Yesterday, a group of Jordanian bloggers (mostly tweeps) were invited to have a discussion with Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh. The meeting was informal and some of what was said was off-the-record, which I choose to respect. The topics to be discussed were of our choosing, as he essentially sat down and immediately opened the floor/room to any issues without any set agenda. So we focused on foreign affairs issues that included wikileaks cables, Jordan’s potential membership in the GCC, Syria, the UN vote on Palestinian statehood, and various other bits and pieces in between. Looking over some of my brief notes from the meeting the following are some of the key points. If other attendees have other bits of information then can feel free to post it up here or on their own blogs.
1) The wikileaks cables are seen by the government as perceptions constructed by the US embassy. No more and no less. It would be impossible to take them seriously enough to review and respond each one of them. Judeh had not read the last batch of confidential cables and so could not respond to particulars. He also indicated that these cables and memos are common throughout all governments and their embassies and some of them tend to reflect personal perceptions as opposed to facts. Some of the questions asked were related to the vacuum gap of information that the Jordanian public often receives, i.e. we are told one thing only to discover it’s something else entirely.
2) Questions regarding the GCC membership and what it would entail for Jordan were risen, but the minister treaded carefully here as this isn’t a topic that can be easily discussed on the record while negotiations are ongoing, which would be akin to jumping the gun. That said, one of the key questions was whether membership would open doors to Jordan’s domestic politics being influenced by fellow members, some of which have outrageous human rights abuses. Judeh pointed out that the GCC is diverse in itself, as not all of its members are the same politically, socially, or culturally, with some being more conservative than others. He also pointed to this membership being mutually beneficial for Jordan and the GCC, highlighting our national human resources as being a selling point for the Kingdom. Part of this discussion was also about Jordan’s role in Bahrain in which the minister insisted that Jordan has had no active military role in the recent clampdown on demonstrators.
3) We spoke quite a bit about political prisoners in foreign jails, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and what not. Judeh highlighted the difficult task the ministry plays in either getting access to prisoners or finding ways to secure their release where it is deemed a viable option (i.e. they haven’t broken any laws). He indicated that this is one of those issues that the ministry cannot come right out and tell the Jordanian public every move their taking every step of the way as it burns bridges with governments they need to deal with, which would just as readily be prepared not to give up a prisoner, especially when it comes to governments where political prisoners have their names turned to numbers. Apparently there is an average of 1,300 Jordanian citizens in prisons abroad, and the ministry estimates that there are roughly 37 that are considered “political”. The estimate is based on the fact that not all governments categorize certain prisoners as being political, and it’s up to the ministry to figure that out.
4) This took us in to a discussion about the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty. I’m not going to go in to detail here as it was basically a re-articulation of all the points for and against the treaty that most people have heard over the past two decades. Suffice to say that despite Jordan having serious issues with Israel, and particularly its current government and its handling of the peace portfolio, it continues to see the treaty as being beneficial for Jordan and for Palestinians.
5) The UN vote on Palestine was talked about with Judeh outlining the options the Palestinians and Israelis have in front of them at this point. Much of that discussion centered, again, on information that has already been tackled by political observers worldwide, such as what Israel’s response could be in the unlikely scenario of the resolution passing – so nothing new there. But there was also discussion on what this mean for the right of return, an issue that has tremendous impact on Jordan. Scenarios were imagined of which Israel would simply reject it (along with other issues like Jerusalem) due to a Palestinian state being declared.
This is a very brief rundown of the major things discussed. It was nearly a three hour sit-down so I’m not going to go in to any of the boring details or give my personal opinion on every topic as I assume my opinion on most of them is already known and remain the same. But I thought it was worth being transparent and letting everyone know about this meeting and its content. Ironically, I suppose, more Jordanians are interested in the fact the meeting was held at all, favoring style over substance.
So, in response to some of the expected comments already popping up on Twitter about going to this meeting, I’ll say this. First of all, one cannot lambast the media and all of its constituencies for not reporting and then turn around and lambast them for taking such meetings in the first place. That just doesn’t make sense. Second, by attending such meetings as, at most, a media operative, and at the very least, a concerned citizen – one is not by default declaring their allegiance, loyalty, love or admiration for any person, persons or states. It’s a meeting. You go because you feel it might be beneficial. You go because you feel it might be informative. I’ve gone to press conferences for lesser purposes, and I attend public lectures for the same purpose; yes, even the lectures where I disagree with the speaker.
In this case it was a chance to talk with someone on issues related to their political portfolio. No more no less. It was a chance to pick their brain a bit and see how the government, on a very personal level and away from the ink of newspaper reporting, thinks, or at least gauge their perceptions. Key bits of information can be gleaned from these meetings and it would be a mistake not to attend out of some sense of self-righteousness.
I’m pointing this out because this has always been one of our many problems as a society. We form allegiances and teams and squads and suddenly you can’t talk to anyone because if they don’t think like you, and talk like you, then they’re not worth it. And if they’re not with you, then they’re against you, and then you’ve rendered them the enemy. And suddenly, we can’t talk to anyone in government because they’re all deemed to be “the enemy” and by doing so you are betraying some sort of cause. The tragic irony of this is that we end up exasperating one of the key problems that got us here in the first place: the fact that people who disagree with each other do not talk to each other. Do not debate. Do not intersect. A dialog, by nature, is not one hosted by the left hand talking to the far left hand. And forget about the dialog, the information itself is beneficial. Journalists go to 2 hour press conferences they don’t want to go to and come out with nothing more than a press release. At least here you get the chance to understand an official’s train of thought beyond the normal soundbites we are accustomed to analyzing, and respond to their statements directly from across a table.
Whether these meetings are intended for PR purposes (which is a valid assumption) or not, is besides the point, at least for me. Strictly from a personal standpoint, I don’t really care too much what benefits the government derives from it, and I am more interested in what value I personally derive from it. These meetings (this being the second in two years) are frank and open – that much I know from simply being in the room. There are no intimidation tactics, and it is absurd to think that by attending one meeting you’re whole life is going to be flipped upside down and everything you believed in before will be thrown out the window. If that’s the case then these ministers should retire immediately and start a new career as motivational speakers because they’d likely make mad money in doing so if they have that kind of power over people’s thoughts. I’m unlikely to change my mind on the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty because of a meeting with the foreign minister. Moreover, when Judeh discussed the wikileaks issue, it offered me insight in to what the state’s stance is on these cables, which we knew next to nothing about. It offered me insight in to the fact that the state still doesn’t quite grasp the impact that the information vacuum presents, especially when it comes to forming local public perceptions.
So that’s my take. Like I’ve said over a few Twitter discussions, whether one disagrees with the content of the meeting and its host is one thing, but to disagree that a meeting is held at all, that’s a bit of a stretch. They are two separate things. And unless you are a robot who upon leaving a meeting is completely co-opted and re-programmed, venturing in to one of these meetings to be part of a discussion is never a bad thing unless there is an excessively blatant ulterior motive.
Dear nas ,
With my deepest and outmost respect I must say ” seriously naseem, seriously ” ya3ni from what u have said it shows that te gov is not willing nor even considering to open up the dialogue ,, all of HE’s remarks and responds according to ur post are merely diplomatic at best, hell I might dare to consider them an insult to your minds and intellect ya3ni I really hope that the off-record part was more productive ! But all I can think of right now that those new found trend of cool-cyberfriendly officials that followed the cool queen trend is just one big PR stunt aimed toward a certain group if activiats who r willing to sell the reform Jo for some official attention and stories to tell after !
Sorry about the typos ,,, it’s apple’s fault !
@Ma7moodjo: first, thanks for the comment and your input.
second…the remarks were largely diplomatic i agree. but do you, i or anyone else expect anything else of a politician…a diplomat no less? i did not go in to the meeting expecting that the minister would reveal state secrets to us.
third…i dont consider my intelligence insulted because the minister provided diplomatic answers to some of the questions. that’s his job. it’s my job and the job of any citizen to question those answers and probe for better answers, etc.
