March 16, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 479

Iraq Crisis 2003 (5): The Palestinian Press

March 16, 2003
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 479

The Palestinian media has been reporting that the U.S. intends to use a possible war against Iraq as a means of taking control of the entire Arab and Islamic nation, including Palestine. The Islamic factions represented in the Palestinian media have explicitly called for waging Jihad against the West and boycotting Western countries, especially the U.S., while PLO-affiliated columnists have protested the silence of the Arab world in light of the worldwide anti-war demonstrations held on February 5, 2003. The following are excerpts from articles written by these columnists:

The Islamic Opposition: Calls for Violence

The Hamas website posted excerpts from a communiqué distributed to journalists during a Hamas-organized march in Gaza City. In the communiqué, Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin called on the Islamic nation "to strike at Western interests everywhere if Iraq is conquered." Yassin continued, "The hate-drenched West, headed by America, declared today a crusade on the [Islamic] nation and on the Muslim belief when it gathered to strike Iraq." Sheikh Yassin called on the Iraqi people to join ranks under the banner of Jihad, and demanded that Iraq "open its borders to all Muslims across the world so that they can play their part in the defensive battle of the [Islamic] nation."

Yassin called on Iraqis to prepare for martyrdom for the sake of Allah as well as for long-term popular resistance, because "even if the enemies of Allah are capable of invading Iraq, popular resistance can exhaust the enemy and force it to retreat." Yassin stressed that "if Iraq is conquered, Jihad will be the personal obligation of every Muslim man and woman, and there will be no alternative to Muslims threatening the interests of the hostile Americans and Westerners and striking at them everywhere." Yassin also demanded that Arabs and Muslims go out into the streets by the millions to protest, noting that "the people are capable of rescuing the [Islamic] nation if they pay the price – and any price they pay for their belief, their freedom, and their independence is miniscule."[1]Also in the communiqué, according to the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Yassin addressed American Muslims, demanding that they "not obey the hostile American administration's orders to harm Iraq."[2]

The Palestinian Clerics Association, which is close to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, issued a communiqué[3] demanding that all Arabs and Muslims worldwide, particularly those in the Islamist movements, stand up to "the American Crusader Zionist aggression against Iraq, because the religious, pan-Arab, and humane imperative demands it; as Allah said: 'All believers are brothers.'"[4]

The communiqué called on Arabs and Muslims "to dissociate themselves from political, economic, and military ties with America and her hostile allies, and to boycott its goods and remove [their] capital from its banks." The Islamic Jihad movements were called on "to wage Jihad, to [conduct] a general mobilization, and to [strike] at America's interests and those of its allies in the world, in response to the anticipated aggression against Iraq and against the Arab and Islamic nation, as Allah has said: 'Go forth to war, with your light and heavy weapons, and wage Jihad in the cause of Allah, with your property and with your souls. This is good for you…'"[5]

The communiqué also stated, "The U.S. and its allies, particularly Britain and the Zionist entity, are beating the drums of war [by] massing their many armies in order to cruelly attack Iraq, with the aim of taking over the region and the oil of Iraq and other [countries], and of implementing Israel's interests…"

The Palestinian Clerics Association also noted that "any religious authority and every high-ranking official in an Arab or Muslim country who forms an alliance and conspires with America in its anticipated aggression against Iraq, or who provides it with material or spiritual aid, or who enables the armies of the invaders to pass through these countries' territory – such aid will be considered the gravest of crimes and betrayal of Allah, his Messenger, and the believers." The Association supported its declaration with a Koranic verse: "Oh ye who believe, take not the Jews and the Christians as your helpers, for they are helpers of one another. Who so from among you takes them as helpers will indeed be one of them. Verily, Allah guides not the unjust people."[6]The Association also demanded that the Arab and Muslim people and armies "rise up against the rulers who conspire with America [against Iraq]."[7]

