|Israel Resource Review
||14th December, 2003
Expedite a Trial for Saddam
Prof Amatzia Baram, Haifa University
Ever since he
began his corpse-strewn political career, Saddam Hussein has
been a tireless optimist. From way back in 1966, fleeing prison
after an attempted rebellion against the ruler at the time, the
young Saddam went out to face the police with his hands up. He
knew then that he would live to fight in other battles, and
indeed, in time, he became president. This should be understood
with reference to his talk yesterday to those ruling Iraq, who
came to see him. Saddam believes that he will yet be president of Iraq.
And this has been Saddam's problem over the years. He has a tendency to
adopt the most optimistic interpretation of reality. He didn't believe that
the Americans would attack him in 1991, and was thus the only leader who
dared to rejoice when the Americans mourned the Twin Towers disaster. And
in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, there were not many people who were willing to
endanger their lives by suggesting a more realistic interpretation to him.
Before handing him over to an Iraqi court, the Americans have a good
chance of getting a lot of useful information out of him. Flattering his
great ego will enable experienced investigators to do this relatively
easily. And they should do it quickly, because the pressure to put him on
trial will increase. And the Americans would do well were they to insist
that the panel judging the deposed tyrant include foreign judges, giving
the process another aspect of international legitimacy.
In the short term, at least in the next month, there will be, in fact,
an increase in Iraq in the fighting against the coalition forces. The
Americans humiliated Saddam very much and showed him on television at his
most wretched. The Sunni public, which up until now lived mainly with a
feeling of fear of what it can expect after losing its dominance to the
Shiite majority, today feels utterly humiliated. Many will want to avenge
this strike to regain their honor, in a society where honor plays a major role.
The feelings of these Sunnis, who are the ruling elite due to their
natural right which was taken from them after the regime fell-will be
sharpened in the wake of Saddam's arrest. That is why the first order for
the Americans now is to try to assuage the feelings of the large Sunni
minority and to ensure them their rights in the new Iraq.
With the highest card in the deck out of the game, the American mission
of building a stable regime in a problematic society is now at center
stage. A dictatorship by the Shiite majority is no better than one by the
Sunni minority, and the Americans must establish a delicate system of
balances which will enable the Iraqis to live in stability with themselves.
This article ran in Maariv on December 14th, 2003
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The fall of Saddam:
There is no joy in Mudville, Ramallah
While the entire Arab world covered the Saddam Hussein capture in great
detail, the official Palestine Broadcasting Corporation radio carried a
short, curt announcement of his incarceration, and Arafat issued a brief
statement about the "sadness" that he felt about the arrest of his comrade
Iraq remained one of only two nations (the other one being Saudi Arabia)
that launched the war in 1948 that never signed any cease-fire, armistice
or peace treaty with Israel. Iraq remained one of the pillars of support
for the Arab League's continuing war against Israel and the continued Arab
League support for the Arafat's strategy to defeat the Jewish State in
"phases". No Arab country has been more supportive of the PLO cause than
Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
And the PLO has never forgotten to express its appreciation for Saddam
Let us turn back the clock by one year.
At that time, we dispatched our Palestinian reporter to film PLO ceremonies
in which The Palestinian National Authority handed out $25,000 checks for
Palestinian Arabs whose loved ones had been "martyred" in suicide murder
attacks against Israelis. The checks were accompanied by a plaque in honor
of Saddam Hussein, since Saddam was the source of funds for these "awards".
One year ago at this time, we dispatched our Palestinian reporter to film
PLO mass rallies for Saddam Hussein where thousands of Palestinian armed
terror groups marched through Gaza flailing their weapons in support of
Saddam Hussein's war on America and the West. These mass rallies finished
with ceremonial burnings of the American, British and Israeli flags
Indeed, one of most active factions of the PLO terror campaign over the
past three years has been The Arab Liberation Front, which was sponsored by
the Saddam regime.
Israeli intelligence sources reported that Baghdad sent agents to drum up
support for Saddam in the Palestinian Authority and to supply weapons for
attacks against Israel.
Saddam is said to have relayed money to help produce bombs, mortars and
rockets for the Palestine Authority, the ruling Fatah movement and the
Islamic opposition, Hamas.
At first, Saddam provided $10,000 to families whose loved ones had
committed suicide murder attacks. But, by June, 2002 Iraq raised the
reward to $25,000. Ceremonies in which checks were awarded were held in
Bethlehem, Gaza City, Hebron, Jenin and Tulkarm. Arafat conducted most of
his contacts with the Saddam regime through PA Public Works Minister Azzam
Ahmad. Ahmad had also been the Palestinian ambassador to Baghdad and spent
much of his time in the Iraqi capital, where he relayed funding and orders
from the Saddam regime to Arafat. In 2001, Arafat appealed to Saddam for
his assistance. Ahmad is believed to have relayed the request. In the fall
of that year, Israeli security services captured a 15-member cell of the
Iraqi-based Palestine Liberation Front that had been operating in the West
The PLF is led by Mahmoud Abul Abbas, responsible for the 1985 hijacking of
the Achille Lauro cruise ship and welcomed by Arafat to the Gaza Strip in
the mid-1990s (Abbas was captured by the US in hiding five months ago).
The group was said to have smuggled weapons via the vehicle of PA security
chief Maj. Gen. Abdul Razeh Yehye, who resigned December 2002 as PA
interior minister. Iraq has been recruiting leading Palestinians to condemn
the United States and stop any offensive against Saddam.