fourth, regarding the the “cool cyberfriendly officialls” and “sellout activists” comment…I can’t really debate this as it’s truly a matter of opinion. in my opinion, if an official is willing to expose themselves online to the vast world of critique then that’s a positive thing…whether they’re doing it to appear cool or trendy is a whole other point, and one that I dont really care about personally. as for the sell out activists…if someone deems themselves an activist with a cause and a belief…and is prepared to sacrifice those beliefs and that cause after walking out of a meeting with a minister or government official, and all for the sake of saying they met with a big shot and got their picture taken…then you have to ask whether that person was an activist at all in the first place.
thanks again 🙂
ok Nas , few points my friend
1. if he is a diplomat and is going to beat around the bush, why even bother ,, ya3ni what is the added value to those meetings to you or anyone else , to know the official story ? ma we are bombarded with official stands and stories 24/7 ,,, ya3ni for ex ya Nas if the answers to the most important topics are and i am going to quote :
“Judeh had not read the last batch of confidential cables and so could not respond to particulars.”
ma3gool ? nirja3 n3eeed ma3goool wazeer 5arijieh o nateq o diplomaaacy mo5dram ino if that was not a cheap shot at your intellect i don’t know what will be . no ?
“Questions regarding the GCC membership and what it would entail for Jordan were risen, but the minister treaded carefully here as this isnâ€™t a topic that can be easily discussed on the record while negotiations are ongoing, ” again walaaaw … walaaaw … laish il tweetup kan min mowa6eeneen bangladishieh , ino you cannot even talk about it to the citizens of THE HK of Jordan how modern and democratic is that ? not even theories about the negotiating so far ?
i am not even going to mention point 2,3,4,5 3shan ra7 yza3look wma bihoon 3alay ! wallah dude i cannot imagine you guys didnt corner him everytime he tried to avoid those questions ya3ni as diplomatic and smart he might be you guys ( you and lina at least ) never lacked the intelligence or the ability to smell B.S a mile away ! which gets me back to my conclusion of the whole PR and the “we are all cool and lovely and just dandy ” activism ~
OH Before i Go i Have 2 Names for you to think about from our beloved so called cyber activism
1. 3ali chubby
2. what’s his name il 7ayik who wrote the king a letter back in march , and supposedly met with officials after it !
plenty of other names are available but those 2 are the ones i can easily name without defaming them for obvious reasons 😉
If I were invited to such a meeting I would turn the invitation down , for potatoes sake, this dude has always been propagandist for the regime and no body in his or her mind would take this dude seriously.
Having said that, activist in my opinion, should and must concentrate and expose people aspiration and their outlook instead listing to a propagandist that his only job is to sugar coat his boss dictatorial rule ..
First thank you for your piece and your “take” on the meeting. I dont know how democratic you are, but here is my “take” on your “take”! I think it was a bit too general and perhaps you missed a major chunk where we talked at length about political reform and some of the “milestones”related to this process. I hope you dont mind me observing but you appear to be defensive or even apologetic about attending the meeting. You shouldnt! You of all people definitely know that this was not a PR event, at least not on my part. If that was the intention I would have invited you all for half an hour, taken a few pictures and gone all out publicizing the event on every media outlet imaginable. I sent one simply tweet today saying it was quite useful and hope to do more! More importantly it is as useful to you and other tweeps/bloggers to interact as it is for officials like me. A healthy debate where we agree and disagree is the mark of a vibrant society and its really important for both sides to feel they contribute to this debate, rather than feel they are there to be “brainwashed”. And I really am not a “politician” in the strict sense. I am involved in politics and have been all my life but I am not a professional politician who does things with an eye to making further advances in my political career! And yes its very “ma3gool” (in answer to ma7moodjo) that I have not read the bulk of these 500 wikileaks cables in the few days since they were published. I am sure i will have to read them when I can add one hour to the current 24 hour day, but for now I will just have to get a general overview of the “hot ones”. And lastly it is a bit unfair to describe my answers to some of the important topics discussed yesterday as “general” or “diplomatic”. If you can sincerely say that I would have said all that I said yesterday in a public press conference, or that you came out of the meeting having learned nothing new, then I have failed in my task and I will try harder next time. But I do feel that we all benefited from yesterdays session and hope we can do it again soon for our mutual benefit and, at the end of the day for the benefit of our beloved Jordan.
