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memri
January 3, 2019 No.
7829

Former Jordanian Minister Condemns Israeli Flag Incident: Had Israel Done The Same To Jordanian Flag, We Would Have 'Raised Hell Against Israel'

A photo published December 27, 2018 showed Jordanian Information Minister and government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat stepping on an Israeli flag painted on the floor of the entrance to the Trade Unions Complex in Amman. The trade unions are known for their hostility to Israel and opposition to the Jordan-Israel peace agreement. It should be mentioned that Jordanian Prime Minister 'Omar Al-Razzaz, who attended the same meeting as the minister, entered the complex through a side entrance.[1]

In response to Israel's protests over the incident, Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al-Qatarneh said that the trade union building was a private venue and that the minister had entered it through the main gate, while stressing that the Jordanian government is committed to the peace agreement with Israel.[2]

Following the publication of the photo, Minister Ghunaimat received supportive reactions from Jordanian politicians and journalists as well as from individuals on social media, and MPs greeted her with applause when she arrived for a December 30 parliamentary session.[3] MP Khalil Attiya even wrote on his Facebook account: "Government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat represents me and every self-respecting Jordanian and Arab, who would be happy to trample the flag of the murdering Zionists..."[4] Articles in the Jordanian press likewise praised the minister's action, and a January 1, 2019 article in the daily Al-Dustour was headlined "May Your Foot Be Blessed."


Ghumainat stepping on Israeli flag (image: Facebook.com/jfranews, December 30, 2018)

However, amid the numerous supportive responses, former Jordanian information minister Saleh Al-Qallab expressed a different position in his January 1, 2019 column in the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai. Criticizing Ghunaimat's action, he wrote that what she did should never have happened, because it was a violation of the Jordan-Israel peace agreement freely signed by Jordan – and on the part of a minister in a senior position in the country.[5] He added that had such an incident taken place in Israel, with the Jordanian flag dishonored in such a way, Jordan would have "raised hell against Israel" and threatened to suspend diplomatic relations with it. 

The following are excerpts from Al-Qallab's column:

"This crisis and this embarrassment should never have happened. It is a well-known fact that the trade unions have a position different from that of this government and of all the previous governments since the signing of the Jordan-Israel peace agreement in 1994. [This agreement] became binding for the Jordanian state when it was approved by both houses of parliament, but obviously, the same does not hold for [political] parties, institutions belonging to trade unions, or any Jordanian who does is not a [state] official...

"Before [it was decided to] go to the Trade Union Complex [in Amman], it was essential that measures be taken to ensure that no senior official who represents Jordan... would step into this trap. Regardless of the attempts to justify and excuse [the deed], it means only one thing, to us and to others: It is a violation of an international agreement, and a state that signed it willingly based on the assumption that it serves its interest must not allow anyone to harm it – and particularly not a senior official.

"Every Jordanian is entitled to express his opinion about the peace agreement with Israel or about any other issue in his own personal way or in the manner his trade union or party [chooses to use], if he belongs to a trade union or party that opposes [Israel]. The Jordanian state, by means of its authorities and chiefly its government... can [likewise] protest against any Israeli measure that contravenes the positions or interests of Jordan, especially when it comes to the Palestinian issue or the 1994 [peace] agreement, and can also condemn and denounce such a measure. But [the state] is not entitled to do what was done [by the minister] last Thursday, whether it was intentional or not – and it was clear that this was the result of [an attempt] to embarrass [the minister], not a deliberate action [on her part].

"If what happened with the Israeli flag on Thursday at the entrance to the [Trade] Union Complex had happened in Israel with the Jordanian flag, the symbol of our honor and of our state, and a source of pride for our people, we would undoubtedly have raised hell [in protest] against Israel, and taken it as a violation of the peace agreement with it. Likewise, we would have threatened to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel until it issued an acceptable apology, and punished whoever was responsible for this [deed] that could not be ignored or forgiven.

"I believe all the attempts to explain what happened, but with all due respect for those concerned [i.e. Minister Ghunaimat], this should not have happened to figures in top positions, and they should not have succumbed to [attempts to] embarrass them by [causing them to] step on the flag of a country with whom we signed a [peace] agreement because it serves the interests of our state and our people as well as the Palestinian cause, which is our cause too...

"[That said,] Jordanian parties and [trade] unions are entitled to oppose and condemn this agreement, because while we are a country that upholds its commitments and signed [agreements], we are also a democratic country, in which the parties, unions or people are not obligated to [express] respect [for such agreements]."[6]   


[1] Jfranews.com.jo, December 30, 2018.

[2] Albosala.com, December 30, 2018.

[3] Ammonnews.net, December 30, 2018.

[4] Facebook.com/Khalil.H.Atieh, December 30, 2018. 

[5] Minister Ghunaimat's action does indeed violate Article 11 of the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty, which states that both sides must "abstain from hostile or discriminatory propaganda against each other, and to take all possible legal and administrative measures to prevent the dissemination of such propaganda by any organization or individual present in the territory of either Party." Kinghussein.gov.jo/peacetreaty.html, October 26, 1994.

[6] Al-Rai (Jordan), January 1, 2019.