Fellow Jordanian blogger Hareega has posted a little series on his blog about Black September, a very dark moment in Jordan’s history. It is the most mysterious, ambiguous, misunderstood and taboo part of Jordanian history that everyone avoids talking about. Every now and then it tends to creep up in a heated discussion on a social level and when it does it’s like the dropping of the conversational a-bomb; every one suddenly becomes aware that the discussion has just reached its elastic limit, has entered a very dark territory and there is a subtle call for retreat.
This post is not about the events of Black September per se as I have already argued that both parties have their share of the blame but I’ll leave that part of the discussion for Hareega’s blog. I do so mainly because it would be difficult to discuss this particular event without being accused of being bias to one side. It is an inevitable consequence of this topic. This is a topic where personal convictions or the extent of your knowledge counts for nothing; only your origin matters.
What this post IS about is whether this part of history should be studied especially since it is not mentioned in history books written by the Ministry of Education.
The problem that this has lead to is a great deal of confusion about what went on. Even most reports from that time are highly susceptible due to the fact that reporters were isolated in hotels. What happens is that people rely on the history related to them by their parents and grandparents or relatives who lived it. Not only does this create a very bias worldview but also exposure to unreliable information.
I knew fairly little of the events that happened that September, as my own parents have never discussed it. An uncle of mine who carries several scars from that time also says fairly little about it. This went on until I moved here to Canada for university and immersed myself in numerous books, hungry for any information about it. I read old newspaper clippings and watched videos of news reports at the time and I kept going until I felt I developed a pretty comprehensive understanding. The toughest part was not so much gathering information as it was being able to keep it in historical context. Thinking about what I had to go through to reach that stage gives me goose bumps simply because I remember that the majority of people who need to know this history are completely oblivious to it or at their best carry ancient resentments with racist undertones from their parents.
Many people are also under the impression that the Palestinian-Jordanian relationship in Jordan today are an indication of what went on at the time and I can honestly say where we are today is virtually light years away from September 1970 and no comparisons can even be drawn. At this point both people are very much entwined socially and despite those social skirmishes on campuses every now and then I think it will remain that way.
If the Ministry of Education were to include such a history it would no doubt be seen as bias, so it’s a bit difficult to thread that needle. Based on my readings the Internet is not the most reliable source especially when we now live in the age of wikiality. The better source can typically be accessed outside the country. It’s actually more of a geographical problem than it is censorship. I had to journey to several university libraries on this side of the hemisphere in order to get what I needed.
So despite predictable biases or accusations of bias, why isn’t this history being taught in Jordan? Why is one of the cornerstones of our modern history blacked out from the books like a missing chunk of the puzzle?
If people knew would it improve relations or worsen them? Can we resurrect the past without reliving it? ItÃ¢??s easy to say all history must be studied and nothing bad can come of it but what I know of history is that no outcome is certain. Is the clichÃƒÂ© true; are people doomed to repeat the history they don’t remember or study? But then again do all societies study their histories so soon after civil wars? I honestly don’t know the answer to that last question.
What I do know is that I think it can be a powerful learning tool for future generations if used properly. The cynic in me says that the “properly” part is a slim shot. Many people have these hardened opinions based on little else than their family’s stories and it’s hard to break that cycle. In this country of ours we constantly confuse ghost stories with fact and we feel validated when others agree with us.
The question is, how do we go about breaking that cycle? Do we get a roundtable of historians to write something comprehensive and collective or do we ignore it and hope it eventually becomes so distant in the past that it fades away and its forgotten?
I just checked and there is actually a wiki page on Black September. It’s pretty weak though and is unfortunately, quite obviously biased.
hamzeh, yeah wikipedia isn’t the best source on issues such as this. especially an article citing arabtimes as a reference.
I imagine every article ever written about Black September will be pretty biased from your points of view. The rest of us actually know what happened, and don’t pretend it’s a taboo subject. It was even in my old Encyclopedia Britannica back when I was a kid.
like u, i grew up knowing nothing about that, when i first read the title of this post i was like: what september? as i read on i got it.. i still know very little, there are other parts not taught in history.. thinking about the questions u raise here i dont know the answer myself, normally people should know history, but the age, mentality, and way of education are things to think about..
OK I read the Wikipedia article and it is remarkably bad. Especially the spelling and grammar. This is the best part, though:
Palestinian militants were driven out to Lebanon as a result of the Cairo Agreement. See Lebanon Civil War.
So much information contained in a single sentence, no?
Craig, you should consider getting your head out of your A*S once in a while, its amazing how some knowledge mixed with ignorance can result in utter stupidity. if you allow your brain for once not to be overawed by ignorance you might consume some new ideas that are agreeable to you, when you make statements like Ã¢??and donÃ¢??t pretend itÃ¢??s a taboo subjectÃ¢?Â you really look rather stupid, which I believe is not the case. For your sake stop pre judging otherÃ¢??s opinions before you allow your brain to process them.
Rightly or wrongly this subject is taboo in Jordan (which is what Nas is talking about), you wonÃ¢??t find a sane person who has been to Jordan to disagree, surly even you can realize that you are in no position to make a judgement on such a statement.
I believe it should … but just like the Iraq war and the war on terror would be presented from the US point of view in US history books, black september most probably would be presented from Jordan’s point of view…and that’s when supplementary readings can be included in schools that give studnets the ‘other’ view …or as your question proposes, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to get a roundtable of historiasn to write something collective…get all 3 different accounts (Palestinian/Jordanian/israeli) in a few pages … and leave it to the reader/student to decide!
