AMMAN, JORDAN -- "People here watch television and see West Bankers demonstrating, Israelis demonstrating, Europeans demonstrating, Arabs in the United States demonstrating," said a Palestinian political scientist in Amman last week, "while Arabs in the Arab world have never been allowed by their repressive regimes to show their own feelings."
Palestinian rebelliousness next door in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip has gladdened the hearts of many Jordanians, but it appears to have left them with a bitter sense of frustration at their inability to do anything practical to help.
Elsewhere in the Arab world there also have been no mass sympathy demonstrations to match those in Israel itself, according to a survey by The Associated Press, which found only minor expressions of public anger.
On the one hand, the AP reported, those who demonstrate have been stopped, apparently because Arab governments fear such protests could lead to instability; on the other, most of the Arab public appear content to keep their anger to themselves.
One demonstration in Syria drew thousands of people, but there have been no more there, and generally, where unofficial marches and rallies have been allowed at all, Arab governments have restricted them to indoor halls and college campuses. Rallies in Egypt and Morocco in support of the Palestinians were broken up by tough police action when they spread too far.
Here in Jordan, which has the Arab world's longest common border with Israel, the sentiment in favor of the protesting Palestinians in the occupied territories is clearly evident among moderate, staunchly loyal members of the conservative establishment backing King Hussein, as well as among Palestinians.
They say they wish the 53-year-old monarch would either let them demonstrate openly or somehow take the lead himself in expressing more support for the continuing protests.
Heads of government departments, retired Army officers, lawyers, bankers and other professional men and women are fascinated by what Arabs call the intifadah -- the uprising -- in the occupied territories and speak of little else in the small private groups that meet nightly in homes to discuss the kingdom's affairs.
They point approvingly to across-the-board agreement between West Bank residents of Palestinian stock and people from the East Bank descended from town dwellers and bedouins.
They consider that no small accomplishment in a land which, since Hussein assumed the throne in 1953, has survived potentially destructive internal rivalries, as well as tensions caused by the fighting in which the East Bank-led Jordanian Army defeated Palestinian guerrillas in 1970 and 1971 before expelling them.
Although Jordan since has had nearly two decades of stability and prosperity, that strife has left deep scars on official attitudes. The government appears motivated by fears that any departure from tried-and-true authoritarian practice could prove uncontrollable.
That is a widely held view in Arab countries, where significant criticism of government is often considered automatically subversive. A senior Jordanian official summed up the government's refusal to approve any but indoor protests by saying, "The Israelis would like to see trouble here which would relax pressure on them."
Jordan's security forces, which on Dec. 30 arrested 23 members of the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group still suspect since its involvement in the 1970 fighting, do not seem inclined to take chances.
Jordan is not alone in the Arab world in this official reluctance to allow unrestrained demonstrations.
Police clashed with demonstrators at Morocco's University of Fez on Jan. 20, the AP reported, killing at least one student, when a rally in support of the Palestinian protesters turned violent. Moroccan dissidents in Paris told AP that six protesters were killed.
In Egypt, police at Ein Shams University arrested several dozen students who tried to carry a campus rally into the streets outside, the AP reported, and a Jan. 1 protest in downtown Cairo was broken up by police with billy clubs.
Here, the example of the "generation of the stones," as the young Palestinians opposing Israeli troops in the streets are called, has revived calls for greater democracy by an establishment that long accepted official arguments that the struggle against Israel justified curtailing democratic institutions and human rights.
Assad Abdul-Rahman, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's central committee and director of the Abdul-Hamid Shoman Foundation, which specializes in education, remarked that so deeply ingrained is governmental suspicion of democracy that "we have systems in the Arab world that are afraid even of demonstrations that support them."
Adding to the frustration, prominent establishment figures say, is a realization that, despite the steadily increasing numbers of university graduates, there is little official encouragement for them to make known their views, much less have them taken into account.
But these same men and women also stress that Hussein is more tolerant than his immediate neighbors and has allowed some indoor demonstrations, sometimes packing them with agents, apparently to avoid any risk of trouble.
These members of the establishment also appear proud that Jordan has a relatively unblemished human rights record in a part of the world where, according to Amnesty International and other human rights monitoring groups, arbitrary arrest, torture and summary execution can be commonplace.
Yet there is a chafing against what some resent as a lack of faith in the middle class' political maturity. "Unless the impetus comes from the regime, nothing happens, since people are docile and apathetic," a prominent moderate lawyer said. "So we talk in the salons and at dinner parties."