The Saddam regime had long adopted the Palestinian cause as a means of championing a pan-Arabic political movement, one that he thought would carry him to the throne of a secular caliphate that would control Southwest Asia and North Africa. He paid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and feted Palestinians inside Iraq as well, giving them privileges he denied to native Iraqis. When Saddam invaded Kuwait, the Palestinians cheered — and when the US ejected him from Kuwait and eventually from power, the Palestinians protested. Now they complain that life has gotten much more difficult without their patron to give them their customary handouts:
For years, Saddam Hussein harbored a small population of Palestinians in Iraq, trotting them out to cheer whenever he went to war — which he routinely justified as essential to Arab nationalism and the Palestinian cause.
Shiites and other Iraqis looked glumly at his wards, jealous of the Palestinians’ privilege and status while others suffered.
Now Hussein is in prison. The Shiites are in power. The Palestinians are worried.
Perhaps they worry because the Palestinians come from a long history of “insurgency”, and the last thing the new Iraqi government needs is more foreigners with the inclination to join terrorist bands. The Palestinians would certainly prefer Saddam’s return, and considering their lost privileges, it would make sense for them to do so. The Post hints at that even as it reports on their plight. Consider the following passages, emphases mine:
After the fall of Hussein in 2003, several thousand Palestinians left for Jordan and were stuck in a no-man’s land at the border. Most eventually went to a refugee camp just inside Jordan. With the new threats, another group of 19 Palestinians left the capital in October for Syria and spent more than a month camped in the no-man’s land before they were finally let into a refugee camp in northeastern Syria, according to Stort.
But the majority of Palestinians here are hunkering down in Baghdad. Most live in a neighborhood of shabby concrete buildings where they have been housed, at government expense, for decades. …
Palestinians were not allowed to become Iraqi citizens under Hussein’s rule and were discouraged from purchasing property, but they were given housing and free utilities and were exempt from military service. They were also favored for government positions and allowed to travel more freely than Iraqi citizens. …
The Palestinians say their position was less privileged than it seemed. “This was all just talk,” said Thayer Mahdi, 39, a Palestinian who owns a clothing store. “We suffered like all Iraqis.”
When Hussein fell, nearly 1,500 Palestinians were forced from their homes as landlords suddenly found themselves free to raise rents and evict their formerly privileged tenants. They lived for a while in tents at a sports club in Baghdad before eventually finding other housing.
Not only did Hussein keep them at government expense — giving them a rather carefree life on the Iraqi dole — but they lived in non-government housing at little or no expense until after Saddam fell. Landlords had to put up with them at whatever rate Saddam deemed satisfactory. And the Palestinians wonder why Iraqis don’t like them?