A group calling itself "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" has reportedly claimed responsibility for the bombings in Jordan; the group is headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who takes his name from the impoverished town of Zarqa in Jordan where he was born.
I visited the place when I was in Jordan earlier this year. I was traveling with my dad back from Syria to Amman and we stopped in for an hour, wandering its crowded streets. My dad lived in Zarqa for a time after being driven out of his home in the Galilee, now northern Israel, by Zionist forces in 1948. Zarqa is a cramped small city now, but in 1948 virtually all that was there was an Army base.
My dad, as a teenager ended up there, separated from his immediate family, along with thousands of other Palestinians in what became a refugee camp. It swelled further after Israel's conquest during the 1967 War turned hundreds of thousands more Palestinian villagers and townspeople from the West Bank into refugees in Jordan. There are other camps around Amman which are still more refugee camp and less city.
People in Zarqa are poor and struggling for the most part, you can now see some footage of it on TV, because of Zarqawi's notoriety, which rather illustrates a point few Americans would care to think of too long.
My dad was lucky. He could have ended up stuck in Lebanon, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinian remain. But he had a relative, who would later become my Godfather, who was an officer in the Jordanian Army. He helped my dad out, though early on my dad barely had enough to eat at times, in spite of the crucial though minimal help of the UN.
Also, notably, Jordan, unlike other Arab countries did give citizenship to the Palestinian refugees. Now we have Israeli leaders like Netanyahu claiming that "Jordan is Palestine" -- because Jordan took many Palestinians in, and so, by this argument, Israel is virtually absolved of the moral and legal wrongs it has committed to the Palestinians, and can even flirt with finishing the job off by pushing more Palestinians it is occupying into Jordan, or at least tacitly threaten to do so as a bargaining chip.
My dad and I also went to the U.S. embassy in Amman, basically a fortress, and asked the police in front of it we could take pictures. They did their jobs and told us we couldn't (I've been detained doing that sort of thing) but I got the distinct impression that they wouldn't shed many tears if it were bombed.
Some other relatives took me to one of the Western hotels, though not one of those which were bombed. What struck me about it was the general eeriness of that well-off part of Amman, not just the hotels, attempting a Western upper middle class "normalcy" in the midst of poverty and regional turbulence. It was typified for me by the site of blonde East European waitresses serving drinks at the hotel. A country like Jordan frankly doesn't seem like a country; it's more a recent political entity, like Israel, created by outside powers (the U.K. and the U.S.) for their strategic goals.
Now the mantra is Abdullah vs. Zarqawi. I don't think it's a secret that the likes of Bin Ladin have some support in Jordan; he is commonly perceived as the only one "standing up" to the violence, wrongs, lies and hypocrisies of the U.S. and Israeli governments. Now, many in Jordan are demonstrating against Zarqawi and, in the process are explicitly backing King Abdullah.
But Abdullah largely serves the interests of those who rule the U.S. and Israeli governments and thus enables their crimes, whether it's Israel occupying and oppressing the Palestinians for generations; or the U.S., which has clearly been bent on regional dominance and is now occupying Iraq. Seymour Hersh, much lauded by progressives, wrote a in piece shortly after 9-11 titled "The C.I.A. and the Failure of American Intelligence" that the Jordanian government dealt effectively with terrorists: "The Jordanians did not move directly against suspected Abu Nidal followers but seized close family members instead -- mothers and brothers."
Abdullah has typically kept the people in Jordan in line, muzzling their views, preventing protests -- unless they are convenient like the ones today.
Zarqawi's bombings are being used by the monarchy to consolidate its power; and Zarqawi uses Abdullah's complicity in the crimes of the U.S. and Israel to commit mass murder of his own. He achieves stardom through the martyrdom of others. Others who seemingly can no longer tolerate the oppressor's wrong, forgo the slings as arrows of outrageous fortune and take up arms against a sea of troubles, and so end them; at least for themselves, perhaps they are certain what comes after; but they do so shooting out worse than slings and arrows at their victims, survivors and their loved ones.
Zarqawi's too violent even for Bin Ladin; but then he's had it a bit harder. Some warned before the invasion of Iraq that such action would spawn more Bin Ladins, I don't think anyone suggested any of them would be more ruthless.
The people of Jordan and the Mideast are hungry for someone to stand up to the U.S., but it seems too much for them that they, and not just people in Baghdad, Tel Aviv and Manhattan might be the targets. This is mirrored by people in the U.S. who note, even if it's just to themselves, that Bush is doing tolerably well, because he has "taken the fight to the terrorists," and neither Al-Qaeda nor its spawn have detonated anything on the HomeLand.
By creating havoc Zarqawi facilitates the demonization of anyone seriously critical of U.S. policy; shrinks the space that others may bring some semblance of justice and equity to the situation; though perhaps they have been too slow in doing so -- but there's the rub.
Yes, it is right to condemn both paths: Arab rulers who serve as virtual vice-roys of empire -- and obviously the murderous renegades like Zarqawi.
But it's also too easy to simply condemn the paths of Zarqawi and Abdullah. What is Abdullah to do? Stand up to the U.S. so that he can be crushed? What is Zarqawi to do? Wait for the thousands of Non-Governmental Organizations to bring peace and justice to the Palestinians and Iraqis like they never have done?
Wake up! We must all wake up! Bush and Bin Ladin and Abdullah and Zarqawi rule because everyone else has failed to take loving possession of the Earth; has failed to build the local and global relationships necessary for us to live with each other with love.
The most obvious case: The "peace movement" in the U.S. is at a standstill, other than about the U.S. dead; it was a quasi-global movement. On February 15, 2003, shortly before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there were mass protests in many cities around the world. Why was that not been seriously built upon? Why?
Bin Ladin and Zarqawi cannot be the only ones "standing up" against a U.S. Empire. The people of the world have to be able to stand up, have to find the ways of communicating to stand up together.
Zarqawi's group may have taken "credit" for the bombings, but it's we who bear responsibility; for this, and God forbid, far worse.
[originally published at husseini.org on Nov. 11, 2005]