Middle East speaker tinkers speech to address Iraqi war

Andrea Damewood

The title of the presentation was “Palestine and Israel: The Conflict,” but speaker Ali Abunimah made it clear from the start that he was focused on another conflict — the potential war with Iraq.

“I think it would be silly not to talk about Iraq, because it’s on everyone’s mind,” said Abunimah, founder of Electronicintifada.net and vice president of the Arab American Action Network.

Abunimah, a noted media analyst, told more than 80 people during a teach-in Thursday at Swift Hall that he believes the United States’ policy in Iraq is one of aggression.

“We have a government very determined to go to war on Iraq,” Abunimah said. “But I don’t think it’s inevitable, because it would have happened already.”

Abunimah praised the governments of France and Germany, who have stood firm against U.S. pressure to support military action in Iraq. He urged anti-war protesters to continue their efforts, noting that their actions may reinforce the views of U.N. members voting against the war.

Abunimah also had harsh words for the White House’s plan to establish democracy in Iraq and the Middle East.

“It sounds very much like the new White Man’s Burden to me,” he said.

To debunk the Bush administration’s arguments for war, Abunimah began by looking at U.S. claims that weapons are being illegally manufactured in Iraq. All of the U.S. intelligence concerning weapons production in Iraq has been dismissed by the international community, he said.

In addition, Abunimah said the U.S. media has been irresponsible in reporting other nations’ approach to the conflict. He cited a pool of reporters that was taken to a site where the Bush administration claimed weapons were being produced. When no weapons were found, he said the international media covered the story, but the Americans did not.

“The U.S. is kept in such a bubble (by the press), and I think it’s why we’re so confused as to why the rest of the world is against (the war),” he said.

Abunimah also addressed the alleged link between Iraq and al-Qaida, calling it “totally concocted.”

At the end of his speech, Abunimah steered his comments toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Anti-American sentiment in the Middle East also exists because of the U.S. stand on a Palestinian state, he said.

He offered two options to end the violence between the groups. The first calls for Israelis to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and West Bank, giving the Palestinians their own state. But the scenario would be unlikely because the drawn-out peace process has only made the territories more important to both sides, he said.

Abunimah also suggested Palestinians and Israelis live together in one nation, a situation that resembles the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

“We didn’t take all of the black people and place them in another country,” he said.

Josh Miller said he came to the speech to hear the speaker’s views on a timely topic.

“I’m interested in any issues related to the Middle East,” said Miller, a Medill junior. “It’s a great opportunity to get information that you wouldn’t normally get in the mainstream media.”