Naseem, would you share with us the books you read while researching to learn more about alkarameh? Thanks
About Al Karameh battle, I think one of the most valuable accounts is the one by Mashhoor Haditheh who was the commander of the Jordanian forces. Here is a link to that interview [link in Arabic]
Ironically, a lot of people who are opposed to king Hussain claim that Mashhoor Haditheh said the king ordered him not to engage Israeli troops, which you can read for yourself in the link I provided is absolutely not true because no where in that interview they always cite did he say that. What Mashhoor Haditheh said is that he was notified by Amman while on the battle field that the Israeli side requested a ceasefire, which he denied them until they were fully withdrawn behind the border they crossed.
About Black September, I don’t really have good sources, but Mashhoor Haditheh talks about it a little too, and I haven’t read that part yet.
when you make statements like Ã¢??and donÃ¢??t pretend itÃ¢??s a taboo subjectÃ¢?Â you really look rather stupid
What historical subjects are taboo in America, Nidal? Or anywhere else in the real world?
I can’t believe you suggest being ignorant of your own history is a GOOD thing. And you call ME stupid?
Whatever. Enjoy your ignorance. No wonder Jordanians are so hostile and absuive. It’s the shame you have never confronted, for your own mis-deeds. The subconsciou mind is not so easliy defeated. Nobody ever benefitted from living in denial.
By the way, Nidal, why are you apologizing to NAS in advance for the abuse you heaped on me? NAS has said worse than that to me before. It’s not like you’re going to encounter an objection. Is this the famed Arab hospitality I always hear about? It’s OK for one “guest” to abuse another, as long as the host is apologized to first?
Sorry again Nas!
Craig, I am afraid you have done it again! which if you have actually bothered to read my previous comment you would have hopefully thought twice about it.
“What historical subjects are taboo in America, Nidal? Or anywhere else in the real world?”
who is talking about America! the talk is about Jordan and if you pay attention to original article you will know what topic and where!
“I canÃ¢??t believe you suggest being ignorant of your own history is a GOOD thing………………….Nobody ever benefitted from living in denial.”
Not that I care either way, but I am curious about your miraculous ability to judge my views on Jordanian History, considering I have expressed none!
there is one part of my previous comment which I am prepared to take back, namely “stupid, which I believe is not the case” on reflection you are at least that stupid, and this has been a waste of my time.
Al-Jazeera did a program about it in 2001 which was surprisingly balanced and well-documented:
nidal and craig, please take it easy and keep it civil. i was refering to it (black september) being a taboo subject in Jordan, which like it or not, it is. also, craig, i don’t recall ever insulting/abusing you in the past but if my memory is failing me right now i apologise in advance.
Hamzeh, yes I’ve seen this interview before and Mashhoor Haditheh was probably the biggest key player in this part of history. a lot of what he said wasn’t historically confirmed until much later from the Israeli side, typically from moshe dayan who was a bit infamous for having loose lips. I think a lot of people forget the huge impact the 67 war had on the region. it literally reshaped the realities for all parties.
Craig, I am afraid you have done it again!
Nidal, of course I did it again. And I’m doing it again now. How can anybody in their right mind think that ignorance is a GOOD thing? Can you point to a single society or culture in any historical context that has deliberately blinded itself to it’s own history, and not come out the worse for it?
Nidal, I’m going to do it yet again, because I enjoy your abusive commentary and my last item has apparrently not provoked you.
Do you know how many Palestinans were killed during Black September in Jordan, and who killed them?
Do you know how many Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the occupied territories, in the last 60 YEARS?
Find out the answer to those two questions (if you don’t already know) and you may begin to understand why this subject is off limits. Kind of makes it hard to accuse Israel of genocide when you know the truth.
PS-Syria killed more muslims in 1 day than Israel has in all the years since 1948.
And Palestinians killed more Lebanese Christians than Israle killed of Palestinians too.
Another intresting item of note. There are over 5 times the number of Palestinians alive today than there were when Israel began it’s “genocide” on Palestinains 60 years ago. And that’s by conservative estimates.
How many? and who?
Palestinians are baby-making machines!
Uhhh poor Graig! Feeling neglected are we, I was not abusing you! it was harsh graphic constructive criticism, you seem to want to discuss the topic of Black September with me, where I am only discussing YOU, the subject for all I care could be the price of a Kilo of Tomato.
You seem to have a lot of energy to get involved in debates, but you never take time to analyse the subject at hand, shame really, free advice, take it or leave it, consider it or don’t.
guys, once again, hold off on the insulting of each other please. let’s maintain a bit of civility.
Most people don’t speak about a genocide happening with the Palestinians in Israel, but about ethnic cleansing and that is about the displacement of a certain ethnic group from a terretory. Israel seems to be the master of that game.
It’s hard to collect authentic resources or to create unbiased text to be tought in schools, and harder to predict the results of such a move. For the times being, I for one strictly believe that it’s not a good idea to teach this black history in our schools, we’re relativly living in better conditions compared to that time- as you have mentioned.
I say, before we jump to such a move, close wihdat and faisali clubs, allow the youth to induldge in political parties inside universities rather than deliberately fueling up racial problems every now and then, and maybe create some balance inside official departments and minsitries. I guess then, we maight be ready to handle a history such as Black September.
Frankly, I never read nor heard any information about Black sep that I could say it’s neutral; It’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to have a Palestinian or a Jordanian who have lived the actual events to be classified as an authentic resource, and by referring to a third party, you’ll never get the whole story, becuase practically, as you said, reporters were isolated inside hotels! You can add to this that both the Jordanian regime and the Palestinian guerillas had committed their share of inhuman crimes, keeping in mind that nothing has changed- that is, the same regime is ruling Jordan- it seems a bit crazy to ask the Ministry of Jordan to conceive a neutral text accusing itself of crimes!
I think we’re better off without it, in my personal opinion, it should not be mentioned nor tought anywhere at any level inside Jordan. The current situation is the best formula to handle such a history.