Zir

The zir or maybe zeer (Arabic الزير) is a huge ceramic jar used in Jordan for holding water. I was looking on the internet for an image of a zir and couldn’t find one. The closest I could find was this description of how to put two pots together with sand between them for either filtering or cooling. But that’s not it. Here is a miniature zeer from a tourist shop in Wadi Rhum that I was using as a pencil holder until the foot broke off. Except for the size, it looks pretty much like the real article.

When I moved into my apartment in Jebel Weibdeh, there was one in the apartment that I cleaned up with bleach (paranoid much?) and used at first for cooling water, then later as a makeshift refrigerator. The ceramic pot is unglazed and quite porous. It is a bit pointy on the bottom and rests on a circular metal frame with three legs.  Water slowly escapes through the sides of the ceramic and evaporates, cooling the contents of the pot. Sometimes water drips slowly from the bottom and forms a small pool under the zir.

You may see these in public where a lone soldier is guarding a building. A typical one might have a circular wooden cover and a glass on top for the guard to drink from. Here is my rendering of the zir in action:

UPDATE:
I have come across a photo of Salt, the old provincial capital north of Amman, that shows two zeers by a watermelon stand and shows off an example of the city’s unique yellow architecture.

zeer in Salt
closeup:
closeup of zeer in Salt

Happy Birthday Queen Rania

I have been reminded that today is the birthday of Jordan’s Queen Rania. She turns forty today.

What a queen.  She has a YouTube channel that she uses to fight religious intolerance, she writes books* for children that empower girls and bring people of different cultures closer together, and now she twitters. (bio: A mum and a wife with a really cool day job…)
Near and dear to my heart, she has also taken on the controversial issue of child abuse. Wikipedia:

The Jordan River Children Program (JRCP) was developed by Queen Rania to place children’s welfare above political agendas and cultural taboos. This led to the launch, in 1998, of JRF’s Child Safety Program, which addresses the immediate needs of children at risk from abuse and initiated a long-term campaign to increase public awareness about violence against children. The deaths of two children in Amman as a result of child abuse in early 2009 led Queen Rania to call for an emergency meeting of government and non-government (including JRF) stakeholders to discuss where the system was failing.

Looking at her sizable wikipedia article, I also see she has a Norwegian award, the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav.  But this line in the explanation of the award stopped me up short:

The list is collated alphabetically by last name, those recipients not possessing a last name, such as royalty and most Icelanders are collated by first name.

I never thought about it before, but royals are certainly in the classification of people who only need one name–Cher, Liberace, Twiggy, Elvis…..

But Icelanders?

(Thanks, Jake.)

*books:

The Sandwich Swap. (Amazon) Tells the story of Lily and Salma, two best friends, who argue over the ‘yucky’ taste of their respective peanut butter and jelly and hummus sandwiches. The girls then overcome and embrace their differences.

Maha of the Mountains.  A young girl’s determination to get an education and the challenges she faced. (read online)

The “revoking Palestinians’ citizenship en masse” meme

The meme of Jordan  “revoking Palestinians’ citizenship en masse”  has been recycling since last summer.   It resurfaced again last month, this time in a report from Human Rights Watch.

The New York Times:

A human rights group criticized Jordan on Monday for stripping the citizenship of nearly 3,000 Jordanians of Palestinian origin in recent years. Concerned about increasing numbers of Palestinians, who make up nearly half the population, Jordan began in 2004 revoking the citizenship from Palestinians who do not have Israeli permits to reside in the West Bank. Human Rights Watch said Jordan stripped about 2,700 Jordanians of Palestinian origin of their citizenship between 2004 and 2008, rendering them stateless.

The Washington Post provided a possible motive for the story gaining traction now:

AMMAN, Jordan — A U.S.-based human rights group criticized Jordan Monday for stripping the citizenship of nearly 3,000 Jordanians of Palestinian origin in recent years.

Nearly half the kingdom’s 6 million people are of Palestinian origin and Jordan fears that if Palestinians become the majority, it will disrupt the delicate demographic balance. Those concerns have been heightened by some Israeli hard-liners who argue that neighboring Jordan should become the Palestinian state and that more West Bank Palestinians should be pushed into Jordan.

