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Arabs Jordan Peace Politics

How to Respond to Fire; Asserting the Self while Avoiding Hypocrisy

It is difficult to overcome the shock generated by the brutal assassination of Lt. Moath Kasasbeh. Indeed in many ways, I—and many like me—have yet to do so. Throughout the ordeal which was brought some closure by the awful news Tuesday, Jordanians, Arabs, and Muslims alike were of many minds. From anger towards ISIS to self-questioning of the country’s role in in the anti-ISIS coalition; from a proportionally cruel response to a calculated power-play, or a pragmatic non-response; from an impulse to double-down on the offense to withdrawing from intervention; we have felt it all, thought it all, and wanted it all.

The need to bring retribution onto those who are too cruel to even respect the last moment of another human is eating at all of us. How could one possibly bring appropriate retribution onto inhumane organizations without descending to proportional inhumanity? How do we resist blood thirsty revenge while still asserting that we—the honorable, peace-loving people of the world—exit, that we have might, that we have true red-lines that cannot be crossed? How does one assert anything when up against a force that it itself uses violence and terror?

Reclaiming Culture and Religion as a Duty

Certainly, the answer our response cannot be nothing. Nothing is not on the table. Our religions, culture, and region are too close to our heart to let them by hijacked by thought that promotes violence and barbarism. We must do something; something to reclaim our religions of peace, to reclaim our culture who—not too long ago—was known as a culture of hospitality and generosity.

The continued existence of the so-called “Islamic State” puts those things we hold near and dear in jeopardy. ISIS is not merely transforming the borders, bureaucracies, and institutions of neighboring countries; it is transforming the Arab culture I love and cherish, it is projecting a new radicalized Islam that is tipping scales, shifting spectra, and redefining what it means to moderate.

By participating in the anti-ISIS coalition, we are not intervening in an external matter, we are simply taking charge of our destiny. A continued, strong participation in the efforts against ISIS (both militarily and intellectually) is a matter of sovereignty and self-determination; we must reclaim our culture and religion from extremist radical thought.

Resisting Revenge

Yet, as we respond—militarily and otherwise—it remains imperative not to become the enemy. As the impulse for proportional retribution eats at each and every one of us, some have felt inclined to call for mass-bombings, burning, even gassing and chemical attacks as appropriate responses in moments of anger. Those should likely be off the table, when it comes to the list of appropriate responses. But what is left on?

A shorthand is to realize that actions with no utility cannot be on the table. Refining this shorthand further, we can say that destructive action whose only utility is to gratify our need for revenge and retribution is not permissible.

Indeed, framing a response in terms of its utility, the positive outcomes it generates, is a powerful first step in the healing process after having faced injustice. A proportional response should be of some benefit. This benefit can lie on many axes and is important to consider such axes individually.

In the international sphere and global balance of power, establishing steadfastness is disproportionately effective. Steadfastness is equally important in the global PR battle for the minds of young Muslims to prevent their radicalization. Steadfastness taking a public stance on ISIS and the radicalization of Islam, and taking action—some action—against those in our custody who directly support and promote such radicalization.

It is also important to realize the existence of a radicalization problem and to own it. The society that birthed these individuals who commit actions I find unfathomable is my own—it is our own. Every mom and pop can own this as a problem from within, not some external plot we have no control over, and take charge of deradicalizing the people around them.

Internationally, we must continue to promote reason and moderation, and must do so while avoiding hypocrisy (tempting as it may be).

A Reasonable, Escalated Military Intervention

If left untouched, ISIS is not going anywhere. It is a state-like organization that is armed, militarily entrenched, and active. Though unrecognized and condemned internationally, ISIS continues to create facts on the ground locally, creating bureaucracies and institutions that further reaffirms their presence and reality, leaving as many marks as it can on society. While it exists, ISIS will continue to brainwash youth locally and internationally. After its eventual demise, ISIS’s impact of society will proportional to the duration it remained active and embedded.

Categories
Arab-Israeli Conflict Peace Politics

Conflict Begets Conflict: the evolution of Arab attitudes, policies, and strategies in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Since its beginnings, the Arab-Israeli Conflict has been through several phases of distinctive characteristic foreign policies, political attitudes, and strategies. Through a number of monumental defining events—including the major wars—shifts in policies, strategies, and attitude took place, marking transition between these phases. In this essay, I argue that the climate of the Arab-Israeli Conflict can be characterized by four historic phases after an initial period of indecision: Arab Nationalism and Defiance, Resistance and Refusal, Palestinian Armed Resistance, and then a Phase of Contradictions, starring two Arab camps with a widening gap, one entering the Peace, Negotiation, and Reconciliation phase, and the other entering the Islamic Resistance phase.

