Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Iraq and the Arab world Contribute to the Palestinians
By Udi Mor

Iraqi ruler, Saddam Hussein, is sending generous donations to the families of dead and wounded Palestinians. This assures him of hero status amongst the Palestinians and sets the signal for a whole series of donations from the Arab world for the intifadah cause. Israel itself is no exception. A broadsheet distributed in Israeli universities says the following: "Every day many of our people are being killed and injured in the glorious intifadah. The Israeli occupying authorities have imposed curfews which suffocate and starve us. We therefore beseech you to contribute as much as you can by way of clothing and food products for the sake of our needy people and the families of the fallen."

The leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, has become a hero of the Palestinians: his pictures are displayed in their newspapers alongside those of the "shahidim" (martyrs -- people killed during the intifadah). During demonstrations and funerals, the Iraqi flag is also displayed. Arafat writes him thank you letters, and during street demonstrations people shout out slogans in his praise.

The admiration for Saddam is mainly due to his financial assistance and moral backing of the intifadah. (Incidentally, nobody asks why Saddam is not supporting the poor of his own country, who are suffering terribly from the embargo imposed on Iraq a decade ago.) However, this admiration is also the expression of an old pact between Iraq and the Palestinians. Ten years ago, during the Gulf War, the Palestinians helped the Iraqi army when it invaded Kuwait. We all remember how they danced on their rooftops when Saddam dispatched missiles to Israel.

Now Saddam is returning the favor. The wounded from Gaza and the West Bank are flown to Iraq via Amman, to receive medical care in Baghdad, at the expense of Iraq. The Iraqi and Palestinian media held grand celebrations when the wounded reached their destination. They were welcomed by Iraqi officials. One of the wounded came out of the airplane waving the Iraqi flag. Iraq also received wounded Palestinians in a direct flight from Gaza airport to Baghdad, which is still under siege. They were accompanied by an official delegation of the Palestinian Legislative Council and representatives of the Chambers of Trade, who brought with them "the blessings of the intifadah" to the Iraqi people. The wounded and the delegation were welcomed in an official ceremony with many participants.

However, Saddam's growing popularity is mainly due to the money which he donates to families of the dead and wounded. About a month ago, he announced that the family of every victim killed by the intifadah would receive 10,000 dollars, and those of the wounded 1000 dollars. The money is distributed in Gaza, Shchem, Chevron, and Ramallah by Palestinian members of the Iraqi Baath party or members of the Arab Liberation Front, two rather ephemeral pro-Iraqi Palestinian movements. Representatives of the Arab Front have declared that families of Arab Israelis killed will also receive funds from Saddam Hussein.

As if this were not enough, about a month ago the Iraqi President announced, during a special meeting with the Palestinian leadership, that he would donate $9 million worth of aid to the Palestinians. The money was to be transferred within the framework of the "petrol for food" arrangement between Iraq and countries in the West. Iraq does not seem too badly off.

Iraq is also helping by supplying essential products. More than a month ago a convoy of 68 trucks from Baghdad reached Amman packed with 4000 tons of medicines and basic food products (who says that Iraq is under siege, and that its pharmacies' shelves are empty?). Israel hesitated about permitting entry to aid from an "enemy," but eventually the shipment was allowed in to prevent it being accused of starving the Palestinians. The Iraqi trucks crossed the Allenby Bridge, and from there the goods were transported in Palestinian and Jordanian vehicles to areas under Israeli control, and from there to the West Bank and Gaza.

The money being poured by Saddam into the territories is making him a hero of the Palestinians. Families of intifadah victims who received money, publish notices in the Palestinian press thanking Saddam, with his picture appearing alongside that of the shahid . The picture of the Iraqi President is suddenly to be seen throughout Gaza.

The Whole Arab world Contributes

Iraq is not alone in her assistance to the Palestinian intifadah. The outburst of religious feelings in the Arab world as a result of the El-Aksa Intifadah, have led to massive anti-Israel demonstrations, which in their turn resulted in a campaign for aid, in the shape of financial donations as well as donations of clothing and food. Arab countries also decided to receive wounded Palestinians into their hospitals. More than 150 injured Palestinians have been flown for treatment in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Iran.

How valuable are the shahidim to the other Arab countries? The Saudi Interior Minister transferred some 26 million dollars to the territories about a month ago for families of the dead and wounded. Another Saudi prince donated 22 million dollars to the Palestinian Authority for unemployed workers forbidden entry into Israel. (This may explain why only a few Palestinians show up when Israel re- opens crossing points).

The wave of sympathy for the Palestinians in Saudi Arabia has also reached a giant American fast food chain, owned by Saudis. The Saudi administration decided it would set aside 30 cents of every sale it makes for the intifadah cause. Representatives of the Red Crescent in Dubai, one of the richest principalities of the Persian Gulf, toured the West Bank last month, and gave out envelopes to families of intifadah victims which contained dollars. In Chevron, people said that each family received sums based on its financial situation.

In addition, about 50 million dollars was donated by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which went towards the wages of about 130,000 officials of the Palestinian Authority. Even the Chechnian rebels decided to make their own contribution to those killed during the intifadah. The Council of "Shura" -- the governing authority of Chechnian Muslims -- announced that it was donating 1000 dollars to the family of each shahid (this must be the money of Bin-Laden, the extreme Muslim billionaire). The Chechnians apologized that they were not able to make more generous donations, because of the rebels' difficult financial situation. There was also a message of support for the Palestinians: "The Jihad is different and the way to peace does not entail relinquishing territory."

Donations from Israeli Universities

The Palestinian authority is not sitting with folded hands either. It hands out $2000 to each family of a shahid and $1000 to the family of each person wounded in the intifadah. The National Islamic Peoples' Committee, which directs the intifadah, pays $1000 to the family of a dead victim, and $300 per wounded victim. Officials of the Palestinian Authority have also been paying out 600 NIS recently to every worker registered in the Palestinian labor exchanges as working in Israel. This grant has already been paid out to some 30,000 unemployed workers.

The Palestinian Minister of Labor Rafik Al-Natashe has promised that daily laborers who had been working inside Israel without a work permit would also soon be entitled to aid.

The Hamas movement pays a monthly sum according to the financial situation of a family, instead of a one-off payment. Families in financial straits are considered "adopted families" and also receive food products.

Arab Israelis are also doing their best to help. The Balad movement, led by MK Azami Bashara is active in organizing donations for the intifadah. In the Hebrew University in Yerushalayim a campaign lasting three days was held to collect donations. A broadsheet was distributed containing the following: "Every day many of our people are being killed and injured in the glorious intifadah. The Israeli occupying authorities have imposed curfews which suffocate and starve us. We therefore beseech you to contribute as much as you can by way of clothing and food products for the sake of our needy people and the families of the fallen."

Recently some reports say that much of the Arab aid went into the pockets of Palestinian leaders.


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