Dr. Ataallah Abu Al-Subh, a columnist for the Hamas weekly Al-Risala, wrote an "open letter" to the Arab foreign ministers, criticizing their inaction and accusing them of worrying only about their jobs: "…We know that your fate – that is, your staying in your seat – is much more important to you than the ruin of us all… Why haven't you gone out to demonstrate like the 700 naked girls in Sydney? You surely heard of them... Why didn't you go out to demonstrate like some Jews in Tel Aviv did, saying 'no' to war?…"[8]

Muhammad Al-Hindi, a high-ranking Islamic Jihad official and head of the Palestine Center for Study and Research, also stressed the link between the imminent offensive against Iraq and the planned attack on the rest of the Arab and Muslim world. He said: "…After September 11, the U.S. [launched] a crusade against the Muslims, in which all of us, rulers and peoples, are targeted… Resistance and steadfastness are the only possible means of standing up to and thwarting the aggressive American and Zionist plans, because without them Iraq will not be the last, [but merely] one station among all the stations of the aggression. [Then] it will be the turn of Palestine and all the Arab lands."[9]

PLO Spokesmen: The U.S. Wants to Take Over the Entire Arab Nation; the Arab World Must Demonstrate in Protest

In the Jerusalem-based Arabic-language daily Al-Quds, Palestinian Legislative Council member Hatem Abu Sha'ban wrote about America's alleged aim: to achieve hegemony through the war. He wrote that the U.S. wants to actualize its strategic goals in three ways: 1) a crusade against Islam, led by the current American administration which represents the world's extreme rightist Christian forces; 2) taking over the Arab oil wells in the Gulf region, particularly those of Iraq, whose oil reserves are considered the second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia's; and 3) eliminating the systems of Arab rule and Arab liberation forces in the region so as to transform Israel into the region's sole power in order to rule the Arab world economically, politically, and militarily. Abu Sha'ban further wrote that the war on Iraq will begin by means of these three routes, with "the American administration acting towards implementing the new map it is planning for the region, a map which is compatible with the U.S.'s interests and the U.S.'s imperialistic policy which aims to subdue the Arab and Muslim world…"[10]

The deputy head of the PA Political Guidance Directorate, Salim Al-Wadiya, said that the main reason Iraq may be attacked is that it has begun to be a danger to Israel and is threatening Israel's security. He stated that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's declarations that "the war on Iraq is aimed at arranging the region's affairs in a way that will suit American interests [sic]" clearly attests to the fact that the aggression is directed not only at Iraq but threatens the entire Arab homeland, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia – and that an Arab and Muslim revolution is necessary in order to stand up to this aggression.[11]

In a similar vein, Talal 'Awkal, a columnist for the PA daily Al-Ayyam, wrote: "… The war on Iraq will not only be a prelude… to American hegemony over the region and its reorganization and reassembly in accordance with the strategic demands of America and Israel. [The war] will also be a prelude to a world war… [which will be a prelude] to the reorganization of the world and the emergence of new alliances, axes, conflicts, and enmities…"[12]

Following the February 5th worldwide demonstrations against the possible war, some in the Palestinian press condemned the Arab world's silence, particularly the Palestinians' silence, on the matter. Director General of the Palestinian Information Ministry Hassan Al-Kashef wrote: "…A hundred million people across the world said 'no' to the Americans' war on Iraq, and we, the Arabs, did not take part in this, [not even in demonstrations] of a single million from among the hundred million. The Arabs – both rulers and ruled – were missing from the greatest sight of this era, in which humanity stood against the Americans' decision to wage war on Iraq and against the aims [of the war]…" Al Kashef reiterated the Arab claim that the U.S. was targeting all Arabs, not only Iraq.

