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.
However, the world will only change its views on the location of the future Palestinian state if it wakes up to the problem of Jordanian apartheid. This is something my colleagues and I are constantly trying to do. As much as we can we’re telling the world that the Palestinian majority in Jordan is oppressed and discriminated against. Yet I am stunned by how little interest the world, the International Criminal Court, the US and other Western governments show in our rights. I believe they are more interested in bashing the “evil Jews” in Israel rather than securing our rights. Anti-Semitism has surely made a well-groomed comeback.
Jordan is a vicious apartheid state; how come there is no Jordanian Apartheid week in the UK or the US?
YM: Going against the trend and “the powers that be” is not an easy task. Despite the difficulty, do you feel your making any progress?
MZ: Much so. People have been discovering the true colors of Jordan and how hostile to Israel it is. Two groups of people we are reaching out to are:
1. The Pro-Israel and the Zionists – we are telling them that the Hashemites are in fact an enemy and not a friend and that Jordan is not a peace-loving safe haven they can depend on.
2. The westerners who support Jordan (sometimes even against Israel) – we are telling them that Jordan is an apartheid state that breaks international law and we are warning them not to support it.
Nevertheless, despite the progress we need to reach out more. The Jordanian regime has portrayed itself as Israel’s best friend and a necessity for Israel’s survival – both are myths. I am reaching out to people and have seen people changing their minds about this subject. This is awesome.
In addition we are already reaching out to the US Congress, the UK Parliament, the Secretary of State and others to expose Jordan and the king’s tricks. And we know for a fact our actions have caused serious discomfort for the king. We just need more outreach.
YM: Have any of them (parliament, congress, secretary of state, etc) responded?
MZ: We have received some response from the parliament of Canada and I know for a fact that some congressmen have given serious thought and consideration to our message. I also know for certain that the US Secretary of State and the American Embassy in Amman spoke to the regime in Jordan about certain issues we have raised in our letters to them. The effect of this is that some of the regime’s media outlets wrote stories against “those in the West trying to tarnish Jordan’s image” and the king himself has made actions that show we have put him on the spot.
I also get many emails each day and sometimes phone calls from Palestinians thanking me and calling me strange names like “our hero” and “our man”. One guy even wrote a poem to my praise….it really makes me laugh.
YM: It’s good. It means you’re touching people. By the way, the last interview we did was splashed all over the internet. Did you receive any feedback from the interview?
MZ: Yes, especially from Jews.
YM: Are you specifically in touch with the Jews in England? For instance, are you in contact with the well-known writer Melanie Phillips? She’s attacked as being an “extremist” although many Jews think she’s just speaking straight and honestly.
MZ: She is one of my favorites. I never was able to get in touch with her yet I sure would love to. I am in touch with Jews here; very great people and many seem to passionately believe in my cause. After the interview was published one of them called me and said he would consider helping me in my latest quest of issuing arrest warrants for Jordanian officials coming to London. If Israeli politicians have to think twice before they arrive here then for sure the Jordanian apartheid criminals are more worthy of such arrest warrants and surely deserve to be arrested. Those who want Israeli politicians arrested deserve to be embarrassed. If they really cared for the Palestinians, how come they never bother to arrest Jordanian apartheid criminals?
YM: What about the large Arab/Muslim population in England. Are you in touch with any of their leaders r do they keep a distance from you?
MZ: I am in touch with most Palestinians here, at least the Palestinians who matter. You will be shocked how much support they exhibit. I also have people in Canada, US, Australia and Europe all working with me, sending messages and outreaching, requesting meetings, calling people and doing all they can do. Today I received a request from a Palestinian activist in Amman asking me to open my group for Palestinians in Jordan despite the huge risks for them.
YM: What group are you referring to?
MZ: My group is the New Jordan Party which aims to establish Palestinian rule in Jordan via all legal, peaceful, and democratic means instead of the Hashemite occupation.
Threats Against Mudar
YM: Who in fact is helping you the most?
MZ: The Palestinians. I’m still working on making the case with the non-Arabs (westerners). I also have been receiving serious emotional support and advice from some American Jews. Many see my thoughts as sobering. They just think, “Why didn’t we think of that before?”
In general, a lot of Palestinian friends stop by to meet and talk. I also get people calling on the Internet telling me they support what I’m doing. I never realized how much the Palestinians hated the Hashemite regime. Keep in mind, all seem convinced that a state across the river in the eastern part of the British mandate of Palestine is just fine.
Yet I have also been under serious threats and harassment from the Jordanian government. As we speak I am going through a crushing experience because of the Jordanians. Threats were made involving my life and the lives of my children and immediate family members yet sadly the authorities seem to be able to do very little.