The Jordanian government immediately said it wasn’t true:

The Jordanian government on Tuesday said a Human Rights Watch report on the government’s treatment of Palestinian-Jordanians was full of “fallacies” and unsubstantiated allegations…. “The Interior Ministry does not have the legal authority to withdraw the nationality of any citizen,” [Minister of State for Media Affairs Nabil] Sharif added.

…while others pointed out that the Queen herself is Palestinian, born in Kuwait.

The first instance I can find of this meme is from the Israeli newspaper, Jerusalem Post, Jul 20, 2009, “Amman revoking Palestinians’ citizenship”.  In this version, much echoed, the Palestinian population of Jordan has  swelled from “less than half” to “70%”.

The echo chamber that is the blogosphere picked it up and re-echoed it, always with the “70%” population number.  The Raw Story and Democratic Underground covered it (one commenter recommending over and over to “google Black September and Wasfi al-Tal”), as well as various Israeli blogs featuring articles about rebuilding the temple, a frequent concern of extreme right-wing Jewish groups. A month later Judith Miller and David Samuels wrote an excellent in-depth review of the situation in the The Independent, “No way home: The tragedy of the Palestinian diaspora”, restoring some factuality to the discussion, and giving Jordan due credit for its struggles with a difficult refugee problem. (I’m a bit hesitant to give it a link–Miller’s God Has Ninety-Nine Names was brilliant, but her subsequent neocon connections are disturbing.)

Oddly enough, the Jordanian government had already denied the accusations even before they were printed in the Israeli press on July 20, 2009. See the JordanTimes, July 17, 2009.  As the commenter at Democratic Underground puts it:

So in the past three years 638 Palestinians have had their yellow cards replaced with green (losing full rights of Jordanian citizenship), while in the same period 12,325 Palestinians traded in green for yellow (granting them full rights as Jordanians).

This is revoking Palestinians’ citizenship en masse?

LOL

While the Israeli paper was busy criticizing Jordan, their own Israeli government had been busy revoking papers for twice as many Palestinians as Human Rights Watch claims for Jordan. From the NYT June 12, 1997, “Israel Says Arabs Born in Jerusalem Are Aliens”

…1,000 East Jerusalem Arabs… residency permits have been revoked in the last year and a half.

and from the NYT December 2, 2009,

Separately, an Israeli human rights group said Wednesday that government statistics it had obtained showed a leap in the number of Palestinians who had their Jerusalem residency status revoked by the Israeli Interior Ministry in 2008. The group, HaMoked, said the 2008 figure of 4,577 residents of East Jerusalem whose residency was revoked equaled more than half the total recorded revocations in the previous 40 years since 1967.

For a more in-depth look at the Jordan situation, and a discussion of the issues of Palestinians with Jordanian papers living abroad, see yesterday’s New York Times, March 14, 2010, “Some Palestinian Jordanians Lose Citizenship”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There is no country that has done more for the Palestinians than Jordan.  During the 1948 and 1967 wars that forced so many Palestinians from their homes, only Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria accepted refugees.  The refugees went to hastily constructed camps. Today the Lebanon and Syria Palestinians and their descendants are still confined to those camps. They are not allowed to become citizens. Only Jordan has offered citizenship to the Palestinians who want it.  Many do not, and prefer to live in Jordan and wait for repatriation (which most observers believe is unlikely–there are some 5 million Palestinians now in exile, out of the half a million who originally left), or more probably some kind of international reparations for their exile. Many Jordanian Palestinians do have Jordanian passports–I have seen them–and many more became financially successful enough to either leave the camps and buy property elsewhere (I have been a guest in the villas with Mercedes parked on the marble driveways)  or improve the housing and living conditions they already have by rebuilding within the camps. I have seen the poor, with leaky corrugated metal roofs, and the well-off, with proper concrete housing, living side by side in the camps.  Don’t get me wrong, the Palestinians are not always treated as full Jordanians; Jordan’s 1970 civil war and the assassination attempts against King Hussein are still remembered.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So why is all of this coming out now? and why is it important? It probably has something to do with the sentence I highlighted at the top of the page:

Nearly half the kingdom’s 6 million people are of Palestinian origin and Jordan fears that if Palestinians become the majority, it will disrupt the delicate demographic balance. Those concerns have been heightened by some Israeli hard-liners who argue that neighboring Jordan should become the Palestinian state and that more West Bank Palestinians should be pushed into Jordan.