Background: Setting the Stage

The Palestine Question was a concern to the Middle East and International Community since the 1920s. The Arab response to the Zionist movement wad under debate in the period, and was first solidified in 1948 with the Israeli Declaration of Independence and the Arab War the next day.

Contending Visions

After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Arab intellectuals responded differently to the Jewish immigration movement, Zionism, and news of the Balfour Declaration.

One camp of Arabs was the Hashemites, who had aspirations for a unified pan-Arab Kingdom. Faisal is a noteworthy example; writing that Arabs and Jews are “cousins in race”, and stating he “looks with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement.” (Friedman, 2000, p. 228) Furthermore, in Article III of the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement of 1919, Faisal, as the representative of the Arabs, agrees to the Balfour Declaration, and commits to the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, “provided the Arabs obtain their independence as demanded […]” (Smith, 2009, pp. 98-9).

Other Arab nationalists, however, viewed Faisal as a traitor for “abandoning Palestine”. Though Smith points out that Faisal’s agreement was based on the fact that “the Jews did not propose to set up a government of their own but wished to work under British protection to colonize and develop Palestine without encroaching on any legitimate interests.”  (Smith, 2009, p. 78) Indeed, Balfour’s vague statement promised the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, not to reconstitute Palestine as a Jewish state.

Still, other Arab Nationalists vehemently opposed such discourse with Zionists. Many clashes within Palestine took place between Arab and Jewish groups over considerations including land, freedom of religion, and an Arab belief that the Zionists and Jews were encroaching on their rights. Such clashes began with the Western Wall Riots of 1929 (Smith, 2009, p. 129).

Within Palestine, two distinctive families of urban notables lead public opinion. One such family with the Nashashibis, a wealthy and notable family of Jerusalem that included, amongst others, Raghib Nashashibi, who was the Mayor of Jerusalem between 1920 and 1934 (Jewish Virtual Library, n.d.). The Nashashibis were known to be friendlier to the Jewish communities and more flexible in terms of dealing with Zionism, compared to other groups (Smith, 2009, p. 113).

Another family is the Husseinis, of whom Hajj Amin Al-Husseini was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Husseini opposed Nashashibi and was more anti-Zionist in sentiment. Husseini continued to drift away from Nashashibi’s attitude, eventually forging a relationship with German Nazi Leader Adolf Hitler, and adopting a similar, albeit more dilute, anti-Semitic rhetoric. (Smith, 2009, p. 176)

Categories
Arab-Israeli Conflict Arabs Jordan Peace Politics

On the Making of a Country: A Walk through the Course of Political Development in Jordan

This took a good portion of my energy for the past month, and discusses the history of political development, and its lack thereof, in Jordan. It is rather long, but nevertheless, if you have a comment or something to say, then at least more than the abstract. You can either view it here, or, for more comfortable viewing, check the PDF at Scribd.

Abstract

This paper discusses the development of a political system in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in an effort to understand the state of the current political system in the country. Different phases and defining moments in the history of Jordan will be studied, and will often directly correspond to phases of Jordanian national identity. Starting from the assassination of King Abdullah I and the short-lived reign of Talal, through the numerous coup d’état attempts in early reign of Hussein I, up to the 1994 Wadi Araba Treaty of Peace, the effect of ongoing events in shaping a political system in Jordan will be explored.

The development of a political system in Jordan will be discussed hand-in-hand along with contemporary regional politics and political movements, coupled with internal views regarding national identity. As such, the rise of Nasser and Nasserism is examined, illustrating the impact of the increasingly popular Nasserist movements in the 1950’s on the government, its policy, and the political system. Similarly, the Arab-Israeli Conflict as a whole, including the Six-Day war, the influence of the PLO, the rise of Fedayeen, and Black September will be reviewed, showing how these also shaped state policy. In addition, the rise of Islamic movements, particularly the Islamic Action Force (IAF), the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its relation to and impact on the political system will be discussed throughout the course of history.

