August 27, 1999 Special Dispatch No. 46

The Palestinian Authority’s Relations with Kuwait

August 27, 1999
Kuwait, Palestine, The Gulf | Special Dispatch No. 46

Recently Kuwait’s relations with some of the Arab states that supported Iraq in the Gulf war, such as Jordan, Tunisia, and Yemen have improved. The Palestinians also want to normalize relations with Kuwait. According to Palestinian Authority (PA) Cabinet Secretary General, Ahmad Abd Al-Rahman, "It is inconceivable that we remain prisoners of the past. We need each other... Therefore, our bilateral relations must be rectified."[1]

However, the Kuwaitis demand a Palestinian apology, especially by Arafat, for the PLO's support of Iraq following the occupation of Kuwait during the Gulf war. This demand is a prerequisite for the normalization of Palestinian-Kuwaiti relations. Because the Palestinians do not apologize, relations between Kuwait and the Palestinians remain tense, despite the time that has passed since the Gulf crisis. This was evident at the recent funeral of Morocco's King Hassan II, when Kuwaiti Crown Prince and Prime Minister, Sheik Sa'ad Al-Abd Allah Al-Sabbah, refused to shake Arafat's stretched hand, but was ready to greet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. At the funeral, the different approach of the Kuwaitis toward different PA officials was also clear. While the Kuwaiti Crown Prince rejected Arafat’s hand, he hugged Abu Mazen.

PA Rejects Demand for Apology

According to Jordon-based Fatah leader, Maher Ghanayem, the Palestinians committed no crime and have nothing to apologize for, stating: "We did not take a public stand against Iraq in its crisis with Kuwait... because from the first moment of the crisis we deemed it strife between brothers. [Therefore,] Abu Ammar [Arafat] flew from one Arab capital to the other trying to fix the malfunction and dissuade Iraq from going on with it.... However, even if Iraq committed a mistake by invading Kuwait - once the US invaded the region, the American intervention transgressed an attempt to take revenge on Iraq for invading Kuwait, [and turned into an American] attempt to strike at a rising Arab power [i.e. Iraq]. Our position reflected a rejection of the American intervention rather than a support of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait..."[2]

PA Demands Kuwaiti Apology

Secretary General of the PA Presidency, Al-Tayeb 'Abd Al-Rahim, asked, "…Why should we apologize? We have not committed a sin in our relations with our Kuwaiti brothers. First of all - we built Kuwait, we protected it in the fifties, and we demanded an Arab solution to the [Iraqi-] Kuwaiti problem. We had a relative triumph on that issue when the Iraqi forces began withdrawing from Kuwait. Later, the efforts [to solve the crisis peacefully] failed.

"We don’t know what to apologize for, we haven’t committed any sin against Kuwait. On the contrary, the Kuwaitis made us suffer more than anyone else. The losses of the Palestinian community in Kuwait are estimated at $12.6 billion. Also, our frozen money in Kuwait is estimated at $200 million... We are the only ones who were not compensated for our losses in Kuwait. In addition, more than 420,000 Palestinians were deported from Kuwait. We suffered more damages than anyone else, while we were doing nothing. Why should we apologize? On the contrary, they should apologize for what they did to our people after Kuwait's liberation and for what they did to the Palestinian community there."[3]

Palestinians Recall Gulf War

According to Jamal Abu 'Ida, a Palestinian resident of Kuwait since the mid-50’s, during the crisis with Iraq, "many Palestinians risked their lives assisting their Kuwaiti brothers who were hiding from the Iraqi intelligence apparatus.… [Also,] many Palestinians guarded the property of Kuwaitis who were abroad at the time of the invasion. [However, the Kuwaitis] collectively punished our people and their security apparatuses have acted shamelessly to the point of violating the honor and [sexually] attacking [Palestinian] women. When their prisons became full of our people, they turned some schools to jails, and sometimes they even threw into dumpsters corpses of people who died of torture. There is a well-known place in Kuwait where there is a mass grave of Palestinians."

"In addition to all these inhumane acts, they deported our people from Kuwait in the most barbaric manner completely detached from moral and religious values." Abu 'Ida concludes with a rhetorical question: "Does the PLO have to apologize to the Kuwaiti government after this brutal behavior?!"[4]

Kuwaiti Response

Kuwaiti Foreign Affairs Minister, Suleiman Majed Al-Shahin, stated, "…The reason Palestinians left Kuwait was the [Iraqi] occupation and not the Kuwaiti government." He criticized the "provocative" terms some PA positions pose for the normalization of relations.

