print
memri
December 11, 2017 No.
7220

Jordanian Writers Try To Quell Anger At U.S., Warn Against Targeting Americans

U.S. President Donald Trump's December 6, 2017 announcement of American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and of the planned move of the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv, sparked angry protests and marches in Jordan, the likes of which have not been seen in the country for a long time, both in terms of their scope and in terms of the hostility expressed towards the U.S. The American embassy in Amman was at the epicenter of the protests, leading the authorities to tighten security around it.[1] In a demonstration held on December 7, pictures of Trump were burned and anti-U.S. slogans were chanted, including "America is the head of the serpent."[2] In demonstrations held the following day several protesters were arrested for throwing stones at the embassy building.[3] The participants in the protests, which were held across the country, also called to expel the U.S. ambassador from Amman, recall Jordan's ambassadors from the U.S. and Israel, sever diplomatic relations with the U.S. and boycott American goods, and sue Trump for inciting violence and hatred and violating U.N. resolutions.[4]

 
Protesters burn pictures of Trump, U.S. and Israeli flags (sources: Ammonnews.net, December 7, 2017; Al-Rai (Jordan), December 9, 2017)

The calls for protests came from left-wing and pan-Arab parties, professional syndicates, and even elements in the Jordanian regime, but primarily from the Islamic Action Front, the political branch of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Speaking at a protest march organized by this party following Friday prayers at one of Amman's main mosques, the MB's general supervisor in Jordan, 'Abd Al-Hamid Thneibat, described Trump's announcement as a new, American Balfour Declaration, blunt and aggressive, that must be fought by every means.[5] In an interview with Al-Jazeera, 'Abdallah Al-'Akayleh, chairman of the National Reform Coalition, of which the MB is a member, called for a sweeping Islamic intifada from Jakarta in the east to Morocco in the west, and for an intifada in Palestine from the river to the sea. He also urged Arab regimes to reconsider their relations with the U.S.[6]

The popular protests were encouraged by the Jordanian authorities, including by the royal court, apparently out of fear that they would get out of hand and be directed at the regime itself. In an interview with a Jordanian radio station, Jordan's state minister for prime ministry affairs, Mamdouh Al-'Abadi, called on all Muslims, from the Atlantic to the Gulf, to take to the streets for the sake of Jerusalem.[7] Parliament Speaker 'Atef Al-Tarawneh urged MPs to participate in protests against Trump's announcement "and stand alongside the Jordanian people and behind the Hashemite leadership in opposition to the oppressive American decision."[8] King 'Abdallah himself encouraged the protesters, tweeting: "Jordanians are ever the pulse of the ummah. Their impassioned sentiment for Jerusalem – our primary cause – which they expressed today in unrivaled unity and brotherhood, demonstrates how proud and exalted they are, and this is a source of pride for me and for any Arab..."[9]

As the protests increased and fear of violence grew, two Jordanian writers, former information minister Saleh Al-Qallab and columnist Bilal Hassan Al-Tal, published articles in the government daily Al-Rai calling to refrain from violence and from targeting U.S. nationals. They urged to channel the rage towards a cultural awakening that will pave the way to victory, as happened in the time of Saladin's conquest of Jerusalem.

The following are excerpts from their articles:

Increased security presence around U.S. embassy in Amman (source: Ammonnews.net, December 7, 2017)

Former Jordanian Information Minister: Harming U.S. Nationals Is A Crime Equal To That Of Trump

Former Jordanian information minister Saleh Al-Qallab penned an article attacking Trump's announcement and claiming that it turns the U.S. into a country that is occupying Palestinian Arab land. At the same time, he called to refrain from harming U.S. nationals, since this would play into the hands of the Trump administration and the Israeli government. He wrote: "When the U.S. moves its embassy to Jerusalem, based on [the assumption that] it is the united and eternal capital of Israel, it will become, according to every international law and treaty, an occupying country just like Israel. And since the action of Trump and [his] wretched administration has turned the U.S. into a country that is occupying Palestinian Arab land, and since U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is one of the architects of this historic crime, [Pence] is unlikely to find any door open to him in the Arab [world] or to be welcome in any Arab capital...

