Just spoke over the phone with Iraqi Parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi, head of the Iraqi Nation Party in Baghdad, who advocates normalized relations between the new Iraq and Israel and promotes human rights in the Middle East. He says that, not surprisingly, the airwaves in Iraq are saturated with anti-Israel propaganda as Israel strikes back at Hamas for 3+ years of rocket attacks on Israel's southern towns. But interestingly, a significant number of Iraqis are not reflexively anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian, he says.
As Israel strikes back at Hamas, this champion of Iraqi-Israeli cooperation has been explaining to his fellow Iraqis, "the conflict is not between Palestinians and Israelis, it's between terrorists and moderates."
Alusi has made several trips to Israel to promote cooperation between Iraq and the Jewish state on counter-terrorism. In February, 2005, as revenge for Alusi's decision to break the longstanding taboo in the Arab world against visiting Israel, terrorists murdered his two sons, Ayman, 30, and Jamal, 22, who were helping their father build the Iraqi Nation Party, a political party dedicated to protecting human rights and promoting free markets and cooperation among democracies. But Alusi, an ideological pioneer in the middle east, refused to back down. He got his party, which his fallen sons had helped him establish, onto the ballot and in December, 2005 was elected to the Iraqi Parliament.
Tonight Alusi says that many Iraqis, while they are not necessarily sympathetic to Israel, are not pro-Palestinian either. Many, he says, feel they have been abused by Palestinians. For starters, some of the foreign-born suicide bombers who have tormented the Iraqi people in recent years have been Palestinian, and many ordinary Iraqis know it, and resent it. Also, Iraqis remember that many Palestinians were loyal to Saddam Hussein, who hideously abused Iraqis and whom most of them loathe the memory of (Saddam, remember, sent $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers for targeting Israeli civilians).
Furthermore, Alusi says that when he leaves Baghdad's Green Zone, as recently as the day before yesterday, "thousands of [Iraqi] people would like to shake hands. They know I was in Israel, and they are very positive."
Moreover, he maintains that the "realists" in Iraq-those people who are not fanatically religious or anti-democracy (and he maintains these "realists" are in the majority) "want to be normal" and are open to the idea of accepting Israel as "a modern country and a ... part of the middle east," especially if doing so would mean cooperating with Israel to protect Iraq against terrorist forces bankrolled by Iran. "Iraqis are willing to be free, to be normal," he says. "Pragmatic people are moving in the direction of normality."
While Alusi notes he is grieved by war and hopes Israel's operations minimize casualties to Palestinian civilians, he believes Israel must devastate Hamas.
"We understand why this fight started, and if someone starts something, he has to finish," he says. He also referred to connections between some of the extremist religious political parties in Iraq and Hamas, all of whom he says receive funding from Iran, and all of whom are the enemies of free people who oppose terrorism and fanaticism.
"Who do you think the Islamist parties are in Iraq?" he says. "If Hamas wins, they will also be stronger."
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