Anger of Arabs builds against Israel, America

Moderate governments feel increasing pressure

April 12, 2002|By Daniel Rubin | Daniel Rubin,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

AMMAN, Jordan - On the day Secretary of State Colin L. Powell consulted with Jordanian leaders about conditions in the Middle East, hundreds of loud, angry men and women marched through the Arab country's capital, Amman, chanting, "Where is the Arabic army?" and "No peace negotiations."

The raucous but orderly protest was one of two large gatherings yesterday in Amman, the latest of a series of anti-Israeli and anti-American protests across the Arab world that are growing larger, bolder and more violent.

The unrest is putting pressure on moderate governments such as Jordan's that could make cooperation with America more difficult.

"We call Israel the pampered child of America," said Manwar Ajarmha, a government worker wearing a thick moustache, Bedouin robe and red and white Jordanian keffiyeh, or scarf.

Demands on U.N.

Ajarmha spoke as the demonstrators stopped in front of the United Nations building and urged the organization to make good on its call for Israel to pull its military from Palestinian-controlled areas.

"Any U.N. resolution is implemented straight away on the Arabs. On the Israelis - nothing," he said.

Mounting anger is fed by increasingly graphic television images of the Palestinian casualties in places like the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. It is directed not only at Israel and the United States, but at moderate Arab governments for not doing more to stand up for Palestinians.

Jordan's Interior Ministry has counted nearly 400 rallies and demonstrations since the latest Israeli offensive began March 29; 138 policemen have been hurt and 95 police cars damaged.

On April 3, riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse about 5,000 Jordanians marching toward the Israeli Embassy. Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.

The U.S. State Department told workers in several Middle East embassies this week that their families could leave until the potential for anti-American violence recedes.

Failure of trust

Confidence and trust in America is falling quickly. Echoing protesters in other Arab countries, Jordanian laboratory director Khaled Zughayer wondered yesterday why Powell made three stops before heading for Israel.

"Where is it burning? In Jerusalem. Why is he going all over the Arab world first? He wanted to give Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon time to get rid of the Palestinians," Zughayer said.

Any sympathy the United States earned when it suffered the Sept. 11 terror attacks has evaporated, said Jordanian political analyst Labib Kamhawi.

"There is now a consensus that the Americans are the enemy as well as Israel," he said. "There is a consensus that no matter what the Israelis do, the Americans will support them."

He said Arabs, given more freedom to protest than in past times, have become furious after seeing pictures on television and are taking much of their anger out on their own governments.

"The masses realize their leaders were not able to do anything of substance," he said. "They are afraid to do anything to help the Palestinians or to stop the Israelis."

Kamhawi said he was working to contain his own anger, having learned that the Israelis bulldozed the entrance to his grandfather's home in the West Bank city of Nablus and posted snipers on the roof.

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