MAFRAQ, JORDAN, AUG. 12 -- Iraq's effort to link its occupation of Kuwait with Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip found resonance here today among Palestinians and other Arabs angry that the United States has moved more aggressively to force out Iraq than Israel.
King Hussein, who has agonized over his competing loyalties to Iraq and the United States in deciding whether to join in sanctions against Iraq, echoed the mood of much of his nation when he told its parliament in Amman today: "At the time when we express adherence to international law and principles of international legitimacy, we question why there is no international keenness regarding Israel's occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese land.
"I only have one answer to this contradictory stand," Hussein went on. "The industrialized countries are keen on re-drawing the region which contains two-thirds of the world's oil to serve their interests, without looking at interests of the area's people."
In an outburst of enthusiasm for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, thousands of Palestinian and Jordanian demonstrators today converged this Jordanian town to protest U.S. intervention in the Persian Gulf and vent their anger at U.S. failure to end Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Organized by the newly elected Jordanian Nationalist Arab Democratic Coalition -- which includes Baathists, leftists, nationalists, communists and other political activists -- the protesters marched with banners and Palestinian and Jordanian flags to pay tribute to Iraqi soldiers who died in the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars and are buried at a nearby cemetery.
Dwelling on the victimization of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, demonstrators, in their shouts and chants, questioned why the United States, in their view, considered Kuwait more important than land claimed by the Palestinians.
Other pro-Iraq demonstrations were reported today near the Lebanese city of Sidon and in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. In Amman, three busloads of protesters tried to reach the U.S. and Egyptian embassies, clashing briefly with police who turned them back.
Arab anger at America's failure to resolve Arab-Jewish conflicts in the Middle East has helped rally support and admiration among some Arabs for Saddam.
"Israeli troops have occupied Palestinian territories for 23 years and the United States did nothing. Now Iraq occupies Kuwait for a few days and they want to go to war?" asked Najih Khatib, a Jordanian civil engineer who participated in the Mafraq demonstration.
Contributing in recent months to a sense that the Palestinian issue is no closer to resolution has been the collapse of U.S. efforts to structure talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives and the formation of a right-wing government in Israel. Adding to feelings of hopelessness are fears that Palestinians will be further dislocated by Soviet Jews immigrating to Israel.
While many Jordanians and Palestinians here have expressed a desire to be friendly toward Americans, the prospect of a buildup of U.S. troops in the region has generated a sense of defiance.
"Why are Americans sending their sons to be killed and to have our children killed? Tell them it is better for them to leave while they are still on their feet rather than on stretchers," said Walid Khaled, a merchant from Karak.
"If you will suffer losses, it will not be the sin of Saddam but that of your own administration, which is being misled by Israel," warned Ziad Muhammad, a student.
Foreign Minister Marwan Qassem said in an interview today that Jordan would abide by last week's U.N. Security Council resolution calling for sanctions against Iraq. "But in the same token," he added, "I want to see those countries applying and abiding by resolutions calling on Israel to pull out of Lebanon, Syria and Palestinian land."
Despite such Jordanian pledges to comply with sanctions, the government has yet to specify how and when it will act. King Hussein has also been reluctant to join other Arab states in sending forces to Saudi Arabia to defend against a possible Iraqi attack. He abstained on Friday's Arab League vote to dispatch Arab forces to Saudi Arabia, saying Jordan would join such a force only if U.S. and Western forces withdraw from Saudi territory.
Given Jordan's extensive economic links with Iraq, analysts agree that the consequences for Jordan of applying sanctions on Iraq would be particularly costly. This year Iraq has supplied Jordan, which has no oil, with 95 percent of Jordan's crude (the rest came from Kuwait), and Iraq-related cargo has accounted for about 45 percent of the traffic at Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba.