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The Media Line: Jordanians Angry Over Israeli Minister’s Remarks Denying Palestinians’ Existence

Jordanians Angry Over Israeli Minister’s Remarks Denying Palestinians’ Existence

Speech by Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich claiming that there is no such thing as the Palestinian people is ‘racist and extremist behavior,’ Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said

By Daoud Kuttab/The Media Line

(Amman) March 21 is celebrated in Jordan and the region as the first of spring as well as Mother’s Day.

It is also the anniversary of the 15-hour Battle of Karama in 1968 during which Jordanian and Palestinian fighters repelled an attempt by the Israeli army to infiltrate a Jordanian village east of the Jordan River. While the Jordanian army was more powerful than the Israelis, it was the Fatah movement that used the battle in the town – whose name means dignity – to recruit volunteers and the funding that would propel Fatah and Yasser Arafat to take over the PLO and to begin the path toward the representation of the Palestinian people everywhere.

The celebrations this year, however, were overshadowed by the ongoing drama caused by Bezalel Smotrich, a far-right-wing senior member of Israel’s government, who publicly denied the existence of the Palestinian people and erased the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

During a speech in Paris at a private event, Smotrich said: “There are no Palestinians because there isn’t a Palestinian people,” and delivered his speech at a podium decorated with a map of Israel that included as part of its borders Jordan and the West Bank.

The story that went viral on social media and then appeared on some Jordanian websites suddenly became a diplomatic incident as Jordan summoned the Israeli ambassador for an official demarche, or protest.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador to Amman on Monday evening and informed him that the act constituted “racist and extremist behavior that violates international norms and the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty.” This is the second time in recent months that Jordan has complained to Israel’s diplomatic representative to the kingdom.

The Foreign Ministry was further supported by Jordan’s Prince El Hassan Bin Talal during a radio interview about the Battle of Karama. The prince responded to Smotrich’s racist statements, calling them a violation of laws and morals.

Prince Hassan told the University of Jordan radio that the Foreign Ministry “has the right to condemn the breach of international laws fortified in thousands of United Nations resolutions, and in the peace agreement concluded between Jordan and Israel.”

An unidentified Arab artist dug up the original logo of the Irgun, the Zionist paramilitary organization that operated in Mandate Palestine and then the state of Israel between 1931 and 1948, which shows the same map with a gun across it, and juxtaposed that logo with a logo showing the Palestinian flag covering all of Israel and the Palestinian territories and the Jordanian flag covering Jordan.

Samar Muhareb, the CEO of Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development – ARDD, a Jordanian non-governmental organization, told the Media Line that what Smotrich said and the map he was supporting speak volumes about what she called Israel’s expansionist racism.

“This is an incident in which the racist ideology against Palestinians and Arabs is visible for all to see,” Muhareb told The Media Line.

She says it is time to talk to the Americans and Europeans who have given him visas to visit their countries and a chance to spew his hatred at the very same time as they are meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials at summits in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh with the declared aim of de-escalation.

Muhareb said that the priority now “is not to waste our time on Israeli extremists, but we need to press the Western countries that empower them and fail to denounce them. We need to push them to recognize Palestine if they are serious about the two-state solution.”

Muhareb points out that this statement and map came from an Israeli government official and therefore we need to “have a strong, continuous and non-hesitant reaction to it.”

Zakaria Al Sheikh, a media owner and former member of Jordan’s parliament, told The Media Line that the map should not be dealt with as just a passing issue.

“There are plans for this entity against Jordan and its people regardless of who is in the successive Zionist governments,” he said, referring to Israel.

He called for a review of the educational curriculum regarding Palestine and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. “We need to teach our children about the destructive agendas of this entity against Jordan.” Al Sheikh added that the incident shows that the radical entity – a reference to the state of Israel – “is the source of insecurity and the absence of world peace.”

Nidal Qaqish, a former member of the As-Salt city council, told The Media Line that it is clear that what he called the “racist country,” meaning Israel, has reached a crossroads.

“Zionists are showing their extremism, even to fellow Jews, as this extremist has shown an ideology based on the rejection of Palestinians and everyone that supports them,” Qaqish said. “Palestine is Arab and will continue that way. The Palestinian and Jordanian peoples know that and our unity is required to stand up to this enemy.”

Former deputy prime minister and the secretary general of the Mithaq party, Mohammad Momani, called on the government to immediately denounce the statements and the map that Smotrich stood behind. “The statement must be condemned, … as well as political action must be taken against this radical Israeli government,” he told the AmmanNet news website on Monday.

The United Arab Emirates also denounced Smotrich’s remarks. In a statement carried by the UAE’s official news agency WAM, the Emirate’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation also affirmed “the UAE’s rejection of inciteful rhetoric and all practices that contradict moral and human values and principles.”

The UAE Foreign Ministry “stressed the need to confront hate speech and violence and noted the importance of promoting the values of tolerance and coexistence to reduce escalation and instability in the region,” the statement said.


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