How To Help Gaza From Jordan

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

With the Israeli attack on Gaza ongoing, and the death toll continuing to climb to over 700; between the headlines and the imagery, there is a fusion of emotions ranging from anger and frustration, to empathy and helplessness that I’m sure most Jordanians can relate to. While there’s little that can be done with the anger and frustration, the helplessness at least can be addressed, especially if you’re in Jordan. To the north we have Syrian refugees continuing to flee to Jordan by the hundreds every day; to the east we have ISIL attempting to purge Iraqi Christians (and women) from existence, and to the west there’s Israel and its continued bombardment of Gaza.

So 48 hours ago I posted a status on Facebook asking the community to suggest anything that can be done to help the people that are under attack. I got various responses and thought it would be good to compile them here, in a single blog post, that could serve as a useful reference point for anyone who wants to help, in any small way imaginable. This is not meant to be a final list – it’s a living document for the next while, and anyone who has any more information they can provide, feel free to post it as a comment and I’ll include it. While the main focus is Gaza, I’ll also try to highlight relief efforts geared towards Syrians and Iraqis.

I hope this can be of some use to some one:

1) Tkiyet Um Ali is sending 15,000 food packages to Gaza for internally displaced families. Each package costs 40JDs and having purchased a few myself I can say that the process is quick and convenient.

2) My father-in-law, Dr. Hamde Abu Adas, having helped out in Gaza during the 2009 war, is heading back there in a few days as part of a team of Jordanian doctors volunteering through the Medical Association. So they will be collecting money and medical supplies. He is more than willing to help with the collection, so if there are any interested parties who want to make a donation ASAP, then send me an email with your information and I’ll forward the right contact details.

3) You can contribute funds through the Awqaf (Islamic Affairs) Ministry for Gazan orphans.

4) You can pay the wounded Gazans at the Sports City Hospital a visit. While I’m sure a lot of people have already given a great deal, providing some emotional support can still go a long way. These people have been to hell and back.

5) Educate yourself. Here’s a good post on how.

6) The Online Project and Visualizing Palestine just teamed up to launch a visual awareness raising campaign targeting the American public. Both organizations have done some great work in the past, and Visualizing Palestine has seen a. If you want to help with the initiative, contact Feras Hilal.

7) You can donate online through the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

8) You can make a donation through Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) that are raising money for medical supplies to Gaza.

9) You can donate through UNRWA, which has launched aFlash Appeal to raise $60 million for affected families.

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Thanks to everyone who continues to send me links and contribute to the list!

Fear And Loathing In Jordan Lately

Between our collective fish-memory and the tendency to leap-frog steadily from one issue to another, it can be fairly confusing to keep track of things. Especially when it comes to the external threats that come with Jordan’s geographic fate of sitting ‘between Iraq and a hard place’.

source: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/06/14/Jordan-says-destroys-four-vehicles-on-Syria-border.html

source: http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/06/14/Jordan-says-destroys-four-vehicles-on-Syria-border.html

Rewind to last year, when our eyes looked north to Syria. The waves of refugees and the economic impact concerns aside, promises of retaliation and Asad’s menacing cache of chemical weapons seemed to be on everyone’s mind. Obama’s mid-year posturing and the public contemplation of a strike helped turn the national rumor mill, which continues to spin, and our anxiety is fed infrequently with peppered headlines of Jordanian security forces defending the border from approaching danger, to say nothing of the more recent ensuing drama that came with expelling the Syrian ambassador for ‘insulting Jordan’.

Jordan strikes armored vehicles on Syrian border.

Jordan strikes armored vehicles on Syrian border.

The new year saw the ‘Syrian fear’ replaced largely with a reliable old classic: Israel. Suddenly, everything was about the conspiracy-laden peace plan that would surely see the demise of Jordan and the establishment of a Palestinian state on its soil (see: Who’s Afraid of an Alternative Homeland?). These fears quickly turned to anger with the rather cold-blooded killing of a Jordanian judge by Israeli forces. Protests in the street; Israeli flag burnings. Aside from demonstrating parliament’s impotence, demands for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador by Jordanian parliament was – much ado about nothing.

