Wednesday, April 30, 2003

# Posted 11:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HMMMM...US soldiers have shot dead two more protesters in Fallujah. At first, reports of the conflict in Fallujah struck me as disturbingly reminiscient of the Palestinian intifada. While such similarities clearly exist, I think it is also important to point out how the situation in Fallujah is fundamentally different from that in the West Bank and Gaza.

When one compares Fallujah to the occupied territories, one implies that the residents of occupied Iraq are no less united in terms of purpose and identity than the Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza. However, with regard to Fallujah, such an implication is dangerously misleading.

As noted before, the Fallujah casualties were Sunnis, not Shi'ites. As the AP noted, Fallujah was, before the invasion, a stronghold of pro-Saddam sentiment.

The significance of this second fact didn't occur to me until I noticed an important difference in the chants of the Sunni protesters in Fallujah and the Shi'ite protesters in Karbala. Whereas the Karbala Shi'ites chanted "No to Saddam...Yes to Islam", the Falljuah Sunnis never indicated any sort of opposition to the old regime.

As such, I have to wonder whether Iraqi Shi'ites will react to the American shootings as an insult to the people of Iraq, or rather a well-deserved punishment for the henchmen of Saddam. In public, Shi'ite leaders will obviously condemn the shootings in order to put American forces on the defensive. But will there be any real outrage at the grassroots level? I don't know.

In contrast, I know for sure that all Israeli attacks provoke uniform Palestinian criticism. One doesn't even have to ask whether a martyr in Nablus is also a martyr in Ramallah. All in all, the best conclusion to draw from the recent incidents in Fallujah may not be that American forces will have to resort to violence, but rather that peaceful co-existence is possible with all those except the remaining partisans of Saddam.

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