All the best
Nasser S. Judeh
@Abu Tariq: thank you for your “take” on my “take”, and please note that these were very cursory glances. my purpose at the meeting wasn’t to come back and report every detail but to obtain information for my own knowledge, which helps form my thinking when I sit down and write. but i agree with most of the points you outlined. i am not being apologetic nor defensive of the meeting itself, but rather pointing out to those who see it as some sort of betrayal simply because they do not like you personally or the government you represent (as per the immediate feedback we got via twitter) that these meetings are important to have nonetheless and not partaking in them would be a mistake. im generally sick and tired of the attitude we jordanians (and perhaps arabs in general) have when it comes to the simple act of sitting down to talk to those we do not necessarily agree with. it is those same people who will turn around and chastise the government for not meeting with the Islamists, for example.
your responses on some of the issues were in many ways diplomatic but that is understandable, and as i pointed out that is indeed your job. its everyone else’s job to get the information out of you, otherwise it would have been less time consuming to simply hand us a piece of paper with talking points and we all go home. in that sense there is little on that front that wasn’t already known or considered public information. on the other hand, the insight you offered regarding things that were “off the record” was indeed helpful, at least to me. whether they were anecdotes or background information, they were useful.
i too believe that it was not PR-driven and wouldn’t have attended if it was. i think i’ve been around the local media scene long enough now to know the difference.
thanks for your time.
@ma7moodjo: thanks for the response. i’m not going to respond to every single one of your points as I think Abu Tariq has done some of that already. but to clarify one or two things…
regarding the GCC statement…i dont think any government would disclose details of an ongoing negotiation to members of the media if they would jeopardize those negotiations. but either way you look at it, what a public official is allowed to say to the public is by default restrictive, it is the job of the press and the public to counter that and peel away at the layers. everyone has a role to play. i should also note, to his credit, judeh did not avoid any of the questions. on the contrary, he went quite in depth on most of the aforementioned topics. that’s not my opinion – that’s a fact.
government officials represent government thinking – no more no less. it’s the job they (are asked to) sign up for. to expect them to step outside “party lines” and say something completely based on personal opinion is a bit imagined. that is the sphere they operate in. the rest of us operate in a different sphere, but it should be everyone’s goal and ambition to have those spheres collide and interact every now and then to get a better sense of things.
like i’ve said, in the worst scenario I would liken such meetings to a public lecture held by someone who you disagree with, and may already be aware of their views, but nevertheless you attend in other to glean any new or interesting insights they may have on a field they operate in on a daily basis.
Next time you are in a pic with an official make sure not to say cheese or show your teeth. Frown. LOL.
Abu Tariq, agree with him or don’t is thick skinned and, in comparison to other officials in Jordan, is engaging.
on a side note: FMstry should set up a team to study and analyse not only the leaks originating from jordan but also from the region and the world. There is a “Wealth” of information in there 🙂
@mohanned: i thought we were supposed to be leaving behind the kishreh…not bringing it back 😉
again, a SELECTED group of people are invited over a FREE discussion with government members
where the invited people,the same people running non profit initiatives and websites that somehow got money to stay in bushiness and arrange discussions and gatherings?
Haha,Reform. When I see big names,stripped of their privliges,when I see non-cooperating East Bankers and Palestinians are involved in the goverment and allowed to thrive in the private sector,and when corruption is slow down,then yes,I say reform.
Inviting a couple of bloggers or twitterjyeh,and many of them somehow,are running financially stable,non profit mediums, is not reform or close.
Did anyone dared to ask HE how did he get the job and why :D? Although I think he is a very polite man and hard working,but does not deny the fact why he!If it was not for the family ties,he would have been now running some buisness in the gulf,because he didn’t get his chance in Jordan,and got fed up and finally left,like all what young people are planning to do
What is even scarier,the other party, the opposition,are worse! Hahahaha
Shbaylat?Muslim brotherhood? The racist journalists like Hattar and co?
