|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
31 May - 6 June 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Brotherhood on the move in JordanThough anti-Israeli demonstrations passed peacefully this week in Jordan, confrontations between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jordanian government are still unfolding
For the first time in 55 years, leaders of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the official celebration of Jordan's National Day on 25 May. The move was interpreted as a protest against the humiliation of five top Brotherhood leaders, a week earlier, by security forces who unleashed dogs and riot police on demonstrators who were marking the anniversary of the Palestinian catastrophe of 15 May 1948, the Nakba. Although a governmental ban on demonstrations had been in force since October of last year, the Muslim Brotherhood had been granted permission for this specific protest.
While King Abdullah and his Prime Minister Ali Abu Al-Ragheb were shaking hands with 3,000 invitees to a special reception to mark the National Day on 25 May, more than 30,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood lined the streets of Irbid and Zerqa, chanting "death to the United States," "death to Israel and to Arab traitors." Demonstrators also burned US and Israeli flags and called on the Jordanian government to shut down the Israeli embassy in Amman.
In Irbid, Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel-Majid Thuneibat said, "We call on Arab foreign ministers to implement recent recommendations to sever all ties with Israel... a normal reaction on behalf of Arabs towards Jewish arrogance and Sharon's vindictive policies. The king has refused our requests to see him since he deported our Hamas heroes. Yet, we will go to jail and be executed rather than surrender," he continued.
Speaking to a crowd of 12,000 Palestinian refugees at Zerqa, former member of parliament and Minister of Religious Affairs Ibrahim Zeid Kaylani, said "the fight for Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and Islam has begun and will continue until all land and rights are restored."
Chanting anti-US and anti-Israeli slogans condemning the peace treaty with Israel, protesters carried banners that read: "Jerusalem, we are coming," and "Jihad is the only way to liberate our Palestine." Chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), participants called on Hamas to launch additional suicide bombings and carried banners reading "Zionism is worse than Nazism," and "Returning to Palestine is a holy right."
Professional association members and political activists also held sit-ins around the Kingdom in solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada.
Azzam Heneidi, president of the umbrella organisation for professional associations, said that the Jordanian Engineers Association (JEA) has decided to allocate 20,000 Jordanian dinars (JD) to help the injured Palestinians. "One thousand dinars will be donated to the family of the martyr Mahmoud Marmash," Heneidi said.
Marmash, a Hamas activist, died in a suicide bombing on 18 May. Five Israelis were killed in the attack.
Another JD5,000 will be donated to the associations' campaign to collect blood for Palestinian hospitals, Heneidi added.
Meanwhile, a committee coordinating among opposition parties sent a letter to the foreign ministers of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) calling on them to reactivate the Muslim and Arab boycott of Israel and to sever all political and economic ties with the Jewish state.
They called on Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa to implement recent recommendations by foreign ministers to halt all ties with Israel.
The letter, signed by 16 political parties, also asked Muslim countries to pressure the US to take a firm and positive stand to support the Palestinian people, and to move away from its "inclination towards Israel."
Protests on 25 May contrasted with those held on 18 May on the anniversary of the Nakba. Clashes with security forces resulted in the injury of 120 protesters and the arrest of dozens. Anti-riot squads were on the scene backed up by armoured vehicles as security forces fired tear gas, opened water cannons and unleashed dogs into one mosque to disperse demonstrating men and women.
In October last year, following dozens of public marches held to protest the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, the government issued a ban on all public demonstrations, saying they "posed a threat to the country's security and stability and threaten people's interests." After having been harshly criticised for this action by Arab and international organisations, the Jordanian state granted the Muslim Brotherhood permission to hold those rallies which took place outside the capital Amman in Zerqa and Irbid to commemorate the Nakba.
The confrontation between the Islamists and the Hashemite regime comes at a time when the king's government is struggling to improve the country's economic performance as unemployment has swelled to more than 30 per cent of Jordan's workforce.
According to Prime Minister Abu Al-Ragheb, more than 150,000 Palestinians have crossed the river and settled in Jordan since the Al-Aqsa Intifada erupted. This phenomenon has reawakened latent fears among Jordanians about the possibility another shift in the countries demography which would make Palestinians a clear majority.
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