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Middle East

A Delegation to Iraq Assesses the Damage (03/01)

Upon disembarking from the Olympic Airways plane that brought me to Iraq in November 2000, I can see some of the effects of the Western-imposed sanctions. What was once a busy international airport is now a desolate strip. Two lonely planes sit as if abandoned on the vast tarmac. There are no airport personnel to speak of, no baggage carts or utility vehicles, not even any visible security. On a wall inside the empty terminal is a handmade sign in Arabic and imperfect English; it reads: "Down USA." A large portrait of Saddam Hussein gazes down upon us. His image can be found along the road to the city, in the hotel, and on various public buildings. read more

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Middle East

Raising the Stakes: Palestinians Refuse to Surrender (3/01)

Anyone who sympathizes with the Palestinian struggle during the current war for the end of occupation may feel rather disheartened seeing images of the struggle. Mothers cry, fathers bow their heads. There are so many funerals. Neither side will retreat and there’s no sign of a solution from any international leadership.

Certainly, press reports would have those who view the carnage from a distance believe that the Palestinians are vastly overwhelmed and becoming weaker by the day. The Palestinian economy is deteriorating, and unemployment is soaring. There are requests for outside medical aid, and now food supplies are dwindling. Local leaders and medical personnel send out appeals for assistance while political leaders call for an independent inquiry and an international police force to protect the vulnerable Arab population. The UN is unable to act, either as a negotiator or with a peacekeeping army. read more

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Middle East

Terror at Close Range: Palestinians Under Siege (11/00)

Tanks surround cities. Helicopter gunships dart above deserted market stalls and abandoned garden restaurants. Sirens call women from shoe stores and banks. School children are turned back at the roads that would lead them to waiting mothers in the suburbs. 

Some of the people fleeing bullets and shells seek out alternative routes, if not to their own home, then to a relative’s. They locate a phone and report that they’re safe – for the moment. "But what about Samir and Fideh? The school closed early. Where could they be? What about Adnan at his pharmacy, and Leila at her office?"  read more

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Middle East

Business Backs the Iraq Embargo (5/00)

I can buy anything. If I have to agree to take oil or gas to Dubai, I’m going to do it. I’m not here in Iraq for the excitement. I want to make money; I’m like you … . This embargo is going to end. I need an order. I need it now." It was one of those blunt realities which idealists, especially those moved to actions by human suffering, refuse to believe. Too crass to be true. Too pragmatic to face. 

It happened two years ago. I was in Baghdad, in one of the five star hotels where businessmen stay, and talk. You find no humanitarian oriented social activists in the lobby here. "Too many secret service agents," they say. Few journalists hang around here, either. But I was meeting a friend. Behind me sat two men, facing each other, and apparently unaware of me. They talked freely, although in low voices. My back was to them, and I leaned forward over the coffee table in order to write down verbatim what I heard. I didn’t look at the men, but I could recognize from their accents that one was an Iraqi. The other was a US businessman. He did most of the talking, was very blunt, and spoke without formalities. read more

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Middle East

Satellite Broadcasting (12/98)

"One thing about our part of the world," said an Iraqi professor enthusiastically; "it’s always changing. We don’t usually know what is going to happen, but things are constantly moving in the Middle East." The latest phenomenon in this capricious world is called Al-Jazzerah Television Network, and it has the entire Arab world talking about its controversial political talk shows.

First, Al-Jazzerah drew attention for airing Lebanese opposition party views; then it dared to debate the sensitive issue of "who is a Jordanian?" The majority of Jordanians are Palestinian, and there’s been debate about whether they should have equal citizenship. Al-Jazzerah is the first to tackle such controversies. Doubtless, its location in a distant corner of the Arab world helps. So does wealth: Al-Jazzerah is funded by oil profits. read more

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Middle East

Palestinian Disillusionment (11/98)

The fifth anniversary of the Oslo Accord arrived on September 13, then passed on through history. If mentioned in the world press, it wasn’t in terms of celebration. In those areas liberated from Israeli Occupation, Palestinians find few reasons for jubilation. And they’re left with little optimism for the next five years.

If the treaty were implemented according to its principles and timetable, note critics of the peace process, all 14,000 political prisoners would be reunited with their families by now, and the Palestinian Authority would be in control of 85 percent of the West Bank, including all of Hebron. Palestinians also would have their own airport and a new sea port; these would mean thousands of new jobs created by trade and by the tourists sunning themselves on the beaches of Gaza. read more