موجز: العرب يحتجون من أجل غزة وحكوماتهم عاطلة عن العمل
التاريخ: 
06/12/2023

Editor’s Note: This brief was written at the height of mass pro-Palestine protests in the region in October, its publication highlights the different actions that the Arab people took between Oct. x and Oct. x. The article serves as documentation and does not include recent news updates.

Despite the complete failure of Arab governments to take meaningful action for Gaza, their populations showed the world that the Palestinian struggle will always be central to the consciousness of Arab people. Since Israel bombed the al-Ahli (Baptist) Hospital on Oct. 17, the streets of Arab countries have been filled with protestors demanding an end to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and Occupation of Palestine.

As news of the massacre at al-Ahli broke, Palestinians in the West Bank were the first to react, with hundreds gathering in the center of Ramallah in protest against the bombing of the hospital and the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) inaction. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas ordered his security forces to attack protestors with tear gas and stun grenades. The PA’s security forces also used violence against protesters in Nablus, Tubas, and Jenin.

Simultaneously, Jordanians — who had already attempted to march to the border with Palestine on Oct. 13 and were faced with tear gas by riot police — began protesting outside the Israeli embassy in Amman and tried to storm through the external fence surrounding the embassy. Fearing further demonstrations, the Jordanian Foreign Minister cancelled Biden’s planned visit to Jordan until an end to the “war and massacres against Palestinians.”  The Jordanian government is concerned that any escalation, particularly in the West Bank, could result in the permanent displacement of Palestinians to Jordan.

Soon after, Beirut’s streets filled with thousands of protestors targeting the U.S. and French embassies, due to their unequivocal support for Israel politically, economically, and militarily. People drove to the embassies, creating a massive traffic jam throughout downtown Beirut and the road to Rafic Hariri Airport. Protests continued throughout Monday night and Tuesday, with parts of the U.S. embassy set on fire by fireworks. Some Twitter users reported hearing explosions outside the U.S. embassy in Beirut. The U.S. government warned Americans not to travel to Lebanon, and the family members of embassy staff, as well as all non-essential staff, left the country.

There were also large protests throughout Turkey, including in Istanbul, outside the Israeli embassy in Ankara, and outside the U.S. consulate in Adana, which closed as a result. The demonstrations led Israel to issue a warning against all travel to Turkey, citing fears that Israelis would be targeted, and advised all Israelis currently in Turkey to leave. Even though Erdogan condemned Israel’s bombing as “the latest example of Israeli attacks devoid of the most basic human values,” he still authorized the Turkish police’s use of pepper spray and water cannons against the protestors (whilst also bombing civilians in Rojava, occupied Kurdistan). It remains to be seen if recent events will result in the breakdown of normalized relations between the two countries, which began in 2022.

In Egypt, student protestors at El-Fayoum University demanded the abolition of the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel. However, due to anti-protest legislation and Egyptians’ fear of repression by President Sisi’s security forces, most Egyptians’ activism has taken place online. The Egyptian regime fears that demonstrations could escalate from expressions of Palestinian solidarity to anti-government protests, especially since Egypt has been complicit in the blockade of Gaza since 2007. Despite the law forbidding and limiting mass protests, Egyptians took their activism online activism, and Israel pre-emptively pulling its embassy staff out of Cairo in fear of protests erupting. Sisi, on the other hand, only offered three days of mourning and condemnations. A state-sanctioned protest was called for Oct. 20 but hundreds were arrested.

In Morocco, the Israeli embassy pre-emptively withdrew its staff from Rabat due to protests in support of Palestine and against the bombardment of al-Ahli (Baptist) hospital, which is part of an elevated state of alert for across Israel’s embassies.

Baghdad’s streets, which had already been filled with half a million protestors [date], became active again. A few hundred protestors chanted: “God is the greatest, America is the greatest devil”, and marched towards the U.S. embassy. Despite the Iraqi government enabling American political and economic control in Iraq, Iraqis connect the Palestinian struggle against the American-funded Israeli military with their struggle against the American-led invasion of 2003. Iraq continues to pump out oil for Western corporations, even though the refusal to produce oil would have a significant impact on Western attitudes towards Israel’s actions. Instead, the only action the Iraqi government took was to declare three days of mourning.

The Algerian cities of Bilda and Algiers also saw small protests in support of the Palestinian people, in defiance of the government’s recent ban on protests. Although the opposition political party, Peace Society has requested that the government allow Algerians to protest for Palestine since the beginning of Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza, the government has only allowed the first national demonstration to take place on Oct. 19.

More student protests against Israel’s bombing of al-Ahli took place in Tunisia’s capital and other cities, with the US embassy announcing its closure until Friday in response. Yet although the Tunisian government has affirmed their full support for Palestine, so far this support has only amounted to words.

Although Arab governments have normalized relations with Israel and failed to act decisively against Israel’s aggressions since Oct. 7, the attitudes of Arab governments have never been so distant from domestic public opinion. Whilst Arab governments, through their access to oil, could have ensured the withdrawal of American support, leaders have chosen power and profit over their commitment to the Palestinian people. It remains to be seen if people’s protests can influence Arab governments to stop making passive statements and instead act in support of Palestinians.