The Palestinians -- yearning for a homeland -- have apparently hitched their wagons to the wrong star -- again.
And while some observers believe the gulf crisis has helped bring essential international awareness to the Palestinian cause, others believe that the blow to Saddam is just another in a long series of blows to Palestinians.The Palestine Liberation Organization, conceded by most Palestinians as "the sole legitimate voice" of the Palestinian people, backed Saddam Hussein in the confrontation. That, of course, didn't help the PLO's cause among Westerners.
Yet Palestinians see Saddam as an Arab who thinks like an Arab, not as an Arab who has been spoiled by Western evils that oil money can easily purchase. And, more importantly, they see him as someone of international stature who is willing to promote their cause.
And though Saddam continually tried to link the Palestinian cause to the gulf crisis, there's little doubt in the minds of Westerners that Saddam has little, if any, genuine concern for Palestinians. But Palestinians, frustrated by a perceived lack of understanding of their plight, are grasping for anyone who they believe can help their cause.
"I agree that linkage (of the gulf and the Palestinian issues) would have been difficult, but (Saddam) won the hearts and minds of the Palestinians," Jordanian Sen. Mohamed Kamal told the Deseret News from his Amman home Thursday.
"Arafat made a severe blunder by associating himself with Saddam, but it in no way reduces the legitimacy of the Palestinian cause," said Omar Kader, a Palestinian and former Utahn who is now a Washington lobbyist.
"Saddam has been a very intelligent leader as far as the Arab nationalism is concerned. He is not a Saudi monarch who goes to casinos and goes after prostitutes and loses millions of dollars gambling. He was able to stand up to superpowers and say, `This is what we want,' " Michele Bahbah, a Palestinian living in east Jerusalem, told the Deseret News in a phone interview Thursday.
The Palestinians have waited for 25 years for a resolution to their problem - "and nothing has been done," Kamal said. "They see unmitigated U.S. support for Israel, and it frustrates them. (Saddam) gave them some hope - perhaps it was misguided or false hope. But now (the allied forces) have killed that hope. There is great disappointment - and they will continue to suffer. They are angry, frustrated and miserable."
Kader believes the hope was very misguided.
"I hope the Palestinians learn once and for all that no one is going to carry their cause to justice - except Palestinians. They've got to stop jumping on the bandwagon. Every bandwagon so far has been a one-way ticket to hell," said Kader, who is closely connected to many Arab officials in the Middle East.
A glimmer of hope for Palestinians remains, however, in President Bush's earlier statements that he'd support an international conference on Middle East peace - after the gulf crisis is resolved.
"An international conference would bring us back to our senses," Hashim Aub Sido, a Palestinian living in Gaza, told the Deseret News Thursday in a telephone interview. "We need to resolve all the problems of the Middle East - and they can't be solved militarily."
Kader believes that America is resolved to support such a conference - and that the gulf crisis has increased Bush's credibility in the region.
"I think the most favorable result (of the crisis) will be that the United States will resolve to end the Israel-Palestinian dispute. I think the Palestinian people, and cause, will benefit enormously" from this.
"If Israel or its supporters in Congress drag their feet now, they will learn an awful lesson. (Bush) is going to sweep every obstacle to Mideast peace out right now. No one can stand in the way of Mideast peace, after Americans have put themselves in harm's way."
But Kamal, who served as Jordanian ambassador to the United States from 1985 to 1988, doesn't think Bush can pull it off.
Kamal said the same obstacle that blocked Mideast peace in the past - the powerful Israeli and American Jewish influence in America - will block efforts for a post-gulf-crisis international Mideast peace conference.
"In spite of the good will on the part of (President) Bush and (Secretary of State James) Baker, they will be unable to accomplish a peace conference. They want to resolve the issue - deep in their hearts they are very sympathetic - but domestic considerations will prevent them (from doing so)."