Another Tack: Look who's talking

Another Tack Look whos

French author Andre Gide, laureate of the 1947 Nobel Prize for literature, defined "the true hypocrite" as "one who ceases to perceive his deception, one who lies with sincerity." When it comes to our next-door neighbors of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, however, Gide's characterization may be judged as grossly over-generous. The current Hashemite monarch, Abdullah II, speaks in such ostensibly high-minded tones that to the uninitiated his pontifications sound sincere, indeed heartfelt. Even when his pompous preaching lacks the remotest connection to the most elementary truth, he manages to affect the appearance of innocent virtue. His ever-present subtext is that if his altruistic advice isn't heeded, all hell will break loose. Abdullah markets himself as our touchstone, not merely for what's proper but also for what keeps us a hair's-breadth away from calamity. Nevertheless, only just-landed Martians can assume that seemingly saintly Abdullah lies with sincerity. Take the following quote from the Jordan Times (October 7): "His Majesty King Abdullah instructed the government to work immediately and effectively to intensify political action in the international arena to highlight the seriousness and illegitimacy of Israeli violations against al Aksa Mosque and Jerusalem.… The King called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities and take an immediate and firm position to stop all unilateral Israeli measures in Jerusalem and to put an end to Israeli violations of international laws and charters pertaining to holy sites.… The King noted that preserving Jerusalem and protecting it is a Hashemite and Jordanian priority and Jordan will never stop exerting all efforts to realize that objective." If Abdullah is even a fraction as righteous and well-meaning as he'd like us to believe, he knows there were no "Israeli violations against al Aksa Mosque." He knows the latest unrest in Jerusalem began with Arabs attacking visitors they mistook for Jewish worshipers at the holiest season of the Jewish year. He couldn't be so naive and out of touch as to be unaware of rock arsenals, wheelbarrows-full inside mosque compounds, prepared for stoning Jewish congregants at the Western Wall from atop the Temple Mount directly above. He couldn't be so uninformed as to be ignorant of noxious incitement to violence within the mosques. There's no way Abdullah doesn't know he's lying through his teeth when chiming in with the very fanatic flame-fanners who would cheerfully assassinate him. Abdullah may have his cynical cowardly reasons to practice deceit, but in this case the hypocrisy is so in-your-face that he cannot even be assumed to be lying with sincerity, a-la Gide's prototype. Abdullah paid prodigious homage to his lineage's role in "preserving and protecting the holy sites of Jerusalem." That perforce implies at least a modicum of historical insight on his part. It's therefore only fair to infer his familiarity with the nature of the Hashemite guardianship of Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967 - the one he pro forma aspires to resurrect and emulate, in whose name he now intones and from whose legacy he claims to derive his moral authority. TO BEGIN with, Jordan (then Transjordan, limited to the Jordan's east bank) entered and occupied Jerusalem illegally. According to the UN Partition Plan, Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to comprise a "corpus separatum," an international zone, this despite the fact that Jerusalem boasted an undeniable Jewish majority going back at least to the beginning of the 19th century (there were no censuses beforehand). But organized Christianity couldn't abide the affront of Jewish dominion in the Holy City. The Arabs, with the Hashemites liberally at the vanguard, couldn't even abide the notion of "neutral governance" of Jerusalem, just as the very idea of Jewish sovereignty - even in an untenable hodge-podge miniature toehold - was abhorrent to them. Seven Arab armies invaded newborn Israel in unison to eradicate it. That was the context in which the Jordanian Legion occupied Jerusalem's Old City, expelled its ancient Jewish community and lay siege to West Jerusalem with an eye to starving it into surrender. None of this elicited audible squawks from the international community. Nor did what ensued under subsequent Hashemite custody. Holier-than-thou Hashemites defied the UN demand for a demilitarized Jerusalem and turned it into an armed camp, bristling with artillery, mines and sniper positions. The armistice agreement, which ended the 1948-49 Arab aggression (Israel's War of Independence), obliged Jordan to allow Jewish access to Jerusalem's sacred sites. The Jordanians, who now shed crocodile tears about nonexistent restrictions on Muslims in Jerusalem, callously breached their solemn undertakings. The international community again maintained unanimous composure, without a murmur of protest about Hashemite duplicity. During 19 years of brutal Hashemite occupation in Jerusalem, no Jewish worship was possible at the Western Wall or elsewhere, formal international commitments notwithstanding. Foreign visa applicants even had to prove they weren't Jewish lest a forbidden Jewish foot reach Judaism's holiest site. But that was the least of Hashemite transgressions. Even by the worst medieval precedents, Jordan's deliberate devastation of Jewish sites was unpardonable. Fifty-eight synagogues in Jerusalem's historic Jewish Quarter - made judenrein by the Hashemites - were destroyed or defiled, some used as cowsheds, stables or public latrines. Many were razed to the ground. The ancient incomparable Jewish pantheon that is the 3,000-year-old Mount of Olives cemetery was sadistically despoiled. Over 75% of its tombstones were ripped out and used to construct anything from pavements to army barracks and even communal urinals - the ultimate humiliation and desecration. This wasn't mere vandalism, nor even just an outpouring of unbridled hate. This was maximal ethnic cleansing, purposely calculated to purge Jerusalem of its Jewish past and pretend it was never anything but Arab. Half-British Abdullah, incidentally, relishes portraying himself not only as champion of supposedly oppressed yet ever-tolerant Muslims, but also of Christians who, he asserts, likewise get a raw deal from evil Israelis. It would therefore be enlightening to recall that under those exemplary 19 years of Hashemite rule, Jerusalem's Christians hardly prospered. Their numbers plummeted from 25,000 in 1948 to some 10,000 in 1967. Christian institutions were forbidden to expand and prohibited from real estate purchases in greater Jerusalem. Christian schools were coerced to teach the Koran alongside the New Testament. There could be no Christian instruction without Islamic indoctrination. That is Abdullah's paradigm of liberality, fraternity and mutually respectful coexistence. Instead of taking Abdullah's sanctimonious homilies at face value - or even as the sort of "sincere lies" Gide ascribed to commonplace hypocrites - all people of goodwill ought to retort with a loud: "look who's talking!" Maddeningly, however, the 19-year savage illegality perpetrated by Abdullah's family is now perceived by a disingenuous world as the legality that must be restored. Arab conquest and barbarism must be rewarded and recognized as the status quo ante, according to the skewed scales of global justice.