Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Questions from “The Department”

Posted: February 23, 2015 in Discussion
I asked members of the History department to give me some excellent questions for the blog. Here is what they came up with…they ask that you please forgive them 🙂

“What the difference between a Jordanian and Palestinian anyway?”

“If you were born in Jordan, no matter where your family came from, doesn’t it make you Jordanian by default?”

“Isn’t it the duty of Jordanians, as fellow Arabs, to foster a feeling of brotherhood with the Palestinian cause?”

“Aren’t Palestinian and Jordanian nationalism just 20th century constructions anyway?”

“Does being a Jordanian mean one must forget their Palestinian identity?”

“What will it take for Palestinians to identify as Jordanian?”

“If the country is mostly Palestinian, why do we care about what Jordanians think?”

“Isn’t it better for the Palestinian cause if the passports DID identify a Jordanian citizen as a Jordan or a Palestinian?”

“Can Jordan truly exist without Palestinians?”

“Don’t Palestinians make Jordan politically more unstable?”

“Have we offended any of you yet?” 🙂


Don’t Talk About 67….

Posted: February 17, 2015 in Discussion
 TIME Magazine:

Egypt: Don’t Talk About the (1967) War
By Amany Radwan/Cairo

Egypt’s leaders find themselves uncomfortably wedged between international and local politics whenever discussion turns to the country’s humiliating military defeat by Israel in 1967. It’s typically an opportunity for students, leftist intellectuals and Islamists to rage against the Camp David peace accords with Israel, which they say ties their hands in the face of the ongoing suffering inflicted on the Palestinians. So it was no surprise that a firestorm has been sparked by new claims that a unit commanded by Israel’s current infrastructure minister, Benjamin Ben Eliezer, massacred 250 unarmed Egyptian prisoners.

The furor began when the semi-official daily Al Ahram reported that Israel’s Channel One TV network had aired a documentary on incident showing that Ben Eliezer’s Shaked Unit had ordered the execution of the prisoners after the fighting had ended. Since then, local media have been filled with calls for legal action, economic boycotts or even vengeance, and in a stormy session of parliament, legislators demanded that the Israeli ambassador be sent home, Egyptian diplomats in Tel Aviv be recalled and for Ben Eliezer to be charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

The outcry prompted Ben Eliezer to cancel a scheduled visit to Egypt, while Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s powerful Intelligence Chief who is the principal mediator between Israel and the Palestinian factions, called off a scheduled meeting with a high-ranking Israeli official. Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheit demanded an investigation when he met his Israeli counterpart in Brussels, and also asked for a complete copy and accurate translation of the documentary.

Israeli officials are hoping that such a translation will actually help calm the furor. “It is all based on non-fact,” says Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, insisting that the issue is being stirred up by groups bearing an anti-Israel agenda. The producer of the documentary, Ran Ederlist, said in a radio interview that the Egyptian reports on the film’s content were inaccurate. “What happened was that there were [Israeli] fighters waging battle against a retreating [Palestinian] commando battalion… During this battle, you could say there was excessive use of force, [but] it was all in the context of war: Not prisoners, not prisoner-of-war camps, not people who put their hands up.” And Ben Eliezer’s office released a statement denying that his unit had killed Egyptian prisoners, saying the reports were based on confusing two separate incidents.

In 1995, a similar crisis broke out when some Israeli veterans said that they had executed Egyptian soldiers in the 1956 and 1967 wars. These disclosures led to the discovery of mass graves near the city of Al-Arish in the Sinai containing the remains of Egyptian civilians and POWs. Thousands of soldiers are still listed as missing from the quick and crushing defeat of 1967, and many families are still wondering about the fate of their fathers and brothers.

In the poisonous atmosphere of today’s Middle East, Egyptian analysts say Israeli disclosures of abuses committed against Egyptians in 1956 and 1967 embarrasses the current leadership, which prefers to focus collective memory on the war of 1973 — claimed by the Egyptian side as a victory because it led to the diplomatic process in which Egypt recovered the Sinai peninsula lost in 1967. And the discomfort is exacerbated by the fact that the latest revelations involve Ben Eliezer, an Israeli leader who visits Egypt and has strong ties to such powerful figures as Suleiman and President Hosni Mubarak.

Cairo will be reluctant to press the issue because its political and diplomatic consequences could jeopardize Egypt’s role as a peace mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, and also antagonize Washington. “Egypt and the U.S. have struck a back [channel] deal by which Egypt plays a regional role designed by the U.S. in return for casting a blind eye to the regime’s domestic politics and practices,” says Emad Gad, analyst at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies and editor of the monthly Israeli Digest. So, Gad says, the challenge for the regime is to find a formula that will save face in the public eye. “The regime has given the green light to the government-controlled media to unleash all its wrath on Israel in sympathy with the angry sentiments of public opinion,” says Gad. But it has no intention of pressing the matter. “Egypt is not in a position to have the diplomatic mediation role it is playing in the Israeli Palestinian negotiations minimized,” says Gad. “At the same time, it cannot offend the angry public by receiving Israeli officials at the moment.” For now, then, Egypt is telling Israel that it should momentarily bear the consequences of dragging them both into a mess that both sides hope will soon pass.