It will be argued that the period of the late 1950s in King Hussein’s reign, the Six-day war of 1967, the battle of Karameh of 1968, and most importantly, Black September of 1970, have been defining moments in the history of a Jordanian national identity and the formation of its current-day political system. The paper will reason that Black September represents the climax of an internal political crisis that lasted throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The development of a Jordanian political system will be studied, beginning with King Talal and Prime Minister Tawfiq abul-Huda’s rewriting of the constitution and the establishment of some sort of a semi-democracy that is put to the test in the 1952 abdication of King Talal. The effect of Nasserist-inspired coup d’état attempts, as well as Black September on the Jordanian political system will be investigated, as well as the 23-year-long era of martial law, and the still-developing political system that emerged afterwards.

The essay aims to argue that the current political system – as well as its lack-thereof – in Jordan, is a result of a combination of organic development and non-development due to a century’s internal, as well as regional, political repercussions. It is my hope that this paper would illustrate the malleability of the political system and the possibility of continuous improvement. More so, it is my hope to illustrate that the existing political system (whether its current state is fortunate or unfortunate) is a result of internal, regional, and – seldom – external political repercussions, rather than a set static agenda by the ruling elite.

Background

Since Abdullah I’s reign, the newly-created kingdom of Jordan was particularly unstable; the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (East Bank) has just merged with the West Bank, absorbing highly politicized Palestinian West Bankers, as well as refugees, giving them all Jordanian citizenship, and tripling the population of the country[1]. The entering population of Palestinians was more sophisticated, urbanized, and educated than the average Transjordanian population, which was predominantly Bedouin. Palestinians loyal to the Mufti also saw Jordan as an occupying power, and held a “high moral ground”, believing that Jordan’s Arab Legion, along with other Arab armies, have failed them, while others looked at King Abdullah as a “protector against Israeli aggression”. It is important to note that, until 1967, these Palestinians never demanded separation from the East Bank.[2]

Thus, with a tripled population, a Transjordanian-Palestinian divide, strong Palestinian nationalism, and a growing refugee problem, the newly-created Hashemite kingdom was in highly critical times…

Beginning of Change

With three fatal gunshots[3] the life of newly-created kingdom of Jordan’s first monarch ended, marking the beginning of decades of uncertainty and instability that continue to leave a distinctive mark on the country’s political system today. Abdullah’s successor, his son Talal, shaped by his father’s mistreatment during his upbringing, was resolved on becoming his father’s polar opposite, and as such initiated far-reaching reforms to the Jordanian political system.[4]

Categories
Arab-Israeli Conflict Arabs Jordan Peace Politics

Jordan and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

While Jordan engages in normalization with Israel, it does not engage in neutralization. Please, do not confuse the two; the feelings, emotions, views, and motivations of the Jordanian people and their leadership remain the same: in full support of the Palestinians, we discovered, however, that our pro-Palestinian message and efforts are best conveyed in an atmosphere of peace and dialogue.

This one has been on my mind for a while. The current political situation in the Middle East is one of the topics I’m truly interested in, and I’ve been writing numerous posts related to the issue. One thing that caught me attention was that I was addressing a lot of Arab concerns against Israel and its regime (which I firmly believe in), and in so forgot to address my personal concerns about Arabic politics when it comes to the conflict.

I also decided to write this after a long conversation I had with a friend (whose also Arab) who believes that Jordanian politics regarding the issue, especially the 1994 Wadi `Araba Treaty, indicates that Jordan (or the government/king) has – in a sense – betrayed The Cause and other Arab countries.

I think that’s a completely wrong approach, and I believe the truth is that Jordan is a pioneer in seeking peace, and a Just Solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Had other Arab countries followed Jordan’s footsteps in large, then Arabs would’ve done their part in promoting a just peace, and stability in the region would’ve been a much more probable reality.

Since I think such belief that Jordan went against the Palestinian Cause (and Pan-Arab Values, fraternity, and unity) is utterly misconceived on numerous levels, I find it hard to find where to start. This is why I’ll divide the post into separate arguments that will hopefully complement each other.

(The outline is basically as follows: 1: Jordan was not alone in pursuing peace in the 1990’s, 2: Jordan did not go against Palestine, 3: While Jordan has peace, Jordan is not a neutral nation, 4: Other Cases of Jordanian Commitment to the Pan-Arab Cause).

1) Jordan was not alone in pursuing peace in the 1990’s

King Hussein of Jordan had Middle East peace aspirations even before the war of 1967. That did not stop him, or the country, from being properly aligned with the Arabs in the war of 1967, where Jordan, lead by King Hussein, entered a full-force war against Israel, and lost a considerable amount of land from the West Bank, which, at the time, was part of the Kingdom of Jordan. (Many people have doubts about Hussein’s intentions in the 1967 war, these will be discussed in future articles). As a matter of fact, while King Hussein talked to Israelis (as did Egyptian, Lebanese, and Syrian officials), he only allowed such talks to translate into a treaty much later on.

