Jordanians protest Israeli aggression —but where were the Islamists?

Text of report by Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya TV on 14 July, as translated by BBC Monitoring:

At a time when the Jordanian monarch, King Abdallah II, left for Cairo to meet Egyptian President Husni Mubarak in an effort to end the current military escalation, the Jordanian cities witnessed mass demonstrations in solidarity with the Lebanese people and in protest against the Israeli aggression.

[Following this, the newscaster conducts a live interview with Sa’d al-Silawi, Al-Arabiya’s correspondent in Amman, via satellite. Asked about today’s demonstrations, Al-Silawi said: “Today, the Lebanese people are in the heart of all Jordanians”. He added that the Jordanians had staged “spontaneous demonstrations after the Friday prayers in protest against the aggression in Lebanon”. He went on to say that today’s demonstrations “in which thousands took part were staged in the absence of the Muslim Brotherhood and the leaders of the Islamic Action Front [IMF] in Jordan”. He added that he had contacted IAF Secretary-General Zaki Sa’d and asked him about their absence from these demonstrations. He quoted Sa’d as saying that “they did not receive an invitation to attend these mass demonstrations”. Al-Silawi said that “some political circles” in Jordan wonder about “the price of kidnapping the two soldiers and the Israeli soldier in Gaza and whether the Lebanese people have to pay this price”.]

So why weren’t the Islamists “invited” to the protest? The following July 7 Reuters article, written about a similar rally in solidarity with Gaza, sheds some light:

Palestinian Islamist rally broken up in Jordan

AMMAN – Jordanian authorities on Friday arrested scores of worshippers after they broke up a pro-Palestinian rally organised by the Muslim Brotherhood in a main mosque in the capital, officials and witnesses said.

Anti-riot police beat worshippers inside Jordan University mosque in clashes with Islamists when they stopped Brotherhood head Salem Falahat from delivering a speech accusing Israel of ‿committing atrocities‿ in Gaza after the end of Friday prayers.

Police sources said they dispersed the gathering attended by several thousand worshippers inside the mosque for violating a public gatherings law which is widely criticised by rights groups and bans any public meetings without prior approval.

The government has long banned the powerful Islamist led-opposition from holding anti-Israeli rallies in mosques, where they traditionally have strong support.

The head of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the Brotherhood’s political arm with 17 deputies in the 110-member assembly, Zaki Bani Rusheid, told Reuters that “tens of activists‿ were detained by police and that several worshippers were injured in the clashes.

“People’s passions are running high over the Israeli massacres in Gaza … Why do they have to break into mosques? … this is a confiscation of people’s feelings,‿ he added.

The Islamists had called for the rally among their supporters as a gesture of solidarity with Palestinians after the authorities rejected their request to hold a large public march on Friday, Bani Rusheid said.

A police source declined to say how many were arrested.

Many of Jordan’s more than 5.6 million inhabitants are of Palestinian origin, who settled in Jordan after the creation of Israel in 1948, and refugees of successive Arab-Israeli wars.

The government has been alarmed by the mainstream Islamist movement’s more vocal role after its ally the militant Palestinian movement Hamas swept to power in last January’s elections.

The IAF has accused the government of a tougher crackdown in recent weeks after it raised its anti-government tone and urged sweeping political reforms that include calls for an elected government and electoral reforms.

See our last post on Lebanon and Israel/Palestine. See also our last post on Jordan.