"[However,] we Arabs, Muslim and Christian, regard the Americans as a friendly nation that is suffering under President [Trump], who has proved to be incapable of doing anything except provide funds and [promote] historical illusions. Therefore, we must make absolutely sure that no U.S. national is harmed in any way. Indeed, the most extremist among the Israelis, chief of them [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, will seek to motivate misguided or mercenary individuals to harm U.S. nationals, and that is what Trump wants, so he can tell the American people that Arabs and Muslims are all terrorists. Hence, we must be very careful not to supply the racists in the U.S. administration and the Israeli government with the political and media ammunition that they crave in order to justify this crime, which is one of the gravest in history. We should regard harming U.S. nationals as a crime equal to that of Donald Trump himself. We should take into account from now on that certain dubious terror organizations may target U.S. nationals with the usual pretext of defending Palestine and the Palestinian cause."[10]

Jordanian Columnist: Channeling Our Rage Towards A Cultural Awakening Is The Way To Liberate Palestine And Its Capital Jerusalem

Al-Rai columnist Bilal Hassan Al-Tal called to channel the Arab rage towards a cultural awakening, similar to the cultural activity he said had preceded Saladin's liberation of Jerusalem. He wrote: "Throughout our cultural history, Jerusalem has been a city that unified the ummah, reunited it and prompted its sons to trade humiliation and defeat for power and victory. Anyone who accurately reads the ummah's history discovers this truth. In the recent days, following the dark decision of the worst U.S. president ever, some aspects of Jerusalem's uniting role were realized when all sectors of the ummah – regardless of religion, sect, color or nationality – took to the streets to oppose this decision, for each and every member of this ummah sees himself as having a part in Jerusalem...

"In order for this role to persist,... and in order to make sure that Trump, his supporters, his protégés, and his agents and his servants will not win their gamble – [namely their gamble] that the rage over Jerusalem that we are currently witnessing in the streets of our ummah is only a momentary reaction and a storm in a teacup that will last no longer than a few days – a group of men and women from our ummah must rise up and keep the flame of rage for Jerusalem burning in the heart of our ummah and in its lands. [They must do] this by means of cultural-ideological activity of genuine awakening that will ultimately lead to the liberation of Jerusalem – for that is the real response to Trump's arrogance and to all those who shelter in his shadow and hang on to his coattails. This is the way to liberate Palestine and its capital, Jerusalem.

"The experience of the Saladin era provides proof of the above, since it is the best example and a tangible experience that we can reenact, due to the great similarity between the current era and the period of the Crusaders who conquered Jerusalem. An in-depth examination of this experience reveals that the one who achieved the true victory over the Europeans was not Saladin, although he presided over the final stage [of the victory]. Saladin's entry into Jerusalem was preceded by intense cultural and ideological activity by the ummah's clerics, [activity] that resulted in the retraining of the ummah and the restoring of its ability to attain victory and reassume an active role in the cultural struggle. The city of Jerusalem served as the engine of this entire process, as a symbol that united the ummah and [all] its main factions.

"In order to realize this cultural awakening that will lead to the hoped-for liberation of Jerusalem, we must... remember that the true tragedy of Jerusalem is... the occupation and the division of the city into an eastern part and a western part... [Today] certain political novices have begun speaking in the name of the entire ummah, and especially in the name of the Palestinians, and to relinquish parts of Palestine, including Jerusalem, and even to propose a Palestinian capital other than Jerusalem.[11] These people have forgotten, first of all, that a homeland cannot be bought and sold. Worse, they have forgotten that Palestine – all of Palestine – is sacred, [for] it is waqf territory of the entire ummah and nobody has the right to give up any part of this waqf. This may be one of the many reasons for the rage that the entire ummah is feeling out of desire to attain a victory in Jerusalem. This rage must be used wisely, to lay the foundations for a cultural awakening that will liberate Palestine and free Jerusalem from captivity."[12]

 


[1] It should be noted that, ahead of the announcement, the U.S. embassy in Amman warned U.S. citizens in Jordan that it could "spark protests, some of which have the potential to become violent," and reminded them of the need for caution, urging them to avoid crowded areas and refrain from sending their children to school on the day following the announcement. It also announced the temporary suspension of its routine public services (Jo.usembassy.gov, December 6, 2017).

[2] Ammonnews.net, December 7, 2017.

[3] Albosala.com, December 8, 2017.

[4] Ammonnews.net, December 7, 2017; Al-Ghad (Jordan), December 9, 10, 2017.

[5] Albosala.com, December 8, 2017.

[6] Jfranews.com.jo, December 9, 2017.

[7] Al-Sabil (Jordan), December 7, 2017.

[8] Ammonnews.net, December 7, 2017.

[9] Twitter.com/KingAbdullahII, December 8, 2017.

[10] Al-Rai (Jordan), December 10, 2017.

[11] This is apparently an allusion to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, who, according to the New York Times, advised Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas, during the latter's visit to Riyadh last month, to relinquish the right of return and accept Abu Dis, instead of East Jerusalem, as the capital of the Palestinian state. (Nytimes.com, December 3, 2017). According to a report in the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, in the recent demonstrations in front of the U.S. embassy in Amman, protesters chanted a slogan against the prince: "Raise your voice from Amman, Muhammad Bin Salman is an American agent" (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, December 9, 2017).

[12] Al-Rai (Jordan), December 10, 2017.