A Voice of Reason from an Arab Dissident

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Introduction: The following is an interview with Mudar Zahran, a Palestinian Jordanian and former political insider who fled Jordan and currently resides in England.  In an open and honest manner, Mudar briefly discusses the current unrest in Jordan, the various players in Jordan and their links to Islamic groups, his vision of a Palestinian state in Jordan as opposed to the two-state solution, his attempts at effecting change and the subsequent threats against him.

Protests in Jordan

Yoel Meltzer: Like most Arab countries, protests are also taking place in Jordan.  According to what I’ve read the king is claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is responsible for the protests.  Is this true?

Mudar Zahran: Not at all. A story was reported in the Jerusalem Post and it dismissed such a claim.  The organizers of the events are mostly tribal Jordanians calling for less power for the king.

YM: So the MB is not involved at all?

MZ: The MB represents just a small fraction of the protesters.  Most of those involved are tribal elders or people representing tribal factions and very, very few Palestinians.  What the king is doing is exactly what Colonel Gaddafi is doing.  Just as Gaddafi is claiming that he is fighting Al-Qaeda when he is actually fighting rebels who hate his oppressive rule, so too Abdullah and his media, and lately his prime minister, are all insisting the protesters are MB members.

YM: But I thought the Bedouin tribes were allies of the king?

MZ: They are.  Yet he has fed them and empowered them to the point where they do not want him any more.  They want a constitutional monarchy as was referred to in a 1920 convention.  In that year King Abdullah’s grandfather met with tribal leaders of what was then Eastern Palestine and agreed with them to mutually rule the country.  They want that restored so that they become partners in his rule, or nearly rulers themselves.  If not, they shall revolt.  They have been saying that openly.

YM: Isn’t Jordan already a constitutional monarchy?

MZ: Jordan claims to be a constitutional monarchy while it is by all means a dictatorship.  A constitutional monarchy is where the king reigns but does not run the country, as is the case in the UK, Sweden, Norway and others.  In Jordan the king has all the authority with zero accountability.

In reality Jordan is a dictatorship headed by a slick-dressing dictator who speaks perfect English, as opposed to Saddam’s military uniform or Assad’s bad English.

YM: Regarding the current protests in Jordan, are they being attended by large crowds or do most people choose to stay away?

MZ: Most Palestinians, who are the majority, are too afraid to get involved.  Even the Washington Institute and the Jerusalem Post have confirmed that most Palestinians are not participating.  While in other Arab countries the protesters are facing their own cousins behind the police guns and clubs, in Jordan the Palestinians would be facing the ruthless Bedouins who have been terrorizing them since 1970.

This is mainly an affair between the king and the tribes.

YM: In your opinion, will the changes that the tribes are requesting have a positive effect on the Palestinians?

MZ: Just read their statements.  The latest one was signed by 36 of their leaders calling for the expelling of the Palestinians or taking away their passports.  Some even called for repossessing the property of Palestinians and several called for “re-establishing Israel as an enemy state.”

YM: Are they more anti-Israel than the king?

MZ: You bet.  The king is just a puppet in their hand and that is why he has been taking an anti-Palestinian and an anti-Israeli stance since he came to power.

YM: So which would you prefer, the king continuing as is or the changes that the tribes want?

MZ: The king cannot continue and the tribes will oust him sooner or later.  His father remained their king only because he fed them so much and gave them unbelievable privileges even according to American standards.  The present king does not have the money to do this and their numbers have exceeded the country’s resources.  Economically speaking Jordan, which heavily depends on excessive taxation of its Palestinians, will not have the resources to pay any more of the privileges and benefits the tribesmen get in Jordan.  So sooner or later they will oust him, probably sooner more than later.  The result will be hostile uncontrollable tribes in Jordan who are playing with the country in an unruly manner just like their ancestors did for thousands of years.  In the Bedouin culture stealing someone else’s wealth and land is not a shame, in fact it is a matter of honor…they call it Ghazou and Khawa.

