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Cablegate: Yemeni Protestors Out in Force in Reaction to Gaza

R 301213Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0853
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SANAA 002062


DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP, NEA/IPA, DS/IP/NEA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KPAO KPAL YM
SUBJECT: YEMENI PROTESTORS OUT IN FORCE IN REACTION TO GAZA
'MASSACRE'

SUMMARY
-------
1. Massive protests have been organized throughout Yemen since
December 27, continuing into the 30, in reaction to the Israeli
military operations in the Gaza Strip. Yemeni government officials,
political parties, labor unions, and human rights organizations have
issued statements condemning the attacks. While some anti-American
rhetoric has been interwoven with the anti-Israeli sentiment of the
protests, more ire has been focused on the Arab governments'
reaction to the crisis, particularly the Egyptian government.
According to press reports, the Egyptian consulate in the southern
city of Aden was overrun by protestors on December 30. End
Summary.

YEMENIS GATHER FOR PROTESTS, EXPRESS ANGER WITH EGYPT
--------------------------------------------- --------
2. An estimated 40,000 protestors gathered in al-Thawra soccer
stadium on December 28 as tens of thousands choked Sana'a's streets
in a show of popular solidarity with the Gazans. The protestors
listened to speeches from ruling and opposition party leaders
condemning the attacks and "America providing cover" for Israel's
actions. Several speakers called for a "boycott" of the United
States. Thousands of Yemeni women gathered on December 29 in
al-Dhurafi stadium, near the center of Sana'a. Protestors called on
Arab leaders to boycott ties with Israel, offer monetary support for
the Palestinian people and to open the Rafah crossing with the Gaza
Strip on a permanent basis. Another women's protest took place on
December 30 in al-Dhurafi stadium.

3. On the morning of December 30, the focus of the protests turned
to the role of Arab governments in solving the crisis, with an
estimated crowd of 5000 protestors gathering near the Egyptian
embassy in Sana'a in protest of the GOE's refusal to open its border
with Gaza. In Aden, regional Arabic-language media is reporting
that hundreds of protestors stormed the Egyptian consulate in the
former capital of South Yemen. Protestors reportedly tore down the
Egyptian flag and replaced it with a Palestinian one.

4. There were similar protests reported throughout Yemen's major
cities, including Aden, Ta'iz, Hodaydah, and Ibb. Students of the
Aden University demonstrated on December 28 and condemned "the
US-backed Israeli massacres in Gaza" as well as "Arab agents for
Israel in Ramallah, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan who have provided
Gaza on a golden plate to Jews." In the city of Rada'a
demonstrators called on leaders of the Arab and Islamic countries
and the UN Security Council to immediately intervene to stop the
Israeli "massacres" in Gaza.


CONDEMNATIONS, CONDEMNATIONS, AND MORE CONDEMNATIONS
--------------------------------------------- -------

5. Many different organs of the ROYG have been quick to condemn the
Gaza attacks. President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for Arab unity in
the face of "the Israeli cruel massacres." He described the
developments in Gaza as "a challenge for Arab and Muslims and may be
a reaction to what happened in Iraq." Saleh continued, "This is
their massacre from which they want us to learn democracy. They
want us to learn democracy while they kill and bury democracy."
Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi denounced what he described as
"terror practices and war crimes being committed by the Zionist
enemy against the unarmed and innocent people of the Gaza Strip in
Palestine."

6. The ruling General People's Congress (GPC) party issued a
statement condemning the attacks and calling for "massive
demonstrations until the end of the Israeli aggression on Gaza."
The GPC statement went on to describe the internal division between
Palestinian political groups as the main factor that has "weakened
Arab solidarity with the Palestinian issue, which has encouraged
Israel to continue its aggressions on the Palestinian people." The
GPC called on the Palestinians to "unite and face the fact that the
internal divisions do not serve the Palestinian cause." The
opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) also issued a statement in
condemnation of "Israeli genocide in the Gaza Strip."

ARAB LEADERSHIP, NOT AMERICA, PLAYS THE SCAPEGOAT
--------------------------------------------- ----
7. While harsh criticism for USG policy on Israel-Palestine is
commonplace in Yemeni protests, this current round of demonstrations
has largely been devoid of incendiary anti-American sentiment. The
Yemeni press has widely reported on steps taken by the ROYG to
extend the security cordon around the U.S. Embassy in recent days,
but there has been no serious attempt to protest near the Embassy,
or to make US policy the center focus of any of the protests.

8. Conversely, these protests have witnessed heretofore
unprecedented criticism of Arab governments. In addition to the
protests at Egypt's diplomatic facilities in Yemen, Yemeni
journalists have starkly criticized Arab leaders for their lack of
positive intervention in Gaza. [Note: To date, there has been no
public criticism of Hamas in the Yemeni media by the ROYG or any
other Yemeni source, nor does Post expect there will be. End Note.]
In an essay published in the main government-owned daily newspaper
"al-Thawra," political scientist and columnist Abdulaziz al-Maqaleh
called on the Arab people to turn to God to help Gaza, concluding
that the Arab leadership was impotent to do anything of value.
Al-Maqaleh said that, "there is no hope for the Arab leaders, they
did nothing to protect Gaza, despite knowing about the attack in
advance....Give up on our leaders, only God will help us." Other
commentators spoke of an "Arab conspiracy" to allow the Gaza
operation to continue, in collusion with "international powers."

BRYAN

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