برلماني أردني يدعو لطرد السفير الإسرائيلي من عمّان

Fast forward to June, and the eyes of the nation turn to the eastern border, where ISIS in Iraq has taken the place of Israel and Syria, declaring their intentions to bring their Islamized mess to Jordan. A glance at all the headlines and the impression you get is one of Jihadi fighters marching towards Amman. The truth is, it feels like most of us simply do not know what exactly is going on, and the confusing scene just adds to the fear. Between the persistent flaring up of events in the southern governorate of Maan in recent months, where Islamists there declared it the “Fallujah of Jordan”, and potential blowbacks from the US training of ISIS members, to apparent infighting between extremist groups in Jordan  - the foreign threat of ISIS is perceived to be closer to home than ever before. And while security forces and people trade tear gas and bullets on the streets of Ma’an throughout this ongoing clampdown, the Border Guards gave a media tour to emphasize that all is calm on the eastern front (and that media is prone to exaggerations).

ISIS supporters in Maan. Source: http://assawsana.com

ISIS supporters in Maan. Source: http://assawsana.com

Look north. Look west. Look east. Fear Syria. Fear Israel. Fear ISIS. Fear chemical weapons. Fear terrorism. Fear having your country rebranded overnight. It’s enough to convince you that the infamous frown we Jordanians wear on our faces is really just a result of being in a constant state of apprehension.

There will always be plenty to be scared about. There will always be new foreign threats – this region offers few surprises in that regard. But these external threats also seem to come and go. They shift in importance, in size, in urgency, and in relevancy. Their actual impact is limited by the extent of our domestic threats, and those ones always outnumber and outweigh anything the region seems to throw at Jordan. Poverty, unemployment, education, public transportation, domestic violence, crime, etc – these are just some of the major domestic threats that seem constant, or at least have been for the longest time. Connecting these foreign-and-domestic threats together has centered on the conventional wisdom that tells us high levels of poverty and unemployment coupled with a conservative environment is (arguably) ripe for Jihadist recruitment.

Connecting these threats is something the state does all the time. In the past few months alone – perhaps with so much fear on our plates – terrorism has resonated throughout the political arena. We have seen controversial amendments introduced to the anti-terrorism law, with, in typical fashion, vague definitions.

For example, acts that “cause disorder by disrupting public order” can be considered terrorist acts. This is dangerous considering that at a time not too long ago 300 protesters were arrested and 162 of them were tried in Jordan’s State Security court.

[via: 7iber]

We’ve seen organizations like Reporters Without Borders saying: “There is a danger that the Jordanian authorities will use the fight against terrorism to gag civil society organisations and news media…” and that “the amendments… constitute a disturbing reinforcement of the already repressive legislative arsenal.”

We’ve seen Human Rights Watch say that “Jordan’s legitimate security concerns don’t give the government a green light to punish peaceful criticism of foreign rulers as terrorism,” and that Jordan “ought to be increasing the space for public criticism and debate rather than limiting it.”

We’ve seen a new telecom law that infringes on personal privacy rights, in the name of public safety; in the name of foreign threats. To say nothing of last year’s amendments to the Press and Publications law that co-opted online news media.

There will always be plenty to be scared about. But while I accept the existence of foreign threats as just another reality of living in a bad neighborhood, I can’t help but be more concerned with the manner in which the state leverages those threats on the domestic front. Raising prices in such an apprehensive atmosphere is a debatable move, but I can’t help but wonder, after everything Jordanians have to deal with, what happens when you further tighten the reigns on speech and expression; what does that do to all those foreign threats? Does it quell or compound them?

When The Speaker Of The House Is Humiliated

jordanian parliament

“The Lower House on Sunday could not complete its agenda for the meeting amid MPs’ outrage over what the “government’s attempts to disgrace the legislative authority” by disrespecting its speaker, Atef Tarawneh, at the opening of the Jerash festival…

…Tarawneh said he felt “humiliated” when a staff member of the festival’s administration asked him to leave his seat in the front row for Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, saying “no seat was reserved for the head of the Lower House”. Such incident reflects the government’s attempts to humiliate the Lower House, not just the speaker, he charged. Several MPs agreed with Tarawneh, with some demanding an immediate apology from the government.

“MP Yihya Saud (Amman, 2nd District) called for a revote on confidence in the government. Over 15 minutes of heated discussions over a topic not included on the meeting’s agenda forced the speaker to adjourn the session without discussing any of the planned items.

