AMMAN, Jordan – Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets in downtown Amman, Jordan, in protest of U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s announcement recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Widespread anger was sparked in the Kingdom after Mr. Trump issued a statement on Wednesday proclaiming the U.S. decision and preparations to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Following Friday prayers protesters gathered by Al Husseini Mosque in downtown Amman, waving Jordanian and Palestinian flags and raising pictures of Al Aqsa Mosque. “God, Palestine, Jerusalem is Arab,” “You, the American Embassy, are on Arab land,” they chanted. Members of the crowd also burned the flags of the United States and Israel, and called for the expulsion of U.S. ambassadors from the Kingdom.
The protesters lined the streets and rooftops of downtown, stretching past the mosque as far as the eye could see, with local media reports suggesting a turnout of around 20,000. Many Jordanians noted an unprecedented number of protesters, claiming the crowd far exceeded the 2011 Jordanian protests that took place amid the outbreak of the so-called “Arab Spring.”
Similar protests also took place outside the U.S. embassy in Amman and across other Jordanian governorates, including Karak, Madaba, Irbid, Ma’an and Zarqa, with a number of Jordanian officials, political figure and parties and members of workers unions taking part.
The demonstrations initially broke out on Wednesday evening, continuing throughout Thursday day and into the night, causing the U.S. embassy in Amman to issue a statement suspending public services and limiting the public movement of its staff.
In a society usually fragmented along various political, religious or tribal lines, the issue of Palestine has tended to be a uniting force among Jordanians, with Mr. Trump’s controversial announcement stirring up deep-seated frustration among much of the population.
The issue of Jerusalem is sensitive in Jordan on a historical and familial level. Jordan’s King Hussein lost East Jerusalem to Israel in the 1967 war. Today his son, King Abdullah II, is the custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
Additionally, many people in Jordan are descendants of Palestinian refugees whose families fled the initial creation of Israel in 1948. More than 60 percent of Jordanians are descendants of Palestine, and over 2 million registered Palestine refugees currently live in the Kingdom, according to the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).
“I think it’s really ridiculous how Trump took an irresponsible decision that affects lives of millions of people across the Middle East, only to fulfill a promise to his fan base in America,” Randa, a 24-year-old Jordanian, told The Globe Post. “He is now endangering lives and holy sites, enticing hatred to strengthen his stance. If only he could work harder on ‘making America great again’ and leave us alone,” she added.
However, while many rose up in anger, others have expressed a sense of apathy towards Mr. Trump’s announcement, arguing that the move holds little meaning within the greater context of the Palestinian issue and the general attitude displayed by world leaders in the past.
“I think with Trump the world has started to see the real facets of America’s interests in the global issues without its usual lame hypocrisy. I don’t think it will harm the Palestinians because we all know that in reality Israel already has total control, and this embassy location issue doesn’t really matter,” Aamer, a 25-year-old from Amman, told The Globe Post.
“The saddest thing in this situation isn’t moving the embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing it as the capital of the occupation, it is the lack of response from Arab leaders that shamed us into a new low, that will help to strengthen the offense against Palestinians and their true rights,” his friend, Abd Al-Rahman, a 25-year-old Jordanian, added.
The current outrage and frustration among Jordanians is directed towards Israel and America, as well as at home. Since 1948, the liberation of Palestine has long been a part of the rhetoric among Arab leaders, yet many believe not enough has been done to take an effective stand against the Israeli occupation and U.S. policies in the region.
Mr. Abdullah last week warned of the repercussions of Mr. Trump’s move in talks with Washington officials and further noted that the “declaration of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and moving the US embassy to the holy city will have serious and dangerous repercussions on the safety and stability of the region,” according to a statement released by the palace.
However, the warnings of Mr. Abdullah, as well as a number of other prominent Arab leaders, did little to deter Mr. Trump in going ahead with the declaration – a decision that is argued to have left Jordan deeply “humiliated”.
Jordan is now calling for an emergency Arab League Council meeting next week, bringing together Arab and Muslim leaders to respond to Mr. Trump’s decision. Amid pressure from the Jordanian public and a rallying among Arab states, it remains to be seen what lies ahead for relations between the U.S. and Jordan.