Why Jordan’s Reputation in the Region might not Improve

… unless something changes, that is.

And its a general PR mess that I’m talking about here, not actions.

I was in the process of writing an article about the recent attack in Camp Chapman that killed Shareef Ali Bin Zeid, a senior GID official, along with several CIA agents in the base. In the meantime, I noticed that Naseem Tarawnah, had already written up a post about the issue. Instead of writing a virtually duplicate post, I decided to follow the comments there, and a separate idea formed; Jordan is sometimes so sensitive about possibly appearing pro-Western that it chooses silence, denials, or bogus arguments that end up hurting their reputation among Arab states, not retain it.

It is indeed depressing that apparently, King Abdullah’s vision of transparency – while it applies to the government – doesn’t apply when the names “Israel” or the “U.S.” come to play. Which is a shame, really. Because I think if the government was in full disclosure of some of these facts (ones that do not play into issues of national security, of course), only few would contest the actions of the government.

As mentioned in the comments over at Naseem’s blog, fighting terrorism, al-Qaeda, and Taliban is a legitimate cause that 90% (if not more) of the Arabs would agree to. If Jordanian spokespersons were as frank as Wikipedia, for instance,  was with me, telling me that Jordanian GID officials only went to the CIA base to deliver Humam Khalil al-Balawi, who claimed to have information about the location of Ayman al Zawahiri ,then most would be content! Instead, when the issue broke, no official source spoke of the CIA-GID connection, that many assumed the GID itself was somehow a ‘follower’ or a ‘subset’ of the CIA, and assumed also that the “connection” was somehow at a functional level (which would be scandalous), instead of an operational level (which is acceptable, especially in cases of combating global terrorism networks). Instead of receiving facts that would’ve made me examine things in an unbiased way, I only heard rumors, assumptions, and weasel words, and I was armed with no information to fight back with.

And if Humam al-Balawi is indeed the bomber, then don’t be ashamed because he’s a Jordanian. Did we forget al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian as well? Its fine to have one or two terrorists out of 6.5 million. And if the government is just ashamed because they vouched for al-Balawi, then how about just blame the CIA for not searching him or something?

But, here’s an interesting quote, pasted from Wikipedia:

Jordanian government officials, while acknowledging that al-Balawi was a Jordanian doctor, insisted that there was no proof that the suicide bomber was a Jordanian. They pointed to contradictory reports, including a statement from Afghan Taliban that claimed the attacker was an Afghan. A Jordanian official living abroad said that al-Balawi would not have been a double agent, and stated he was a sometime contact of the Jordanian intelligence who had no formal role as an intelligence officer. (source)

So I won’t jump into conclusions that it is indeed al-Balawi; it can be people from al-Qaeda or Taliban who tracked him and decided to stop him from leaking information or whatever. Still, the official story needs to shift from strict denial to something more informative.

This whole issue reminds me of Mohammad Hassanein Haikal’s saga, in which he bashed Jordan over and over, and it took weeks, if nor a month or so, for Zaid al-Rifa`i to come up with an answer. And that’s what kills me, we have the answers! 90% of the time, facts are on the Jordanians’ side. Our PR still messes up, comes up with little answers, and is reluctant to share the very information that will vindicate us!

Today, a spokesperson released some clarifications, and I think that’s satisfactory on some level, information-wise. But how far reaching is a late response?

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: Continue reading “Jordan and the Arab-Israeli Conflict”

Interesting read on the reign of Talal of Jordan: “Jordan in Transition”

King Talal of Jordan is one of the personalities that always alluded to my interest; with little information available on the 11-month-reigning king, the figure remains mysterious on multiple levels. I recently came across a very interesting book, entitled “From Abdullah to Hussein: Jordan in Transition”, a book by Robert Barry Satloff (@Amazon). A chapter within the book discusses the short reign of King Talal, offers much more details on the historical background of the rewriting of the Jordanian constitution, and presents a much more comprehensive insight on the king’s history than I have seen before.

