VIDEO - Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who hurled his shoes at US President George W. Bush on Sunday, has sparked a wave of support in the Arab world. Dozens of Palestinians took part Tuesday in a rally in the Gaza Strip in solidarity with the Iraqi journalist.
The protestors expressed their full support for al-Zeidi's act and called for his immediate release. During the demonstration, they hurled shoes at a picture of Bush and burned flags of the United States and Israel.
Video courtesy of Infolive.tv
Abu Abir, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, told Ynet that the journalist represents everything the Arabs think about Bush.
"In his act he expressed what each and every person in the Arab world thinks and wishes to do. There are people who have made the pages of history in their heroic acts by sacrificing their body in suicide bombings or through scientific inventions.
"This hero Iraqi journalist has made the pages of history by throwing shoes in Bush's face. This is undoubtedly the most outstanding event to take place in 2008, and there's nothing better than this shoe to summarize what the Arab world thinks about this foolish president."
A petition calling for al-Zeidi's release has been distributed on the internet on behalf of the Hadash party.
Al-Zeidi was held Monday in Iraqi custody for investigation and could face charges of insulting a foreign leader and the Iraqi prime minister, who was standing next to Bush. Conviction carries a sentence of up to two years in prison or a small fine — although it's unlikely he would face the maximum penalty given his newfound cult status in the Arab world.
Supporting al-Zeidi, hating Bush (Photo: AFP)
The journalist's brother, Dargam al-Zeidi, said that his brother did not plan the act in advance and acted "spontaneously".
In an interview with the American CNN network, al-Zeidi said his brother "represents millions of Iraqis interested in humiliating Bush the tyrant." He added that his brother despised "the material American occupation" and "the ideological Iranian occupation".
The brother and other people familiar with the journalist said his reports on the daily suffering of the Iraqi citizens had a great impact on him. According to Dargam al-Zeidi, most of his brother's reports dealt with widows, orphans and other poor people.
He would sometimes break into tears, the brother said, and end his reports with the words "reporting from occupied Baghdad."
Meanwhile, the shoe-throwing incident continues to make headlines in the Arab world. The London-based Arabic-language al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported Tuesday that Ali al-Sabari, an independent Iraqi parliament member, offered to purchase the shoes for $25,000, while a Saudi businessman offered some $10 million for the same pair of shoes.
Meanwhile, Attorney Firas al-Jabouri, an expert in internal law, announced Monday that he was establishing a legal committee of some 100 lawyers to defend al-Zeidi.
"We immediately formed a front of some 100 lawyers specializing in international law in order to maintain the safety of journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi and have him treated like a prisoner of war. We'll chase them everywhere and provide him with protection," he said.
Multiple Shiite demonstrations were held in recent days in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad Najaf and Basra calling for al-Zeidi's immediate release. Meanwhile, many in the Arab world have expressed their joy over Bush's "humiliation".
The incident quickly infiltrated the internet with a slew of clips ridiculing the US president. Some of the animation videos show al-Zeidi throwing bombs, balls or cakes at Bush.
In the Arab culture, turning a show sole and hurling a shoe are considered acts of humiliation. Thus, Palestinians can be seen stepping on Israeli flags or waving their shows at pictures of hateful world leaders at anti-Israeli and anti-West demonstrations.
Ali Waked and AP contributed to this report