Amidst growing popular support here for the Palestinian uprising, the Egyptian government on February 18 lifted a five-month news blackout on the underground Nasserist group known as Egypt’s Revolution. The government formally accused the group of assassinating two Israelis and attempting to kill five other Israelis and two American embassy officials, in armed raids carried out in Cairo between 1984 and 1987. The group’s aim, according to the indictment, was to disrupt Egypt’s relations with Israel and the US. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for 11 of the accused, including Khalid Abdel Nasser, the eldest son of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nine others, including a nephew of the late Egyptian leader, face punishment of hard labor. The two accused Nassers had fled the country during the course of the investigation, and the Egyptian government is now seeking to extradite them.
This dramatic announcement underscores the dilemma that the uprising poses for President Husni Mubarak, who wants to promote himself as a champion of Palestinian rights yet is apprehensive that popular sympathy for the Palestinians could turn into opposition to Egypt’s peace with Israel.
In the early weeks of the uprising, the official papers and television stations spotlighted daily events in the Occupied Territories while Mubarak toured Europe and the United States to push for an international peace conference. Authorities permitted several public displays of support for the Palestinians.
But as the Palestinian insurgency continued, keeping the lid on popular reaction seems to have become the principal government concern. Scenes of the Israeli brutality virtually disappeared from the media. Authorities disrupted and dispersed demonstrations of sympathy with the Palestinians. The charges against Egypt’s Revolution appear designed to intimidate other opposition forces as well.
On December 23 leaders of the opposition parties issued a joint statement demanding that the government cut off relations with Israel and expel the Israeli ambassador. A two-minute solidarity work stoppage on December 29 was widely observed, according to the Tagammu‘ newspaper al-Ahali. On December 30, a solidarity strike by lawyers and judges paralyzed the legal system.
During the same week students at a number of universities held marches and rallies, in some cases burning the Israeli flag and demanding that the government allow volunteers to join the Palestinians. The Tagammu‘ youth bureau’s solidarity evening, attended by youth representatives of the other opposition parties, included chants like “ya sahyuni ukhrug barra, Misr al-thawra hatirga‘ hurra” (“Zionist, get out — revolutionary Egypt will return”) and “humma biyidrabu bil-hagara wi ihna hanshil al-sifara” (“they throw stones at the enemy; we’ll get rid of the embassy”). Security police were numerous, but the rallies proceeded uninterrupted and without incident.
After Friday prayers on January 1, though, security forces attacked a solidarity march from al-Azhar mosque. Troops used tear gas and several marchers were reportedly beaten. Some 27 were arrested. On the same day, five textile workers from the Tagammu‘ were arrested in Mahalla al-Kubra following a demonstration of several hundred people after Friday prayers. The demonstrators had marched to the local headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party and burned an Israeli flag.
On January 5, ‘Ayn Shams University students tried to block traffic on a main road. Police used tear gas, karate units, electric batons and iron bars to disperse the demonstrators, arrested 84 students outside the campus, and then entered the campus in an attempt to seize others. 320 were injured. On the same day, security forces surrounded the headquarters of the Bar Association and prevented lawyers and other sympathizers from marching to the parliament. Two Tagammu' women were arrested that week for chanting anti-Israel slogans following a women's solidarity event held at party headquarters.
According to Israeli radio, Egyptian army units used firearms to disperse a demonstration by hundreds of Palestinians on the Egyptian side of Rafah January 10 (which coincided with a protest on the Palestinian side). It reported that "eyewitnesses…saw many casualties evacuated." On January 12, approximately 1,200 students marched through 'Ayn Shams University after a two-day boycott of classes protesting the January 5 excesses of the security forces.
