Monday, November 21, 2011

11/21/11: Arab Jews And The King Who Came To Palestine

Everyday, as I expand my interests in terms of various subjects pertaining to the Middle East, I am amazed at how little I actually know, and how fascinating it all is. After wracking my brain for different topics that could potentially interest me for a paper, I decided to do some research on "Arab Jews"(Jews native to Arab lands). Now, it seems strange, even to me, that I would not have given this topic more thought in the past seeing as the "Arab Jew" combines the two loves of my life, but it just hasn't been a point of focus until now. Minority communities are becoming more and more fascinating to me the more I delve into deeper study of the region; from the native Arab Jews, to the Muslims living within the borders of Israel, it is all so interesting in terms of identity, defining characteristics, personal stories, and so on. I encourage anyone interested in seeing a very interesting documentary on Jews from Arab countries during the onset of WWII to click on this link and watch the 5 or 6 part series:

Hearing some of these accounts can bring tears to your eyes, and to listen to first hand accounts of the vibrant and rich Jewish culture in these Arab lands is absolutely amazing. From the Maghreb (Morocco-Tunisia) to Egypt, to Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, these lands hold such a wealth of history in terms of native Jewish inhabitants, and I'm so excited to learn everything I can on these fantastic communities.

In other very important news, today proved to be a very important day for both the Jordanians and Palestinians. Today, for the first time in the last decade (I believe), King Abdullah II came to the West Bank and met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

King Abdullah II with PA President Mahmoud Abbas
In my opinion, this meeting was important for two reasons. Number 1, for those of you who don't know, about 80% of Jordan's population is made up of Palestinians, with the rest of the percentage being split up between the Hashemites and the Bedouins, and many people have speculated that Jordan should, in fact, be the Palestinian state. Fun fact for those of you who think Israel's stance is for Jordan to be "Palestine": Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan stating that they recognize the Hashemites full sovereignty over the land of Jordan, and thus can't push for Jordan being the Palestinian state. King Abdullah II assured Abbas of his support for the creation of a Palestinian state (along pre '67 borders), meaning, in my mind, that if Jordan plays any role in the creation of a Palestinian state (in terms of land given from Jordan to Palestine) it will be minimal.

The second, and far more important reason (at least for right now) for this visit to Ramallah was to discuss Abbas's possible reconciliation with the Hamas government. This poses a huge threat to Jordan (and Israel as well), and it is very crucial for King Abdullah II to follow this potential development very closely. For a long time now, Jordan has been regarded as a "moderate" Muslim country, and they have maintained fairly good relations with their Palestinian neighbors (which is actually a much more complex situation due to the 80% Palestinian population but that is discussion for another time), but they have worked extremely hard over the years to minimize radical extremist ideology and to keep radical Islamic groups, such as Al Qaeda, out of their borders, and to have Hamas right next door poses a huge threat to the country.

On the one hand it is easy to understand why Abbas wants to unite the entirety of Palestine, especially since an issue with their statehood and legitimacy comes from the fact that Palestine is split both geographically and politically, however, I don't know if it will help or hurt them to join forces with a radical, Islamic group recognized world wide as a terrorist organization. Regardless of what happens now, it seems likely to me that if Palestine is created and legitimized (which they should be), that a civil war between the fundamental Hamas and moderate Fatah will most likely occur. It's not likely that either entity wants very much to share their power, and since their views are so different (violent resistance vs. passive and peaceful resistance, etc.) it doesn't seem likely that a unification will last, or even occur in the first place. However, if such a unification does occur, both Jordan and Israel will have to remain even more alert and vigilant.

In other news from the Hashemite Kingdom, if you read my blog a few days ago, you will recall that Jordan had a very weak stance on the situation in Syria for quite a few reasons. However, because of mounting internal and external pressures, King Abdullah II was the first Arab leader to outright express his view that Assad should step down from power. If the citizens of Jordan, or members of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) were previous worried about Jordan's lack of position on the issue of Syria, it should be overtly apparent that the government has now taken a firm stand against what is going on in the region.

Well that just about sums up the Middle East briefing for this post. It is thanksgiving this week, and since I live with a bunch of Americans we have decided to do Thanksgiving dinner at the apartment! I am actually going to be doing a good amount of cooking (and I'm not the most experienced cook), so this will be quite an adventure! Other than that it's more studying, researching, and getting myself one step closer to becoming Dr. Pepper :-) That just has such a nice ring to it!

Until tomorrow (or the next day :-p) ma as-salame ya chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone 

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