Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Palestinians and the Gulf Crisis: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Palestinians and the Gulf Crisis: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Article excerpt

Although Palestinians are not a direct party to the conflict in the Gulf, the outcome of the Gulf crisis will shape the course of Palestinian history.

Why?

The Palestinian people are already paying a heavy price for their apparent support for Iraq in the Gulf.

Kuwaitis have accused Palestinians living in Kuwait of having been a fifth column for Iraq. Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf countries have expressed extreme displeasure with the Palestinian vote during the Emergency Arab League summit that was convened in early August to deal with the Gulf crisis. The state of Palestine and Libya were the only two countries that voted with Iraq. The resulting displeasure will eventually affect formal and private aid to Palestinians from those countries, estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

A High Price to Pay

Aside from a precipitious drop in financial support from these countries, there are an estimated one million Palestinians living in the Gulf area. Those living in Kuwait, approximately 350,000, have already seen a significant portion of their savings, mostly in Kuwaiti dinars, lose over half of its value. Moreover, their sources of livelihood have been jeopardized with the Gulf at the brink of war. The combination of these factors has led to a significant decline in the value of remittances to their families in the occupied territories.

More importantly, since the eruption of the Gulf crisis, media coverage of the intifada has almost ceased, with the exception of the coverage of Palestinians' reaction to events in the Gulf. And almost all efforts toward finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict have ceased.

Given the price Palestinians are made to pay, why have the Palestinian masses supported Saddam Hussein and Iraq?

First, it is heartening for most Palestinians to see an Arab leader standing up to the world. Saddam Hussein's behavior has ignited Arab nationalism throughout many parts of the Arab world.

Second, Saddam Hussein is willing to take on Israel if threatened. In fact, he has warned that he would destroy half of Israel if the latter were to attack Iraq.

Third, many Arabs deplore the Gulf countries' decision to seek US military assistance. After all, the United States, through its military, political and financial support, is the country that makes it possible for Israel to maintain its occupation of Arab lands.

Fourth, Saddam Hussein has promised to share with the underprivileged Arab people the wealth of the rich Arab countries. …

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