Jerusalem and the new regional order

What can be said that hasn’t been said already? The Arab masses feel betrayed. After years of escalating and persistent thrashing from all powers in punishment for this region’s so-called Arab Spring, the leader of the free world and some scheming allies reached into the middle of this whole political and security minefield and grabbed our collective heart and yanked it out. 

Jerusalem…our pride, our identity, our icon for the Arab region’s struggle to achieve justice and dignity and the epicentre of our aspiration for cohesion among Muslims, Christians and Jews under a liberated and democratic Palestine…our impossible dream to which we have clung for 70 years in hope…  was snatched from our midst by the “trusted arbiter” of our peace with our usurpers. 

It is such an emotional, painful and discouraging time for the Arab people.

And it is pitching us right in the centre of a tumultuous state of affairs in which we are trying to balance our raw and naked feelings of indignation against the pull of political positioning dictated by our narrow nationalistic interests. 

Arabs — if I may momentarily speak on their behalf — are now caught between their most basic and instinctive, protective and nationalistic feelings towards the Palestinian cause and the sanctity of Jerusalem on the one hand and the crude facts of Arab dichotomy and political wrangling, Arab and Islamic legitimacy, infighting and the narrow nationalistic interests of our respective states on the other. 

Arabs have been polarised into opposing camps. And we are now facing a difficult choice as we are being forced to take sides. We would like to believe that we would select good over evil similarly to choices proposed in simplistic and childish fairy tales that have a happy or moral ending. But the choice is not simple and the facts are increasingly more fluid, mercurial and immoral. 

I am Jordanian. I am of Palestinian origin. I am of a liberal and Western orientation. I resist sectarianism or primacy of any ethnicity or religion. My Arab depth and identity is rooted in the rich and intellectual history of Bilad Al Sham and the monotheistic religions of its being. My authenticity comes from the schools of values I have accumulated and amalgamated from living here and there. These facts already put me on track towards what I think is a “rational” choice commensurate with my identifying characteristics. 

I may have an understanding of the regional and international political wrangling, frameworks and interests that surround me but they all become insignificant when weighed against the meaning of those characteristics I have identified for myself above and which collectively — and this is really important in my thinking — also mirror what the Hashemite-led Jordan that I belong to represents.

When I wrote my MA thesis on identity formation in Jordan almost two decades ago, I argued that Jordanians — living in Jordan — of East and West Bank family and tribal roots were unified in their allegiance and identification with the Hashemite regime in Jordan. 

Not to harp on the origin issue, but the true extraction from this argument was that the Hashemites inspired and unified both into a collective identity that was primarily focused on the regime and the values the Hashemites brought to the state rather than the formative elements — at that time — of the young and yet immature state of Jordan. 

This has been changing over the past two decades as we moved towards negotiating, identifying and calibrating a state-inspired Jordanian identity. The Hashemite connection, credentials and values however, in my opinion, remain a strong — if not the strongest — influence on that identity.

Core to the Hashemites’ credentials — which were particularly appealing to both the East and West Bankers who supported them — were their historical credentials as the Sharifs of the Hijaz, the birthplace of Islam and as a result and in evolution of that original role, their custodianship of Jerusalem, the cradle of all monotheistic religions and civilisations.

In parallel, Jordanians understood that politically, the Hashemites did not assume an “auctioneering stance” to outbid the Palestinian authority for the political representation of the Palestinian people and projected a respectful recognition of the political sovereignty of the Palestinian people. This position was further enshrined in the severing of legal and administrative ties with the West Bank in 1988, leaving Jordan with only the responsibility of custodianship and management of the holy shrines in the city.

Jordan has taken this role seriously and with commitment. Cash-strapped, resource-limited, small and wedged between the superpowers of the region, Jordan nevertheless stood tall and influential with its singular source of “wealth” as it continued to shoulder and protect with pride the legitimacy of East Jerusalem’s religious diversity as an Arab city until final status talks between a Palestinian and Israeli state. 

And for the last 50 years, these were the facts on the ground. They guaranteed Jordan’s association and continued contribution and facilitation of the so-called Arab-Israeli peace process. 

More importantly this ensured that in the interim, East Jerusalem did not fall prey to a single-religion self-declared Jewish state which denied free access and basic human and political rights to both Muslim and Christian Palestinians living in this holiest of cities and in surrounding cities and villages of occupied Palestine. Jordan also provided protection against aspirations of other regional powers or states, which may have been eying the holy city as a route towards further consolidating their legitimacy as regional influencers. 

Without falling deeper into a historical narrative, the point I am making is straightforward. 

Jordanians most probably have different positions on what is going on in Syria, Egypt, Libya, the Gulf region, terrorism and its movements in the region. We have also been polarised over the last few years of post-“Arab Spring” and manifest different ideological differences as a result. From that multiplicity of opinions we fall on different sides in supporting the new regional order that is drawn up in this post-”Arab Spring” era.

But, we Jordanians, who feel that our regime has diligently worked to safeguard the city’s holy places and Arab identity until final status Middle East peace talks, believe that what happened last week hit at the core of our historical role, our identity and our values of respect and coexistence. 

In our minds, this final act of Israeli occupation of Palestine last week belies its intolerance, its lack of respect, and its inability to compromise. It also highlights its immoral and opportunistic values of expansionism, thievery and outright racism against Arabs and Palestinians regardless of their religion. 

In short, it goes against the core of what being a citizen of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has come to signify in terms of integrity, responsibility, respect and coexistence. 

We will not accept therefore what Israel and its allies have prescribed for Jerusalem under their vision for a new regional order. Nor will we accept a diminishing or diversion of Jordan’s historical role. 



[email protected]