In an interview with the Kuwaiti News Agency, the minister said, "There is a contradiction in the Palestinian position between PLO Executive Committee Secretary General, Abu Mazen's call for normalization of relations… and the prerequisites set by PLO Political Bureau Head, Faruq Qaddumi, who demanded a Kuwaiti apology for the deportation of the Palestinians during the Iraqi invasion."[5]

Palestinian Analysis of Situation

Palestinians believe there are two approaches in Kuwait's governing family towards them. PA Presidency Secretary General, Al-Tayyeb abd Al-Rahim claims that the Kuwaiti Crown Prince, Sheik Sa'd Al-Abdallah, leads the more extreme faction that opposes the restoration of relations with the Palestinians. Alternately, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Sabah Al-Ahmad, "wants to put an end to this and start new relations with us."[6]

Response in Kuwaiti Media

Qaddumi's demand for an apology was received with amazement in Kuwait. Kuwaiti columnist, Faysal Mu'arafi, wrote, "before the Iraqi invasion, the Palestinians enjoyed the same rights of a Kuwaiti citizen, with the exception of land ownership. When the Tatars [referring to the Iraqis] invaded, under the leadership of the blood-sucker known as Saddam, there were among, our Palestinian brothers who had been born and raised in Kuwait, those who were killed in defense of the country that politically, economically, and socially cultivated them. It seems that the Tatars' onslaughts brought a group of Palestinian mercenaries [who joined the Iraqi invasion] in order to corrupt the land with Saddam's lies and to pillage Kuwaiti homes. They even frisked us in our cars. During the invasion we were like foreigners in our own homeland. These [Palestinian] mercenaries had accomplices from amongst the cowards of their people [who were living in Kuwait before the invasion]. Our old friendship was not enough to prevent them [from assisting the Iraqis]..."

"The Kuwaiti government did not deport, and did not mean to deport the Palestinians, as Faruq Qaddumi claims. On the contrary, it gave them all their material rights and many of them preferred to go to other countries to increase their fortune..."

When Saddam showed up [in Kuwait] and what happened happened, we expected to get help from the PLO in driving out the Iraqi aggression. Alas, it seems as if the PLO Chairman betrayed the values and the protection [that Kuwait awarded the Palestinians], hoping to please his master [Saddam]... Do we need to apologize after all of this? Do the betrayed need to apologize to the betrayer? Most of the Kuwaiti people oppose restoring political relations with the PLO, as long as Arafat is in power along with his Angels of Destruction who supported Saddam."[7]

Response in Palestinian Media

Palestinian columnist 'Karim' attacked the Kuwaiti Foreign Affairs Minister: "[His words] reemphasize the arrogance of the Kuwaiti officials and the 'sour-faced' Sabbah family and its ministers, who mortgaged Kuwait and its oil to the Americans and turned it into an [American] military base... Those 'little dwarfs' who see themselves as giants behave as if they are all alone on this land. They brag in statements that reflect shortsightedness and meanness and believe that the Palestinians and their leadership need small [people] like them, who sold their Arab identity to the devil. The insolent [leaders] of Kuwait want us to 'apologize' for our sound position during the Gulf War, namely, that we give up our Arab identity and stand by those who are hostile to Iraq and its people. If only they knew what shame was - they would have apologized before the nation and the Iraqi and Palestinian peoples..."

"We say to the Sabbah family and its ministers: keep barking... [eventually] you will go back to your dens. You are a Mark of Cain on the history of this nation."[8]

[1] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 20, 1999. Abd Al-Rahman added that there are initial signs of improvement in the relations and that there had been informal contacts between PA and Kuwaiti officials on the background at many regional and international conferences.

[2] Al-Quds, June 27, 1999

[3] Al-Ayyam, August 7, 1999

[4] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, August 1, 1999

[5] Al-Quds, July 19, 1999. Qaddumi’s Political Bureau published an official communique specifying the Palestinians rights violated by Kuwait - Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 30, 1999.

[6] Al-Ayyam, August 7, 1999

[7] Al-Watan (Kuwait), July 26, 1999

[8] Al-Manar, July 19, 1999.

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