Arabs rage against Israeli onslaught and 'silent' govts
Since the start of the latest offensive against Gaza, the Arab world has been rocked by demonstrations not only against the Israeli attacks but, more significantly, against the perceived “silence” of several Arab governments. From Beirut to Khartoum, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets over the weekend to voice their indignation against the deadly Israeli strikes, as well as their anger against Arab leaders who they accuse of being “traitors” and “accomplices” to the Israeli government. The Egyptian government has come in for some particularly strong condemnation in several Arab capitals. The now familiar scenes of Arab rage have been played out in Damascus, Amman, Doha, Rabat, Baghdad and Cairo, where Israeli flags were burned and Arab regimes were dismissed as “cowards” and “collaborators” amid angry calls for a Jihad – or holy war. While the charges of “treason” and “collaboration” have been particularly directed at Egyptian authorities, the regimes in Jordan and Saudi Arabia are also facing criticism on the Internet. Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries to have signed peace accords with Israel. A spot poll by the pan-Arabic al Jazeera Web site found 92% of respondents replying “Yes” to the question, “Do you think the Israeli operation in Gaza has proceeded with the tacit approval of Arab regimes?” Livni’s visit to Egypt fuels complicity charges Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s visit to Cairo just two days before the start of the recent onslaught has fueled criticisms of complicity by Arab regimes. At the end of a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Thursday, Livni warned that, “Hamas views Israel as a target. That must stop and we will do everything to ensure that.” For many Arabs, these remarks are proof of complicity between the Israeli and Egyptian governments. Over the weekend, Hamas spokesman Faouzi Barhoum explicitly called the Israeli raids a “plot orchestrated” with Cairo. At a press conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit stressed that the raids occurred shortly after the six-month truce between Hamas and the Israeli government expired, with the Islamist movement refusing to renew the ceasefire agreement, thereby indirectly blaming Hamas for the recent Israeli onslaught. Anger at the Rafah border Another contentious issue has been Egypt’s closing of its border with Gaza. Reporting from the Rafah crossing at the Gaza-Egypt border, FRANCE 24’s Ygal Saadoun said Rafah residents view the Egyptian army “as the ones keeping the Palestinians inside Gaza, where they are victims of the Israeli attacks.” A day after Egyptian police fired in the air to prevent Palestinians from entering Egypt following Israeli strikes on a network of underground tunnels, Saadoun said the Egyptian government’s position “is eliciting a great deal of anger and shame…for not doing enough to help the Palestinians.” According to Antoine Basbous, director of the Paris-based think-tank, Observatoire des Pays Arabes, the Egyptian government is upset with Hamas. The regime in Cairo, according to Basbous, is wary of Iranian and Syrian control over Hamas as well as the Islamist group’s proximity to the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, a longtime enemy of the Egyptian regime. “For the Egyptian authorities, it is therefore a question of domestic security and regional clout against Iran, a Shiite power that wants to cast itself as the leader of the Islamic umma (community). On the question of Hamas, Cairo and Tel Aviv are therefore on the same wavelength.” On Sunday, Lebanese-based Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah urged Egyptians in their "millions" to take to the streets to force their government to open the border with Gaza at Rafah. Nasrallah also called on Egyptian military officials to put pressure on their political leaders in what some believe was a call for an uprising. "I join the calls of those Palestinian leaders who have urged a third intifada," Nasrallah said on Monday in a speech beamed on a giant television screen to tens of thousands of supporters gathered in his movement's bastion in the southern suburbs of Beirut, according to wire reports.