Saddam Hussein is a good guy.
At least, Faoud thinks so.
Faoud, a Palestinian teenager, works behind the counter of a Galillee falafel shop serving travelling tour groups and Israeli soldiers. He was talking to me during the second week of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait.
Dressed in a blue-and-white T-shirt with the word "Surfington" on it, Faoud said he favored an immediate Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia.
"If Iraq attacks Saudi Arabia, this is good. Saudi Arabia is run by America anyway," he told me.
I was travelling in Israel with a group of Massachusetts college campus journalists. The trip, which cost me $350, was sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council, an amalgamation of local Jewish groups. The avowed goal of the trip was to provide college journalists with an introduction to the issues and problems of the Arab-Israeli conflict, albeit, with a pro-Israeli spin.
But Faoud wasn't on the trip's itinerary. Although we had met days earlier with Radawan Abu Ayaish, a Palestinian journalist said to be the number-two person in the Intifada leadership, I had to seek out contacts with ordinary Palestinians and Israelis on my own.
Faoud, who initiated our conversation by asking me my opinion of Yasser Arafat, chair of the Palestinian Liberation Organization or president of Palestine--depending on which title you recognize. He explained to me that the falafel shop was now owned by Jews, who "stole my land."
The last question I asked Faoud, before finishing up my falafel and getting back on my tour bus, was about the state of Israel. I asked him if Israel should be allowed to exist.
At first Faoud did not respond. I asked him the question again.
"The Holy Koran says there should be one Palestine. One Palestine," he said.
The meeting with Faoud was significant within both the context of the trip and current events. During the previous days my group had met with Benjamin Netanyahu, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Likud government, who opposes giving back the Israeli-occupied territories; a member of Peace Now who seeks to find common ground within moderate Palestinian circles; and the Radawan, the Palestinian leader.
In a way, Faoud's words were shocking because they seemed to support Netanyahu's assertion that a Palestinian state would be used as a base from which Israel could be conquered.
Faoud's attitudes towards Israel and Iraq were shared by many Palestinians throughout the Middle East. Since my discussion with Faoud, protests in Jordan, Gaza and other sites throughout the region have shown that Palestinians were throwing their hearts and minds in support of the Iraqi strongman.
Another question I asked Faoud was personal: Didn't he, as a resident of Israel, fear Iraqi chemical attack?