All but two of those arrested in the Azhar incident, which was organized by Muslim groups, were released within a week. The Mahalla al-Kubra workers and the 'Ayn Shams students, all of leftist and Nasserist orientation, were released by the arraignment court but then rearrested and imprisoned under state of emergency laws. Since then, security forces have continued to round up suspected ringleaders. They have sometimes arrested family members — including elderly parents and young children — and held them until the suspect turns himself in. A gruesome incident occurred at Abu Za'bal prison, where an officer armed prisoners from radical Islamic groups with wooden clubs and iron rods and allowed them to enter leftists' cells and attack the students and workers.
The opposition forces have also revived the National Committee for the Support of the Palestinian and Lebanese People, originally started in 1982, representing all the legal opposition parties as well as Muslim groups. For the most part, support activities have not brought in large numbers of new forces, but there has been a noticeable increase in public concern with the Palestinian issue. It has also not been lost on Egyptians that nothing has yet come of Mubarak's diplomatic initiative, and that the US vetoed a key Security Council resolution only two days after Mubarak left Washington.
Against the background of the uprising, the Egypt's Revolution case seems destined to have great impact on future Egyptian relations with Israel and the US. When the Nassers fled the country following the first wave of arrests in the case, rumors abounded that Mubarak had personally intervened to facilitate their escape. The February 18 announcement suggests that either these early rumors were incorrect or that Mubarak has caved in to US and Israeli pressure.
People here are inclined to the latter explanation, especially since the news broke following the confession of one of the group's ringleaders to US security officials in the embassy, who held him for almost two months before turning him over to the Egyptian authorities. On February 26, the anniversary of the Egyptian-Israeli "normalization," a protest meeting at the lawyers' headquarters attracted a larger crowd and more new faces than in the past. Speeches focused on the Egypt's Revolution case rather than the Palestinian uprising.
Before the intifada there was little public sympathy for Revolution's tactics. But the prospect of the trial and execution of Nasser's son for murdering Israelis and trying to disrupt Egyptian-Israeli relations, at a time when Israel is daily murdering Palestinians and the Egyptian government is doing virtually nothing about it, has already generated substantial sympathy for the accused and will only intensify opposition to Egypt's peace with Israel.
—A Special Correspondent
Catch-up and Clampdown in Damascus
The uprising in the Occupied Territories has made the mood of Palestinians in Syria more upbeat and confident than ever before. Syrians, too, are taken by the imagination and persistence of the "revolt of the stone throwers." The government here, as throughout the Arab world, has been left to play catch-up or clampdown to stem the tide of anti-government sentiment spurred by its success. Referring to last November's Arab summit in Amman which relegated Palestinians to a footnote, a resident of Yarmouk Camp here described the uprising as "stones in the face of the occupation and a slap in the face of Arab governments."
As the self-styled leader of Arab forces of "progress and confrontation," Syria is playing at catch-up-and-coopt as hard as anyone. Press coverage here of the uprising is extensive. The ruling Baath Party sponsored a solidarity rally and the government declared Friday, February 12, a voluntary work day to benefit the uprising. Radio Al-Quds beams from Damascus. The government of Hafiz al-Asad has done its best in Lebanon to cast itself as leader of the struggle for Palestinian self-determination. When the Amal movement lifted a three-year siege of the Palestinian camps in Lebanon on January 21, people here read headlines like "Palestinian Leaders and Personalities Declare Syria the Only Savior."
Such headlines are fairly typical on the front pages of the three political newspapers here: al-Ba'th, Tishrin and al-Thawra. Syria experts in Washington, Tel Aviv, and European and North American universities make a living reading between the lines to decipher the meaning of what is not said, to subject the regime's exaggerations to the latest tools of political semiotics in order to figure out what is really going on in Damascus' political establishment. Al-Ba'th supposedly provides a window on the Baath Party, while Tishrin apparently carries the thinking of those closest to President al-Asad. Al-Thawra represents the Ministry of Information. But reading the Syrian press is mostly a lesson in Arabic synonyms for nouns like "conspiracy," "intrigue" and "plot" modified by adjectives like "Zionist," "imperialist" and "colonialist."
