Opinion |

Jordan, the Only Democracy in the Middle East

The country’s king is more democratic, and its police carry on a respectful dialogue with demonstrators. In Israel, every police officer is a walking piece of steel

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Jordanian security forces ahead of a demonstration against an income-tax bill, Amman, June 6, 2018.
Jordanian security forces ahead of a demonstration against an income-tax bill, Amman, June 6, 2018. Credit: Bloomberg
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Hundreds of thousands of Jordanians have thronged the streets of Amman and other cities of the Hashemite kingdom in heated demonstrations. As I write this, not a single Jordanian protester’s knee has been broken, either before being arrested or after, if there have been arrests at all. Not a single mayor has criticized demonstrators from outside his city on the pretext that they were inciting people to violence.

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And I haven’t even said anything about the demonstrations at the Gaza border fence; some people are amazed at the number of people who have stayed alive thanks to the mercifulness of Israel’s border snipers.

And if the truth is a guide to history, the time has come to clearly declare that Jordan and not Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. By the way, Israel’s brutal approach toward demonstrators other than West Bank settlers is everyone’s inheritance: social justice protesters, demonstrators against corruption and protesters from the Ethiopian community. All the government has to do is cram down our throats the claim that, if we were in an Arab country, we wouldn’t be able to demonstrate.

But now Jordan has beaten Israel. Its king is more democratic. Its police carry on a respectful dialogue with demonstrators, and even the Jordanian police uniforms are more friendly. In Israel, every police officer is a walking piece of steel.

Meanwhile, Jordan, which lacks natural resources, has taken in more than a million Syrian refugees, who were preceded by a similar number of Iraqis, and yet there has been no griping about Jordan losing its Jordanian identity. So if there is a light unto the nations, the Jordanians are that light. In Israel, the presence of just 35,000 refugees from East Africa unleashes every racist demon, and Israel has put many of the refugees in jail — at a distance from the eye and a distance from the heart.

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In addition, according to King Abdullah, in the wake of the Arab Spring, Jordan has lost $4 billion after Egypt stopped supplying it with natural gas and as a result of the wars in Syria and Iraq, which have exhausted the Jordanian economy.

Now the Saudis are trying to convince Jordan to agree to the Americans’ “deal of the century.” If this project comes to fruition, it will probably splinter the Hashemite kingdom. It would be similar to someone asking you, with the utmost kindness, to agree for you to be killed, adding that if you declined, the entire wrath of the world would come down on you.

According to media reports, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman insulted Abdullah during the Jordanian monarch’s most recent visit to Saudi Arabia for daring to oppose the transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Jordan had been due to receive $5 billion over five years from the Saudis and Gulf states, the media reported, but a halt was put to all that on orders from above.

>> Israel warily watches as Jordan rocked by biggest protests in years || Analysis >>

Meanwhile, the World Bank, which is acting like a black-market bully, wants its money now. As King Abdullah has hinted, he has been told that things will get moving again only if he supports the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

In Jordan, the lines are getting longer. This time the government’s decisions are harming the middle class, but when people take to the streets, a bell goes off in the minds of the demonstrators and the government warning them not to breach the point of no return. That means not letting events resemble those of the Arab Spring, which destroyed countries and brought tragedy in its wake.

In a talk with the Jordanian media, Abdullah didn’t even try to hint, as other Arab leaders would, that a plot from outside the country was targeting him. The king pinned all the blame on the Jordanian government, corruption and inaction by cabinet ministers. (Whereas in Israel, if ministers were less active, the world would be a better place.) In addition, Abdullah said Jordan needs to strengthen the party system as the only way to buttress political stability.

So here we have the Arabs, contrary to the claim by the philosopher Hegel, learning from history.

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