Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, June 2009
Netanyahu and Jordan
By Mazin Qumsiyeh
ccun.org, June 20, 2009
Jordan is an amazing country. Most of the population here comes
from Palestine. Some refugees, some displaced people, some economic
migrants. The infrastructure and economy mushroomed in the 30 years
since I was a student at the University of Jordan and the population more
than doubled. Beautiful clean streets, thriving metrolopolitan areas
(particularly Amman which is amazing). Business, education, culture
and art are thriving in a cosmopolitan tolerant society. The
Universities are of high caliber and tens of thousands of students have
access to the most modern facilities. I think to myself that this,
had it not been for Zionism, would have been the fate of Palestine (Or
maybe much better since Palestine has many more natural resources and
tourist sites, milder weather, etc). So what we have is a colonial
Zionist regime that developed most of Palestine to serve immigrant Jews
from everywhere on the expense of the native Palestinians and a Jordan
that is relatively well off, thriving (considering its natural resources
actually doing amazingly well) and in between , we find the remnants of
Palestinians who live in the ghettos/concentration camps called Gaza,
Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus etc. Ten million Palestinians in the
world are living marginalized in most places. In Jordan actually,
Palestinians for he most part live far better than any other Palestinian
population in the Middle East. In Lebanon and Syria, the situation
of Palestinians is very bad. In the West Bank and Gaza, there is
simple colonial occupation (most endangered in Jerusalem). Inside
Palestine 1948, Palestinian “citizens” of Israel are 10th class citizens
in what can only be described as an apartheid state.
Less than a day since leaving Palestine and I already miss it but I will be back but I am in a second home, Jordan. Thousands of people were leaving the West Bank through the only border crossing allowed to us in Jericho area. Many thousands headed to Mecca for pilgrimage (Umra). Some started arriving at 3 AM. Many spend 10-14 hours to make a trip that in a normal circumstance would take one or two hours. The heat and the pressure of the masses was seasonal. We a re treated to the endless checks and rechecks, the heat, the waiting in buses, the waiting in lines, the waiting in front of machines (both the metal type and the flesh and blood type), and the obligatory screaming Israeli woman soldier (why is this always there). The exit stamp to me is given after the young pretty Ethiopian women (I am lucky she was not the screaming one) seemed to take forever exchanging information with officers via her computer. People behind me started to grumble about whether I am "wanted".
In Amman, Jordan University Faculty of Science had booked a room for me in a 5-star hotel (Le Royal) which was really nice. At this hotel with nearly 300 rooms and some 30 suits, security is rather tight (understandable after the bombings of two hotels a while back). Security men checked cars chemically for explosives even before they were allowed to pull in front of the main entrance. In the hotel stays the usual coterie of business people from around the world, tourists, and diplomats. However, I also notice conspicuous presence of many US servicemen. These young men (20s and 30s) all appear similar and walk with a distinctive style even while not dressed in any uniforms. I talk to a couple of them who had just come from Iraq. Jordan is transfer station for access to Iraq. I regret the waste of taxpayer money as I think these folks should not be here. The hotel overlooks Amman: a huge booming metropolis with growing infrastructure and skyscrapers.
We have a dinner at the home of Dr. Layla Abdelnour, a recently retired Chemistry Professor (the family originally hails from Palestine via Lebanon, like 2/3rds of the population here). The dinner with some 30-40 professors and other academicians is really pleasant. It is always good to hear from the smart people who are always thinking of how to get our societies improving. Education, research and development, social issues etc make just as enticing as the authentic Arab dishes we are served in a beautiful home tantalize the palate. Today I am to give a 15-minute talk to the graduating class and to faculty, staff, and alumni. I give talks on an average of two a week and I usually do not spend much time preparing. However, this is important and I keep rethinking what words I can say that would help. The theme is role of alumni and how to enhance it/build it. I also think there can be much collaboration between universities in the Arab world and between those universities and Arab expatriates around the world (many of them, like me, were luck to receive the benefit of education in Arab Universities and/or raised in an environment that shaped us in places like Palestine and Jordan). My decision to come back to serve in the Arab world was one of those decisions in life I look at with bride. Now I just need to work on maximizing that service especially to young generations.
It is good to reflect on the first academic year after returning home. It was not easy but it was highly rewarding. I did accomplish most of what I wanted to do in this first year: Hosting and speaking to over 50 visiting International delegates; Teaching undergraduate and graduate students (and emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving); Starting a lab (began clinical and research work); Traveling around the occupied West Bank and working with hundreds of local people on everything from simple issues of life's basics to deep discussions of philosophy, religion, and politics; Writing including a good progress on finishing my book on Palestinian civil resistance.
The brutal war on Gaza was not anticipated and certainly changed our priorities (for nearly 2 months we focused on that including with demonstrations, media work, interviews etc). Had that not come, I am sure we could have done much more on other areas. However, having happened, it served to reinforce the notion that I would not want to have been anywhere else than in Palestine during these difficult times. This is part of the reason why I am already missing the place after leaving it just yesterday and I look forward to returning in July. And while Israe prevents us Palestinians from leaving through any other exist than through Jordan, this is good in may ways since it is the natural and logical extention. Jordan has always been the twin sister to Palestine. It is having to leave our home only through the back yard and our brother's yard during the curfews :-). Finally, for those of you who speak Arabic, I wrote this below as a form of reflection (observations of self-critique offered in humility).
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
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