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Grassroots vs official anti-Israel narratives: How close are they?

Women attend a pro-Palestine protest in downtown Amman, on Sunday May 16, 2021. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
Women attend a pro-Palestine protest in Downtown Amman, on Sunday May 16, 2021. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Thousands of Jordanians have for two days in a row swarmed towards the border with Palestine to protest against the Israeli attacks on Jerusalemites and the offensive against Gaza under the protection of police and army personnel.اضافة اعلان

At least two ministers spoke of “harmony” between the street and the official narratives, with Minister of Interior Mazen Al-Faraya saying that the grassroots protests represent Jordan’s official stand on the escalating conflict.

Jordan has also launched an aggressive diplomatic push, led by Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi, who has made dozens of regional and international contacts, using the harshest wording allowed by diplomatic norms.

But that was not enough, according to activists, who still see that the official position is too far from that of the public, citing zero action by the government regarding the street’s calls for expelling the Israeli ambassador, annulling the 1994 peace treaty with Israel and cancelling an unpopular gas agreement — $10 billion supply deal with a US Israeli consortium led by Texas-based Noble Energy, to provide gas to the country’s power plants for electricity generation.

The dissatisfaction is evident on social media. 

“Our demands as Jordanians are clear. Stopping the aggression on Palestinians requires more than condemnation; expelling the [Israeli] ambassador and calling back ours, and the abolishing of the deal of shame,” says Hala Ahed on Twitter.

Other activists described the official narrative as “shallow”. 

“The expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, revoking Wadi Araba Treaty and abolishing the Israeli gas deal are the real measures that should be taken instead of the outdated sedative measures being taken now,” wrote Mohammad Adawi on the same platform.  He described the demands as “the real deal.”

Young politicians interviewed by Jordan News echoes the same attitude. 

Bushra Abu Sbieh, from the Jordanian Communist Party, said: “The public’s stance has always been present and clear, rejecting all forms of cooperation with the Israeli occupation, and always confronting Israeli aggressions. Although our government still holds many cards, we have not witnessed clear actions against the Israeli aggression.”

A member of the leftist Jordanian Democratic Popular Unity Party, Reda Istatiyeh, criticized the government, pointing out that the official narrative is way below public expectations.

“They are in different trenches. It is unrealistic to say that the street represents the government.”

But a political scientist and public opinion expert begs to differ with the critics regarding how distant the government’s action are from the public’s demands.

Musa Shteiwi, a professor of sociology at Jordan University, told Jordan News that the establishment’s response is not that far from what the public wants: however, the state is “capable of doing more.”

“It is natural that the public has higher expectations than the government capabilities. A lot of the official tools have been used, but there is more to be done, not necessarily in order to walk the same line as the public narrative but also to respond to the Israeli insolence,” Shteiwi concluded. 

Saleem Dawabsheh, member of the Social Democratic Party, believes that the reason why the government is “cautious” is because “the government will be held accountable for any decisions it takes today through the designated methods.”

The activist believes that during this time the official narrative will remain “calm and composed to avoid any sort of clashes with the public opinion and narrative, which paves the way for the street to lead the scene.”

Abdul Mohdi Akayleh, secretary general of the National Congress Party (Zamzam), told Jordan News over the phone that the “official stance did not rise up to the occasion, and we only took some sort of action when the public started taking to the street.”

“The Israeli violations have been going on for a while now, however, I don’t think that the current measures taken are solid or would change much. What we need today is solid measures like the expulsion of the ambassador and revising the peace treaty with Israel”, he said. 

Akayleh recalled the assassination attempt on Khaled Meshaal in 1997. He recalled His Majesty the late King Hussein’s decision to revisit the peace treaty and how Jordan was able to “put the Israelis in an awkward position and gain politically.”

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