Sunday, December 14, 2003

The Palestinians, Saddam and a Syrian
Work has made blogging all but impossible, but on the day Saddam Hussein was captured, some resurrection seems called for. Almost 10 days ago, I published an op-ed in the New York Times (the link is now pay only, but you can see a slightly altered version on the International Herald Tribune site here). The basic argument is that the Palestinian issue "for all its centrality to the Arab experience during the past half-century, and for all the justifiable grievances it has aroused...has, in many respects, rendered the Arab world impotent."

The argument is not a popular one in the Arab world, and there was the predictable criticism, including the natural conclusion that I was a Zionist. Yet I did get positive feedback from several Arab readers, and a stern rebuke from a supporter of Israel (indeed several), who could not stomach the fact that I described the Palestinians as "dispossessed."

On Saddam, I was in Damascus, in the office of a senior official when the news came through. He seemed unperturbed. Later on, in a tourist shop, I saw the owner looking at AL-Jazeera watching an American take swab samples from Saddam’s mouth for DNA samples. The Syrian smiled broadly: “We got rid of him, but there is one more. Do you know who?” I responded: “No, you tell me.” He answered: “Osama bin Laden.” And when someone else said: “And George Bush,” he feigned shock and, with a smile, said: “I don’t discuss politics!”

On this day, the Syrian didn’t care about Bush, even though he had just signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act. All he was enjoying was the collapse of an Arab tyrant.

No comments: