Jordan at the Precipice
Mar 8, 2017 by Daniel Pipes
“We’re in dire straits.” So spoke Jordan’s King Abdullah a half-year ago. A just-completed week of intensive travels and discussions throughout Jordan finds no one disagreeing with that assessment. Jordan may no longer be hyper-vulnerable and under siege, as it was in decades past; but it does face possibly unprecedented problems.
Created out of thin air by Winston Churchill in 1921 to accommodate British imperial interests, the Emirate of Transjordan, now the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, for almost a century has led a precarious existence. Particularly dangerous moments came in the 1967, when Pan-Arabist pressures led King Hussein (r. 1952-99) to make war on Israel and lose the West Bank; in 1970, when a Palestinian revolt nearly toppled him; and 1990-91, when pro-Saddam Hussein sentiments pushed him to join a hopeless and evil cause.
|Winston Churchill (6th from left) taking time off from creating Transjordan in 1921.|
Today’s dangers are manifold. ISIS lurks in Syria and Iraq, just beyond the border, attractive to a small but real minority of Jordanians. The once-robust trade with those two countries has nearly collapsed – and with it, Jordan’s lucrative transit role. In a region bountiful in oil and gas, Jordan is one of the very few countries to have almost no petroleum resources. City-dwellers receive water just one day a week and country-dwellers often even less. Tourism has declined thanks to the Middle East’s notorious volatility. The king’s recent assertion of authority grates on those demanding more democracy.
The core issue of identity remains unresolved. As a country of massive and repeated immigration for over a hundred years (even exceeding the numbers going to Israel), it has received waves of Palestinians (in 1948-49, 1967, and 1990-91), Iraqis (2003), and Syrians (since 2011). The Palestinians, most estimates find, constitute a substantial majority of the country’s population, present the deepest division. It’s common to speak of “Jordanians” and “Palestinians” even though the latter are citizens and the grandchildren of citizens. As this suggests, the sense of being separate from and superior to the mostly tribal peoples of the East Bank has not diminished over time, and especially not when Palestinians have achieved economic success.
|Jordan’s King Abdullah II visited President Donald Trump on Feb. 3.|
The country’s strengths are also formidable. Surrounded by crises, the population is realist and very wary of trouble. The king enjoys an undisputed position of authority. Intermarriages are eroding the historic division of the country between Palestinians and tribals – something the influx of Iraqis and Syrians further erodes. The population enjoys a high level of education. Jordan enjoys a good reputation around the world.
Then there’s Israel. “Where are the fruits of peace?” is a common refrain about Jordan’s 1994 treaty with Israel. Politicians and press may not say so, but the answer is blindingly obvious: whether it’s using Haifa as an alternative to the Syrian land route, the purchase of inexpensive water, or the provision of plentiful gas (which is already being delivered), Jordan benefits directly and substantially from its ties with Israel. Despite this, a perverse social pressure against “normalization” with Israel has grown over time, intimidating absolutely everyone and preventing relations with the Jewish state from reaching their potential.
|Israel’s embassy in Amman is isolated from other buildings and protected by intimidating Jordanian security forces.|
One Jordanian asked me why Israelis accept being treated like a mistress. The answer is clear: because Jordan’s welfare ranks as a paramount Israeli priority, so successive governments accept, even if through gritted teeth, the calumnies and lies told about it in the press and on the streets. Though they are too polite to say so, they clearly wish the king would take hold of this issue and point to the benefits of peace.
On a personal note: since 2005, I have been advocating for “Jordan to the West Bank, Egypt to Gaza: The Three-State Solution” as a way to solve the Palestinian problem. Accordingly, I asked nearly all of my 15 interlocutors (who represented a wide range of viewpoints) about a return of Jordanian sovereignty to the West Bank. I regret to report that every one of them thunderingly rejected this idea. “Why,” they all seemed to say, “would we want that headache?” Accepting their negative verdict means Israel has no practical solution to its West Bank conundrum, so its reluctant and unwanted sovereignty over Palestinians will likely continue into the distant future. [ As you can see from the map of the Balfour Mandate above Israel was granted the West Bank, so the idea of returning the West Bank to Jordan has no basis in fact.]
Summing up the visit: Jordan has muddled through many crises, it may do so again, but the concatenation of current dangers pose an extraordinary challenge to Jordan and its many well-wishers. Will King Abdullah cope with those “dire straits”?
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who comes to the UN from his glass house of Jordan, should not be throwing stones at the United States
UN Human Rights Head Hurls Hypocritical Charges Against Trump
Mar 11, 2017 By Joseph A. Klein
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a Jordanian, assumed his functions as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 1, 2014. He has recently been obsessed with criticizing the Trump administration for a variety of alleged human rights sins. Considering the sorry human rights record in his home country of Jordan, Zeid Hussein’s obsession smacks of utter hypocrisy. His charges are also baseless.
In a speech that Zeid Al Hussein delivered in Geneva on March 8th, he had this to say about the Trump administration:
“In the United States of America, I am concerned by the new Administration’s handling of a number of human rights issues. Greater and more consistent leadership is needed to address the recent surge in discrimination, anti-Semitism, and violence against ethnic and religious minorities. Vilification of entire groups such as Mexicans and Muslims, and false claims that migrants commit more crimes than US citizens, are harmful and fuel xenophobic abuses. I am dismayed at attempts by the President to intimidate or undermine journalists and judges. I am also concerned about new immigration policies that ban admission of people from six predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days, as well as policies which greatly expand the number of migrants at immediate risk of deportation – without regard for years spent in the US or family roots. These threaten to vastly increase use of detention, including of children. Expedited deportations could amount to collective expulsions and refoulement, in breach of international law, if undertaken without due process guarantees, including individual assessment. I am especially disturbed by the potential impact of these changes on children, who face being detained, or may see their families torn apart.”
The charges are baseless. There is no surge in discrimination, anti-Semitism, or violence against ethnic and religious minorities in the United States attributable to President Trump. For example, between 2009 and 2015, the period for which there is comprehensive data while Barack Obama was president, the overall number of anti-Semitic attacks exceeded 7,000. As columnist and features writer for The Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman, wrote earlier this month in the Algemeiner, “there were threats every day against Jews and Jewish institutions over the last eight years and most of them did not receive headlines.” Where was Zeid Al Hussein while those threats and attacks were happening? Has he suddenly woken up from a slumber to discover a sudden surge of anti-Semitism for the first time since President Trump took office?
Every country, including the United States, has the inherent sovereign right to control entry to its borders. President Trump is simply enforcing the existing immigration laws, which it is his constitutional duty to faithfully execute. Illegal immigrants make up approximately 3.5 percent of the U.S.’s total population. Contrary to Zeid Al Hussein’s unsubstantiated opinion, illegal aliens living in the United States have committed a significant number of serious crimes while residing in the United States unlawfully in the first place. According to data compiled from the U.S. Sentencing Commission for fiscal year 2015, illegal immigrants were responsible for 30.2 percent of convictions for kidnapping/hostage taking, 17.8 percent of convictions for drug trafficking, 11.6 percent of convictions for fraud, 10.4 percent of convictions for money laundering, 6.1 percent of convictions for assault, and 5.5 percent of convictions for murder.
Deterring illegal immigration to provide better security for the American people does not prevent immigrants from seeking admission to the United States through legal channels.
Similarly, Zeid Al Hussein falsely characterized as anti-Muslim President Trump’s temporary suspension of entry to the United States of refugees world-wide, and entry of visitors from six terrorist-prone countries who do not have green cards or previously issued visas. The president of the United States, acting under explicit federal statutory authority, temporarily suspended entry of such visitors – Muslim and non-Muslim – from only six Muslim-majority countries out of 56 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, because he determined that step as necessary to protect the American people. Apparently, the UN Human Rights Commissioner and other opponents of President Trump’s executive order believe that foreigners from any country seeking to enter the United States for any reason, no matter what the circumstances in their home country affecting U.S. national security, should have an absolute right favoring their entry that overrides national security considerations. Sorry, but countries still get to decide how best to protect their citizens, not an unelected UN bureaucrat.
Moreover, Zeid Al Hussein’s attacks on the Trump administration’s human rights record displayed his sheer hypocrisy. He did not mention Sudan once in his March 8th speech. Cuba also got a pass. Russia got off with a slap on the wrist. Zeid Al Hussein devoted only a few words criticizing North Korea, which he balanced out with praise for its “accession to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” North Korean citizens are literally starving to death, while the regime continues to pursue its nuclear arms program in violation of UN Security council resolutions, and this is all that this pretender for the position of High Commissioner for Human Rights can say about the most repressive regime in the world today?
When it came to Zeid Al Hussein’s own country of Jordan, he mentioned it only once in his speech. Jordan was one of a list of countries he said were retreating from their commitments to impose a moratorium on use of the death penalty.
Let’s fill in a few details that Zeid Al Hussein neglected to mention about his home country while he was so busy trashing the Trump administration. In the World Value Survey of social attitudes in different countries taken several years ago, Jordan was listed as one of the five most racially intolerant countries in the world.
As for dealing with anti-Semitism, some Jordanian officials have fanned the flames. For example, two Jordanian MPs went on national television to praise perpetrators of a Jerusalem synagogue attack, whom had killed four Jewish worshippers, shortly after the massacre occurred in November 2014. One of the Jordanian MPs said, “Hating the Jews is a great honor for me and it makes me walk with my head high because they are worthy of hatred.” Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour sent a letter of support to the families of the two Palestinian terrorists involved in the synagogue massacre.
Zeid Al Hussein assumed his office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 1, 2014. Where were his public statements from his UN global platform denouncing his fellow Jordanians’ vile expressions of anti-Semitism?
In its October 2016 Freedom of the Press edition, Freedom House concluded that Jordan’s press freedom status was “not free.” It noted the arrest of journalists during 2015 “in connection with their reporting on foreign affairs and their impact on Jordan.” Journalists were also subject to imprisonment for defamation charges. It is unlawful for online outlets to “insult the royal family,” or “harm ‘Arab-Islamic values.’” Yet Zeid Al Hussein could only muster dismay “at attempts by the President [Trump] to intimidate or undermine journalists”?
Jordan has taken in many refugees from Syria, to be sure, but there is a lack of legal protection for refugees in Jordan. Only 1% of Syrian refugees are said to have work permits. Refugee women and girls from Syria have been trafficked for sexual exploitation.
According to a 2015 report by the International Labor Organization, “Jordanian law makes limited references to asylum seekers and refugees. Despite having the highest ratio of refugees to citizens in the world, Jordan has not signed the Refugee Convention of 1951 or its subsequent 1967 Protocol. Several concerns are usually cited over Jordan’s non-signatory status, including…popular sentiment against refugee integration, lack of resources and capacity to provide for refugees, and misinformation about the perceived social and economic burden of refugees and related questions of national security.”
Jordan is reported to have sent some Syrian refugees back to Syria, violating the principle of non-refoulement that Zeid Al Hussein has accused the Trump administration of potentially violating.
Amnesty International has listed other serious human rights abuses it found in Jordan, including torture in detention centers which have led to the deaths of some detainees while in custody.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who comes to the UN from his glass house of Jordan, should not be throwing stones at the United States. And, considering the U.S.’s outsized contributions to his budget, Zeid Al Hussein should not be biting the hand that has been feeding his bloated bureaucracy for too long.
Related previous posts on this blog