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Messages from Iraq: 21 January 2003


Great to see the huge turn out on Saturday, particularly in the US and to read the positive comments in the major US press - it almost felt as if the tide were beginning to turn. And then yesterday Britain is sending a quarter of all its military ...

This may be the final message. I am still waiting to see if it becomes possible to get another visa. It may well prove too difficult just at present. There are about 30 people in the Peace Team in Baghdad which is good, but they are mostly going to find it hard to find people after that, so I may return to New Zealand and then see what happens and whether it would be useful to go again at the end of February.

I have been visiting people both in Ramallah in the West Bank and in Israel. The situation in Ramallah is very grim. The check points in and out are horrible. Dirty, paths covered in rubble and if you drive, queues and queues of traffic and endless waiting. One of the women I stayed with used to live in Bethlehem and had an hour's drive to work. Now it takes hours. And she has had to move to Ramallah. There is huge unemployment. In a recent internal conflict within an Israel Human Rights Commission which has both Jews and Moslems on the staff, a point of difference was between those who thought the occupation was OK it was the behaviour of the troops which was an abuse of human rights; and those who considered the very occupation is an abuse.

Later I was staying with Jewish friends who have a son who goes to school catching a bus to Hadera, a town with a bus station where there have been four bombs explode on the buses. Friends at their house spoke of their fear of Palestinians, but don't seem to appreciate the underlying causes of violence. Everything is very black and white. It reminded me of listening last year to white people in Zimbabwe. A people under siege and distorting with group paranoia. They couldn't see how they could solve it themselves, but worry that Europe is too pro Arab and Sharon has just dismissed the Quartet (US, Russia, UN and Europe) as a "nothing".

I came on the bus through Hadera this morning and it was quite scary. I got on and gradually it filled up with passengers: 90 per cent were young soldiers in uniform with their guns. I thought what a target we presented.

The Israeli newspapers and those people I spoke to mostly feel that war in Iraq is necessary and will benefit them. I tried to give what seems to me a balanced view on why the war is not going to be in their interest, but maybe if the US ends up in Iraq, then Israel will be able to solve the 'Palestinian Problem' much more in their favour ... but how can it end there?

So now I am once again back in Jordan feeling rather tired and looking forward either to a few more weeks in Baghdad, or more likely New Zealand.

As they say here Maha'salaam, goodbye for now, John.

Messages from Iraq

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