YM: Almost sounds like Afghanistan

MZ: Very much so, only the Bedouins in Jordan are well armed and well trained with fine American weapons.  For some unknown reason Jordan spends 40 percent of its budget on military and building an army.

Links between Bedouin Tribes and Islamic Groups

YM: Are the tribes close to the MB or to other groups outside of Jordan such as Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah?

MZ: The MB’s leadership is mostly tribal. Its senior leaders are Zaki Bani Rushaid, Salim Flahat and Abdul Majid Thubnibat.  Each one of them is a Bedouin and not a Palestinian and each one was present at the last protest which ended up violently.  Zaki Bani Rushaid, who is the strongest leader within the MB, was a former office manager of Khaled Meshaal (the political leader of Hamas).

The southern part of Jordan is closely and heavily connected to Al-Qaeda.  Many tribesmen believe in Salafi methodology and lately they have been parading around the southern city of Maan, a tribal stronghold, waving their own flags and walking around with their fine M-16s.  Yet for some reason none of this has made it to the western media.

YM: What is “Salafi methodology”?

MZ: Salafi methodology is the orthodox denomination in Islam.  It is the ideology that Osama bin Laden belongs too as did Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist who was the chief Al-Qaeda operator in Iraq until shortly before he was killed.  Also connected to Salafi was Hammam al-Balawi, the suicide bomber who killed 7 CIA officers in Afghanistan in the 2009 Khost bombing.

Trying to Establish Peace in the Wrong Geographical Location

YM: As you know, later this year the Palestinians intend on declaring a state.  Although personally you believe that Jordan should be this Palestinian state, Abbas is pushing for a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.  What do you think about this?

MZ: I believe Jordan is the eastern side of Palestine and that the Jordan River should be a good fence between Israel and Jordan.  What Abbas is going to do is comedy evolving into Saturday Night Live sponsored by the UN.  What state Mr. Abbas?  What state when most Palestinians, including 70 percent of Palestinians in Jerusalem, would rather be under Israeli rule?  Mr. Abbas is repaying those Arab states who finance his authority and who do not want to see the Palestinians and the Israelis enjoying peace.

The question is, are the Israelis that weak?  In any normal country the Itamar massacre would send shock waves of reality.  Have I seen any Israeli politician, even so-called right-wingers like FM Lieberman, speak openly of putting the Palestinians back in their homeland?

YM: Your words are very powerful.  The problems in Israel are deep and complex.  Putting them aside for a moment, the current problem is that Abbas going to the UN has serious repercussions.  Whether it’s approval from the Security Council or from the General Assembly, either way it’s something that carries a lot of weight. From there it might be relatively easy to call for sanctions against Israel if it fails to comply and remove its citizens and army from the new Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.

MZ: It seems that Mr. Abbas’s adventures will lead the region into a massive war.  Although I doubt the US and Israel’s other friends would approve a UN resolution calling for sanctions against Israel, nonetheless there will be more headaches and more trouble for Israel.  More importantly, I believe all of this is the result of trying to establish peace in the wrong geographical location.  Imagine if the pressure had always been to share historical Palestine where we get two thirds and you get one third – us across the river and you on the other side.

Abbas’ statehood stunt is reckless and will eventually lead the region into a massive war that might even produce WWIII.

Such a move is also harmful to the Palestinians since it can give Israel every legitimate reason to sever ties for good with the Palestinians.  Israel is the only country that allows them to accept and take jobs and it is their transportation and trade outlet.  Only Abbas will benefit from such a move.  He is following in the footsteps of Hamas who only wanted to rule and didn’t care if the Palestinians starved.  The same is going to happen with Mr. Abbas.

By the way, his seeking a state is also against the Oslo agreement.  Hence it’s about time that Israel gets real and revises its agreement.  Israel needs to decide that the Palestinians can establish their own state across the river since any Palestinian statehood between the sea and the river will only lead to more wars and more troubles.