The same argument was made when I was living there.  Palestinians can go to Jordan, said the extremists.  But Jordan doesn’t have the water to handle even more refugees forced out of their homes.  Even now Jordan’s sweet aquifers are turning saline from overpumping, as the adjacent saline aquifers leech into them. (You should have seen the layer of crud on the inside of my Jordanian teapot.) And isn’t there a huge aquifer that’s been discovered under the West Bank?  Hmmm.

This is the nothing more than the scheme of the old Likud right-wing groups who according to Kamal Salibi’s The Modern History of Jordan, want a

transformation of the Jordanian East Bank into a Palestinian watan badil, or ‘alternative homeland’, so that the West Bank and the Gaza strip could be readily annexed to Israel.  This watan badil theory-summed up by the slogan ‘Jordan is Palestine’ – had first been advanced in Israel in 1975;  its leading exponent was Ariel Sharon, who was minister of agriculture, and then minister of defense, in two successive Likud cabinets.  In the opinion of Sharon and his followers, the Hashemite order in Jordan was the chief obstacle to the annexation of Palestinian occupied territories by Israel.   Since 1967, the Palestinians had actually come to form a substantial majority in the Jordanian East Bank.  Thus, Sharon  argued, Jordan would automatically become a Palestinian republic once the monarchy in Amman was overthrown.  If necessary, the Israeli government could hasten the process by massive expulsions of West Bank Palestinians to the East Bank.

The Israelis who are so anxious for a return to the days of Palestinian control of Jordan would do well to remember the days back before the 1967 war when the fedayeen from Syria and Lebanon operated openly from the Jordanian Wihdat and Husseini refugee camps, and the unguarded long border with Jordan was a sieve for those who would attack Israel nightly then escape back across the border into the safe haven of a nation that was sovereign, but as yet not strong enough to be able to prevent them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This post is long, but I’m going to make it just a little bit longer, to make the events come full circle.  The original report in the Jerusalem Post was supposed to have been based on an interview with Jordan’s Interior Minister Nayef al-Kadi in the London based Arabic paper Al-Hayat.  To make a long story short, I can’t find any such interview in the paper’s archives, and they do go back that far.  But I did find this at the Dar al Hayat website:  “The Salam Fayad Document: A Palestinian Initiative to Bear Responsibility” written by the the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority:

This is a Palestinian initiative to bear Palestinian responsibility, and that is a bold move on the part of the Palestinians, through a clear and detailed vision, to show that they are serious in taking on the task of building the state themselves, starting with Arab and international assistance and ending with self-reliance through state institutions. It is the project of proving the Palestinians’ ability to build and respect themselves and to inform everyone that something new has happened in Palestinian thought, vision and determination.

Traditionally, the Arabs in their private meetings have often discussed the Palestinians at great lengths in a language reflecting resentment towards Palestinian leaderships. Thus they would often level accusations of constant failure at the Palestinians and make them bear responsibility for the poor state of the Arabs. Today brings the opportunity for the Arabs to say that the Palestinians have become serious and can be supported and made to bear responsibility for success, not failure.

Of course, what we speak of here is the political, financial and economic support necessary for building the institutions of the state of Palestine, support which must flow in an organized manner to the institutions of the Palestinian Authority. However, we also speak of repairing the relationship between the Arabs and the Palestinians, as well as of lifting the spirits of Palestinians on Palestinian soil.

For example, Salam Fayyad’s plan of building an international airport in the West Bank, one in which Air Force One would land, carrying Barack Obama to the state of Palestine, is one of raising the spirits of Palestinians and of strengthening imposing Palestine as a de facto state. Thus it is necessary for Arab countries to extend their assistance and to lift the restrictions imposed on their citizens, so that they may visit Palestine as it builds its institutions, walk in the streets of Jerusalem, speak the Arabic language, stay at Palestinian hotels and eat at Palestinian restaurants. Such was the cry of Faisal Husseini: Come to Jerusalem to save it.

Palestinian vision.  I love it.