The headlines strike a hollow note for many Palestinians here. As its opponents on the right and left know all too well, this regime tolerates no political dissent at home, in areas under its control in Lebanon, or among Palestinian organizations based in Damascus. After Syria's support for the Abu Musa revolt against PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in 1983 and for Amal's siege of the camps in Lebanon, Syrian sloganeering about the Palestinian struggle is greeted with weary cynicism.
Yarmouk camp outside of Damascus, with more than 200,000 inhabitants, is the largest Palestinian refugee camp anywhere. "Refugee camp" conjures up the image of the tents and the squalor that one finds at Sayyida Zaynab camp south of Damascus, now home to those who fled Lebanon after the 1982 Israeli invasion and those trickling in since the Amal sieges began in 1985. At Yarmouk the tents are long gone. Some families had even added a fifth story to their narrow concrete homes which pack the camp's alleyways, only to learn the hard way of a newly enforced zoning restriction. They were rudely awakened some months ago by Syrian soldiers destroying rooms above the fourth floor. The roof debris now gives parts of Yarmouk the "camp look" more common to Beirut.
In Yarmouk, vegetables are cheaper than in the city center. Cheaper housing and small factories also attract Syrian immigrants from the countryside. Some estimate that 35 percent or more of Yarmuk's population is Syrian. Yarmouk busses are always jammed. The camp cuts the image of a sprawling working-class residential district.
Palestine Street is one of its two main arteries. Jaffa Street is where many refugees from Palestine's main port first settled in 1948. The same goes for Haifa Road, Bayt Jan Road, and so on. Al-Quds and Galilee Travel Agencies can take you just about anywhere — except home. Posters issued by Palestinian organizations commemorating the deaths of their fighters line the narrow roadways. Those Palestinian organizations tolerated by the government operate youth and women's centers, kindergartens, clinics and meeting places, and sponsor cultural and political events.
A Palestinian organization's standing in the present constellation of Palestinian-Syrian relations is reflected in the extent of its presence in Yarmouk. The slick Khalsa complex in the center of Yarmouk houses impressive medical, educational and cultural facilities. There is a modern clinic, and pre-schoolers on the first floor enjoy the best in day care facilities. Up one floor is one of the biggest auditoriums in the camp. The Khalsa complex is run by Ahmad Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, the largest of the small groupings which toe the Syrian line. The closer the organization is to the Syrian regime, the more opulent its facilities and the more services it can provide.
George Habash's Popular Front and Nayif Hawatma's Democratic Front command much larger followings than the other organizations tolerated in Syria, but their institutional presence in Yarmouk is less obvious. Their youth and women's centers and their information bureaus bustle. But activists complain that it is increasingly difficult to obtain official permission to hold public cultural and social events. The PFLP organ al-Hadaf and the DFLP's al-Hurriyya were banned for most of 1987.
In December, however, Habash addressed a several thousand-strong rally to celebrate the Popular Front's twentieth year — a rare political event in Syria. He emphasized PLO unity and repeated the left's persistent demand for collective leadership within the PLO's higher echelons. Thus he maintains the principle of Palestinian independence embodied by the PLO and keeps the heat on Arafat, a delicate balancing act. The DFLP, on the other hand, has paid a price for its long-standing public efforts to unify PLO ranks. Increasingly identified with Arafat's Fatah, Hawatma and many of his comrades are personae non grata in Damascus.
Support for Arafat in Syria is tantamount to high treason. Arafat's picture occasionally appears in the pages of al-Ba'th or Tishrin in connection with reports of his collusion with American diplomatic schemes. Along with Husni Mubarak and King Hassan of Morocco, he completes a triptych of evil Arab leaders. In 1983, Arafat lambasted the Syrian regime from Damascus for meddling in internal Palestinian affairs, and then began negotiating with Mubarak and King Hussein of Jordan. The entire PLO infrastructure associated with Fatah quickly made for Tunis. Those who didn't soon landed in Syrian prisons.