However, keep in mind that all of this is happening because one family, the Hashemites, want to keep controlling Eastern Palestine.  This is absurd.

YM: I’m not sure if it’s only because of the Hashemites but that certainly is part of it.  Whatever may have been in the past, today most of the world “buys” the Palestinian story and Israel is increasingly being slandered as a “horrible occupier.”  Just recently was the 7th annual “Israel Apartheid Week” in colleges throughout the West.  Can the trend of the world be changed in order to stop, as you said, “trying to establish peace in the wrong geographical location”?

(Editor’s note: See the Freedom Center’s campaign to counter the lies of “Israel Apartheid Week”.)

Efforts to Change the Entrenched Point of View

MZ: True, it is not only because of the Hashemites yet it certainly is partly due to their presence.  Were the Hashemites not ruling the eastern part of Palestine then the Palestinians already would have had a country for sixty years and nobody would have pressured Israel to give away its land.  Yet this is not the case and the Hashemites are ruling the place and constantly telling the Palestinians they are merely refugees.

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  • StephenD

    I've heard for a long time how Jordan is the true home of the so called "Palestinians." It would be grand if this was supported and made known to the balance of the world and the new "State" was carved from Jordan as it should be and Israel was left alone.
    Excellent article Mr. Meltzer.

  • Raymond in DC

    The Jordan River is the only natural border between these two peoples, and it's really the best solution. There's simply no way to naturally separate them west of the Jordan, provide for secure and defensible borders, while creating a viable Palestinian state. And while so many self-described "Palestinians" really trace their roots to North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, et.al., only in Jordan have they ever had the makings of a Palestinian society. (Heck, they dominate the economics of the state.)

    There's certainly no room in the West Bank to absorb the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian "refugees" who will inevitably be driven out of Syria and Lebanon after they have their own state. But Jordan could absorb and integrate them, as Israel did the Jews who were driven out of Arab lands from the 1940s on. They'd have easy access to trade with Africa and Asia via the port of Aqaba and, with Israel's cooperation, adequate water and energy via the Red-Dead canal. If the Bedouin don't like it, they can (in Helen Thomas' words) "go back where they came from" – Arabia.

  • Ghostwriter

    I'd love to hear an Arab journalist say this:

    "For years,we have compained that Americans are largely anti-Muslim. But we have never considered why. What Americans see is that the Muslim world are a bunch of violence-driven fanatics who want to destroy their country. Sadly,we have done nothing to dispel that view. Indeed,we have only strengthened that view.
    We've never asked the question:What do Americans see? Here is the answer. That we are anti-American,anti-Christian,anti-Jewish,anti-democratic. That we want to transform their country into something along the lines of Iran or Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan under the Taliban. I will tell you this,that is something the majority of Americans do not want. Many of the ancestors of today's Americans left behind their countries to come to America for a myriad of reasons,religious intolerance is one of them.

  • Ghostwriter

    In America,the Muslim is free to worship alongside the Christian,the Jew,the Hindu,the Sikh,and others. What they do not want is someone to dictate how they will worship God,and that includes Muslims. They feel that people like Usama Bin Laden want to force Americans to worship God his way,not their way. They do not want Islam imposed on them and they will fight against that. The sad thing is we do not consider that feeling. We want to blame the Americans for problems of our own creation.
    I hope that one day,we can live in peace with America and that we stop trying to force Islam on a people who clearly do not want it."

    Sadly,I doubt that something like that will be written in the Muslim world.

  • Benjamin Urrutia

    Abbas is trying to get a state and at the same time he gives half the power to Hamas, which insists it wants no peace and no negotiation. Israel and America will never agree to a State of which half the government is committed to violence, terrorism and the destruction of Israel.