He further stated: "Why didn't the Arabs participate in the day of the hundred million?… Why didn't the Palestinians go out into the streets, as they are a daily target of the American weaponry that harvests their Shahids [martyrs] and their victims through the Israeli army? Why aren't the Palestinians heading [the demonstrations, even though] they understand that they, as a people and as an authority, and their cause and rights, will be the first to lose out if America gains? Don't we realize… that Israel is America's eternal partner? [Don't we realize that Israel] is, militarily and politically, America's strategic ally, and that the results of the American conquest of Iraq are the declaration of Israel's final, historic, and full victory over the Palestinians and the Arabs? Why didn't we go out [to protest] first and foremost, out of self-defense and out of support for Iraq, and out of loyalty to its Shahids, [who fell] on our land… The demonstrators in the streets of the world connected Iraq with Palestine, and Sharon with Bush. Why haven't we emphasized this connection?…"[13]

In his weekly column in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Palestinian Legislative Council member Nahidh Munir Al-Rayyis wrote: "…Don't you feel anger, humiliation, and solidarity with Iraq in light of the current situation, as the rest of the people in your countries feel? Don't you realize that the people expect something of you? Do you really have no other option than silence and waiting, until the crime of which you have publicly washed your hands takes place?… Don't you notice that Europe seems more Arab and Muslim than you? Is your only talent inventing excuses and collecting evidence so you can evade any approach except silence and waiting?…" Al-Rayyis accused Arab leaders of condoning the possible attack on Iraq with their unconditional compliance with the U.S.'s requests.[14]

Al-Ayyamcolumnist Ashraf Al-Ajramileveled criticism at leaders of Arab countries who, he said, comply with American demands. He also criticized the inaction of the average Arab citizen: "…In contrast with the determined international opposition to the Americans' war stands the despicable Arab silence, on both the popular level and the official level. Except for the demonstrations in Damascus and Beirut, and [demonstrations] of hundreds here and there, there is no Arab reaction on the international level…"

"It is unreasonable for Arab countries to make resolute decisions to oppose the will of the American administration, which is hostile to the Arab nation, by banning the use of their bases for the war on Iraq or by threatening to stop cooperating with the U.S. if it dares attack Iraq. The [Arab countries'] position towards [the issue] of Iraq is identical with their position towards the Palestinian issue and boils down to coquetry [with America]."[15]

Al-Ayyam columinst Rajeb Abu Siriyalso harshly criticized the Arab world for complying with the Americans, and added that it needed to be spurred by Europe to adopt any measure that would prevent the war: "…The Arab summit, which should have convened… in March, came after direct prodding by the European Union, when the Greek foreign minister, the current [European] Union president, came to Beirut and officially asked the Arab countries, on behalf of the Union, to join Europe's opposition to the war …It was in this atmosphere that the Arab foreign ministers convened…" Abu Siriy emphasized that the central problem is "the presence of the American trojan horse… with the American forces stationed in most Arab lands and in Arab territorial waters [a reference primarily to the Gulf states]…." He expressed hope that the Arabs would manage to prevent the trojan horse bearing American soldiers from entering Iraq – and if this did not happen, "all this effort will ultimately become a cry of protest that could not prevent a war aimed at taking over the entire Arab world and making the Arab region literally an American protectorate."[16]


[2]Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), February 8, 2003.


[4]Koran 49:10.

[5]Koran 9:41.

[6]Koran 5:51.


[8]Al-Risala (Palestinian Authority), February 20, 2003.

[9]Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), February 10, 2003.

[10]Al-Quds (Palestinian Authority), February 2, 2003.

[11]Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), February 10, 2003.

[12]Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), February 10, 2003.

[13]Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), February 17, 2003. More condemnation of the Arab world's silence and more calls to the regimes of Arab countries to act to prevent the war appeared in articles by top Palestinian Information Ministry official Hani Al-Masri; columnist Muhannad Abd Al-Hamid, and Khalil Al-Sawahri, in Al-Ayyam, February 18, 2003.

[14]Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), February 24, 2003.

[15]Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), February 17, 2003.

[16]Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), February 2, 2003.

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