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Sunday, December 31, 2006
Palestinians Again Worship Saddam in Death--Widlanski

Palestinians Embrace Hanged Saddam, Condemn Execution
Palestinians Again Worship Saddam in Death

By Michael Widlanski

In a bizarre and rare display of unity, Palestinians of all political
stripes today (Sunday Dec. 31, 2006) saluted Saddam Hussein, the late Iraqi
dictator, while strongly condemning those who carried out his execution
yesterday.

"Saddam Hussein has entered history as a symbol of state nationalism
[wattaniyya] and Pan-Arab nationalism [qawmiyya].who helped the Palestinian
revolution," asserted a communiqué issued by the Fatah movement of PLO
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The Fatah statement was read on official
Palestinian radio and TV.

"The execution of the former Iraqi president was widely condemned,"
observed Voice of Palestine radio, the official mouthpiece of the
Palestinian Authority headed by Dr. Abbas.

"This is a blow against all that is Arab and all that is Muslim,"
declared VOP radio anchorwoman Samah Massar.

VOP radio spent several minutes this morning detailing the condemnations
of Saddam's hanging Saturday morning, quoting at length from statements by
the Islamic terror group Hamas, from the smaller Islamic Jihad, from the
Marxist-oriented Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, among
others.

"This is a political assassination," declared a statement from Hamas, the
Islamic party that controls the majority in the Palestinian legislature.

"This is state terrorism," averred the statement from the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine, a group that pioneered airplane hijackings
in the 1960's.

The longest condemnation cited by VOP radio and official PBC television
came from the Fatah movement of Abbas himself, a man who is perceived by
many Western observers as a "moderate" and whose government has just been
given 2,000-4,000 automatic rifles by Israel, Egypt and the United States.

"The Palestinian Liberation Movement-Fatah-condemns the execution of
Former President Saddam Hussein," declared VOP radio in its opening
headlines Sunday morning.

"It is against international law and international principles," declared
the Fatah movement's communiqué.

"This is a betrayal of all that is Arab and Islamic," declared the
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the strike force and suicide squad leaders of
Fatah, in a separate statement read on Voice of Palestine radio.

Fatah and its late leader Yasser Arafat also applauded Saddam's invasion
of Kuwait in 1990 and his subsequent missile attacks on Israel, and there
were numerous signs that Arafat tried to copy some of Saddam's techniques.

For the last five years, the Palestinian Authority/Fatah movement under
Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas and Jihad have
developed their own rocket threats, launching hundreds of Qassam rockets at
targets in Israel.

For his part, Saddam saw in the Palestinians and their combat a way to
demonstrate his Pan-Arab leadership credentials, and he regularly financed
the families of Palestinian human bombers who blew themselves up in Israeli
stores, hotels and bus stations. The Palestinians never forgot this.

Later this evening, even the regularly scheduled Fatah celebrations of
its own anniversary were overtaken by crowd salutes to the dead Iraqi
dictator.

"By blood and by spirit, we will redeem you O Palestine," chanted
Palestinian crowds holding aloft pictures of Saddam, as they paraded in the
rain-swept main square in Gaza Sunday evening.

The pictures were shown live on Abbas's state television outlet, PBC
[Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, in a spot where PLO Chairman Abbas was
set to address the crowd marking Fatah Day, the anniversary of the first
Fatah terror attack on Israel on January 1, 1965: the strike at Israel's
National Water Carrier.

The reasons for Palestinian affection for Saddam-from Hamas to Fatah-also
seem based on strong areas of agreement: a combination of Qawmiyyah [Pan
Arab nationalism] and Pan-Islamic sentiment.

These two principles were basic to Saddam's mass appeal to "the Arab
street" as well as to the popularity of one of Saddam's greatest fans,
Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader who preceded Mahmoud Abbas as head of
Fatah, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority.

Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication
whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former
reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The
Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also
served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in
1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public
Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.

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