Aside from the fading traces of "Abu 'Ammar Lives" scrawled on a few shop fronts, there is no public evidence of support for the PLO chairman in Yarmouk, though most Palestinians will acknowledge that there is widespread support here for him. The subject is taboo outside the company of close acquaintances.
Palestinians here are reluctant to demonstrate support for Fatah because the penalties are severe. According to a recent Amnesty International report, Misbah 'Abd al-Haq, 60 years old and an activist in Fatah, was tortured to death by Syrian security forces in April 1986. A year earlier, Mustafa Mahmoud Husayn al-Khouri died in detention on suspicion of membership in Fatah. Of the seven cases of death as a result of torture by Syrian security forces between 1983 and 1986, four were Palestinian. The Palestinian targets of Syrian repression are not limited to Arafat supporters. Since the outbreak of the Camps War in Lebanon and the drive toward PLO unity, members of virtually all the Palestinian factions are liable to arrest, detention or worse.
The unified PLO defense of the camps in Lebanon forced the political rapprochement that culminated in the "Unity Session" of the Palestine National Council held in Algiers last April. Syrian officials were not pleased, particularly as the unity involved their allies such as the PFLP. The Syrian media, true to form, blasted Zionism and American imperialism all week long but breathed not a word about the Council during the entire proceedings. By comparison, Radio Israel and the Voice of America carried full reports. Though Palestinians everywhere were elated, celebrations in Yarmouk were kept to family-sized gatherings. The lessons of 1985, when hundreds were detained for protesting Amal's siege, have not been lost on people here.
Most Palestinians, like their Syrian counterparts, listen to Syrian radio for music and the popular crime drama, "The Rule of Justice." Likewise, their main complaints have to do with the economy. No one — save military chiefs, some government officials, big-time traders and entrepreneurs cashing in on privatization schemes — escapes the effects of the deteriorating economy. Inflation tops 100 percent, there are periodic power and water outages, and food staples are increasingly absent from government stores.
Like many young Syrians, young Palestinians want to get out of Syria to study, find work and make money. Palestinians born in Syria carry special identification papers. The difficulty comes in getting the proper papers for travel. Even for Syrians, the opportunities for visas to Western states are few. Most Palestinians can obtain only temporary travel documents. Palestinians entering Syria, regardless of the passport they carry, are routinely harassed by security officials referred to as al-dabita al-fida'iyya (commando police), from whom they must receive special permission to stay in the country. An unemployed teacher from Yarmouk voices the dream of many: "Somehow I will get to Europe. All I want is a passport — any kind, it doesn't matter. This will be my ticket to a future."
Protest in Israel
The popular uprising in the Occupied Territories has caused an earthquake in the Israeli political establishment. Almost all of the government (except for Ezer Weizman) had hoped that in time the Palestinians in the territories would resign themselves to the occupation and accept some sort of solution, such as "autonomy," which would guarantee Israeli rule for generations to come.
Only those forces to the left of the Labor Alignment had "prophesied" the coming explosion. These parties and organizations include a bloc of 16-17 members of Parliament. Over the years three groupings have protested government policy in the territories and toward the Palestinians: Peace Now, the National Committee of Arab Mayors and Local Council Heads and what we can call the radical peace camp. These groups have acted over the years on parallel lines but did not coordinate activities.
Peace Now is an extra-parliamentary group established 10 years ago during the peace talks with Egypt. It is composed mostly of urban, middle class intellectuals and kibbutz members. It does not have Arab members but during the last two months, for the first time, Arabs have been invited to speak at their meetings. Labor has been the leading force in Peace Now, but recently leadership has shifted to people connected with MAPAM and the Civil Rights Movement (CRM), parties to the left of the Alignment. Peace Now does not excel in its criticism of the Labor Party. Since the establishment of the National Unity government three years ago it had not been active until the uprising broke out.
