Friday, August 27, 2021

27-Aug-21: Peace, terror and Jordan's under-reported attachment to anti-Jewish bigotry

Jordan's King Abdullah is received in President Joseph R. Biden's Oval Office, July 19, 2021

We anticipated the fawning reception King Abdullah II of Jordan would receive during his three week tour of the US in July. 

We were ready for the high-intensity five days of meetings he had with President Joseph R. Biden in the Oval Office, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and with a long list of Washington insiders both in the Congress and around it, very few of whom have shown the smallest interest in engaging with us. (Details to follow.)

Everything was more or less predictable,

Less expected and seriously unwelcome was how the Washington media remained, almost entirely without exception, docile to the point of self-parody, lacking all desire to seize on the obvious issues thrown up by the King Abdullah royal tour. 

The issues from which the intrepid reporters shy away as they have for years are dramatic, involving murdered American young women, a killer who boasts of the lives she destroyed, and brazen efforts to evade a long-standing treaty obligation. 

It's startling to us how wide a consensus there appears to be among reporters and their editors in America's news industry that Jordan's role in harboring the admitted bomber of a busy pizzeria filled with children (and targeted for that very reason) is untouchable. 

Turkish news report from 2016
We hoped right to the end that the Ahlam Tamimi case would get some degree of analytical attention in the public parts of July's unusually long and extensively reported Royal Hashemite state visit. But it got approximately none.

Those factors among others are behind an opinion piece Arnold Roth co-wrote with Dr Sharon S. Nazarian of the Anti-Defamation League that is published today on the Forward website ["Jordan has a public antisemitism problem. Why isn’t the U.S. holding them accountable?"].

It's hard for us (Frimet and Arnold Roth) to deny our perspective is subjective and affected by our personal experiences. We are the parents of one of the two American nationals murdered by Jordanian terrorist Ahlam Tamimi in the Sbarro massacre. Starting in 2012, we pressed for the fugitive to be charged under US law. And once that happened, we kept asking the US to explain to Jordan what it needed to do next; to extradite Tamimi to stand trial on those charges in Washington as the 1995 Jordan/US treaty requires.

This process has put us on a steep learning curve. 

Once Jordan - a country of 10 million inhabitants of whom almost none are Jewish - defied the US extradition request ["23-Mar-17: Looking for justice in Jordan, Jerusalem and Washington"], we began being treated to a long line of senior officials in three US administrations - Obama, Trump, Biden - practically falling over themselves to keep the whole mess under wraps. 

No less troubling, a strangely uncurious media failed - and continues to fail - to question what was going on. The failure is on show and damning right up until today. 

Being treated contemptibly by powerful officials, finding that all our questions go unanswered or get mechanical, thoroughly meaningless mantra-like responses has been for us a chilling experience.

Meanwhile we, a bereaved couple armed with few tanks and even fewer battleships, felt we were perceived, and still are, as some kind of hostile force. 

We recognize the principles of realpolitik that underlie the US-Jordan relationship. But what we understand a lot less well is why those charged with pretending they don't exist think that they alone can see the big picture that eludes grieving parents. We tried making that point in July as Jordan's king sailed through Washington's halls of power ["25-Jul-21: What we said in the media about King Abdullah's visit"]

But there's a flip side. The diplomatic seers seem blinded to a companion reality that is all too apparent to us and it's this: Jordan, despite the peace treaty with Israel, remains a hotbed of vicious Jew-hatred.

To be clear: Like most of our neighbors and friends, we want to see good and better relations with Jordan. It's a goal with which we totally identify. But justice is a powerful goal too. And it's clear to us Jordan has for decades been in the grip of a powerful hatred that will define the future unless its leadership takes determined steps to change direction. 

We have searched and we would welcome bring told how wrong we are. But there is simply no evidence that King Abdullah either intends those changes or has ever acknowledged the vast problem exists.

So we will be blunt. The ongoing Tamimi travesty illustrates Jordan's continued commitment to a culture of deep bigotry towards Jews. Its brazen breach of a strategic treaty with its most important ally and supporter is not a special case but an example of a much broader mind-set and systemic policy failure. 

