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Propaganda: Saddam’s Move

2 minute read
Matt Rees/Nablus with Aharon Klein/Jerusalem

When Iraqis took to the streets to call for an attack on Israel and Saddam Hussein’s official media announced that 7 million Iraqis had joined his “Jerusalem Army” to march on Israel last week, it looked at first like yet more troublemaking propaganda from Baghdad’s dictator. But there is a sliver of truth in Saddam’s posturing–one that may soon see his partisans at work in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Through Arab banks with branches in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Saddam has funded cash payments of $10,000 apiece to families of each of the nearly 600 Palestinians killed in the Aqsa intifadeh. There are daily messages of thanks placed in Palestinian newspapers by the families of “martyrs,” grateful for Baghdad’s money, their homes plastered throughout the mourning period with posters of Saddam. At the funerals of the intifadeh dead, there are almost as many people carrying Iraqi flags as there are bearing the green flag of Hamas.

Palestinian sources say the Ba’athist Arab Liberation Front, funded by Saddam, is gaining strength, particularly in the northern West Bank towns of Jenin and Nablus. The A.L.F. is under popular pressure to act in order to keep up with its rival, Hizballah, which is backed by Saddam’s archenemy, Iran. Hizballah is making big new inroads in the West Bank with its tight organization and the roadside bombs. Palestinian and Israeli officials expect that it is only a matter of time before A.L.F. activists begin to fight–probably by shooting at Israeli settlers on isolated West Bank roads. Even if Saddam’s media complain that Syria and Jordan won’t let his army cross their territory to invade Israel, he is already providing the funding for the manpower necessary to strike a blow.

–By Matt Rees/Nablus with Aharon Klein/Jerusalem

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