Arabs slam summit, urge war against Israel

AMMAN, Jordan, AP

People across the Middle East condemned the resolutions of an emergency Arab summit on Sunday, saying the leaders failed to take firm action to punish Israel for excessive use of force against the Palestinians.

“It was a total failure, but we never expected anything more than lip-service from our leaders,” said Jordanian electrician Abdullah Ayyoub, 27.

Wafa Freih, 32, a secretary, said the summit “has failed to meet the minimum expectations of the Arab people in taking a firm action against the Israeli massacres of innocent Palestinians.”

“The least that our leaders could have done was to halt pumping oil and use that as a weapon to make America and Israel heed Arab demands,” Freih added.

In Egypt, thousands of students staged noisy demonstrations, venting their frustration at the summit’s failure to cut ties with Israel and reiterating calls for holy war to liberate Palestine.

“Where is the Arab army?” they chanted angrily.

In Syria, two leftist Palestinian factions _ the Popular and Democratic fronts for the Liberation of Palestine _ said the summit’s declaration was below expectations. But PFLP spokesman Maher Taher added that the declaration had numerous positive points.

In Kuwait, political science professor Shamlan al-Issa said that although Arab leaders did not offer “the kind of support the Arab street expected, they did what they could.”

The summit could not be labeled as a complete success or a complete failure, but “somewhere in between,” he said, adding that the two-day parley showed that the “era of shouting slogans and beating drums was over.”

In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement that he appreciates Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s “considerable effort to maintain a balanced approach, which calls for peace and restraint, instead of an extremist stance.” But he also said Israel “rejects the threatening language” used in the final declaration.

In a smoke-filled coffee shop in the bustling and narrow streets of downtown Amman, six Jordanian technicians watched the live broadcast of the summit’s closing session in Egypt.

“It is only talk, but no deeds,” said Raed al-Khalidi, 21. His friends banged on the table when the summit leaders declared that Arabs may consider cutting ties with Israel.

“We want war; we want jihad (holy war) to liberate Jerusalem and Palestine from Jewish occupiers,” shouted Mahmoud Abu-Shanab, 22. “Arab leaders should open the borders and let the people fight Israel.”

At a bookshop in the commercial Jebel Amman district, cashier Julia Shamseddine, 23, said: “We can go to war with Israel and we can beat it with the strong armies of Iraq, Iran and Syria. We are for war because peace is futile.”

At Hussein camp — one of Jordan’s 13 refugee camps housing 1.57 million Palestinians displaced in the 1948 and the 1967 Middle East wars — residents scoffed at Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

“They gave him money to shush him and muzzle the uprising,” said plumber Khalid Deeb, 67, referring to the US$1 billion which the summit pledged in support of the Palestinians.

Arab radios, meanwhile, continued to broadcast patriotic songs as satellite stations splashed images of weeping mothers and blood-covered Palestinians wounded in the violence that has swept across the Palestinian territories since Sept. 28, killing nearly 120 people, most of them Palestinians.

Some Sunday newspapers also criticized Arab leaders.

In Lebanon, Charles Ayyoub, publisher and editor-in-chief of the conservative Ad-Diyar newspaper, declared: “The Arab summit has failed and we had expected its failure.”

“It is a dwarfish summit for some dwarf rulers who are crawling at the doors of (U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine) Albright and are subservient to Washington’s will,” he said.

Egypt’s al-Wafd took a more moderate approach. “Despite all precautions and fears, the summit puts our feet on the correct practical and scientific path to handle our civilized dispute with the Israeli enemy,” it said.