A review of the plan by former ambassador Edward S. Walker is here, analysis by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) is here, an interview by Christian Science Monitor is here, and the full text of the plan is here.
Says Dr. Fayyad:

“If we don’t do anything, people will criticize us, and if we come up with something that’s proactive, we’ll also have critics,” shrugs Fayyad. “Is this realistic? We’ll never know unless we try.”

Palestinian independence.  It’s a Nike thing.  Just do it.

Palestine should be printing their own frigging passports.

Honor killings

Rana Husseini is tall, unusually tall for a Jordanian. Several years ago I met her when she was collecting signatures on a petition to do away with honor killing in Jordan. “If you are Jordanian, please sign the petition”, she asked the mixed Arab and western crowd. I got the point. I am a westerner and will never be able to understand this culture completely. Anything said by a westerner would be interpreted as unwelcome foreign meddling and would hinder the cause.

rana-husseini1Rana Husseini covered crime stories for the Jordan times. Every time I was in the capital I picked up a copy of the paper and looked for her byline. Over and over again she wrote the stories of women killed by their families. A thirteen year old boy saw his sister talking on the telephone, thought she was talking to a man, and strangled her with the phone cord. Another woman confessed to her brother that she was pregnant by an Egyptian who had left the country. The brother promised to get her an abortion and an operation to restore her virginity, then returned with a gun and shot her. Sometimes Husseini would go to a village and no one would talk to her about the killing. Other times she received death threats herself.

During the time I lived there about 30 women were killed by their families every year. The upper house of Jordan’s parliament, appointed by the King, had passed a bill against honor killings, but the bill could not pass the lower house, whose members are elected, largely through tribal politics. Since I left the law has changed. Honor killing is now illegal in Jordan.

Is honor killing Islamic? In an article for PBS, Husseini says no:

I want to emphasize two things. One is that all women are not threatened in this way in my country. Any woman who speaks to any man will not be killed. These crimes are isolated and limited, although they do cross class and education boundaries. The other thing is a lot of people assume incorrectly that these crimes are mandated by Islam, but they are not. Islam is very strict about killing, and in the rare instances where killing is counseled, it is when adultery is committed within a married couple. In these cases, there must be four eyewitnesses and the punishment must be carried out by the community, not by the family members involved.

Honor killings are part of a culture, not a religion, and occur in Arab communities in the United States and many countries. One-third of the reported homicides in Jordan are honor killings. The killers are treated with leniency, and families assign the task of honor killing to a minor, because under Jordanian juvenile law, minors who commit crimes are sentenced to a juvenile center where they can learn a profession and continue their education, and then, at eighteen, be released without a criminal record. The average term served for an honor killing is only seven and a half months.

Rana Husseini has written a book on the subject, Murder in the Name of Honor. When it is released, it should be well worth reading.

Cross-posted at Chilling Out.

Bedouins and goats

Here is a Jordanian goat.

bedouins-fatimas-goat1

The goat belongs to Fatma. Fatima is the one on the left. Yes, they have tatoos on their faces. I found out later that Jordanian women don’t usually allow themselves to be photographed.  I hope I don’t get into trouble with the Bene Sakr for this one.
bedouins-fatma-and-friend1

Fatima is stirring up the goats with a stick to try to get them to be more photogenic for the picture.

bedouins-fatimas-goatpen1

Then Fatma took a picture of me with the goat. I don’t know if she ever used a camera before.

bedouins-fatimas-goat-without-nijma3

[photo edited]

I know a Jordanian guy who put a photo of his wife on the internet–she had a proper scarf on, hair completely covered  and everything.  He had to take it down after some guys at work started making nasty comments about her. There were pictures of his kids too, but that wasn’t a problem.  I wanted to take a picture of her–I had stayed with the family a few times–but by then she didn’t want anyone taking her picture because of the bad experience.

It’s too bad when women’s photos have to be removed–in any culture. You don’t see that happening with men.

Palestinians

“How can I find out about what Palestinians think”, I was asked on another thread. Well, there’s the Jordan Times. And I forgot to mention all of King Abdullah’s speeches. What an intellect.

And what about this issue and that issue that people keep bringing up? You can’t really talk about it in a short quip on a thread. Sometimes it’s more complicated and takes time to explain. So here is a list of sources I recommend as well as what is on this blog about Palestinians so far. Sort of an index.

amman-message-kufi-logo

News sources

The Jordan Times-Jordanian online newspaper in English (the King reads this paper)

The Maan News Agency– Palestinian news service, because you know it’s not going to be on the evening news.

bitterlemons-international.org-Middle East round table–op ed’s reprinted from various international publications.

The Christian Science Monitor-always in depth and reflective when they write about the Middle East

The Israel Lobby

Chomsky Ditches Rockefeller Chapel, Politics is Still Local-Chomsky, the Israel lobby, and professors Norman Finkelstein and Mehrene Larudee

J Street–a new American Jewish lobby for a two state solution– not all American Jews are neocons who oppose the formation of a Palestinian state

Chomsky, Israel Lobby co-author Mearsheimer to speak at Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel in October 2007-book: Stephen M. Walt and John J. Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Policy. Is the Israel lobby the only thing preventing the formation of a Palestinian state?

A Moslem Conspiracy: Brigitte Gabriel’s frightened war-zone vision of population politics-Gabriel is a Lebanese Christian who grew up in a war zone in Lebanon and was helped to asylum by Israeli sources.


Arab Extremists

Jordan stops flirting with Hamas…for now-sequel to “American loses it last Arab friend” about the unfortunate “Jordan as Palestinian homeland” provocation

America loses its last Arab friend-Jordan talks to (gasp!) Hamas. Yup, it’s about that “Jordan as Palestinian homeland” business again

Hamas takeover of Gaza– “Follow the money–another proxy war between Iran and the U.S.”

Vintage 1969 Middle East Fanaticism Quotation-the secretive Miles Copland

Palestine just a pawn in Copeland’s 1952 Game of Nations-Promoting stability in the Middle East. “After Nasser’s successful Egyptian coup, his people were again in touch with American diplomats and eventually they came around to the American view of the necessity of using Israel as the scapegoat to unite the country…”

Speeches by Abdullah II, King of Jordan.

amman-messageThis guy is my hero. Seriously. His photo is above my computer, and I have archived a lot of his old speeches from back when the Jordan Times articles were only online for a week.  When I take a notion to monitor the use of this website, I can see people from university IP’s looking at these speeches for long periods of time, so I know I’m not the only one who appreciates both his scholarship and his street wisdom. The King has some of the speeches (like the Amman Statement about moderate Islam–oh wait that has its own website) on his official website as well, also some op-ed pieces he has written for major western publications. He believes in Palestinian statehood, and his confidence makes me sure it can happen now, in this election cycle.

The Amman Message: how Jordan understands Islam–text of remarks by King Abdullah II, November 2004

Text of King Abdullah’s message to U.S. congress March 7, 20007

Transcript of Interview, Jordan’s King Abdullah 4-10-07

Transcript of interview with Jordan’s King Abdullah May 9, 2007 with Egyptian Al Ahram daily

Prosperity, stability, a crucial model for other countries: Text of King Abdullah II remarks at opening of Dead Sea G-11 Economic Summit 5-19-07

Remarks by King Abdullah 5-21-07 to Nik Gowing, BBC World, at the side of G11 Economic Forum

Text of Jordan’s King Abdullah’s remarks to Al Ghad daily July 1, 2007

Text of Jordan King Abdullah’s remarks at Canadian Foreign Ministry 7-13-07

Text of Jordan King Abdullah II interview with JTV 8-31-07

Text of remarks by King Abdullah II to the World Economic Forum at Sharm al-Sheikh 5-19-08

Palestinian Statehood

U.S. pledges $900 million at Gaza conference-Hillary says money will not go to Hamas

Palestinian Scuttlebutt: “Mish Harb”-sniffing the Arab Street in Chicago after the Gaza military action

If Mahmoud Darwish wrote the Palestinian Declaration of Independence–where is it?– by the end of the rant I have found the link–yes, it’s real.

Remembering Mahmoud Darwish-the Palestinian poet who wrote the Palestinian Declaration of independence–links to poems that are incredible even in translation.

Palestine screws up again, rejects statehood– a rant against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for rejecting an offer of statehood as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leaves office–because of Jerusalem.

Palestine Independence: Who would provide security?

Obama weasels on Palestine-parsing Obama’s campaign speech in Amman and his answers to questions that seem evasive on second glance, and I’m afraid another rant.

Obama: remaking the world is not for Woman-Obama campaigning in Israel and writing an inscription–but not with gender neutral language

Does John McCain want to destroy Jordan?-A report that an aide to presidential candidate John McCain wants to “turn Jordan into a Palestinian state” is apparently a hoax on the part of a website dedicated to “Destroying the kingdom of Jordan peacefully”.  I like Jordan.

The Palestinian State: Parsing King Abdullah-still trying to figure out the mystery of what exactly is holding up statehood for Palestine–it sure isn’t the King.

Palestinian Independence: Waiting for the Pole to Turn Green-a meaningless rant expressing impatience with the Palestinians for not unilaterally declaring independence.

Is a Palestinian State Offensive?– a rant against Palestinian apathy about statehood

Posted in King Abdullah II, Middle East, Palestine, peace, الأردن. Comments Off on Palestinians

Jordan stops flirting with Hamas…for now.

Last September I bookmarked a newspaper piece about Jordan courting Hamas and promptly forgot about it.  The headline was “As a Palestinian state recedes, Jordan contacts Hamas“, the piece in the Lebanese Daily Star by Saad Hattar, but only the first paragraph is still available without a subscription to the archives.

Jordan’s move to thaw relations with the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) following nine years of estrangement has raised eyebrows as to the timing and the motives behind this tactic. Internal and external factors dictated the rapprochement amid growing Jordanian dismay at American and Israeli behavior.

Today there was a new headline, “Jordan and Hamas: a window briefly opened, then shut” and Hamas has once again become the orphan child in Jordan.  This piece is by Rana Sabbagh-Gargour, who the Daily Star  describes as “a journalist and former chief editor of The Jordan Times”. Since these things tend to disappear quickly, (yes, I know people use these pages for research) I have also archived it here.

ranaI remember the first time I met Rana Sabbagh, as she was called then, at the old Jordan Times building in Amman. It started with a chance meeting with a man named Abdul Rahman on a bus. Many people gave me their addresses or phone numbers when meeting me for the first time, and I usually filed them and ignored them, but for some reason, after a week or so I went and looked up Abdul Rahman at the small supermarket (a hole in the wall grocery store, actually) where he worked. It turned out he had been an editor in Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War. The country of the paper he was working for at the time was at odds with Iraq, so he had spent some time in Iraqi prison and still had problems walking as a result of strokes he had after being beaten in prison. He knew I was a teacher, but he told me I should write, and introduced me to his friends as “a journalist”. “Write a newspaper article about this subject”, he said, mentioning something that had just happened that day. “Then take it to the Jordan times and ask for the editor”, he told me. I did. At the desk at the entry to the Jordan Times/al-Rai building, they were dubious, but they made a phone call and directed me to that area. Rana Sabbagh was in a meeting at the moment, but I was escorted to a small room where I explained my business and handed over the article I had written. A half hour later, she appeared. She was concise, brief, strictly business. She told me exactly why she couldn’t accept the article, and told me what to do about it. A week later I brought her another article which she bought. I cannot even begin to describe what it feels like to see your own byline for the first time. Thank you Abdul Rahman; thank you Rana Sabbagh.

jordan-mapSo back to Jordan and Hamas.  If you really want to understand the complicated dance between Hamas and Jordan, read the whole thing.  You will get everything you need to know about the situation without having to read anything else for background.  But one thing really struck me. Jordan is allied with the Egypt/Saudi/PLA group and against terrorism of Hamas/ Hizbollah/Iran/ Syria.  Jordan was itself the target of a spectacular assault on a wedding party by suicide bombers.

What then could entice Jordan, which some have called America’s only Arab friend, to open talks with Hamas, a notorius group on the CIA’s terrorist list that Jordan has little reason to love? Jordan hates religious extremists.  Jordan hates terrorists.  There were the usual answers you would expect about yesterday’s elections in Israel, and wanting to give the new U.S. president time to format policy, but just like back in the days when Rana Sabbagh was editing the Jordan Times, when the most startling and provocative ideas were found after you turn the page five, column six,  Rana Sabbagh has buried her most interesting observations in the ending paragraphs of her piece.   Jordan’s sudden courtship of Hamas was triggered by the fear of  a new massive influx of refugees, this time from Palestine.