A limited preview can be seen on Google books here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=3-JWbAkLVbEC&pg=PA42&dq=King+Talal&cd=8#v=onepage&q=King%20Talal&f=false

I would disagree with the cynicism surrounding the constitution; though its technically right. The book highlights that Jordan did not become a democracy, but rather a pseudodemocracy. However, given current context, it seems that people on the outside (and sometimes the inside as well) mistake Jordan for a dictatorship or an authoritarian-ship; pseudodemocracy as a description shows: an element of democracy does at least exist. My view of Jordanian democracy is closer to “democracy-in-transit”, a system that is largely flawed technically, but practically – and for the time being only – generates freedoms.

Islamic Achievements in the Shadow of Eurocentrism: How Islam Paved Europe’s Future and Europe Forgot

The essay below was written as a mid-term assignment for a class I’m doing at MIT. I thought it was worth sharing, so here it is below:

More often than not, it may seem to many as if the world, historically, evolved under the leadership of Europe. As Europe went ‘dormant’ in the Dark Ages, many believe that, with it, History stood still. Certainly this can be witnessed in science and technology as well, where the history of knowledge, invention, and innovation almost consistently begins in Europe with Newton and his local contemporaries. Moving further into the past, one would mainly come across the Ancient Greeks, who, widely, are alone recognized as the “intellectual precursors” to the more recent European intellectuals.

In fact, however, such approach to world history neglects invaluable contributions of the rest of the world in shaping itself. Far East, African, and Islamicate Civilizations all advanced knowledge, culture, and politics, paving the way for the Renaissance, Industrialization, and Global Development.

Consequently, an approach where non European contributions and achievements are downplayed is known as a Eurocentric approach. Eurocentrism stems from ethnocentrism, a perhaps-widespread belief in past eras, where one possessed the belief of preeminence of one’s own culture and civilization over that of the ‘insignificant other’. Eurocentrism, as a prominent and unified belief, started as a response to Europe’s achievements during the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment (Goody, 1995, p. 2), which began in the fifteenth century, and lasted well into the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Ethnocentrism in Europe in general, however, saw various significant peaks well before the fifteenth century. The prominent form of Eurocentrism referenced above indeed stems from such beliefs, common in Europe centuries ago. The Church’s doctrine constructed a hierarchy of peoples, where those of Europe would “dwell in the tents of” Asians, while Africans were designated as “servant[s] of servants” (Lockman, 2004, p. 18). Such belief was designated by the Church to be the Word of God, a long-lasting attitude used both to espouse and stimulate conquest of other nations (Lockman, 2004, p. 19), but also invigorating a “culture of dominance” in Europe that persisted until modern colonization periods.

The arrival of Islam to Europe was the first major threat to the established doctrine of The Church, and, as such, was eventually portrayed as a blasphemous religion practiced by infidels. Indeed, Pope Urban II said, in his famous speech that fueled the First Crusades in the eleventh century, that Muslims were an “accursed race […] utterly alienated from God”, and designated them “[God’s] enemies” (Munro, 1895). Such descriptions indicate the beginnings of the development of a distorted view of understanding the Middle East and Islam; such misunderstandings are formed as direct implications of a Eurocentric approach. Accordingly, primary European historical accounts often viewed the Middle East as an inferior region with a backwards and stagnating culture and values. It is a common misunderstanding of Middle East history to deem Europe as the savior of the Middle East and Arabia, exporting values, ideals, and systems, such as capitalism and bureaucracy and ‘modernizing’ the region.

Reality, however, is contrary to such views; the Islamic Civilization realized ground-breaking achievements that, not only shaped World History, but also explains the subsequent Renaissance and Enlightenment in Europe. Islamic achievements in thought, philosophy, the scientific method, natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering exported to Europe through trade and conquests constitute the direct foundations of the European intellectual movement. Certainly the Islamic Civilization has contributed heavily to the development of the world, and must be taken into account to understand the global propagation of Human Knowledge historically, and the subsequent evolution of civilization and society. Throughout the rest of this paper, the role of Islam in shaping both the history of Europe and the World’s will be discussed.

Continue reading “Islamic Achievements in the Shadow of Eurocentrism: How Islam Paved Europe’s Future and Europe Forgot”

%d bloggers like this: