Thursday, November 10, 2005

the bombs in Jordan

Hi. Well, everything’s still a shock here in Jordan. Even though I’m not in Amman (which apparently is filled with police and the military), this event is HUGE for Jordan. It’s weird, but the reactions seem very paradoxical. On the one hand, no one is surprised that this happened here. In fact, numerous people have openly said that it was only a matter of time, given Jordan’s relationship with the United States. Yet, Jordan is a place that prides itself on being a stable, peaceful state. That identity, which is truly a part of being Jordanian, has been shattered.

Today Will and I (despite the Fulbright’s requests otherwise- some ‘risks’ are worth taking) joined a peace march in Irbid. Tomorrow there will be the biggest marches, especially in Amman. Still, even this march was really moving; in fact, it made me cry. People were chanting, “No to terrorism,” “Jordan is our country,” and my favorite (loosely translated) “We march with blood ending your pain King Hussein (former king of Jordan).” While this march was very pro-monarchy, which I think most people are, mostly, it was most importantly, pro-Jordan. People waved Jordanian flags, held banners, sang, and danced, as we marched through the streets of Irbid. It was a celebration of Jordan and all that Jordan represents. It was a pro-Islamic, but it was prp-moderation, decrying the extremism that Jordan has generally avoided until now. It was very genuine. Attached are a few pictures.

I feel like I should clarify last night’s e-mail a bit. I was emotional when I wrote and maybe now I can clarify. First, I am absolutely appalled by yesterday’s events. Watching this massacre in the country I have called home for the last two months is sickening. I have developed a love for the Jordanian people, famed for their hospitality and generosity, and it grieves me to see them subjected to such horrific violence. As I watched the carnage, I felt the same tension as I described above. A part of me says, “Not Jordan? No way!” Yet, at the same time, I remember specifically thinking, “Well, it was bound to happen soon.” For some of us, because of the Middle East’s infinite complexities, the temptation is to react to these bombings in Amman with blind rage, or perhaps to throw our hands in the air in disregard. However, it is incumbent upon us to seek deeper answers. Is the reason for the targeting of Westerners and Jordan merely irrational religious fervor? Is the increased worldwide rage at the United States entirely the result of propaganda?

Personally, I remain angry. I am furious that there are people who believe that blowing themselves up at a wedding party, killing scores, is a commendable means to make a political statement. These same radicals are doing so in Iraq, killing innocents. I am livid that certain radicals can tarnish an entire religion. These actions are sub-human, true crimes against humanity, and I am enraged with the leaders of these violent movements. However, as an American citizen, I realize that my own responsibility does not lie with these terrorists. I have a patriotic duty to ensure that my own government’s policies are just, that they benefit both our country and the larger world. This may be the source of my fiercest anger, as today’s horrific events continue to demonstrate that our own elected government’s policies are creating a world that is more dangerous, more radical, and more hateful. Walking the streets of Irbid after the attacks, I was keenly and shamefully conscious of the enormous affects of these government actions on Jordanians’ lives.

(I’ve explained this before, but it bears repeating.) As our staunchest Arab ally, Jordan and its citizens have paid a difficult price for that alliance. In an extremely unstable region of the world, Jordan’s history has been one of continual adjustment to nearby events that affect its survival. Numerous problems created by the current war in Iraq, for example, have overflowed into Jordan. Not only has this small country been forced to accommodate the massive influx of Iraqis fleeing the country, causing enormous increases in housing prices and a mini-cultural crisis, but no longer do the Jordanian people enjoy subsidies on Iraqi oil, hitting the poorest the hardest. Events in Israel and the West Bank have impinged upon Jordan to an even greater extent. With the establishment of Israel and the subsequent wars of 1948 and 1967, Jordan absorbed enormous amounts of Palestinian refugees. This ‘refugee problem’ has continued to be a dominate factor in Jordanian society for decades (as I’ve explained before) and a majority of Jordan’s population is now of Palestinian descent. While this relationship has achieved some stability, the past violence is not forgotten, especially 1970’s Black September when 3,000 Palestinians were killed in what became a near civil war.

In the politics of today’s post-9/11, “with us or against us” world, Jordan has been placed in the impossible position of either turning it’s back on the alliance with the United States (one that does provide important assistance) or supporting (tacitly or not) policies that the vast majority, if not all, of it’s population despise. This includes Iraq and Israel. That’s why yesterday’s tragedy seemed to be a foregone conclusion. The Iraq War and our unwavering support for Israel’s highly controversial policies have radicalized both Jordanian society and the larger Arab world. In attempting to understand yesterday’s violence, as well as violence throughout the region, it is critical that we remember this context.

The Iraq War is largely condemned by the worldwide community, both in its origin and for its excessive use of force. I’ve had absolutely crazy stories from Iraqis here about their home country and the intense hardships created by our invasion and the subsequent insurgency. Iraq, a country where inter-religious tension was relatively calm, is now on the verge of collapsing into a civil war. Yes, Saddam is gone, but things are truly worse now. The country has been hijacked by various interest groups- The United States and it’s desire for a more secure, Israel-friendly, oil-giving, and democratic Iraq; Al-Qaida’s hatred for Western policies, and its attempts to demonstrate its strength by killing in restaurants; Iran, and its hope for a Shia’ Iraq.

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains extremely unpopular throughout the world and especially amongst the Arab states. In fact, this dominates the political minds of many Arabs. Once again, Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel is a huge source of contention. Personally, I admire the former King Hussein’s (and Yitzhak Rabin) attempts to rise above the hatred and the violence to pursue such a treaty, especially amidst opposition. But given Israel’s current policies, this treaty, which has the potential to set an important example, is despised more each day. By encouraging Israel in its extremist policies (or at least saying nothing to the contrary), the United States will continue to risk future attacks, both within our borders and inside those of our allies., including Israel and Jordan.

As I listen to the recurrent news reports of bombs indiscriminately dropped throughout the Middle East, in cities such as Baghdad, Fallujah, and Gaza City, I feel depressed. As I meet people here and am forced to confront my own government’s role in these countless heartbreaking stories of violence and displacement in Iraq and Palestine, I am livid. Watching the bombs explode in Amman last night, I was acutely aware that the current United States policy in the Middle East is only encouraging violent reaction, fostering hatred of Americans and our allies, and enraging a region of the world desperate for moderate voices. For the Jordanians, the violence of both state and terrorism is, once again, preventing normal life and altering national history. This is the true tragedy.


Blogger Scotter said...

Hey kido,

It looks like the main target of the bombings was actually Palestinian moderates. Which ties the two major stresses on Jordan together, Iraq and Palestinians. I was wondering how Jordanians felt about the good old Hashemites. It is interesting that they are pro-monarchy, but it is obvious that overall the monarchy has been a stabilizing and modernizing influence. But, it was something I wondered about.

2:38 PM


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