The National Committee of Arab Mayors and Local Council Heads represents the vast majority of the Arab population in Israel and called the successful "Equality Day" general strike last June. This forum includes all the Arab parliament members (except for the Druze member of the Likud, an extreme right-winger), the Arab representatives in the Histadrut, intellectuals and local council heads. Politically, the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) holds a central position. The spokesperson is the mayor of Shafa 'Amr, Ibrahim Nimr Husayn, an independent political figure.
The radical peace camp comprises the non-Zionist left organizations and the in? dependent left. The main organizations here are: End the Occupation and Yesh Gvul (There Is a Limit), reserve soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories. Two political organizations stand out in the radical peace camp; the CPI and the Israeli Socialist Left, or SHASI. The Progressive Peace list is active, but has had a much diminished presence due to constant quarrels with the CPI and burnout among its activists. Cooperation between Jews and Arabs is a very important feature of this camp. Its influence is greater than its actual numbers and it is capable of mobilizing activists from MAPAM youth, kibbutzim and the CRM. In contrast to Peace Now, this camp supports negotiations with the PLO and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Public protest over the brutal repression of the uprising bore marked similarity to the response to the Lebanon war in 1982. The first to respond were activists from the radical peace camp, then sections of the Arab population, and finally Peace Now.
Some three days after the uprisings began, dozens of leftists protested opposite the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. The demonstrators were illegally dispersed by the police, but demonstrations, meetings and various protest activities such as hunger strikes and petitions have continued on an almost daily basis.
The three groups, united in protest, have different political positions and types of activities. Peace Now's political message is in line with the positions of part of the Alignment and MAPAM: against occupation and for negotiations with a Palestinian-Jordanian delegation along the lines of the Shultz plan. They do not mention the PLO or Palestinian national demands and they obscure the real victims of the occupation: the residents of the territories. Their message is that "we all are victims of the occupation." The leaders of Peace Now emphasize that the occupation endangers democracy in Israel because of the demographic threat to a Jewish majority.
Yesh Gvul activists received Peace Now's condemnation of their call against serving in the territories very negatively, and charge that Peace Now leaders will shoot at demonstrators in Gaza and then go to demonstrations and cry that such acts are immoral. Peace Now does not stray from the consensus of the Zionist parties. But Peace Now possesses financial resources and an ability to mobilize people unmatched by groups to its left.
The National Committee of Arab Mayors has a different dynamic and stands close to the radical peace camp: for negotiations with the PLO, and a Palestinian state alongside Israel. But its base is much wider than that of the radical peace camp, and includes most of Israel's Arabs. They demand equality as citizens of Israel and they are not willing to give up their struggle for these rights.
The radical peace camp represents a small but active minority among Israelis. Jewish and Arab activists from the CPI, SHASI and the PPL, together with dozens of independent leftists, form its political core. In times of crisis, or when Peace Now is immobilized by its political limitations, this camp can bring into the streets thousands of demonstrators, including Peace Now activists.
Recent events have seen some limited cooperation. At one large Peace Now demonstration in Tel Aviv which drew 100,000 people, arrangements were made with the radical peace camp so that they could march through Tel Aviv and then join the rally. But Peace Now did not allow a representative of the radical peace camp to speak at the rally. A demonstration in Nazareth on January 23, 1988 included a Peace Now delegation, while a member of the Arab Mayor's Committee addressed a Peace Now rally in Tel Aviv, the first Arab to do so in the ten years of Peace Now activity.
Spontaneous local initiatives have been most productive in bringing together the three forces. Some of the activities planned for the beginning of March are the fruit of local initiative, with the participation of activists from MAPAM, the CRM, the CPI, the PPL, SHASI and independents.