“If you wish, and in order to respect the Constitution, we will hold an informal meeting to talk about this issue,” Tarawneh said. His decision came after several MPs said discussing the incident is not in line with the Constitution, under which the House cannot discuss items not specified by Royal Decree on the extraordinary session’s agenda under the Dome. [source]”

Outrage? Disgraced legislative authority? Humiliated? These are awfully big words for any member of parliament to use, and while I have no idea how deep rock bottom is – surely putting the nation’s business on hold because the speaker of the house felt “humiliated” for not having a reserved front row seat at a cultural festival – I mean surely we must be scraping somewhere near the bottom, no? Or did we surpass that when a member of parliament tried to shoot a peer with an Ak-47?

While I’m sure that I’m not the only one who finds parliament entertaining – and this ongoing battle between the government and parliament has been especially pitiful – I can’t help but have a new-found appreciation for this legislative body now that the speaker of the house, along with other members, seems to have a keen awareness for what it’s like to be both Jordanian and feel “humiliated”…or “disgraced” or “outraged” for that matter.

A widening gap between rich and poor, with the majority leaning towards the latter. Syrian refugees. Iraqi refugees. Islamism. Jihadist threats: the real, imagined and exaggerated threats. An unsteady economy. A lack of jobs. Too many families beneath the poverty line. A diminished dinar in an expensive marketplace. A floundering political system rendering relative stability a moot point. A largely young and barely-employed population. A non-competitive education system. Arbitrary political accountability. Arbitrary application of the law. Artificial liberalism outmatched by evolving social conservatism. Tribalism. Nepotism. National identity crisis. Corruption. Brain drain. Burning tires and angry, armed people; governorate closures. Increasing campus violence. A security-minded state. Censorship. An energy crisis. A water crisis. To say nothing of threats vis a vis Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Syria…

But the speaker of the house felt humiliated for not getting a front row seat at the Jeresh Festival. An event worthy of an official apology, along with a government confidence vote.

So while our so-called public servants are humiliated over a chair, I feel humiliated every time parliament makes headlines. I feel humiliated by every vote that’s cast in favor of this non-representative political system. I feel humiliated by every dinar of our taxes that pays for this sideshow, and every piece of legislation they “discuss” in the name of the people.

A National Silence

speak

There is a question that keeps me up at night, and it’s largely to do with our national distractions – the ones that have been so fascinating to watch, especially in recent weeks.

We’ve had a Jordanian citizen shot and killed by Israelis in cold blood, inspiring haphazard protests that quickly died down once the warm spring weather rolled around and the aroma of road-side barbecue overwhelmed. But not before a war-of-words unfolded over whether Israel really apologized or not; what the definition of an apology is; whether the Israeli ambassador should be kicked out or not; and of course, why a Jordanian soldier who killed a handful of Israeli children in a previous era should be released from prison. Dignity is lost, but silence follows. An opportunity to reassess a controversial relationship is squandered. We await with bated breath, the findings of a report destined to collect dust.

No matter.

The next scene features the son of a minister condescendingly insulting…Jordanians? The poor? Proud owners of Kia Sephias everywhere? No matter. An eruption of digital admonishment follows – in the form of a hashtag of all things. Even the elites come out to play, berating their fellow country club member in a scene reminiscent of a snake eating itself whole. Dignity is lost, but silence follows. The elephant in the room goes unnoticed, and an opportunity to discuss the abhorrent growing classism that continues to undo the stitching in our social fabric is squandered.

No matter.

Scene three is the dismantling of a major roundabout in the Capital, along with the hideous statue it once housed. A flurry of photos from the scene. But perhaps this issue of urban concern will ignite debate on the state of traffic, or the ongoing lack of decent public transportation in a city overwhelmed with more residents than it can carry. Perhaps even a critical discussion on the role citizens play in the developments reshaping the very place they live in? Instead: extensive digital exchanges on whether the statue was ugly or not is what dominates.

No matter. Next scene.