While Anwar El-Sadat was alone in signing a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, King Hussein’s 1994 treaty happened in a different light that Arabs of today forget:After Egypt’s 1979 treaty, Egypt’s membership in the Arab League was suspended, along with diplomatic relations between Egypt and many other Arab States. In 1989, however, the Arab League restored relations with Egypt, which was readmitted into the league. (Timeline: Arab League, BBC News.  2008)

Categories
Arab-Israeli Conflict Peace Politics

The Goldstone Report: a Defining Moment in U.S. Foreign Policy?

I’ve been enthusiastic about Barrack Obama since the U.S. elections, and I have always had a good feeling about the type of change we might witness in the rest of the world. Such enthusiasm was rewarded during Obama’s speech to the Muslim world, where it became evident that – according to U.S. claims – the United States intends to become more fair, balanced, and open in their foreign policy. My enthusiasm was rewarded further during Obama’s United Nations speech, and most recently, the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. Suddenly, enthusiasm and hope evolved into an expectation of the inevitable: sometime soon, the U.S. will take a big step that changes the dynamics of International Relations within the International Community; I felt it was inevitable that – soon – the U.S. will transform to a “cooperator” in international relations after decades of being a “barrier” that waves that veto banner every time something of substance was about to happen.

Such expectation has come under test in the final few days with the Goldstone Report. Richard Goldstone, a South African Constitutional Court judge, has been appointed to head the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, to investigate the issue of war crimes in the 2008-2009 Gaza War, in particular the issue of War Crimes by Israel against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. You can see my opinion on the Gaza War here.

The Fact Finding Mission concluded that both Israel and Hamas are guilty of war crimes, but with Israel getting the majority of the criticism. According to Goldstone, the report is completely objective and challenged all critics to point out what exactly about the report makes it biased, and to date, no critic responded with a specific complaint about bias.

For me, criticizing the report, (like what Israel has been doing), is similar to having Neo-Nazis say modern accounts of holocaust history are biased because the majority of the crimes they mention are by Nazis; of course they are – because factually, they were responsible for the most crimes! The same applies to Israel in this case: of course Israel is criticized the most in the report for war crimes; they killed 1,417 Palestinians, including 925 civilians, while Hamas was only responsible for killing 13 Israelis, of which 3 are civilians. Who is the offender? Who should be punished more? Jee, I don’t know.

Anyways, also quick to criticize the Goldstone Report, was the U.S., whom criticized the mission for reasons similar in baselessness and content to Israel’s own. The U.S. says the report is harsh towards Israel but provides no evidence on any instance in which the report was factually biased or omitted.

So here’s the deal, the U.S. veto superpower and its close ally Israel are the only two nations who oppose the report. By induction from observations from throughout the last decade, one might expect that it is inevitable that the U.S. will veto any decision regarding holding Israel accountable to the war crimes it has committed (according the UN mission report). Such expectation is reinforced by Israel’s own claimed, who say Hillary Clinton “promised Israel” to veto any decision against Israel that can occur as a consequence of the mission’s findings.

If that is true, then I’ll be disgusted and disappointed. Vetoing a decision that has been adopted by every single other country in the world because shows that the U.S. has not changed its thinking. In other words, a veto against a decision that holds Israel accountable to crimes it committed means that Obama is not serious in caring about “Palestinian children growing up in peace”. It also means that the little girl in Gaza who died on the hands of Israel’s war crimes isn’t worth a change. Most importantly, a veto by the U.S. would mean Israeli war crimes can repeat themselves; it is an unpunishable offense that is acceptable.

Israeli children will grow up in peace, as they always have. Their largest fear will be some image they saw on TV which they have no personal experience with. Israel will continue to grow, and socioeconomic life will be fine as always. If that’s all that the U.S. cares about, then I understand the sentiment behind possibly vetoing holding Israel accountable.

If however, I am correct in my enthusiasm… If the U.S. is really serious about the change… If Barrack Obama’s words about wishing for Palestinian and Israeli children to grow up in peace alike are truly serious… then, they must acknowledge that passing such decision will put an end to social injustice, and Palestinian children will finally begin to have security.

How wonderful a world would it be if all children growing up, across all continents and countries alike, would realize that if any entity is to offend or oppress them, justice will be served eventually.

If the new Administration agrees with such sentiments, then I needn’t worry; justice will be served, the offender will be held accountable.