The two main concerns Jordan’s King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein brought up in his speech before the UN assembly this week were the need to halt the spread of terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and his country’s dire need for help in caring for millions of Syrian refugees that have crossed over from the civil war next door. The king ended his eloquent speech with a scant reference to the Israeli-PA conflict, cautioning that “no injustice has spread more bitter fruit than the denial of a Palestinian State,” and stressing that “Israel has to embrace peace or eventually be engulfed in a sea of hatred.”
Meanwhile, it’s been Jordan being engulfed, as the ISIS hordes have been hammering at its borders from several directions, leaving only one safe border, the one with those bitter fruits of the Israeli-PA conflict. Or, as His Majesty described it, the outlaws of Islam — the “khawarej” — have murdered, plundered, exploited children and rejected the equality of women before God. But he insisted that it was crucial to recognize the difference between that image of Islam and what the religion really teaches.
“False perceptions of Islam and of Muslims will fuel the terrorists’ agenda of a global struggle by polarizing and factionalizing societies, East and West,” the king warned. Islam teaches that all humanity is equal in dignity and that there is no distinction between different nations, regions or races, he said, but the khawarej deliberately hide such truths in order to drive Muslims and non-Muslims apart. “We cannot allow this to happen,” he warned. He explained that those radical outlaws do not exist on the fringes of Islam, but outside it altogether. A new mind-set, new partnerships and reformed methodologies would be needed to confront such a non-traditional enemy. For Muslims it is, first and foremost, a fight for their future.
Admirably truthful and useful ideas, which is why one must wonder how come the king is recommending that, while the rest of the world should be combating these radicals, Israel, his only safe neighbor, should embrace peace with them. It may have to do with the fact that Jordan’s population is 80% “Palestinian,” meaning it is made up of the indefinable hordes who flooded the area from all over the Middle East starting in the 1920s, seeking jobs and safety alongside the Zionist enterprise and under the rule of the British Mandate. Jordan has become a home to many of them who fled Israel during the 1948-49 war, just as it became a home to an estimated 400,000 of them who were deported by Kuwait after the Gulf War of 1991. Indeed, the close to two million refugees who have been invading Jordan in the past five years are no more “Syrian” than the others are “Palestinian.” Those national definitions are synthetic, Western inventions imposed on a region that lives by tribalism.
That was the real message the Jordanian king was sharing with the world in NY City this week, as he put it bluntly in his speech before the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, co-hosted by the US, Jordan, Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Germany and Ethiopia.
“For many years, our country’s security and stability and our citizens’ generous compassion have led desperate refugees to our doors,” King Abdullah II told the summit. “In the past five years the Syrian crisis has sent Jordan’s burden skyrocketing. Some 2.5 million Syrians have crossed into Jordan since 2011. Today we are hosting 1.5 million Syrians, one for every five of our own citizens. Across my country, Jordanians are suffering. No one is justified in questioning our commitment and sacrifices. The economic and social impact has shocked every sector, every community; and it has set back the strides of our economy and has created tremendous problems in our development, job growth and debt reduction. We are spending a quarter of our national budget on refugee-related costs.”
Noting that “all countries agree that the Syrian refugee crisis will be with us all for years to come,” the king warned that “if regional refugee hosts are abandoned and left to fail, the need won’t disappear. The crisis will simply spread further, prolonging the time it takes to end this ordeal. The cost in human suffering will be unspeakable.”
Which is why the takeaway from King Abdullah II’s speech is not about his faint call on Israel to be more peaceful with its terrorist neighbors, but a cry for help in managing the Arab hordes on either side of his gates.