One other effort, which began before the uprising, in November 1987, is the "Twenty-First Year — Covenant Against the Occupation." This group calls on every Israeli to "do as much as you can" to disassociate from the occupation. Actions include everything from keeping children out of school activities which promote the occupation to refusing military service in the territories. It is difficult to predict whether or not the present protest movement in Israel will reach the same heights as those reached during the Lebanon war in 1982. As the oppression in the territories increases and the Palestinian popular uprising continues, the protest movement is growing. Still, getting out of Lebanon was a simpler idea for Israelis to digest. The peace forces — all of them — still have a long way to go to convince the majority of the Israeli Jewish population to end the occupation.
Israeli Protest Chronicle
December 11 A night vigil of dozens of left activists (CPI, PPL, SHASI) opposite the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
December 12 Several hundred residents demonstrate in Nazareth. Protest rallies in Tur'an, Yafi'a and Tamra.
December 13 League for Human Rights holds protest vigil opposite Defense Ministry. Rally in Haifa. In Jerusalem, left activists protest opposite prime minister's office and Campus, the non-Zionist left student organization, rallies at Hebrew University.
December 14 Student demonstrations at Hebrew University, Ben Gurion University, and Haifa University. Police disperse student demonstration at Shamir's house with tear gas.
December 15 Peace Now and leftists demonstrate by Damascus Gate in Old City protesting Sharon's move to a flat in Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter. Jewish and Arab students vigil at the Technion in Haifa.
December 16 300 demonstrate at Tel Aviv University, clash with right-wing students. Demonstration in center of Haifa.
December 17 More than 20 left activists make solidarity visit to Balata refugee camp. Local residents and visitors demonstrate at end of visit. Left-wing students demonstrate at Ben Gurion University.
December 19 2,000 demonstrate with End the Occupation in Tel Aviv, then join Peace Now rally. 10,000 rally in Nazareth.
December 21 "Peace Day" demonstrations held in more than 100 Arab towns and villages; general strike of Arab sector.
December 23 Israeli writers and artists hold vigil at Defense Ministry.
December 24 Israeli Jews and Arabs organize "Peace Caravan," stopped outside Jalazoun refugee camp.
December 25 End the Occupation vigil on line between east and west Jerusalem. Protest rally in Jaffa organized by Rabita (Committee of Jaffa Arabs) joined by Jewish left activists.
December 26 4,000 in Peace Now demonstration near prime minister's house in Jerusalem dispersed by tear gas.
December 27 Vigil opposite prime minister's office in Jerusalem.
December 28 Vigil of women opposite Defense Ministry denounces killing of women and children in the territories. 30 Demonstration opposite Haifa court protests extension of administrative arrests of two "Sons of the Village" activists. Clashes with Kahane supporters. 160 reserve officers and soldiers announce Yesh Gvul petition requesting they not be sent to the Occupied Territories. Sit-down strike at Hebrew University.
December 31 80 high school students awaiting induction send letter to defense minister requesting not to be sent to the territories. January 1 Reservist Ofer Kaseef sentenced to 21 days for not serving in the territories.
January 2 80 Israeli women visit refugee camps. 20 stopped by army near Nablus, others reach the Farah camp.
January 8 150 from End the Occupation demonstrate opposite prime minister's house. In Tel Aviv, End the Occupation holds a public forum.
January 9 Dozens from Kibbutz Amiad and Kfar Hanasi, together with residents of Tliba village, demonstrate against the "iron fist." January 13 Hundreds of Jewish and Arab students demonstrate at Haifa University against the oppression in territories.
January 16 250 members of Yesh Gvul and of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom and Kibbutz Nirim demonstrate near the entrance to Gaza against policy and for release of two IDF conscripts jailed for refusing to serve in the territories.
January 17 Vigil of high school students opposite Defense Ministry. Peace Now vigil in Jerusalem and End the Occupation demonstration in Haifa.
January 19 Vigil at Magistrate Court in Ramie against trial of peace delegation which met with PLO in Rumania.