Insiders say the GID had little confidence that Abbas’ PA would not collapse in 2009, either leaving a power vacuum in the West Bank that might be challenged by Hamas or allowing Hamas simply to take the helm. In either case, the GID assumed that Hamas would prevent the influx of West Bank Palestinians to Jordan. And it would help ease the spillover of any security deterioration that would likely follow the PA’s collapse.

[Mohammad] Dhahabi’s [former head of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID), who was removed on December 29] calculation also reflected growing mistrust within the Jordanian establishment of Fatah, the dominant faction in the PLO, which Abbas heads. Dhahabi was worried that Fatah elites might negotiate a peace deal at the expense of Jordanian interests to save their faltering legitimacy. Having Hamas and the Jordanian Islamists on the side of official Jordan would curb the agenda of influential politicians in the US and Israel who continue to see Jordan as an “alternative homeland” for Palestinians.

Jordan’s sudden affection for Hamas, then was a result of powerful American interest groups (Jewish and Christian, although Sabbagh is too polite to say so) who do not accept the two state solution.

Jordan has now changed direction, but for how long?  Sixty per cent of Jordanians are Palestinian.  Jordan has welcomed wave after wave of refugees–Armenians, Circassians, Palestinians (after both the 1948 war and the 1967 war), and then the Iraqis.  The Palestinian refugees, led by Fateh, started a civil war against Jordan in 1969, because after being pushed out of the West Bank, they wanted to use Jordan to continue their war on Israel.  Several assassination attempts against King Hussein failed.  How much more chaos can Jordan absorb?  If Jordan’s Kings weren’t possibly the smartest heads of state in the world, America and Israel might long ago have lost their staunchest ally in the Arab world to religious extremists.

For now, the rapprochement with Hamas is (officially, at least) dead.  But I suspect it wouldn’t take much to bring it back.

“We will continue to push for a two-state solution to protect Jordan’s security and stability while making sure that Palestinians in the West Bank are empowered with security and economic stability to stay on the ground and to bury the ‘Jordan is Palestine’ scenario,” a Jordanian official has said.

“We will not allow any local or regional forces to push us to embrace the agenda of chaos and destruction that Iran and its allies are pursuing.”

This is a joke right? Americans would never tell a sovereign nation they had to accept a massive resettlement of people from another country so they could be forced out because they were the wrong ethnic group?  Wrong.  Since the latest action in Gaza, the late night threads of PumaPAC have teemed with exactly that kind of sentiment.  I thought it would disappear after the inauguration, but it has continued.  In fact just yesterday it appeared here.  If Jordan does ever embrace terrorism it won’t be because they want to but because they were pushed to by American extremists like this.

Pronouncing “King Abdullah” in Arabic

This is way cool.  I just checked back with Forvo, a website for listening to words pronounced in their own languages. Last week I posted the name of Jordan’s King Abdullah II ( الملك عبد الله الثاني بن الحسين) to be pronounced by a native speaker.  Already someone from Jordan has made a recording of the pronunciation. Thanks, lkurdi!

Here’s a breakdown of the Arabic, in case you don’t want to go to the effort with google translate:

الملك king (malik, actually al-malik if you include the definite article)

عبد الله Abdullah (two separate words عبد adb slave or servant and الله Allah,  God–it is forbidden to name anyone “slave” without adding “God” or a name of God). It looks like separate word here, but is actually one word, because the letter dahl د does not connect to any letter that follows it.

الثاني  the second (ithani, actually al-ithani with the definite article)

بن son of (bin, technially ibin ابن is son )

الحسين Hussein (al-Hussein or  “the Hussein”– of course this would be the late King Hussein, Abdullah’s father)

Right now I feel like I could just reach out and touch Jordan.

West Nile Virus speads under Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt

Last night my neighbor told me she was keeping the children inside because West Nile Virus had just been discovered in several of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods, including this one.  Just a few streets over, they still didn’t have electric services restored after the heavy storms and rains that have swept through in the last few days.  And now, with more  standing water in the alleys and nearby nature preserves, we’re in for even more mosquitoes.  Sick, diseased mosquitoes.

Getting infected with West Nile isn’t like catching a cold either. Since the first two dead cows in 2001 confirmed that West Nile had entered the state, 94 people have died from the disease, just in Illinois.  While the epicenter of West Nile deaths has move westward form Illinois to Colorado to California, a hot spot remains in urban Chicago.

