What about Jordan?

What is happening in the region will eventually enable the Hashemite kingdom to emerge stronger – bringing the king and country together like never before.

Jordan protest 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Jordan protest 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The recent upheaval in the region is a bad omen for Arab dictators. Their nepotistic and heavily corrupt ways not only fall short of the expectations of Arab people. They inflame the good, honorable and truly concerned among the Arabs. Parallel to this is the fact that the so-called peace process continues to flounder, sinking with it the genuine aspirations of Arabs and Israelis.
Recent stormy events that dethroned the Tunisian dictator took the region by surprise. It’s the first time in recent memory that an Arab despot has lost power because of regular citizens – not as a result of foreign tanks or a coup d’état. The fact that the Tunisian military behaved honorably, refusing to shoot Arab demonstrators, sealed the fate of the president and his corrupt entourage.
Regrettable as it may be for a young Arab man to set himself on fire in protest against the brutality of Tunisian authorities, Mohamed Bouazizi, the 26-year-old fruit seller, set in motion events that Arab dictators will find difficult to contain – giving President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, for example, the most serious challenge in his 31-year rule.
IN JORDAN, we too had marches in Amman, Zarqa, Irbid, Mufraq, Ajlune, Karak and so on in protest against the tightening of governmental fiscal policy.
But there were also larger issues at stake, particularly the general direction of the country and the high-level cronyism that has infested every aspect of society. The wrath of the people was directed against decades of institutionalized nepotism that have reduced Jordan into private fiefdoms.
Yet what is happening in the region will eventually enable Jordan to emerge stronger – bringing the king and country together like never before. For the disinformation propagated by those with vested interests – that the country is not loyal to its king – has now been proven false. Not a single demonstrator chanted against King Abdullah II per se; he is seen as a reformist at heart. Demonstrators in all localities were carrying his portrait, with some security officers, instead of carrying truncheons, distributing free bottled water.
These demonstrations, and the manner in which they were conducted, will have wide-reaching consequences.
The crucial question of Jordanian national identity will now receive due attention. Much of the negative regional spin regarding this issue has recently come from right-wing Israeli elements and their neofascist EU sympathizers – projecting Jordan as a Palestinian state-in-waiting by Dutch MP Geert Wilders and MK Aryeh Eldad, who even discussed the future of the Hashemite royal family in a recent ad hoc Israeli conference.
GIVEN THE scale of support during recent marches, the king is now fully equipped to become more assertive in forging an all-inclusive national identity that will cement social cohesion – an identity reminiscent of the society his father once built, which thrived on multiculturalism, and with a nuanced political structure that reflected this delicate balance.
Jordan is also likely to become more assertive regionally, and be better able to defend the rights of its citizens of Palestinian origin. This is especially true as its strong alliance with the corrupt Palestinian Authority has discredited the country in the eyes of many Jordanians.
Incidentally, the question of excessive PA corruption and lack of democracy has been fudged internationally – and when I personally raised this with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, I did not feel a sense of urgency in his response.
Jordan’s strategic and sovereign rights vis-à-vis the West Bank run particularly deep. What remains obscure is that under the Jericho Conference of December 1948, West Bank delegates unanimously declared the West Bank an integral part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – even attended and championed by two fiercely nationalistic delegates from my own clan: one was a highly influential arch-ideologue of the Arab Ba’ath Party (Abdullah Al-Rimawi, later Jordan’s very radical Foreign Secretary in 1956) and the other was secretary to the military arm of the Palestinian national movement (Dr.
Kassim Al-Rimawi, later head of Jordanian parliament in 1967 and Jordan’s prime minister in 1980).
Subsequent formal unity was forged in 1950, cemented constitutionally in 1952 – the hallmark of a unified Jordan until 1967 when Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel.
REVOLUTIONS DO not necessarily have to be bloody.
They should be defined by the fundamental changes they bring.
Although it is nearly 10 years overdue, Jordan shall very shortly embark on one; with both its monarch and populace united to forge a meaningfully reformed Jordan – one that is exemplary in the Middle East in its respect for human rights, rejection of nepotism in all its manifestations and assertive in its all-inclusive national identity. Jordan will always be Hashemite – it is the essence of our existential and constitutional makeup.
The writer is a former part-time lecturer in public international law at the London School of Economics, guest lecturer at Cambridge University, course director in the Master’s Law Program in Islamic Financial Law at BPP University College, London and author of Raising Capital on Arab Equity Markets: Selected Legal and Juridical Aspects (Kluwer Law International, 2011).