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Protests denounce Arab leaders’ complicity in Israeli assault
The Israeli onslaught on Lebanon and Gaza has laid bare the widening divide between the victims of the assault—the Palestinian and Arab masses—and the Arab bourgeois ruling elites. Protests have erupted across the Middle East condemning not only Israel and the US, but also the Arab governments, which have either openly supported Israel’s offensive or limited themselves to timid verbal protests against it.
For decades, the Arab bourgeoisie has colluded with Washington and Israel to preserve its interests at the expense of the dispossessed Palestinian people and the Arab working population as a whole. But never before have Arab leaders been so open in lining up behind Israeli military aggression. Previously, Arab governments would collaborate behind the scenes and give assurances to Washington or Tel Aviv, but they refrained from publicly denouncing an Arab movement under attack from Israel.
Even before Israel launched its attack on Lebanon, the Egyptian government had acted in conjunction with Israel’s assault on Gaza, which began on June 15, by sealing its border with Gaza. It posted 2,500 police on the border to prevent refugees fleeing the invasion and also block Gaza residents from returning from Egypt to protect their homes. That action had already provoked outrage in Egypt, and last Friday Palestinian militants forced open the Rafah border crossing, clearing the way for hundreds of people who had been trapped on the Egyptian side.
On the same day, as the Arab League prepared to convene a foreign ministers’ meeting to discuss the attack on Lebanon, President Bush called the leaders of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia—America’s closest Arab allies—and instructed them to adhere to the American-Israeli propaganda line, according to which Hezbollah, and by implication Hezbollah’s backers in Iran and Syria, are responsible for the Israeli onslaught on Lebanon.
Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak responded with a joint statement on Friday condemning Hezbollah for “adventurism that does not serve Arab interests” and warning against any moves that could edge the region towards “uncalculated confrontations.” Soon after, a Saudi spokesman blamed Hezbollah’s “uncalculated adventures” for “exposing Arab nations... to grave dangers without these nations having a say in the matter.”
Even as Mubarak and Abdullah met in Cairo, nearly 5,000 people rallied nearby at the Al-Azhar Mosque to protest the Israeli attacks. In the Jordanian capital Amman, more than 2,000 demonstrators gathered at a mosque after Friday prayers, shouting, “Zionists get out, get out!” and “Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan are one people!”
At the Arab League summit held the following day in Cairo, according to delegates who briefed journalists, Saudi Arabian foreign minister Saudi al-Faisal was backed by Jordan, Egypt, several Persian Gulf states and the Palestinian Authority in accusing Hezbollah of “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts.” Reportedly unable to agree on a joint declaration, the meeting ended with a series of token criticisms of the Israeli response, hypocritical declarations of “solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples,” and a plea to the United Nations Security Council to call for a ceasefire. At the concurrent Group of 8 summit meeting in Russia, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted with approval that a number of Arab countries had criticised Hezbollah. Bush let it be known that he had spoken to Arab leaders to explain that he would block any G8 or UN call for a ceasefire.