When I lived in Jordan back in 2000, there was an outbreak of West Nile virus in Israel just across the border, a 40-minute cab ride away.  I saw notices in the newspaper, films of mosquitoes on channel 2  (the only channel I could pull in), and after dusk chemical trucks spraying the streets on either side of Abdali bus station in central Amman.  Nobody died from West Nile in Jordan.

In the last 7 years, West Nile virus has entered this country and spread like wildfire, killing 94 people and preventing children from playing outdoors in the summer.  Where is our government?  In the past we have seen the federal government take the lead in controlling and even wiping out numerous diseases like influenza and polio.  It used to be that fearing mosquitoes was something that happened in third world malaria prone areas like Africa.  Where is the federal government now?  Oh, yeah, that’s right.  They’re busy trying to impose their religion on everybody else by trying to redefine contraceptives as abortion.

Posted in Government, Health, الأردن. Tags: , . Comments Off on West Nile Virus speads under Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt

Jordan’s King Abdullah II on YouTube

If you have never seen King Abdullah the Second of Jordan speak, you can now see him on YouTube, thanks to Charlie Rose.

The videos are: |here| from the Royal Palace in Jordan (date unknown, but after the Palestinian election and before the Iraqi one), |here| from Washington after a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, |March 19, 2002 here|, and |September 16, 2003 here|with the sound quality so poor and out of sync you can hardly hear the video, also King Abdullah is shown |here| in the first two minutes of something called the YPO Leadership conference, date unknown.

Who can forget the King’s entrance into the public spotlight with the Middle Eastern soccer championship, less than a year after the death of his father, the late King Hussein. At every game the king was front and center wearing a sport jersey and jumping up from his seat with both arms straight up in the air whenever there was a goal. No wonder the Jordan team was so inspired to win.

And that poor player from Iraq who made a goal in the wrong direction, inadvertently scoring for Jordan. Things will not go well for him, my Palestinian friends told me. Uday, the son of Saddam Hussein, was in charge of the team and on his return for sure the player would be tortured or killed for that blunder.

On the night that Jordan won the championship, all over the country there was celebratory gunfire. I was watching with some Americans near Madaba and at the end of the game decided not to return to my lodging until all the gunfire was over.

I kept a photo of the King in my digs while I was in Jordan and still have one over my desk. The King’s speeches were available to read in the Jordan Times, somewhat buried in the back pages, but they always published the whole thing verbatim in an “unofficial transcript”. I remember reading Fidel Castro’s speeches back in college. Our university paper used to receive a copy of the Havana propaganda publication with Fidel’s speeches printed in the front. I never did get entirely through one speech. They were just the same thing over and over again. Viva the homeland, venceremos, we will win, etc, etc.

Abdullah’s speeches aren’t at all like that. They are incredibly well thought out. You have to wonder if Abdullah even has a speechwriter–where would he find someone who could express those ideas so well? Apparently he thinks on his feet a lot better than the American presidential candidates too, as I was always amazed by the way he was able to answer reporters’ questions off the cuff.

When I returned to the U.S. I found out that King Abdullah had been interviewed by Charlie Rose several times. Unfortunately you had to have a credit card and order the video which they would mail to you for a nominal fee. So if your old Jordanian roommate is in town overnight and you are in the mood to watch it NOW, too bad. Later the videos got put together into an archive, so you had to order several hours worth of shows to just see one of the king.

The king continued to make riveting speeches, at least from the standpoint of someone like me who was looking for enlightenment about the unfathomable Arab culture, politics, and current events. The Jordan Times continued to print his speeches in their internet edition. Unfortunately they were only online for a week, until their latest Sunday through Thursday issue replaced the previous weeks’ issue. I started cutting and pasting the entire speeches into my January 2004 archives. The Jordan Times now keeps more extensive archives, and the King’s own website has his written pieces that have been published in the west, but this is probably one of the few places you can still find online transcripts of some of the King’s previous speeches.

So now my favorite interviewer, Charlie Rose, and my favorite world leader, King Abdullah, are together on video and available for the world to see. Hopefully Charlies’ s archivists will get around to putting the dates on the videos (and fixing the sound) sometime soon.