Here are three more.

 Making serious trouble on the Temple Mount

Jordan secretly maintains its own “incitement force” on the Old City of Jerusalem's Temple Mount as part of a kingdom-driven policy of Israel-focused calculated violence and overt trouble-making. This emerges from a research paper published August 6, 2021 by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (known as the BESA Center), a think tank doing policy-relevant research on Middle Eastern and global strategic affairs and based at Israel's Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. 

In "Jordan’s “Incitement Force” on the Temple Mount", the author, Dr. Edy Cohen, an Israel intelligence service veteran, quotes Jordan's current Minister of Religions revealing that some 850 Jordanians are working at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on behalf of Jordan’s Ministry of Religion. 

Here's why this is startling. Jordan is an economic basket case that is the world's third-largest recipient of US foreign aid amounting to billions of dollars in US tax-payer-funded contributions each year. Yet it manages to find some NIS 56 million (roughly US $17.5 million) annually to keep this ugly strategy going, according to the BESA analysis. 

What underpins this madness is the little-publicized rivalry between Hashemite Jordan and Saudi Arabia which rules the desert kingdom from which the Hashemites were forced to flee a century ago. The Saudi/Jordanian rivalry centers on Jerusalem's sacred Islamic sites as a kind of counter-balance to the control the hold the Saudis have over Mecca and Medina as their 'guardians'. 

Jordan is known to fear moves that might end its term as guardian of the Jerusalem sites. The kingdom's minister of religion, Dr. Muhammad Khalaila, told a parliamentary committee that those 850 workers are registered as employees of Jordan's Ministry of Religion. Dr Cohen notes that this strikes an odd note for people tuned in to events in the Old City: 

"As anyone visiting the mosque can attest, no more than a few dozen Jordanian Waqf security guards are visible—not hundreds, and certainly nowhere near 850. So who are the others, where are they, and what are they doing? The most likely hypothesis is that those workers are used as mercenaries of a sort in times of crisis. Many significant gatherings have sprung up almost instantly on the Temple Mount in recent years whenever the site deteriorated into violence—during the recent Gaza war, during the magnetometer riots (July 2017), during the Mercy Gate crisis (March 2019), and in many other violent outbursts. The Jordanian workers might serve as a “rapid incitement force” that increases the volume of the event, stirs up the crowd, and stimulates it to conduct riots, or joins with the crowd to create a sense of “togetherness” against the “occupation.” If each of those Jordanians brings along one or two young men, in a short time thousands of rioters can be expected. This allows the organizers of the riots to put tremendous pressure on the Israeli authorities and render it difficult for them to calm the situation. The road from there to surrender is short."

Given the current fog of confusion and doubt that characterizes Israel's Jordan relations, the worrying questions these revelations throw up are unlikely to get any useful answers.

 Antisemitism in Jordanian Textbooks?

A carefully-argued report by the Anti Defamation League published four months ago (and almost totally ignored by the media) says that an ADL review of Jordanian middle school and high school textbooks finds the kingdom's textbooks fuel and foster antisemitism. Those books are official parts of today's educational curriculum.

The report's author, David Andrew Weinberg, ADL’s Washington Director for International Affairs, focuses his research and writing on antisemitic incitement in the Middle East. 

Among the messages injected into the minds of Jordanian school-children, he quotes these:

  • "The Israelites who did not believe in Jesus, peace be upon him, wanted to be rid of him and eliminate his call, so they tried to kill him" but because of a divine intervention "they grabbed someone who resembled him from among the people, and they killed and crucified the lookalike..."
  • A textbook that teaches “the historical roots of the Palestinian issue” presents an array of civilizations that inhabited the area but makes no mention of Jews or Israelites until the 19th century, at which point it notes the emergence of “Zionist greed in Palestine,” in league with imperialist powers.  
  • The Zionist movement is defined as “a racist, settler political movement aimed at establishing a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine, founded on historical claims without basis in truth.” 
  • Jewish links to Jerusalem are “founded on historical and religious claims without any actual grounds on which to base them”.
  • Treachery is a characteristic Jewish trait,
  • The deadly riots of 1929 were because of Jewish actions and religious claims. The riots “broke out because of the Zionists’ claim that the Buraq Wall [better known as the Kotel or Western Wall] led to "transgression on the Islamic holy sites, so they [the Arabs] attacked groups of participating Jews at the Buraq Wall”
  • Totally inverting the 1969 attempted arson attack by a mentally-unwell Australia Christian visitor on an Islamic holy site on the Temple Mount, a Jordanian text says "Israelis had the audacity to burn the al-Aqsa Mosque". The unsuccessful arson attack is listed under "Israeli Occupation assaults on the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque". 
  • It teaches that current Israeli archeological sites “seek to link everything discovered to fake Talmudic narratives... to claim that they have extended historical roots in Jerusalem and Palestine” and therefore to “forge historical facts.” 
  • Israeli excavations in Jerusalem "intentionally aim" to harm the Arab economy and to “secure the Jewish settlers who come to Jerusalem to practice their Talmudic rituals.”  
  • Treason and the breaking of pacts are among the characteristics of the Jews and the hypocrites.

There's a special irony in how the breaking of pacts is ascribed to Jews. Since March 2017, it has been Jordan itself ["26-Jul-17: We listened carefully to Jordan's foreign minister and we have 10 questions"] that spins a disingenuous tale about a narrow and highly technical flaw in the way its 1995 extradition treaty with the US. That alleged flaw is the sole basis on which Jordan fails to extradite Ahlam Tamimi, who confesses to the the bombing massacre of the Sbarro pizzeria where our daughter's life ended. Jordan argues it isn't a breach at all because the treaty was never ratified, We now hold documentary proof that that this is untrue. 

The US has very quietly continued since 2017 to say the treaty is valid and in force. Throughout the years since then, it has incomprehensibly failed to make a single public call for Jordan to honor it.

The author of the ADL report in a summing up that to us sounds remarkably restrained says that

if Jordan keeps publishing official textbooks that demonize Israel, Jews, and Judaism in such a manner, the next generation may be less likely to support this relationship, nor the desirability of peace with Israel more generally. 

 Jordan is a hotbed of seriously antisemitic views. What if anything is its government doing to change that?

Some findings again from the ADL. No one comes close to its statistics-driven insights into the current state of antisemitic sentiment worldwide and the dynamics behind. And while it's certainly an issue that deserves careful thought and wide attention, it's the Jordan aspect that we feel the need to highlight here and now.

On a published index they call the ADL GLOBAL 100: AN INDEX OF ANTI-SEMITISM®, their researchers ascribe a score to most of the world's countries. Their methodology is laid out in clear terms. It's a respected analysis.

Jordan, the last time the study was done there in 2014, weighs in with an index score of 81%. This isn't something to ignore. For comparison purposes, that ranks Jordanians among Muslim and Arab countries as more antisemitic than Morocco, Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. 

They are also substantially more antisemitic than the Middle East and North African countries taken as a whole (average index score of 74%). And between twice and three times more antisemitic than (ranking them in order from most antisemitic to least) Eastern Europe, then Sub-Saharan Africa, then Asia as a whole, then the Americas and finally Oceania.

This blog post isn't meant to encourage hatred or criticism of Jordan or Jordanians. 

But when its ruler spends most of the month of July traveling around the United States, being received with uncommon courtesy and often with striking enthusiasm by political leaders at the very highest level - and certainly including America's Jewish leaders - we wish they would pause before launching into gushing praise. 

They could and should ask the man who owns and runs the Hashemite Kingdom. In our words:

Your Majesty, is this the way to bring peace? When will you acknowledge publicly that the devotion to hatred and violent extremism (by which we of course mean terrorism) among your subjects and institutions at every level of the society over which you preside is an embarrassment and a serious impediment to everything your friends want to help you achieve?

Ahlam Tamimi needs to be extradited now as the treaty made by the father of today's king with his American allies demands. 

Changing course, handing her over to US law enforcement without further unconscionable delay, will be one step, but an important one, in the direction of addressing issues that sadly and avoidably push peace further away rather than draw it closer.

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