  • FatsRule

    What a horrible mistake that would be! No, no, no! 80% of the Jewish National Home, the prerogative of the British, was illegally amputated to form an Arab Palestine they called Trans-Jordan. The Jews were left with only 20%. The British illegally allowed immigration of surrounding Muslims into the Jewish settled areas. This is how most of the population west of the Jordan got there. Many had moved out, not having the money to repay the 3 Muslim families who lent it to them for farms & other businesses. It's MOOT ANYWAY! Jordan annexed the Jordanian named West Bank from 1949-1967 when they lost it in a war they started against Israel. Israel STILL has an international legal right to ANNEX THE WEST BANK & REPATRIATE this extremely hostile population back to Jordan, who LOST THAT LAND IN THE WAR!! This remains the only compassionate, effective solution to end the Muslim war to destroy Israel emanating from there. In the absence of having done so, Israel's successive leaders for 44 years are responsible for the tens of thousands of innocent lives & limbs lost to the barbarian savage sub-animals who cheer with glee by the tens of thousands at the opportunity to lynch a couple of Russian Israeli soldiers who mistakenly walked into an Arab neighborhood, Ramallah, & were taken to a "police station" in 2000 where they were beaten to death & torn apart by sub-animal scum. Here's that & several more "Palestinian" atrocities video taped. youtube.com/watch?v=0dfV_CUMemA&feature=related Genocidal hatred for Israel has been taught for several generations to the so-called "Palestinians" in their schools, camps, books, t.v. shows & ads, posters, in mosques, in rallies, etc… palwatch.org.

  • Fred Dawes

    WHAT The hell?

  • Canadian Otter

    It is amazing how little coverage these views get on the mainstream media, particularly in Israel. Yoel Meltzer’s interview is therefore quite a useful source. The Arab world is in such turmoil that it's hard for us to make any sense of it. But I'm afraid it's even more complex in Jordan than it's presented here, and the prospects for the future even more alarming. None of the ME signs bodes well for Israel. The greatest scandal in all Israeli history is that since 1967 the govt has failed to uphold Israel’s legal right to its heartland, according to the League of Nations Mandate, which were adopted by the UN. Now, in the wake of the crumbling of the peace treaty with Egypt, the Israeli govt continues in its pursuit of a land for peace treaty with the PA, if only they say the magic words of recognition. Reality is hitting Israel on the face, the alarming truth blaring loud and clear from all sides, but none of it has any effect on the govt. What is keeping the Israeli government on such a dangerous path? Why is the “Jordan is Palestine” scenario dismissed outright?

  • nossonkohn

    if only enough people in power would read this article we could actually finally have real peace in the middle east, as opposed to illusionary peace agreements based on confusion and illusion which only blow up over time, after thousands of Israeli's already paid with their lives

  • kafirman

    "bran new Mercedes" s/b "branD new Mercedes"
    "their leaders r do they" s/b "their leaders Or do they"
    "I also see Mr. Abbas staying where is, as is, … " s/b "I also see Mr. Abbas staying where HE is, as is, …"

    Mudar Zahran is an inspiration.

  • http://yoelmeltzer.com/ Yoel Meltzer

    Thank you everyone for the comments and thank you Kafirman for the corrections.

    If anyone would like to know more about Mudar and his message, there is another interview that I conducted with him 2 months ago called "An Interview with an Arab Dissident". You can find this on my blog (http://yoelmeltzer.com/).

  • Robert Haymond

    Another astonishing interview (Part II): Astonishing because so little appears to be known about the real politics and sociological make-up of the Kingdom of Jordan. The "Palestinians" in the Westbank are actually made up of huge tribes, families and clans often hostile and/or alienated from one another. I assume the same is true amongst the "Palestinians" residing in Jordan although I am not certain. The effect is in its disunity. According to the article, the Bedouins of Jordan are themselves composed of different tribes or clans. If this is so, any overthrow of the King will result in considerable division and Jordan will be involved in a fractious civil war. As much as Israel may be hated, it sounds like they hate, or will hate, one another even more.

    In closing, my thanks to Mudar for allowing himself to be interviewed and to Yoel Meltzer for another piece of excellent work.