—With reporting by Phil Zabriskie/Jerusalem

Here is how Jordan escaped the Arab Spring


The kingdom has exploited the chaos in the region to guarantee the perpetuation of the status quo.

Last updated: 09 Feb 2014 09:09
Nermeen Murad
Nermeen Murad is a Jordanian writer based in London.

The price for Jordan’s stability is the perpetuation of the status quo [Getty Images]
The story is that Jordan has survived. Full stop. As for how and why the country emerged unscathed from the Arab Spring, there are myriad theories, variously citing the “maturity” of the Jordanian public, Western financial support, the UN’s management of the influx of Syrian refugees and last but certainly not least, the kingdom’s official “web masters”.

The truth is that all of the above helped the small nation to evade the promise – or threat – of change that everyone expected would eventually come, despite resistance from within, and finally usher in the political freedoms necessary to lay down the foundations for a modern, democratic state.

Instead, what we got was stability. The price for that stability is the perpetuation of what can only be described as the status quo and with it, the security apparatus’ firm grip on government and the preeminence of the old guard.

Consider this story: A young Jordanian musician, while introducing his group’s next act, made a light-hearted joke about the government’s mishandling of the recent snow storm in the kingdom. A security guard at the state-owned theatre took offence. An exchange of words led to a scuffle, after which the security guard called for reinforcements. The incident has now spurred a petition[Ar] calling for the resignation of the director of the theatre. For now, it seems the director of the theatre, Abdul Hadi Raji al-Majali[Ar], a well-known columnist, is going to remain in his post – basically, he’ll get away with it.

Although the musicians and their supporters pledge to continue their campaign calling for Majali’s resignation, there is no doubt that many Jordanians feel the incident was used as an example to warn the youth at large not to cross those invisible, but ever-present lines, even by jest.

Lip service to reform

Above all, the story highlights a general malaise where officials, with close ties to the system or at least  have shared interests, enjoy a degree of  impunity. The government, which has consistently paid lip service to reform, has essentially reaffirmed the old system of governance with its policies unchallenged and its agents above the law.

Case after case came up, where officials failed to deliever on their promises but got away unpunished. One example was when the government failed to take any action against perpetrators oftribal-inspired violence in Jordanian universities.

That is not to say that there are no repercussions for such bad governance in Jordan. While they- the officials-might be able -in some cases- to escape punitive measures in a court of law, however, in the court of public opinion, ordinary citizens, backed up by social media, professional associations and political activists, will continue to document such violations.

While they – the officials- might be able – in some cases – to escape punitive measures in a court of law,however, in the court of public opinion, ordinary citizens, backed up by social media tools, professional associations and political activists, will continue to document such violations.


Legal instruments – or what analysts have come to call “scarecrow tools” – are aplenty to ensure that anyone who oversteps the boundaries is very quickly brought back to “reality”.

Among the most important of such tools is the the Press and Publications Law, which continues to restrict freedom of speech rather than liberate it. In June 2013, the Jordanian government ordered three local Internet service providers to shut down nearly 200 news websites that have not been licensed by the state-run Press and Publications Department.

It claimed that they were not registered properly. Activists realised the move was meant as a gentle reminder that the taps can be closed at any time and that regardless of the freedom they feel in the “space” they inhabit, it was still a space the government can control. Despite their initial cries of protest, most bloggers and social media journalists eventually fell into line.

The government has also used state security courts to try civilians for participating in peaceful protests. Arrests included a young man who burned a poster of the king in 2012 for “undermining royal dignity” and 13 activists accused of “insulting the king”. Another 100 peaceful activists were dragged into the state security courts – where they have no right of appeal – to face a range of charges including disturbing the peace, damaging public property and insulting security officials. The court cases were seen as part of an overall plan aimed at addressing the public and warning them against acts of dissent. The activists facing charges were basically collateral damage.

Skillfully managed

In Jordan, the scene has been very skillfully managed through a number of tactics: A security apparatus that holds the keys to many of the state’s functions, a government with the power to guide the population, mainstream media in a single direction as well as the “scarecrow” tactics that serve as reminders of the perils of getting out of line. In sum, the population is suitably conditioned to protect the status quo for fear of the instability that may ensue.

