Opinion |

In Jordan, the Antisemitism Is Undisguised, and Everywhere

It’s time for the Kingdom of Jordan to confront its unfettered Jew-hatred: 'Mein Kampf' should not be proudly displayed on the streets of Amman, and Israel’s cruelty towards the Palestinians is no excuse

Avraham Spraragen
Avraham Spraragen
Arabic edition of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' being sold next to an Arabic-language version of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' in a bookstore in downtown Amman, Jordan
Arabic edition of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' being sold next to an Arabic-language version of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' in a bookstore in downtown Amman, JordanCredit: Avraham Spraragen
Avraham Spraragen
Avraham Spraragen

As a lone Jew in Jordan, I am living through an endemic of Jordanian antisemitism.

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s "Index of Anti-Semitism," 81 percent of Jordanian adults harbor antisemitic attitudes, including conspiracy theories about Jewish control of government, media and financial markets, among other tired antisemitic canards.

I am more than aware of the need to police my identity here. I regularly overhear "Hitler was right" and "Hitler should have finished the job" in casual conversation throughout Jordan. There are certain hostile settings in Amman where, when I am asked for identification, I use my thumb to cover my Jewish first and middle names, Avraham Binyamin, on my ID card.

The ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people remains an indefensible motivating factor for some Jordanian antisemitism. However, age-old Jew hatred also rears its ugly head in Jordan outside the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, Jordanian antisemitism has become its own beast.

That being said, clearly not all Jordanians are antisemitic — so long as anti-Zionism per se is distinguished from antisemitism, an essential caveat lest my Jordanian friends get falsely labelled as antisemites. Another crucial aside is that while antisemitism exists here, so does an opening for Arab-Jewish unity; during the Ramadan month, Jordanians opened their homes to me for Iftar.

Nevertheless, undisguised Jew hatred is a moral stain on Jordan, as well as counterproductive to both Palestinian liberation and Jordanian prosperity.

The key to dismantling Jordanian antisemitism, as with the fight against all forms of bigotry, is greater historical awareness. I believe that should start with education about the Holocaust. While Holocaust education is not a panacea for Arab-Jewish unity, let alone regional peace, it can serve as an entry point for other forms of meaningful cultural exchange. That is because it can function to enhance Jordanian empathy for anti-Jewish persecution, through recognition of and even identification with this exemplar of past suffering.

Jordanian antisemitism is characterized by the usual educational divide, with college graduates in the capital less likely to engage in overt Jew hatred than non-college graduates in the rural Mafraq Governorate, further demonstrating the importance of education. Given that the virus of antisemitism spans millennia and that Jewish history cannot be reduced to or dictated by the crimes of the Nazis, this education must ultimately extend beyond Holocaust study.

Until then, educational reform can reasonably begin with Holocaust study, as this historical event is a main source of antisemitism in Jordan that desperately needs elucidation. The Holocaust is a leading target for manipulation by Jordanian antisemites because of its largely misunderstood role in the creation of Israel and because of the widespread belief that Israeli occupation is Jewish revenge for Nazism.

In Jordan, the antisemitism is undisguised, and everywhere: A swastika painted on a curb in Amman Credit: Avraham Spraragen

This misinterpretation of the Holocaust by many Jordanians clouds their view of Judaism more broadly. Hence, debunking such conspiracies will create the space in Jordan for the broader study of Judaism and for resistance against other antisemitic variants.

Following the 2020 Abraham Accords, there was a conscious effort in the United Arab Emirates and Morocco (both with a pre-Accords ADL antisemitism Index Score of 80 percent) to combat Holocaust denial, distortion, and disinformation, and the results have been encouraging.

In the 2020 Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs annual report on antisemitism, the Ministry found that post-Accords, "antisemitism in Arabic comes mainly from...Jordan" and other non-signatories in the Arab world. Indeed, while the Gulf and Maghreb are working on their collective buffer against antisemitism, Jordan is still engaging in endemic denial.

Last year, the first Holocaust exhibition in the Arab world dedicated to commemorating Holocaust victims, "We Remember," opened in Dubai. The exhibition includes a tribute to the Arab "Righteous Among the Nations" who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Meanwhile, Holocaust education may soon be incorporated into Moroccan school curricula, which would build upon the progress already being made in Rabat on inviting Holocaust survivors to North Africa to share their testimonies.

Yet unfettered antisemitism persists in Jordan, to the detriment of Jews and Arabs alike.

A satirical segment on Roya TV on Israeli-Jordanian water deal.

The widespread belief in our region that combating both antisemitism and the Israeli occupation cannot be undertaken simultaneously is deeply misguided. Yes, the Abraham Accords are fatally flawed in that, on the one hand, they introduced Holocaust study to the UAE and Morocco, but on the other, cruelly bypass the Palestinians.

However, if carefully orchestrated, the introduction of Holocaust education in Jordan need not come at the expense of the Palestinian people. In fact, well-meaning Jordanians can remove the issue from the charged Israel-Palestine context entirely, thereby fulfilling a universal moral obligation without legitimizing the Israeli occupation.

To further avoid this legitimization, and indeed to counter it, Holocaust education in Jordan could be matched with educating Jews in Israel and around the world about the Nakba. In so doing, the dismantlement of anti-Arab and anti-Jewish discrimination could be achieved in tandem.

Proponents of normalization argued that the Abraham Accords "taken in isolation" signaled a regional breakthrough for peace, despite shameful Palestinian erasure. As many Palestinians rightly observed in its aftermath, compartmentalization is plainly wrongheaded. The perpetuation of Palestinian suffering and the normalization agreements between Israel, the UAE, and Morocco are inseparable; the latter cannot be extracted from the former.

A young boy carries a replica of the Dome of the Rock mosque and waves a Palestinian flag at a march in the streets of Amman, Jordan last month in solidarity with Palestinians in JerusalemCredit: - - AFP

It is my contention, however, that the 2020 breakthrough on Holocaust study in the Arab world can and should be extracted. My allies throughout the region in the fight for equality and justice must recognize that for Jews worldwide, Holocaust commemoration by members of the Arab community is a light in the darkness of resurgent global antisemitism. This breakthrough simply cannot be taken for granted. To do so would be immoral and yes, impractical.

The cruelty of the Abraham Accords towards the Palestinians will not be rectified by the continued immoral attitudes towards Jews by many Jordanians. It is also impractical for Jordan and Palestine to ignore antisemitism, as it risks alienating their supporters, within and without the Jewish community. As such, for reasons both moral and practical, greater awareness of the Holocaust should be pursued in Jordan with the same vigor recently evident in Jordanian condemnations of Israeli activity in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

Jordanians can at the same time condemn the Abraham Accords for abandoning Palestine and condemn the glorification of Adolf Hitler by elements of their own society. Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians does not mean that "Mein Kampf," proudly displayed on the streets of Amman, should be so visible during my daily commute in the city. On the contrary, only through the recognition of a common Arab-Jewish humanity, won with a greater acknowledgment and understanding of history, can Jordan and Palestine prosper.

The Unknown Soldier Monument west of Amman, Jordan. Unfettered antisemitism persists in Jordan, to the detriment of Jews and Arabs alikeCredit: AP Photo/Mohammad Abu Ghosh

Avraham Spraragen, an incoming J.D. candidate at Georgetown Law, is a graduate of Cornell University and the London School of Economics, and is currently studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan

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