An aggrieved citizen, who was (apparently) denied a chance to speak during a public forum with the Prime Minister, throws a shoe at him in anger. Photographic evidence of the event is buried, but no matter. A surge of statements on Jordanian morality, traditions, and conventions ensues – a consensus on civility in these uncivil times is what follows. The citizen is berated for his lack of good manners. But what did the man want to say that was so important? Was it about farming assistance promised to Jeresh residents years ago? Was it about income inequality in his district? Or was it a question about what kind of jobs the JD15 million investment in an “industrial city” that the PM was there to announce, will end up actually creating? Silence follows.

In between all these distractions are headlines featuring both good and bad news. Signs of progress in some areas; obvious indications of regression in other areas. Like the spring weather in Jordan, one doesn’t know whether to wear a jacket or a t-shirt; be pessimistic or optimistic. More money from the IMF; more money from the World Bank. Billions of debt in the face of economic stagnation. Silence. New reform plans: an electoral law, decentralization of governorates. Silence. Continued media censorship, activists in-and-out of jail on catch-and-release basis. Silence. Dwindling education rankings, more refugees, political and corporate corruption. And silence.

When a country is so engaged in the microscopic, and often times insignificant – leapfrogging from one to the other – how long can it avoid tackling the major issues openly and critically? Is it out of ignorance? Fear? Uncertainty? Hesitation? A lack of passion? Apathy? There’s so much silence amongst the sane, the rational-minded, the educated, the critical thinking masses within our society, that all the noise comes in the form of the trivial, or worse – in the form of the loud and atrocious voices – the ones that spend most of their time vilifying other citizens, questioning their loyalty to the loud applause of their sycophantic crowd, and call themselves “nashama” – the brave; the honorable; the gallant. The ones that convert dignified leadership in to the worshipping of idols, and demand everyone kneel as a demonstration of allegiance; of obedience.

These may be uncivil times, but the biggest crime of incivility being committed in this country does not come at the hands of the politicians or the security apparatus or any other faction of the state – the biggest crime comes in the form of silence. Not the silence of the voiceless majority, but that niche-kind of silence that engulfs the minority that is historically responsible for any kind of progressive change. How does a nation progress in the face of that much silence? That much loss? How is it that so many are willing to allow the loud-and-crass elements of this society define who they are as citizens; as Jordanians? When they point and accuse and say you’re not Jordanian enough; not loyal enough; your motives always to be questioned – how is it that we greet this vilification with lowered heads? How is it that the people with the power and knowhow to collectively change things…disengage and retreat to safety?

But maybe all those questions are rhetorical, so here’s the real one – the one I have no answer to; the one that keeps me up at night now that I’m a fortunate father:

How does one explain to their child years from now why the country they’ve inherited is overrun by wolves simply because when things got tough we chose to be, as Einstein would put it: “immaculate members of a flock of sheep”…?

I honestly don’t know.

“Please Take Us Out, We Are Dying Here”

Refugee camp in Damascus, Syria
Yarmouk camp, Damascus. Source: Guardian

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, what story do they have to tell when they come together like this? Are they adjectives, like: unbelievable, devastating, unimaginable, inconceivable, inhuman, insane, unreal, depressing, miserable, heartbreaking, despairing, powerless? Or nouns, like: hell, dignity, destruction, fear, sympathy, ocean, humanity, mercy, rubble, refugee, hunger, impoverished?

There are images from this world that baffle me, simply floor me. This was one of them. But then I saw the BBC video from the camp and I think it managed to chip away at what remaining hope I have left for humanity. I think it may have been the little boy at the end of the piece.

This visual documentation of our collective shame is absolutely haunting, in the true sense of the word. It’s easy to look for blame, and it’s even easier to point to those in positions of leadership that have failed us once again. But the truth of the matter is, politics aside, this is a shame for the Arab world to bear. It takes an entire population to allow for something like this to happen, and remain absolutely still.

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, this picture only needs one: shame. casino online | fiston streaming c'est sur cine-resistence

Who’s Afraid Of An Alternative Homeland?

kingsmen

I have to start by saying this video is a fantastic communication product. Aired as part of a news program, it’s designed to stubbornly drive home a single message, and attempts to grind it in to the public consciousness: Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine. If you stand back and watch this through a zoomed out lens, it’s like the King is giving an interactive presentation, and at minute three he actually does. Speaking about his rejection of the alternative homeland – the legendary plan to transfer remaining Palestinians in to Jordan – the King, in fairly informal language, provides us with evidence of his uniformity on the issue: a string of his comments on the alternative homeland from the past decade or so.

