Meanwhile in Arabia…

Whereas Egypt’s enthusiastic cooperation with Israel in slaughtering the Palestinians has received widespread condemnation in the Arab world and beyond, the usual ‘moderate’ suspects are just as enthusiastically making the very same mistake they made at the start of the 2006 war (i.e. blaming the victim – cf Saudi-Arabia and, shame on them, Fatah). The usual ‘radical’ suspects (Syria, Lybia and Iran) are equally making the same predictable noises while taking great care to not actually get involved in any concrete or meaningful way. That goes even for Hizbullah, up to now, although in their case there are pressing domestic reasons for not being seen as bringing another devastating war onto their compatriots.
The populations in the ‘moderate’ countries are becoming ever more vocal in expressing their disgust with ‘their’ US-financed leaders. In Yemen, a stadium full of protesters marshalled by the government actually turned into an anti-government rally that could only just be contained. In countries as far apart as Lebanon and Indonesia, mass rallies were criticising Arab governments as loudly as Israel and the US. Even in Brussels, people were throwing shoes at the Egyptian embassy.

But lo behold, there is an exception: the Jordanian king has fallen out of character. Here, Abu Aardvark discusses why: ‘It’s no accident that King Abdullah and Queen Rania have been urgently calling for Israel to “end the violence immediately”, even as fellow pro-U.S. autocrats in Cairo and Riyadh hedge in anticipation of Hamas taking damage. There is no way for Jordan to stay on the sidelines of an Israeli-Palestinian crisis – and this one may prove more dangerous than others. The intensity of Jordanian public opinion on Gaza should not be surprising. Without resorting to the journalistic shorthand of assigning a percentage of the population as “Palestinian” (given decades of intermarriage and deep divides in the life-circumstances of, say, the impoverished residents of the camps and the wealthy Amman bourgeoisie), the Jordanian and Palestinian populations are deeply interconnected.  The Jordanian public has been extremely vocal, with protests in the streets and burning Israeli flags in the Parliament.  Normally level-headed commentators have been calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, the severing of ties with Israel, the “removal” of all things Israeli from the Kingdom, and more.  Unlike during the Hezbollah war of 2006, there’s a consensus in Jordan spanning liberals, Islamists, and conservatives over Gaza… with even those who have written extremely hostile commentary about Hamas in the last few years now lambasting Israel and defending Gaza. (…) Expect anti-Americanism in Jordan (and across the region) to spike again as the U.S. is blamed for allowing the Israeli offensive, just as during the 2002 Israeli re-occupation of the West Bank, and for moderate voices to be marginalized or radicalized.  The King is following the popular mood this time, to a point (with an ostentatious picture of him donating blood gracing the front pages of the papers).  But even as the influential columnist Samih al-Mayateh writes that the people and the Palace are united, it’s clear to all that the government has offered only words and has not acted on any of the popular demands.’ More than that, he has actually fired the head of his intelligence services, who had recently been promoting a detente with Hamas… Abu Aardvark adds: ‘I expect that the Jordanian regime will most likely ride out this round of domestic anger as it always has before — but it seems clear that the leadership is worried about the rising wave of anger and the possibility of violence migrating across the Jordan River. Whatever Abdullah’s real feelings about Hamas, it seems likely that he’s sincere about desperately wanting the crisis to be over and is trying to find ways to limit the impact at home.  Replacing his mukhabarat chief in the middle of the crisis suggests that desperation is turning to panic. ‘


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