Jordan, Egypt criticised for policy over Gaza

Jordan blocked anti Israeli demonstration while Egypt is dragging its feet on mediation efforts.

Jordanian police officers used force to disperse the crowd, and arrested a few of the protesters [Getty Images]

Amman, Jordan – The Jordanian authorities have quelled protests calling for the closing of the Israeli embassy in Amman, as police prevented demonstrators from reaching the embassy and arrested 11 of them.

The protest, which was organised by religious and leftist groups, marked the first public response to Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip that have killed at least 75 Palestinians.

Around 150 men and women gathered outside Kalouti mosque, about 100m from the Israeli embassy, and called on the Jordanian government to take stronger action, including expelling the Israeli ambassador.

Forty Jordanian gendarmerie officers surrounded the protesters, as they chanted, “Palestine was sold,” “Gendarmerie forces should take action on the other border,” and “Amman must be cleansed” from the Israeli and US embassies.

The officers used force to disperse the crowd, and arrested a few of the participants, including one journalist.

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The crackdown comes almost a week after police arrested 30 men and youth from Madaba camp, where they were protesting the killing of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdair. Thirteen people were later charged on “terror” allegations in a military court.

We think it is impossible that simply by protesting in solidarity with Palestine, the detainees would jeopardise state security,” said Hadeel Abdul-Aziz, a lawyer at Adel centre which is following the case.

According to Abdul-Aziz, three of the detainees are minors, aged 12-17.

The Jordanian authorities say protesters in Madaba burned and damaged public property. “These people were arrested for unlawful gathering and for burning and damaging things, but it is up to the court to decide what to charge them with,” Amer Sartawi, the public security spokesperson, said.

Two other protests took place on Wednesday evening in Jordan’s northern city of Irbid, and south in Aqaba. No arrests were reported.

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Meanwhile, the Jordanian government, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, condemned the attacks on Gaza and called on Israel to stop immediately.

“These attacks are not justified by any means, and Israel should stop escalating and instigating,” said the government’s spokesperson, Mohammad Mommani, in a press release.

“These attacks could have negative impacts on the Gaza Strip and the entire region… The answer is returning to the peace negotiations table.”

Angered by this response, however, parliamentarians held an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon, where they agreed to send a Jordanian delegation of 30 parliament members to the Gaza Strip. They are expected to enter Gaza via Egypt’s Areesh crossing.

It is time to stop issuing statements and condemning attacks. We have to take serious actions.

by - Yahya Saud, head of Palestine solidarity committee.

“It is time to stop issuing statements and condemning attacks. We have to take serious actions,” deputy Yahya Saud, head of Palestine Solidarity committee in the Parliament, said.

“We want to deliver a message to the international community, as representatives of the Jordanian people, that we are aggravated by the attacks on Gaza and [Israel’s] continuous abuse against our Palestinian brothers and sisters,” he said.

Activists and opposition groups were also angered by the government’s response.

“So what they condemned the attack? This is what political parties or organisations do, but not what governments do,” Zaki Bani-Rashid, deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, told Al Jazeera.

“The Jordanian government has always used the interest of Palestinians to justify its signing a peace treaty with Israel, but if those interested are not served, then there is no need for such a treatment with a Zionist state,” said Bani-Rashid, in reference to the Wadi Araba agreement, signed between Jordan and Israel in 1994.

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Neighbouring Arab states and the Arab League have issued statements condemning the attacks, but did little more to support Palestinians in Gaza.

“Arab countries are busy with clashes between each other and with sectarian fighting inside their own land,” Oraib Rantawi, a political analyst and director of the Jerusalem Studies Centre, told Al Jazeera.

Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shaker, issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the bombings, while on a diplomatic tour in Jordan. But Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi made no mention of the Gaza situation when he addressed Egyptians on Monday.

Egypt served as the primary mediator during negotiations to end the last major Israel-Gaza escalation in November 2012.

“Having always depicted Hamas as a terrorist group, Arab governments cannot change their stand in seconds, and tell their people they condemn what Israel is doing to Hamas,” Egyptian political analyst Mashhoor Ibrahim Ahmed told Al Jazeera.

Ahmed explained that many Egyptians previously backed the Palestinian cause, but that support has waned “after Hamas was misrepresented to the people of Egypt as a leader of terrorism in [Egypt’s] Sinai and accused of attacking prisons during the revolution”.

“If people in Egypt are too scared to protest against lifting fuel subsidies, do you think they will come out and protest in solidarity of Gaza?”

Source: Al Jazeera