8 December 2015 | Jordan

Due to lack of focus I’ve apparently done Jordan twice in a short space of time. It doesn’t really matter, but, having noticed this, I feel strange without addressing it.

Forethought:

(This is basically everything I hate about films. Can’t say I ever plan on watching it. Nothing against the actors or people involved in it’s production, but that’s the way of it.)

[from “Jordan Is Palestinian” by Mudar Zahran in Middle East Quarterly, 10739467, Winter2012, Vol. 19, Issue 1]

The Hashemites’ discriminatory policies against the Palestinians have been overlooked by the West, Washington in particular, for one main reason: the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was the beating heart of Palestinian politics, and thus, if the Palestinians were empowered, they might topple the Hashemites and transform Jordan into a springboard for terror attacks against Israel. This fear was not all that farfetched. The Palestinian National Charter, by which the PLO lives, considers Palestine with its original mandate borders (i.e., including the territory east of the Jordan River, or Transjordan) as the indivisible homeland of the Palestinian Arab people. In the candid admission of Abu Dawoud, Yasser Arafat’s strongman in the 1970s, “Abu Ammar [Arafat] was doing everything then to establish his power and authority in Jordan despite his public statements” in support of King Hussein. This tension led to the 1970 Black September civil war where the PLO was expelled from Jordan and thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered by Hussein’s Bedouin army.

With the threat of Palestinian militants removed, the idea of having the Muslim Brotherhood entrenched in a Palestinian state with the longest border with Israel would naturally be of concern to Israel and its allies.

The only problem with this theory is that the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is dominated by Bedouins, not Palestinians. The prominent, hawkish Muslim Brotherhood figure, Zaki Bani Rushiad, for example, is a native of Irbid in northern Jordan–not a Palestinian. Salem Falahat, another outspoken Brotherhood leader, and Abdul Latif Arabiat, a major tribal figure and godfather of the Brotherhood in Jordan, are also non-Palestinians. Upon President Obama’s announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden, tribal Jordanians in the southern city of Ma’an mourned the terror leader’s death and announced “a celebration of martyrdom.” Other cities with predominantly Bedouin populations, such as Salt and Kerak, did the same. The latter, a stronghold of the Majali tribe (which has historically held prominent positions in the Hashemite state) produced Abu Qutaibah al-Majali, bin Laden’s personal aide between 1986 and 1991, who recruited fellow Bedouin-Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in a 2006 U.S. raid.

The Hashemite regime is keenly aware of U.S. and Israeli fears and has, therefore, striven to create a situation where the world would have to choose between the Hashemites and the Muslim Brotherhood as Jordan’s rulers. To this end, it has supported the Muslim Brotherhood for decades, allowing it to operate freely, to run charitable organizations and youth movements, and to recruit members in Jordan.

  • Jordan Times: At the joint Jordanian-Tunisian Higher Committee, officials from both nations have expressed their desire to strengthen bilateral relations. Specific discussions pertained to increasing cooperation “in the economic, industrial, energy, services, political, trade, investment, educational, and agricultural fields.” [I feel most of these could be considered some form of economic cooperation, but this is how the original article is written.] An emphasis has been given to how similar the nations are in both the problems they face (e.g. poverty, unemployment, refugee intake) and their orientation (i.e. open trade, membership in the Greater Arab Free Trade Area).

    • Partnerships/open trade agreement between smaller nations are better than the alternative of global free trade agreements, which benefit those with established/developed economies to the expense of those that are developing, but they carry many of the same problems. This includes increasing the labor market, decreasing wages (this is an inherent issue but it can be prevented by counter measures), and does little to wean economies off of typical economic structures. A plurality of capitalisms is better than one capitalism, if only because it’s harder for a single group to control many things than one. It’s admittedly somewhat disappointing to see developing nations being so relatively complacent in these social structures at this stage in history. Then again, Jordan is a kingdom headed by the monarch and monarchs are traditionally not the most enthusiastic agents of change.

Afterthought:

(Omar al-Abdallat is kind of an unofficial state singer/songwriter, at least if we measure by the number of patriotic songs he has written. Not being wonderfully informed myself, I would cautiously liken it to Toby Keith. Maybe not so vulgar, though. All the more annoying because I don’t dislike al-Abdallat.)

[from “Neoliberal Urbanism And The Arab Uprisings: A View From Amman” by Najib B. Hourani in Journal Of Urban Affairs, Vol. 36, published 2014]

On January 14, 2011, as Tunisian President Ben Ali and his family fled for asylum in Saudi Arabia, the Arab uprisings arrived in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The initial demonstrations were small—300–400 people took part in Irbid, Karak, Madaba and Salt, and similar numbers came out in the capital, Amman—but the demands were very much in line with their brethren across the Arab world. While they did not initially call for the “the fall of the regime” as such, they challenged the political economy of which the regime has been, since its creation by the British in the wake of World War I, an integral part.

Two days later, on January 16, 2011, thousands attended much larger demonstrations. In Amman they began in the old suq in the city center, and then ascended from the valley floor to the Parliament, in what planners refer to as the “civic pole” of the Abdali Urban Regeneration Project. They called for an end to the more than 20 years of experimentation with World Bank and IMF mandated “market reform.” They demanded policies that would create living-wage jobs for citizens, and the restoration of the food and fuel subsidies upon which many Jordanians rely. They demanded an end to corruption that, while widespread in the bureaucracy, has become evermore concentrated at the top of the political economy. And driving their point home they insisted that a corrupt oligarch—a living symbol of the Jordanian regime—resign his post as prime minister.

Over the following three years, Jordan’s experience with the so-called “Arab Spring” played itself out in terms far less dramatic than elsewhere in the region. Yet the January 16 demonstrations announced the onset of political instability that would challenge the Hashemite Monarchy like never before. This is so for three reasons. First, the large numbers that attended the early demonstrations were led by the relatively small leftist parties, which, long-neutered by government cooptation, had suddenly come together in an assertive, if uneasy, coalition. Second, and more disturbing to the regime, was the participation of tribal elements from the “East Bank” of the River Jordan. These tribes by virtue of their significant numbers within the state bureaucracy and with a tradition of service in the Jordanian military, have historically been the backbone of the regime. Finally, the large turnout was achieved without the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood, by far the largest of Jordan’s officially sanctioned “opposition” parties, suggesting a depth of grievance capable of ending Hashemite rule. It was the participation of the Brotherhood, along with thousands of others across the country, in the January 28 demonstrations that forced the resignation of the sitting prime minister, the first of four to resign over the next two and a half years….

The regime turned to its standard strategies. It deployed security services and baton-wielding thugs, imprisoned opponents and demonstrators, cracked down severely on television, print, and online media, initiated corruption probes and dismissed governments and appointed new ones. Yet despite these efforts, it found itself forced to negotiate with various power centers throughout the body politic and address a multitude of long-standing grievances. In short, even as demonstrators’ demands were comparatively constrained relative to other uprisings in the Arab world, the regime’s long-practiced strategy of defense in depth was stretched to its limits.

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