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Jordan is strong, safe and stable

Feb 25,2014 - Last updated at Feb 25,2014

I was shocked a few days ago to come across a press report from Amman describing Jordanians as a society haunted by fear, mainly from the possible consequences of the failure of the recent Geneva II conference on Syria.

Other reports have also been reflecting a prevailing state of disarray over renewed US Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to establish a framework for a Palestinian-Israeli peace.

There is indeed good reason for the citizens in this country to be concerned as the developments in our neighbourhood, mainly on the Syrian front, are somehow alarming, but all should be carefully measured. 

I will not elaborate on this side of the Syrian issue this time, addressing, instead, the quite inflated worries emanating from the Palestinian situation.

Kerry’s peace mission has been subject to endless speculation and fabrication of conspiracy theories. This has fuelled much of the suspicion with which some Jordanians have been viewing Kerry’s plans. But most of it was based on either pure prediction or ill-intentioned suspicion.

Even before any Palestinian-Israeli understanding was officially announced, let alone accepted, many started to spread the word around that the US peace plan included detrimental elements to Jordan, its interests, its security, its national identity and even its existence.

The “substitute homeland” notion, which is the main source of fear, is by no means new. It has been circulating for many years, with a pressing tendency on the part of few among us to insist that there are secret designs to create in Jordan an alternative homeland for the Palestinians — a Palestinian state — leaving Palestine in its entirety to Israel.

Over the years, some Israeli leaders have been bold in revealing their hostile intent of transforming Jordan into a state for the Palestinians, instead of them exercising their right to self determination on their national soil in Palestine, and that was not taken lightly by Jordan.

For the Jordanian government to take appropriate measure to confront any such ideas is right. But any such precautions should not be allowed to become popular obsessions. 

The substitute homeland notion can indeed be dismissed as ridiculous and meaningless, because no amount of clandestine planning in the dark, by anyone, can determine the fate of any country, let alone one as strong, as well established and as confident as Jordan.

However, such malicious ideas can be harmful if mishandled or if blown out of proportion, in the sense that they confuse the population and create real panic. They also tend to divert the society’s potential from constructive activity badly needed for focusing on the country’s real issues to futile debate and often communal disharmony. That is the last thing we need.

We should not allow a potential external threat to become a harmful and divisive domestic matter. Apparently some did the exact opposite, and His Majesty the King had to intervene.

In addressing senior government officials, including representatives of three governing powers, the executive, the legislative and the judiciary, last Sunday, King Abdullah was very clear in warning against such trends, describing them as mere illusions.

The substitute homeland notion “exists in the minds of a few people who want to create some sort of confusion”, the King said, assuring Jordanians, once more, that “Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine”.

This actually is not the first time King Abdullah issues such warning. He has been cautioning repeatedly over the past 15 years against such rumours and stressing that despite the fact that Jordan’s position on this particular issue has always been clear, the rumours kept re-emerging, fuelled by the same group of people who harbour ill intentions for this country.

The King’s message could not be clearer. We should not be haunted by such an unreal fear; concerned, maybe, but not obsessed. We have been through much more critical situations and we managed perfectly.

A quick look at the history of this country shows that Jordan was born in a region that has hardly seen much stability in the last seven decades. The independence of the Kingdom coincided with the rise of the active part of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the first Arab-Israeli war in 1947/1948.

Out of the few other Arab League member states that had to deal with the Palestine situation at the time, Jordan had the biggest share. Not only was the role of the Jordanian army significantly recognised for saving the West Bank and the Eastern sector of Jerusalem from Israeli occupation, but Jordan alone had to shoulder all the responsibilities of the West Bank and the Jerusalem inhabitants who were left without any kind of government until they were united with East Jordan in 1951.

That unity, which lasted until the 1967 war, was ideal in bringing back together the two branches of the same Jordanian-Palestinian family that did not know separating borders for centuries before until the region was secretly divided by the colonial powers without the knowledge of its people in 1920.

The devastating war of 1948, which led to the loss of 78 per cent of the historic land of Palestine to the newly founded Israeli state, and the expulsion of more than three quarters of a million of Palestinians (with the majority of them crossing into Jordan) was soon followed by the Suez war in 1956; the Israeli attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1967; the October war in 1973; the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982; the Iraq-Iran war from 1980 to 1989; the first Gulf War in 1991; the second Gulf war in 2003; the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006; the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2008; and now the ongoing war in Syria.

The severe impact of most of those wars on Jordan is more than a short article can summarise here. But let me remind that this country has been receiving huge waves of refugees over the last six decades, from Palestine in 1948, from the West Bank in 1967, from the Gulf region and Iraq in 1991, from Iraq again in 2003, and from Syria in the last three years. 

The humanitarian burden, heavy as it may be, has only been the cause of least concern.
But even before, during the early years of the Emirate, this land was open for other communities that escaped oppression at home seeking safe and secure life amongst hospitable Jordanians.

The good people of this country have always been accommodating and welcoming; they always shared the little they have and they opened their hearts before opening their houses and their country to their guests wherever they came from.

So if in this country we have been exposed to so many crises, if we managed to survive the most devastating troubles, internal and external, if we endured wars, if we sustained harsh economic crises and if we managed to host millions of refugees, why should we allow our confidence to weaken?

We should not. We are the only country in the region that has been constantly stable, safe, secure and relatively prosperous.

Many admire our achievements despite our scarce means and huge responsibilities.

We are not rich. We do not have substantial natural resources. We have severe water shortage. But we manage, with much difficulty, but we still do.

Many wonder how. The answer is simple. We have a wise and dedicated leadership that managed to steer the country through troubled waters always to the shores of safety. We have strong institutions, military and civil, well built and firmly constructed. And we have a mature population, a citizenry that is committed to surround its leadership, particularly in moments of crisis to shield the country from any danger.

Like all other peoples, we complain, we criticise, we nag, we demand, we argue and we can be suspicious, but that is all human. The great thing about Jordanians is that they drop all the nagging, sober up and come together when their country calls them.

That is why we should heed the King’s advice and leave no room for undue panic.

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