YM: They’re physically threatening you and your family in England?
MZ: Long story. Khaled Majali, a retired Jordanian intelligence officer, wrote an article in July 2010 calling for my head to be chopped off by the intelligence service right on British soil. Then recently a Jordanian gentleman who lives in Greece began publishing threats all over Facebook, directly calling for my harm. He’s saying that I’m a Jewish spy, editing my photo showing me dressed as a rabbi and also somehow exhibiting photos of members of my extended family and of friends of the family. I thought his presence in Greece would put him under European jurisdiction yet I thought wrong and the whole issue ended up with the police asking me to hand over my two laptops to them in order to continue the case.
What was really alarming is that he seemed to have known something about my movement in the UK, which makes me wonder, am I being followed?
Nonetheless, I have not stopped working against them. My wife and I have also accepted our fate. Whatever happens, it will be for the good. I am not going to stop.
YM: In a world full of lies, it’s not always so easy to work for the truth. It upsets a lot of people, especially those with lots of power, since they benefit from the constant lies and confusion.
MZ: If it were not for one man, Moses, to lead the way, all Jews would still be Egyptian slaves today. God manifests his will through a few good men, or women. I am looking for an exodus for my people from the current situation.
Iran and Hamas
YM: Does Iran have any influence in Jordan?
MZ: Big time. Iran has achieved serious penetration into the tribal Jordanians. The chief tribal Jordanian opposition leader calling for constitutional monarchy is Leith Shubilat who is a very close friend of Iran. Furthermore, the king visited Iran a few months ago and Iran provides some financial aid to Jordan. Jordan and its pragmatic approach make it an open gun for hire or politician for hire for anyone who pays best. Good example is Jordan’s stance of supporting Saddam.
YM: What you’re saying is interesting since it shows that Shiite Iran is trying to influence the Sunni Bedouin tribes in Jordan. This of course is similar to Iran backing the Sunni Hamas. Thus, despite their usual animosity towards each other, Sunnis and Shiites can always find a way to work together especially if It’s against a united enemy. Do you agree?
MZ: Iran pays generously for Hamas and the Jordanian tribes to the point where the king is alarmed. Before Iran, Saddam used to pay the tribes very, very well. He even built them Jordan’s second largest university and used to grant their sheikhs bran new Mercedes….seen those with my own eyes. If your question is “do both Sunnis and Shiites hate Jews?” the answer is yes. Yet I can assure you, both hate one another much more than they could care for the Jews.
YM: But the problem is that the shared hatred against the Jews understandably scares most Israelis. Take for instance the elections a few years back in Judea and Samaria when the average Palestinian voted in Hamas. That sent a powerful message to many Israelis that the average Palestinian is happy having Hamas as its leader and that they support their measures since deep down they all hate the Jews. It’s hard to overcome that feeling.
MZ: Common sense must be applied. Palestinians, even Christian Palestinians I know, voted for Hamas just to harm the corrupt PA and PLO which had terrorized people and killed their potential. However, if elections were held today I doubt that Hamas would get the same landslide victory. In addition, I doubt Palestinians would care for Hamas as much as many of them do today if they had their own country across the river or if they should have one in about three years time.
Predictions for the Coming Year
YM: What do you see happening within a year in Jordan, Judea and Samaria (regarding Palestinian statehood) and in Israel?
MZ: I see the king losing control over the tribes. I see him unable to control them and Jordan falling into unrest and I see the tribes attacking the Palestinian armless and helpless majority.
I also see Mr. Abbas staying where is, as is, since I doubt he would ever push the Palestinian state stunt. He will flirt with it and perhaps even initiate it at the UN yet he would never push it all the way. And even if he does or just wanted to, be sure that the US would stop it at some point. He certainly doesn’t want that fiasco and could never afford it.
I see the Israeli right-wing nationalists picking up more momentum. I see a more conservative Israel than in previous years yet not something radically different. I also see a surge in terrorist attacks on Israel. Syria will push Hamas into carrying out more terror attacks inside Israel to shift the media and political pressure off its regime.
YM: Regarding the events in Syria, do you think Assad will fall and will events there have an influence on Jordan?
MZ: Yes, I think Assad will fall once the situation in Libya is concluded. Assad and his Alawites make up only 5,000 people which means they can easily fall. Thus the king in Jordan is obviously terrified since in Jordan there are 50 Hashemite members ruling 6 million. The unrest in the region is a tsunami that might make the Bedouin tribesmen who control the army revolt against him.
Yoel Meltzer is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem. Visit his personal blog at YoelMeltzer.com.