In May 2001, when suicide bombings became routine, the Iraqi president
announced: "Whoever carries out such an operation is not committing suicide
but is sacrificing his soul for Allah." In order to give more weight to his
words, he raised the rate and decided to give the family of each suicide
bomber $15,000. A few months later the rate was raised
to $ 25,000. All told, Iraq granted more than $15 million to honor the
families of suicide murderers.
In March, 2002, at a meeting with a PLO delegation headed by Arafat protege
Farouk Kadumi, Saddam announced his intention to give the PLO one billion
US dollars, in the framework of the "oil for food" program approved for
Iraq by the UN. The grant was held up by the UN's sanctions committee,
which claimed that giving such generous aid contradicted Iraq's claim that
its people were suffering under the yoke of the siege.
Throughout December, 2002 the tone of the official PA media coverage on
Iraq grew shrill. Pro-Iraqi news and editorials were spread throughout the
official PA newspapers. The United States was portrayed to be a threat to
world peace. Many of the same articles were bandied from newspaper to
newspaper; Al Hayat Al Jedida led the tone with an editorial on December 22
that read: "The Real Nuclear Threat is from the United States and not Iraq."
On December 12, a column in the same newspaper read: "How America profited
from the Frightening War Against Iraq?" Next to it was an editorial
entitled "What Comes After Resolution 1441?" On December 22, Al Hayat Al
Jedida ran a series of anti-U.S. cartoons. One showed President George Bush
and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Their noses grew long like
Pinnochio's as Bush said, "Saddam is a liar."
The Palestinian Authority newspapers consistently linked the future of Iraq
with that of the Palestinians. In many cases, similar terminology was used
for both. So, Al Quds on December 22 headlined the leading column "The
Roadmap to Iraq . . . and the Sick Middle East."
On the back page of the same edition of Al Quds, a cartoon appeared showing
Iraq as an island surrounded by barbed wire. Sharks encircled the island,
described as "Arab Iraq."
When four U.S. soldiers were killed early in the war by an Iraqi suicide
bomber, the Palestinian Authority decided it was time to act. The PA
renamed the center of the Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank city of
Jenin after the killer of the American soldiers. The camp square is now
called Ali Al Na'amani. The celebration was followed by rallies in which
scores of Palestinian gunmen and officers fired into the air in a
recreation of the Iraqi battle against the United States.
The Palestinian Authority and its media swept into the swirl of support for
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during his short war against the US and
Great Britain . Palestinian newspapers, radio and television -- all of them
controlled and censored by the PA -- have made Iraq the model of the
Palestinian struggle. The PA has linked its fate to that of the
rapidly-fading Saddam regime. Newspapers contain daily announcements of
support by the PA.
Here's the way the PA announced the dedication of the Jenin square to the
memory of the Iraqi suicide bomber: "The officials, the institutions and
the National Islamic Forces in the Jenin Refugee Camp decided to continue
the blood donor campaign for Iraq and decided to name the center of the
refugee camp 'Ali Al Na'amani' in memory of the martyr who was the first
suicide bomber in Iraq."
Official PA media turned the Iraqi-U.S. confrontation into a struggle for
Islam. The media have portrayed the United States as seeking to destroy the
religion of nearly 1 billion Muslims and uprooting their heritage. It is a
theme that is stressed repeatedly by Muslim clerics financed by the PA and
quoted by the Palestinian media.
For example, PA religious leader, Sheik Mohammed Abu Hunud, sought to cow
Muslim leaders into supporting Saddam by saying they are sacrilegious and
calls on Palestinians to join in a holy war against the United States:
"Allah, purify the Islamic soil from the treason and defilement by Britain
and the United States. Allah, make their possessions a booty for the
Muslims, Allah, annihilate them and their weapons, Allah, make their
children orphans and their women widows."
"To my brothers in Iraq, to the president of Iraq, to the Iraqi
leadership, to the Iraqi people, the Iraqi clans, the glorious
women of Iraq, we say: Strike, my brother!Let them realize that
Iraq's soil is a land of fire and that they will drown in its waters."
PA radio, called the Voice of Palestine, provided half-hour sermons of
Islamic hatred against the United States for Palestinians throughout the
region throughout the Iraqi war. These sermons were written and read by
religious Sheik Yusef Abu Sneineh from the Al Aqsa mosque on Jerusalem's
"Our enemies should be confronted by men having faith in God," Abu Sneineh
said. "History will record the defeatism of the Islamic leaders, who are
sitting back with folded arms following up TV reports on the ugly massacres
committed by the U.S. and British invasion forces. This is a disgrace.
Allah, help our Muslim people in Iraq be victorious over the infidels!
Allah, destroy the enemies of the Muslims, for they are within your power!
Allah destroy them all!."
Nowhere was the support for Saddam as graphic as in the political cartoons
in official PA dailies. Saddam and his regime are seen as both victors and
victims, glorious knights and the pitifully defeated. The cartoons filled
all of the official Palestinian dailies.
To view the cartoons in the PA media that promoted Saddam's war against the
US and the West, see:
According to a senior official in Israeli intelligence, "the wide support
that the Iraqi leader enjoyed on the Palestinian street is not only because
of the financial aid. The Palestinians explain their deeply felt solidarity
by emphasizing the similarity that they see between their suffering and
that of the Iraqi people. They saw the American war against Iraq as a
mirror of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the struggle between East
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