Of course, the big story from Jordan is not only that it manoeuvered itself so skillfully while neighbouring countries fell to their knees around it, but that it managed to maintain the country’s socio-economic and political constancy in the midst of a bloody triangle. And, perhaps more interestingly, the real tale is how Jordan, somehow, exploited the regional chaos to guarantee its own stability.

As refugees continue to pour in from Syria – and now, again from Iraq – Jordanians are fully aware that there is no time for their domestic concerns. Despite their full knowledge that they have been outmanoeuvered by the system into submission, for the moment, they are willing to let it slide.

As one human rights worker in Jordan told me recently: “A ruler is best served by the status quo. The regime is comfortable today and is sitting on its podium surveying the scene. It doesn’t need to make any serious effort to fix or improve [things] because the status quo is stable.”

Reconsilation: France and Algeria

Posted: February 2, 2015 in Discussion

A Tweet On Women’s Veils, Followed By Raging Debate In Saudi Arabia

DECEMBER 17, 201411:11 AM ET
Saudi Arabian women wear their traditional face covering, the niqab, at a coffee and chocolate exhibition in the capital Riyadh on Monday. A prominent religious figure said on Twitter that the face veil is not mandatory, sparking a heated national debate.

The man at the eye of the storm in Saudi Arabia is Ahmad Aziz Al Ghamdi. He’s a religious scholar, the former head of the religious police in Mecca, a group officially known as the Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

He has the pedigree of an ultra-conservative. Yet he stunned Saudis with a religious ruling, known as a fatwa, that is very liberal by Saudi standards. He declared that the niqab, the black face veil that is ubiquitous among women in Saudi society, is not obligatory.

His answer came in a Twitter response to a tweet he receive from a Saudi woman who had turned to him for religious guidance. She asked: Does Islam allow her to post a picture of her face on social media?

His affirmative answer went viral within hours, with more than 10,000 comments on his Twitter feed that ranged from congratulations to death threats.

When Twitter commentators asked, “What about his own wife?” Al Ghamdi promptly stepped up the controversy another notch.

He appeared Saturday on the most popular TV talk show in Saudi Arabia. The Badriaprogram is broadcast each week from Dubai in the neighboring United Arab Emirates, where the traditional rules for women’s dress are less restrictive. Ghamdi went on air with his wife, Jawahir Bint Shekh Ali, who appeared without a face veil.

She spoke to the program host, Badria al-Bishr, about her decision to show her face, not just among close family and friends, but in a broadcast that could be seen across Saudi Arabia. She covered her hair, but was wearing makeup, another point that enraged conservatives. Her husband specifically approved of makeup in his religious ruling.

Ahmad Aziz Al Ghamdi, a prominent religious figure in Saudi Arabia, said that the face veil for women is not mandatory. He then appeared on a popular talk show with his wife, who was not wearing the veil, known as the niqab.

The reaction on Saudi Twitter feeds was immediate and furious.

Saudi Arabia is a deeply conservative society, the only country in the world that effectively prohibits women from driving. Girls and women are forbidden from traveling, conducting official business or undergoing certain medical procedures without permission from their male guardian.

Gender segregation is mandatory in schools, hospitals and restaurants. Even banks have separate tellers for women. The names of mothers and sisters are not shared with others outside the family, even with best friends at school.

But norms are changing as global culture is beamed into the kingdom through social media and satellite television. Education is changing expectations in a country where the majority of the population is younger than 35. Twitter usage in Saudi is booming, considered the fastest-growing market in the world, despite regular crackdowns by the religious police.

Ghamdi has stirred a public debate over the face veil that is unlikely to end with the television appearance. The controversy reflects a wider debate in many Saudi households as urban, college-educated, professional women abandon the face veil as impractical in a work environment.

The reaction from the top religious authorities was predictable.

Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, Sheikh Abdul Al Aziz Al Shaikh, has called on Ghamdi to repent and declared that Muslim women have a duty to cover their faces.

“Some brothers even took the step to show their wives in public. This is a very dangerous thing,” he said in comments posted on a local news site.

But the Twitter debate then erupted again, challenging the interpretation of the highest religious authority in the kingdom.

Below are a series of political cartoons regarding the status of women in the Middle East. Are they true? Do agree with them? Is there a difference between feminism in the Arab world and feminism in the western world?




Today we discussed a quote by Ghandi about nonviolence protest by the Wafd party:


“The British Government cannot stop the Nationalist Party because the party is wise enough not to encourage acts of violence”


Can Non-violence work in the Arab world? Isn’t that why the Arab Spring in Egypt succeeded in throwing out Mubarak and the Syrian Revolution hasn’t succeeded in throwing out As Assad? Can nonviolent protest work in the Arab world? If yes, are there examples of when it has worked? Is Arab society able to have such a thing or are they, as some in class have said, emotionally not ready for such a thing?