Arabs' mood of condemnation steps up a notch : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Saturday, October 14, 2000

Arabs' mood of condemnation steps up a notch

By Howard Schneider in Amman

As protests broke out in Middle East cities Arab satellite television played patriotic songs about Jerusalem, and the Arab League warned that all options were open as violence escalated in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Given the events of Thursday, when Israeli helicopter gunships fired rockets at buildings in Gaza and the West Bank city of Ramallah after a Palestinian mob beat captive Israeli soldiers to death, Arab capitals were quieter than expected.

In part this was because of government restrictions imposed this week when protests against the violence in Israel began building.

But in the streets of Cairo on Thursday there were signs that, just as Israel's military activity stepped up a notch, so did the mood of condemnation.

Crowds marched through several neighbourhoods, banging on cars and calling on the Egyptian Government and people to engage directly in the fighting. It was an unusual popular display in a country of tight security, where demonstrations are typically restricted to university campuses.

Although Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel, many Egyptians look on the Jewish State with suspicion and dislike.

Egypt's state-owned television stations helped raise the emotional pitch, interviewing Palestinians who said that Israeli soldiers were deliberately aiming at children, and showing footage of the clashes accompanied by new songs about Jerusalem.

One song was dedicated to Palestinian Rami Aldura, 12, whose killing by Israeli soldiers in Gaza was a catalyst for street protests.

The streets of Amman, the Jordanian capital, were silent, and residents of the country's large Palestinian refugee cities abided by a government ban on demonstrations imposed after angry gatherings last week.

Reports from Damascus indicated the Syrian capital was also quiet, a sign of the Government's close control of political activity. After a mob last week attacked the United States Embassy there, local police presence was increased and the level of protest activity dampened.

As clashes between rock-throwing Palestinians and Israeli police continued in the Old City of Jerusalem yesterday, demonstrations broke out on university campuses in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, and about 5,000 Palestinians took to the streets of the country's largest refugee camp.

The protesters at Ain el-Hilweh camp shouted anti-Israeli slogans, with some brandishing weapons as Lebanese soldiers guarding the camp entrance remained on high alert.

Anti-Israel protests were yesterday mounting in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, where thousands took to the streets of Jakarta, dipping Israeli flags in the blood of a slaughtered goat to protest against Israeli attacks on Palestinians. Protests were also held yesterday outside the US Embassy and the main United Nations office in Jakarta.

In France attackers set fire to a synagogue and hurled petrol bombs at a Jewish school in north Paris, a government official said.

Despite Thursday's escalation in fighting, there was no response from Arab governments about a situation that looked increasingly like war.

Arab leaders are to meet next Saturday in Cairo in their first summit conference in a decade. The secretary-general of the Cairo-based Arab League said the session would respond to popular calls for action against Israel.

So far there has been no direct action, diplomatic or otherwise, taken by Arab governments against Israel. But protests from Morocco to Baghdad have been widespread, and even such cautious countries as Saudi Arabia have warned Israel to back down.

The Washington Post; Reuters

-- Martin Thompson (, October 14, 2000


Storm clouds are really building, and fast. You don't have to be a meteorologist to see that.

-- Loner (, October 15, 2000.

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