More than 15,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters gathered at a pro-Hamas rally in Jordan’s capital on Friday, with many chanting “Death to Israel” and urging the Palestinian group to step up rocket salvos against Israeli towns and cities.
The evening rally, the largest such protest in Amman in years, saw scores of masked youths dressed in the uniform of Izzadin Kassam, the armed wing of Hamas, stage a mock military parade to the cheers of a flag-waving crowd.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological counterpart to Hamas and Jordan’s largest political group, is seeking to take advantage of a rise in anti-Israel sentiment arising from the Jewish state’s monthlong offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Most of the more than 7 million people in Jordan are of Palestinian origin.
Politicians and analysts say Hamas’s popularity also has soared among non-Palestinian Jordanians as a result of the group’s determined fight against the Israeli army.
On Friday, Muslim Brotherhood speakers prodded Hamas to step up its attacks against Israel to avenge Palestinian deaths.
“In the coming phase, after negotiations failed, the only thing left is the flag of resistance which was behind the victory in Gaza,” said Zaki Bani Rusheid, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan.
In contrast to other Arab states, where the Muslim Brotherhood has been banned and its followers persecuted, Jordan has tolerated the group’s presence.
It enjoys a large following in Jordanian cities that are Islamist strongholds, while Hamas has large grassroots support in Palestinian refugee camps in the country. Jordan is home to the largest number of Palestinian refugees.
Private and public institutions have rushed to raise donations for the Palestinians in Gaza, and King Abdullah donated blood on Tuesday.
Prayers have been held in mosques to commemorate those killed in Gaza.
Jordan last week rejected calls by demonstrators, opposition parties and some mainstream politicians to expel Israel’s ambassador and sever ties, saying it would be counter-productive.
Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said Jordan was using its diplomatic leverage with Israel to facilitate the flow of large supplies of humanitarian aid, turning it into the main aid conduit to Gaza via Israel.
Meanwhile, The Jordanian Chamber of Commerce called on importers to boycott Israeli ports and use Aqaba instead.
“After the Israeli crimes against the people in Gaza, traders should stop importing their goods via Israeli ports,” Chamber of Commerce Vice President Ghassan Kharfan told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.
Despite higher costs, he urged importers to use Aqaba, Jordan’s Red Sea port adjacent to Eilat.
Kharfan warned that Israeli businessmen were trying to convince businesses to use Israeli ports because it is cheaper.
It seems, however, that a complete boycott of Israeli ports is unlikely.
“The call by the Amman Chamber of Commerce further expresses the growing anger toward Israel and the solidarity with the civilian population in Gaza, which suffered a devastating blow by the IDF during the recent fighting in the Gaza Strip,” Prof. Yoram Meital, chairman of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
“I doubt whether this call to stop the transfer of goods to Jordan via Israel would gain wide support within the Jordanian commercial sector, which faces serious difficulties,” Meital continued.
Searching for competitive alternative routes is not a new idea, he said, noting that past efforts failed because it would significantly increase costs.
Meital, who is monitoring Arab world reaction to the Gaza war, said that one could not escape the way the conflict in Gaza has hurt Israel’s image.
“Calls to boycott Israel receive more public support in Jordan and in the West Bank today than they have in the past,” he said.
Kamal Khoury, an activist and writer based in Amman, told the Post that “most people in Jordan realize, or at least have a somewhat remote understanding, of the amount of destruction that Gaza was subjected to.”
Hamas is seen as having performed really well in the fight, he said.