January 20 15 truckloads of food reach Gaza camps from Arara, Rahat, Tira, Baqa'a al-Gharbiyya, Kafr Yasif, Dabouriyya, Tayba, Nazareth, Kibbutz Kerem Shalom and Kibbutz Yad Chana. SHASI sends medicines. Peace Now meeting of reserve officers in Jerusalem protests IDF policy but denounces refusal to serve in the territories. Participants include high-ranking officers.
January 21 End the Occupation vigil dispersed after thugs attack. End the Occupation decides to hold vigil every Thursday in Tel Aviv.
January 23 30,000 Arabs, hundreds of Jews rally in Nazareth under banners inscribed with names of those killed in the territories. MK 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Darawsha leaves Labor Party to protest Rabin's policy. 40,000 march in Peace Now demonstration in Tel Aviv.
January 25 End the Occupation demonstrates in center of Jerusalem.
January 26 Civil Rights Association holds vigil opposite Defense Ministry.
January 27 New immigrants ("Israelis by Choice") be? gin vigils at Shamir's house.
January 29 Hundreds of artists and writers in Tel Aviv hear testimony from refugee camps. Nazareth women begin hunger strike. January 31 Dozens of Israeli and Palestinian women demonstrate opposite American consulate, East Jerusalem. Two from Kibbutz Shomria begin hunger strike against army policy. Another joins February 1.
February 1 Ilan and Shlomit Gilon and three children begin sit-down strike opposite Defense Ministry; on February 4 attacked by thugs.
February 2 Israeli writers active against the occupation publish statement in support of PLO's "Deportees Ship."
February 4 End the Occupation vigil in Tel Aviv. Police disperse demonstration of several hundred kibbutz members against the occupation.
February 5 Several ads appear: 207 reserve soldiers and officers will refuse to serve in the territories; 600 university lecturers, 500 mental health professionals demand end of occupation.
February 6 400 members of the youth movements Hashomer Hatzair (MAPAM) and Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed (Histadrut) distribute leaflets "against violence and for understanding" at all major crossroads in the country.
February 7 Women's vigil at Tel Aviv City Hall Square begins.
February 9 Captain (Res.) Meir Amur jailed for refusing to serve in territories.
February 28 Hundreds of Jews and Arabs, including pop stars and celebrities, participate in four-day marches around Israel called by Red Line Against the Occupation.
March Friday protests by "Women in Black," a group associated with End the Occupation, attract up to 150 women.
Demonstrations in Kuwait
On the evening of February 8, Kuwaiti police broke up a pro-Palestinian demonstration with tear gas and batons. More than 100 Palestinian youths, many of them teenagers, had joined an unauthorized march from the Palestine Students Union office in the Hawali District to the Kuwait University Campus, where a rally on the Palestinian uprising was taking place. News of the incident was suppressed in the local media. Both the PLO — which denied any responsibility — and Kuwaiti authorities quickly moved to prevent it damaging what has long been a "special relationship."
Kuwait is home to some 300,000 Palestinians, the largest Palestinian diaspora community outside Lebanon and Jordan. Many made fortunes during the oil boom of the 1970s and early 1980s. Palestinians hold key positions in government and the liberal professions.
Kuwait was the first Arab state to give financial support to the intifada, a gift of $5 million in mid-January to help families of dead, wounded and arrested protesters. Kuwaiti media have provided what may be the most extensive coverage in the Arab world of protests in the Occupied Territories. On the TV news, network film clips of rioting Palestinian youth can run for up to five minutes without interruption. Very few other Arab countries allow such prolonged spectacles of stone-throwing Arab youth to enter their living rooms. In a January statement to the Palestinian community, when Egyptian President Husni Mubarak was calling for a six- month truce, Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad Al Sabah condemned all proposals that aimed at snuffing out what he called "a blessed resistance."
