheveled Saddam obediently submitting to a medical exam by his U.S. captors was painful to watch: it sealed the defeat of the one Arab leader they felt always stood by them. . . .
“Saddam should have put up a fight or committed suicide, they said, and his surrender is a stain on Arab honor. ‘It is a big defeat for all Arabs and Muslims,’ said Raji Hassan, 29, watching TV with friends in a Gaza City coffee shop.”
Arafat wasn’t feeling too well either: “The Palestinian Authority declined to comment on the arrest of Saddam, but a senior PA official in Ramallah said Yasser Arafat was ‘saddened’ by the news from Baghdad. ‘President Arafat was sad to see an Arab leader in an humiliating position,’ said the official. . . .
“In the past three years, Saddam was the only Arab leader to pay millions of Dollars to the families of Palestinian victims of the violence. Families of suicide bombers received up to $10,000, while those whose houses were destroyed by the IDF were given $20,000.
“The payments further boosted Saddam’s popularity among the Palestinians, particularly at a time when Arafat was handing out smaller sums to his people. Earlier this year, Palestinians demonstrated in favor of Saddam when the US threatened to invade Iraq and topple his regime. At the rallies they chanted, ‘O beloved Saddam, bomb Tel Aviv.’ . . .
“On the streets of Ramallah on Sunday, many Palestinians expressed sorrow and shock at the capture of Saddam. Jihan Ajlouni, a 24-year-old university student, said, ‘This is a big loss for the Arab nation. Saddam was one of the great Arab leaders who supported the Palestinian people and many Arabs. We feel very sad today, and we say to all the traitors and collaborators: Don’t rush to celebrate because there are millions of Saddams in the Arab world.’
“Fathi Salman, 50, a taxi driver, described the arrest of Saddam as a ‘black day’ for the Palestinians. ‘This is a black day for all the Palestinians and all the Arabs and Muslims,’ he said. ‘I still can’t believe that President Saddam has been captured by the Americans. Saddam was the only Arab leader who cared about us. He supported the Palestinian cause from the beginning. His arrest is a major setback for the Palestinians. It’s a pity that he didn’t fight.’
“Khairiyeh Said, 43, a high-school teacher, said she wept when she watched Saddam in captivity. ‘I was sitting with my friends when we heard the bad news,’ she added. ‘We all started crying because we love Saddam and we hate [US President George W.] Bush and [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon. This is a big victory for Bush and Sharon and all the enemies of the Palestinian people. We hope the Iraqi resistance will now teach the American dogs a good lesson.’
“Michael Hanna a 28-year-old engineer was one of the few Palestinians who said they were happy that Saddam was captured by the Americans. ‘Saddam is responsible for the killing of thousands of his own people and he deserves to die,’ he said. ‘I have no sympathy for him or other Arab dictators. I hope he will be put on trial and executed. This should be a lesson for other corrupt and tyrant Arab leaders. I hope the Iraqi people will now be able to live in peace because they have suffered for a long time under Saddam and his sons.’
“Palestinian legislator Hatem Abdel Kader said he too hope that Saddam’s captue would serve as a lesson for the rest of the Arab dictators. ‘I think the Iraqis can finally celebrate their birthday,’ he said. ‘This is the fate of all tyrants. This is a humiliating end for a dictator, but we wish he had been caught by the Iraqis and not the Americans.’
“Abdel Kader, one of the top Fatah leaders, said many Palestinians were disappointed that Saddam did not try to defend himself. ‘It would have been better if he had been killed,’ he added. ‘At least he would have died in an honorable way. It’s a happy and sad ending for a dictator and I hope that this would be a lesson for all the other Arab dictators. This shows that all tyrants are cowards.'”
“Mohammed Horani, a legislator from Arafat’s ruling Fatah movement, said he had expected Saddam to be more courageous. ‘I had expected him to have fought back, or at least end his life,’ he said. ‘But then again, all dictators are cowards.'”