The video exposes us to what the King likely genuinely believes regarding this issue. It is obviously one he finds annoying and bordering on the absurd, as he demonstrates. Many have commented on the shift in tone, and that too is fairly apparent throughout. But aside from the aesthetics, I wanted to dig a bit deeper in to what the King is actually saying rather than just how he’s saying it.

He comments about how seasonal this issue is, and he’s right about that. Like clockwork, we’ve come to rely on it rearing its head almost every year in recent times. He comments about Jordan’s proactive role in the peace process as necessary, and he’s right about that too. He says we have much more important issues to deal with, and that also is (partially) true. He mentions the existence of a “group” of people that are responsible for fueling this issue, and subsequently social discord.

And this is the part I found most interesting. Not the discovery of a group of “responsible parties”, but rather the King’s framing of the issue as a matter of sedition. That term itself – fitna – isn’t a casual one to throw around, as any Jordanian journalist that has seen the inside of a courtroom will tell you.

However, the reason the King describes this issue as fueling social discord indicates that there is naturally a social dimension that is at odds with the concept of the alternative homeland – a dimension that is threatening enough that it warrants annual royal intervention. It suggests that the very notion of the alternative homeland aggravates us some how on a societal level. The natural question to ask here is: why? Why are we aggravated? What makes us so uncomfortable with the idea? The answers are usually alluded to but never really addressed head on.

It probably needs no pointing out, but there is no unified interpretation of what an alternative Palestinian homeland in Jordan actually means. Every side has their agenda, and subsequently, their interpretation. The Jordanian right tends to subscribe to interpretations from the Israeli right, which are usually absolutist and therefore somewhat illusionary in nature. It’s an extremist interpretation that suggests we would wake up one day to find a new flag, new national anthem and new leadership. Meanwhile, the more nuanced interpretations sound too conspiratorial. The alternative homeland is usually painted as a phased plan, agreed upon behind closed doors, and involves a gradual demographic encroachment on Jordanian soil, the expansion of the occupation in the West Bank, followed by neoliberal economic policies that seek to remake the Jordanian identity as an effectively neutralized global and capitalist identity.

And that, I suppose, is the magic word yet again. Identity. That’s really what makes us uncomfortable; that’s where the social discord lies, that’s the elephant in the room. The alternative homeland is merely a thorn in its side. There is an entire population out there that drops all logic to the floor when the issue of an alternative homeland arises, and becomes emotionally driven. It’s because the issue provokes the question of identity: they are thinking about what the establishment of an alternative homeland on Jordanian soil would mean for them and their collective. Where do they fit in the scheme? Are the old social contracts invalidated? What new social realities will they face in an alternative homeland? All the while, Fragmented and subjective narratives of 1970 history – a past attempt to create an alternative homeland – streams through the mind like a film reel.

In the video, the King suggests (11:20) that Jordanian citizens silence one another should the topic of an alternative homeland ever be brought up in everyday conversation. Playing to cultural norms, he strategically shrouds the issue in shame, rendering it shameful to even discuss. But the problem with this approach is that it builds on a continued policy of sweeping the biggest societal issue under the rug, or perhaps in our case, throwing the rug on top of the elephant and hoping no one notices. Our inability to reconcile who we are as Jordanians fuels our inability to trust one another, which means conspiracies like the alternative homeland will continue to circulate whether the list of names the King has are published or not next year.

The strategy of silence is largely responsible for allowing the issue of national identity to fester, and manifest in different shapes and forms, the alternative homeland being only one of them. The Arab Spring has pushed this unstable identity in to more hostile waters,  providing an open invitation for different parties to manipulate the issue for an assortment of reasons.

But the agenda of those who fan the flames isn’t very relevant to me so much as the fact that there are flames there to fan in the first place. “Responsible parties” are not “creating” social discord – a word that gives the impression something is being manufactured – instead, they are pressing on open wounds already there. And these are wounds that have been poked by different actors for different purposes, including the state. So, it’s quite possible that one can shame certain “responsible parties” from poking the wound and aggravating society, but the wound remains the same.

The King was right when he said the Arab Spring presented an opportunity for Jordan. My personal fear is that failing to address this wound is perhaps the biggest opportunity we’re missing.