"OUR COUNTRY IS BEING SOLD"
FEAR, REPRESSION, AND TENSION IN JORDAN
MER - WASHINGTON - 22 October:
The Jordanian police state is a refined place. The CIA, now infiltrating the
Palestinian areas west of the Jordan River to keep the Arafat regime in power, has long
had very close and special relations with the Hashemites in Amman. Repression, fear and
tension aren't too far below the surface everywhere.
The great majority of Jordanians disapprove of the "peace process" withIsrael
-- not with the concept of peace, but with the content and implimentation of the
disengenuous and deceptive "peace" taking place all around them. But the
Hashemite Regime controls nearly everything and everyone, so voices of opposition are
always very muted, usually never heard, constantly worried what will happen to them if
they speak up. The same model is being imposed on the Palestinians in the Gaza Ghetto and
the West Bank "autonomy areas".
Soon King Hussein is likely to be gone from the scene, and similarly with Yasser
Arafat. Indeed, because both of these personalities can't be counted on for much longer,
both the Israelis and the Americans are desperate to reach and sign as many agreements
with them as possible.
As for Crown Prince Hassan and the Israelis, they are working overtime these days to
fortify close working relations and cooperation that go back more than fifty years. Indeed
Hassan himself has had a close personal relationship with today's Prime Minister Netanyahu
since the 1970s when he use to meet with him regularly at an apartment just across the
D.C. border near American University in Maryland.
One very courageous dissenter is Jordan is Leith Shubeilath. This recent article by
Robert Fisk in The Independent focuses on Shubeilath and the Jordanian situation. Make
sure not to misunderstand -- read to the last paragraph.
----------------------------------------- For past MER articles about Jordan go to: http://www.MiddleEast.Org/Jordan.htm -----------------------------------------
FRIENDS SHUN LONE DISSENTER OF JORDAN
From Robert Fisk in Amman
[The Independent - 19 October] - SITTING beside his little rose garden in the suburbs
of Amman, Leith Shubeilath looks remarkably chipper for a man who has just returned from
the Hashemite dungeons. But as he admits, being jailed by His Majesty King Hussein bin
Talal isn't that bad.
In his desert prison he could watch television, eat plenty of meat and eggs, and sleep
with fresh sheets on his bed (a privilege not enjoyed by lesser inmates). There are those
who say that the King and he respect each other - which, I suspect, is true - and those
who say that Jordan's monarch and Leith Shubeilath actually like each other, which, I
fear, is a lie.
Anyone who goes on criticising the Jordanian royal family, demanding
a"return" to "constitutional" monarchy, an end to royal influence in
theinstitutions of power, and the creation of an independent judicial system, must be a
pest to the man who, from his cancer bed at the Mayo clinic, is watching the total
collapse of the peace he so fervently sought in the Middle East. Little comfort, then,
that Mr Shubeilath also likes to lecture Saddam Hussein on human rights, Muammar Gaddafi
on human folly and Syria on the "puppies" who rule the Arab world.
A consulting engineer by profession, an Islamist by nature - there are two Korans on
the glass table beside him - Mr Shubeilath's is perhaps the only dissident voice in
Jordan, now ignored by many of his old friends and supporters. "They are frightened
to come and see me," he says. "Everyone is scared by this duel between me and
the King. Maybe only 1 per cent of the people I would expect to welcome me home have come
here to say hallo."
On the other side of the rose garden, a large Arab tent has been erected for
well-wishers, packed with rows of white plastic chairs. All are empty.
Last time Mr Shubeilath was in prison, he was accused of defaming the royal family;
why, he wanted to know, had Queen Noor wept at the graveside of the murdered Israeli prime
minister, Yitzhak Rabin, but shown no such compassion for the murdered Palestinian
extremist leader, Fathi Shkaki?
He served his last eight months inside for allegedly inciting a riot in the Jordanian
city of Maan when US forces appeared ready to strike Baghdad yet again. "I just said
that Jordan was in a pact with Israel, America and Britain and that they were prepared to
push Jordan to [invade] Iraq," he says.
"A woman who came to the prison to see some of the inmates on my behalfwas
detained afterwards by the police of the Anti-Corruption Directorate. And they told her:
'We deal with political corruption - don't you know that someone who says hallo to Leith
Shubeilath is in danger?'"
And here I begin to wonder about Mr Shubeilath. Given his lack ofwelcomers, given the
number of folk in Amman who say he has become the"lone ranger" of Jordanian
politics, given the fact that Jordan is one of the mildest of all Arab states, isn't he in
danger of growing what the Arabs call "a big nose", a rather inflated view of
his own importance?
Not so, he insists, and begins to talk nervously of rumours - hints that his friends
have picked up - that a few of the lads in the local constabulary would like him to be,
well, terminated. "The muhabarrat (intelligence services) say, unofficially, that I'm
going to be killed if I don't stop speaking out," Mr Shubeilath says.
Really, I ask? Why? And off he goes on what he calls his programme: "This absolute
monarchy must be driven back to its original track as a constitutional monarchy . Our
country is being sold; the rich, led by His Majesty, must bring their money back to
Jordan. Don't these people trust this country and its economy? Don't they say that the
higher in position you are in Jordan, the more you love Jordan? Would I dare say I love
Jordan more than the King? Why don't we establish a fund led by His Majesty's wealth? I'm
not going to ask where he gets his money - we were all poor 40 years ago."
Mr Shubeilath is in his element now, questioning the actions of his King. "This
absolute rule we have is like the gods on Mount Olympus - they may differ among themselves
about who takes what but they dominate the people and no one has the right to question
them. In our pseudo-democracy, the lowest-ranking god is a minister - merely to indict him
with anything you need a two-thirds vote in parliament. Everything is being run from the
palace. They say the King has his eye on every tiny thing in the kingdom - so every small
item in this country is dependent on a sick man in the Mayo clinic."
Now this is strong stuff. And as if to ameliorate his words, Mr Shubeilath flexes his
international muscles. When Saddam hanged three Jordanians for smuggling, he travelled to
Baghdad and extracted more than 200 Jordanian citizens from Iraq's jails after telling the
Iraqi leader that he, Saddam, had protected the biggest smuggler: his son-in-law Hassan
Kamel (already "terminated" by his father-in-law by the time Mr Shubeilath
arrived in Baghdad). "I told Saddam Hussein that the revolutionary 'Khomeinists' whom
he fought in 1980 were ready to fight for him against the Americans in 1998."
In Libya he riled the peacock Colonel Gaddafi. "He was talking to us about
presidents and kings and I asked him, 'But what have you done to all your [Libyan]
revolutionaries? Do you want to know what the Arab nation thinks of you? They think it's
stupid to go to Libya because its leader is 'loco'." Col Gaddafi left the room.
I am beginning to feel sorry for the Libyan leader, let alone King Hussein. "You
must understand I am not against the King," Mr Shubeilath goes on. "We need him
- we need the monarchy, but constitutional monarchy. The monarchy has to be upended, not
uprooted. I am a radical reformist, not a putschist. But you should ask anyone what they
think about me, anyone in Jordan - and you will find they support me."
So I ask the driver taking me to Amman airport what he thinks of LeithShubeilath.
"A good man - he says the truth," he replies. I ask the security man at Amman
airport's check-in. "He is a sincere man," he says. I ask the Royal Jordanian
Airlines check-in clerk. "He is a very polite man with a good heart," she says.
A bullseye. But who is the target? And I wonder if lightning could indeed strike from the
gods on Mount Olympus.