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Naseem, I do see the value you have identified in such meetings. However, I’m really puzzled as to how you didn’t see similar, if not greater, value in participating in the two-day Jordan Youth Forum that happened a while back, which I understand you were invited to. I remember you voicing dissatisfaction with the idea itself based on the high costs, but at that point the decision had already been made and your acceptance wouldn’t have added any significant incremental costs. So did you really see no value in going there, if not to meet other Jordanian citizens interested in reform, to simply observe a royally sponsored forum just for your own personal record as a social media activist with a strong interest in reform?
ok i must respond to this …
dear @abu tariq ,,, for starters if you think that i meant the whole leaks then it only adds to the idea that you are trying to avoid the serious part of the dialogue by using your well respected diplomatic talents or you are trying to insult ” my ” intelligence ,,you know which leaks i intended and was referring to they are the major ones that got people wondering and unofficial media buzzing , which i am sure you are aware off ,, the kabariti and abu il ragheb and the MB leaks ,, plain and simple if u havent read them that’s a catastrophe to me, the gov, and jo considering your position, so please sir do not act like a victim , i did not question nor defame you or your position so please don’t question my motives by DEMANDING a reply from an OFFICIAL JORDANIAN official to them, it is MY RIGHT to get them not a pity charity .I DONT HAVE TIME IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR AN OFFICIAL , IF YOU CANNOT HANDLE IT THEN JUST QUIET ! IT IS YOUR JOB TO BE AWARE OF THEM !!
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I think your outburst is really unnecessary but if thats your debating style then its fine with me. I will still answer you. Its my job to be aware of everything that happens around the world, especially leaked documents relating to Jordan. And if you read what i said carefully: “And yes its very â€œma3gool… that I have not read the bulk of these 500 wikileaks cables in the few days since they were published” That i have not read “the bulk”, meaning I have read the important ones. so of course I have seen the ones you mentioned and I answered direct questions on them and Naseem will verify that. In fact I gave them a straight forward response on Kabariti and my opinion on what he said and to whom! Again Naseem will verify that. So i do not see how I am questioning your motives or insulting your intelligence by saying I am still in the process of reading and given whats happening in the world I probably need one more hour added to the day…a common saying!! lets try to debate issues here, not try question each other or accuse one another of things that simply are not relevant. My name is Nasser S. Judeh, and you know that. You are Ma7moodjo. I dont know you but I respect your opinion whether I agree with it or not. I hope you will extend me the same courtesy.
Peace in !
BTW dear Ma7moodjo, one of the leaked embassy cables mentions that I have a masters degree from American University and that I was born in Amman in 1960. I do not have a masters degree from AU! The only association with AU is that it happened to be in the same city as the University I did attend for my undergraduate studies! And I was in deed born in Amman but in 1961. Given that my CV is published all over the place it would have taken the sender of the cable one minute to verify the content. I found it quite amusing as I am sure you do.
@Random Guy: to address your first point, since it appears that you feel very strongly about the selection issue, then i personally recommend that you volunteer yourself. i’m sure those responsible at the ministry would be happy to accomodate your presence at future meetings, and there you can pose all the questions you want directly to the official.
@Hamzeh: i think there is a vast difference between a group of bloggers being invited to sit down and talk with a government official for a few hours, and a group of bloggers being invited to attend a two-day forum set in an upscale resort and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the tax payer’s expense. Also, my voice of dissatisfaction (as you may remember) was not merely at the absurd wasted expense but the waste of time. having seen how these forums run i knew for certain that there was no value in having 1,500 youth coming together for 48 hours under the headline of reform because nothing of value ever emerges from that large number of people, especially if the majority of them are from state-oriented youth groups. Exchanging ideas and information with smaller numbers works better and that’s what I suggested at the time. Moreover, when I declined the invitation the forum was not a certain thing, and to emphasize that fact, the forum was postponed soon after by several weeks because they didn’t have the numbers.