But the February 8 demonstration presented a problem. Kuwaiti authorities see any unauthorized gathering as a potential security risk. In Kuwait as elsewhere, authorities draw the line where the Palestinian resistance may ignite other revolutionary movements at home. The uprising has stirred Kuwaiti leftists and nationalists, dormant since the suspension of the National Assembly in June 1986, into renewed activity. The reappearance of the nationalist political weekly al-Tali'a was at least in part spurred by the uprising. But authorities turned down a request by three former nationalist members of Parliament to hold a pro-Palestinian march.
There has been an outpouring of support from Palestinians themselves, many of whom criticized the February 8 march as a tactical mistake. A local Palestinian car dealer put a 1938 Ford on the auction block for the intifada. Thousands of dinars have been sent to the PLO. Al-Watan newspaper bought an ambulance with funds donated by readers. Dozens of Palestinians have agreed to sponsor families in the Occupied Territories.
A visit by PLO chairman Yasser Arafat smoothed out tensions following the February 8 incident. He praised Kuwaiti support for the Palestinians and told a press conference that only two states in the Arab world — Kuwait and Iraq — had provided cash as well as moral support.
—A Special Correspondent
The Arab World
Arab countries have witnessed numerous attempts to organize demonstrations of solidarity with the uprising. Such demonstrations often get caught up in the ambivalence surrounding the Arab regimes' attitudes towards the Palestinians. Mass rallies commissioned by the government or ruling party, such as one in Damascus on December 29, often elapse without incident and provide the organizers with a useful vent for popular frustrations. The Arab governments and their security forces have met the challenge of "unauthorized" demonstrations with a combination of preemptive arrests and detentions, attempts at cooptation and armed force. Yet many in the Arab world have risked their bodies and their lives to express support for the uprising. The following roundup of opposition demonstrations in the Middle East is partial, due to heavy censorship, and supplements the reports here from Egypt, Israel, Syria and Kuwait.
Algeria Government-sponsored rally in February is attended by Arafat, Habash, Hawatma; unofficial demonstrations are banned.
Bahrain Police forces reportedly make arrests December 29 to prevent a planned demonstration in solidarity with uprising.
Iraq After leaflets calling for demonstrations in support of the uprising appear in Baghdad in late January, a number of Palestinians are abducted from their homes by security forces. Their whereabouts remains unknown.
Jordan On December 30 and January 23, mukhabarat round up at least 23 Palestinian political activists, mostly from the PFLP, in preemptive security sweeps. An illegal solidarity demonstration by 150-200 people in Amman on January 24 is immediately broken up by police; several arrested. Palestinian deportees are prevented from staging a peaceful march on the Allenby Bridge.
Lebanon 10,000 people rally in Sidon in mid-December. One-day general strike in mid-January almost completely observed throughout Lebanon. Frequent demonstrations in Beirut, other cities. Popular support for Palestinians forces Syrian-backed Amal militia to lift siege of Palestinian camps.
Morocco Government troops kill at least one, possibly six students January 20 during march by students at Fez University.
Palestinians in Israel Three general strikes and demonstrations averaging several a week in virtually all Arab cities, towns, and villages, at times accompanied by incidents of stone throwing, attacks on police stations, blocking highways, and the burning of Israeli cars and buses. The Sons of the Village, the Communist-led Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, and other organizations (particularly student and women's committees) ship food, medicine and other necessities to Occupied Territories. Israeli response includes threat to close the DFPE-affiliated Tariq al-Sharara newspaper.
Sudan On March 17, thousands demonstrate at the US Embassy in Khartoum as part of a general strike in support of the uprising.
Tunisia In early January, government denies charge that security forces clubbed pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
Turkey Police break up demonstration of 1,000 February 14 in Istanbul organized by Association of Women in Struggle for Democracy and the Prisoners' Families Mutual Aid Society. March 11 demonstration in Diyarbakir organized by Islamist legislator supports Palestinian uprising and Afghan counterrevolutionaries.