While Palestinian nationalist leader Faisal Husseini has offered a qualified condemnation of the Iraqi missile attacks on Israel, Palestinian masses in the West Bank have cheered them.
There were demonstrations in support of Iraq and stoning incidents during curfew breaks in the West Bank. A Palestinian woman was shot to death by Israeli troops Saturday in Nablus.
Husseini expressed grief for the injuries and damage caused by the SCUD missiles that hit Israeli cities Friday and Saturday.
He added, however, that his sympathy for the Israelis was humanitarian, not political, and that he was just as “sad and unhappy” about the American air raids on Baghdad.
Husseini seemed to be trying to make amends for his initial pro-Iraqi stance, which shocked the many left-wing Israelis who have backed his calls for Israeli-Palestinian peace through negotiations.
The East Jerusalem activist has been one of the foremost advocates of non-violent resistance to the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
But when the U.S.-led coalition opened hostilities with Iraq last week, he demanded that the fighting stop immediately.
“We are talking about human life, and we care about human life. Therefore we are calling to stop the whole war,” Husseini said.
That did not sit well even with the Israeli peace camp, which considered Saddam Hussein a menace to Israel even before he made good on his threat of a missile attack.
Husseini’s remarks, moreover, did not reflect the mood of much of the Palestinian community, where support for the Iraqi leader continues to be openly strong.
The blanket curfew clamped last Thursday on the West Bank and Gaza Strip was briefly lifted Sunday to allow residents to shop for basic necessities.
Youngsters began to throw stones at Israeli soldiers. In Hebron, young Arabs stoned the Avraham Avinu Synagogue. In Nablus, they poured into the streets shouting support for Saddam Hussein.
When air raid alarms sounded and Israelis raced to bomb shelters, Palestinians took to the rooftops cheering and shouting, “Allah akhbar” (God is Great).
The Israeli Defense Force kept its promise to shoot anyone in violation of the curfew. Lubana al-Kadah, 24, was shot to death Saturday in a Nablus street. Arab sources said she was killed for being outdoors during a curfew.
Ironically, many demonstrations took place while Palestinians were being issued gas masks by the Israeli civil administration in the territories.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.