ok i will admit that i was abit aggressive i will give you that considering the time i read your reply and wrote mine, and i offer my apology if i gave the impression that i was questioning your loyalty or stands toward our nation. simply mccarthyism is not my thing . your diplomacy served Jordan despite i like it or not, and despite if i agree with how and why it did as well ! and for that you have my gratitude as a jordanian ! in a nutshell – Ù‡ÙŠØ¨Ø© Ø§Ù„Ù…Ø³Ø¦ÙˆÙˆÙ„ Ù…Ù† Ù‡ÙŠØ¨Ø© Ø§Ù„Ø¯ÙˆÙ„Ø© ÙˆÙ‡ÙŠØ¨Ø© Ø§Ù„Ø¯ÙˆÙ„Ø© Ù…Ù† Ù‡ÙŠØ¨Ø© Ø§Ù„Ø£Ø±Ø¯Ù† ÙˆÙ‡ÙŠØ¨Ø© Ø§Ù„Ø£Ø±Ø¯Ù† Ù‡ÙŠÙ‡ Ù‡ÙŠØ¨ØªÙŠ ÙƒÙ…ÙˆØ§Ø·Ù† –
sir Nas started the debate when he wrote this blog after meeting with YE , when will you give your side and prospective view of the meeting and what happened in it! isn’t that a major part of the goal of those meetings and interactions with officials ? it takes two to tango, no?
thank you for your message my friend. No need for apologies at all. But I thank you for it anyway. I really am happy to engage in a frank discussion here and anywhere. No taboos as far as I am concerned. and yes we will agree and maybe disagree. My point is that this is the real test of a healthy society so long as we agree on one thing and that is the good of our country. on the meeting I always feel that its better for the participants to talk about their impressions of the meeting rather than the host dont you agree?
You are a decent person,but unfortunately,you are part of the big machine!
We are sick of it…..yes,but clinging to it,because the alternative is worse 🙂
Rigged elections,that only gets approved PM in the first place to marginalize “non-loyal” Jordanians.
Tribalisim is allowed to take over the law,on many occasions were killers,rioters,get a free pass with no punishment. Ok,not your department.
Since I am not interested in discussing REFORM,because I know better about smoke-screens,let us discuss something more beneficial,to me and to the government.
I am rotting in the Gulf deserts (literally,I work in the middle of no where ),to receive my salary every month and transfer some to my parents in Jordan,so I’m doing my duties as a non-East Banker citizen. Now,could you please talk to the Qataris to ease it up for Jordanians?The world cup projects should be promising,although Jordanians are not paid much in the Gulf considering the cost of living in Jordan,but at least we find work 🙂 . Please,we want visas to Qatar,why no one discuss this issue?
Also,let us treat the US/UK/Canada and any other nation that give us nightmares to obtain a visa.
Don’t you find the timing of the cables release,somehow not innocent?The ambassador is changed,things are calmn,smoe one is not happy about this calm.
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I am both shocked and apalled at Nassim’s blog entry first and then at some of the immature comments here and on Twitter! I’m sick and tired of this “its cool to be a rebel” tone by many who barely read the paper let alone history books. Its cool to know the facts and engage in a real reform effort based on knowledge and not just bullied by the ” cool rebels”. It’s not cool anymore to be ignorantly negative, its bordering on ridiculous.
As a mere observer I read that the Foreign Minister of Jordan, out of his own initiative invites a group of bloggers/ tweeps, with a combined following on Twitter that doesnt exceed 5000 (my teenage sister has more!) , sits with them for THREE hours in an off the record breifing and he is met with a defensive blog entry like Nassim’s, explaining why he went??? WOW. I’ve never heard of such consistent engagement and transparency by FMs of the US, UK or anywhere else!
I’ve been an avid follwer of Nassim’s blog, it has always presented an informed , intelligent, balanced and honest take on many developments in Jordan. Unfortunately even Nassim is being bullied into a tone of voice which is unconstructively negative.
Having been old enough to remember Abu Tariq on NetsOnline more than 14 years ago, I am quite heartened that we actually have a cyberfriendly offcial who has been engaging with the youth for a long time now, and not because its “trendy”. If anything, I am really sad we dont have more officials like Abu Tariq, who has not parachuted in his position but spent a lifetime in public office and knows the importance of engagement!
Am sure we can agree to disagree on many an issue…..but to disagree on the importance of open debate and discussion. WOW! The “cool” crowd has gone too far!
ÙSo i was about to write my take on the take of Mr. Judeh’s take of Naseem’s take and then realized that for some reason i was about to start typing in English. 2i77im. We are all Jordanian citizens talking to a Jordanian official. Lets revert to the Official language of our country then;
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Next time you are in a pic with an official make sure not to say cheese or show your teeth. Frown. LOL.