Support for Gaza runs high across Jordanian society

Many residents of the kingdom have relatives in the enclave and the West Bank

People protest near the Israeli Embassy in Amman on Wednesday as they demonstrate against the killing of hundreds of Palestinians following a strike on a hospital in the Gaza Strip. AFP
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A Palestinian flag decorates the entrance to a grocery shop in the Abdali district of central Amman, next to a black banner mourning Palestinians killed in Gaza.

“They are martyrs,” says the owner, Shady Raouf, who heavily criticises Israel's actions.

Solidarity with the Palestinians is the official policy in Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

But the latest Gaza war has generated new levels of public support for the cause in the kingdom, which has a largely mixed society, with many residents having relatives in Palestine.

Authorities have warned against the Gaza conflict expanding to the West Bank, which could drive more Palestinians to neighbouring Jordan and undermine their struggle against Israel.

Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi has said such a scenario would constitute “a declaration of war”.

In Amman, security forces have allowed pro-Gaza demonstrations at three locations, including near the Israeli embassy.

Mr Raouf has been to protests at all three locations. His parents are originally from Hebron, a Palestinian trade and manufacturing city that fell under the control of Israel when it occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East War.

Palestinians were among the skilled Levantines who played a main role in the development of the kingdom following its foundation as a British protectorate.

The Palestinian community expanded even further after waves of refugees moved to Jordan when Israel was created in 1948, and in 1967.

Since the Gaza war broke out last week, more and more people have been glued to Arab TV news channels, which focus on Palestinian casualties of the war.

“I cannot stop watching, although it is making me unwell,” says Raghida, a manager at an international charity.

Asked if she had any sympathy for the Israeli civilians killed in the October 7 attack, she said no.

“The Israelis don't deserve any, after what they had done to the Palestinians,” said Raghida, whose grandparents were refugees from central Palestine.

Palestinian children are rescued from the rubble after Israeli airstrike

Palestinian children are rescued from the rubble after Israeli airstrike

Many Palestinians acquired land and intermarried with the tribes that were living in what became Jordan in 1921.

The tribes continued to underpin the security forces and members formed the core of the bureaucracy.

In a show of national unity, the authorities on Wednesday convened a special session at the loyalist parliament, which mostly comprises tribal members.

One of the deputies, Saleh Al Armouti, demanded the abrogation of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty, and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in Amman.

“It is not reasonable that Colombia expelled the Israeli ambassador while my country [did not],” he told the session.

On Monday, Colombia asked the Israeli ambassador to leave the country. The ambassador, Gali Dagan, had criticised a comparison that President Gustavo Petro made between the Israeli attacks on Gaza and Nazi actions against the Jews.

Updated: October 19, 2023, 6:07 PM