At their joint press conference, King Abdullah II of Jordan agreed with Bush’s policies and agenda on the Middle East including his stance with Israel (see Associated Press article below). Journalists should have asked probing questions and should have done some homework but they did not. Here is stuff the media ignored that reflects on this moment and explains why this is really relevant (notice that all references except that of Said are from Israeli Jewish authors).
The Zionist leadership was in tacit agreement with Emir Abdullah of Transjordan well before Israel was established. Palestine would be divided between the Jews and Abdullah. Abdullah would take that part of Palestine allotted to the Arabs west of the Jordan Valley according to UN Resolution #181 (II) of 29 November 1947. This part later became to be known as the West Bank. The rest of Palestine was to be left for the “Exclusive Jewish State”. Documents with intriguing details of this agreement are reported in Avi Shlaim’s book, “Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, The Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine” (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988). Abdullah of Jordan twice undermined efforts by Hajj Amin Al-Husaini to get the Arab league to support the establishment of a Palestinian government in exile in the late 1940s (Ilan Pappe, “The Making of the Arab Israeli Conflict 1947-1951,” I. B. Tauris, New York, 1992, pp 74-76).
“In effect, Britain now became a party to an attempt to frustrate the UN partition plan and divide up Palestine instead between Abdullah and the Jews. This was the basis of his agreement with Golda Meir at Naharayim. It was not the first time that Britain had heard about Abdullah’s contacts with the Jewish Agency, but it was the first time that the Transjordanian government had asked for British advice on this matter. Significantly, the only word of warning appended by Bevin to his acceptance of the Transjordanian plan was to refrain from invading the areas allotted to the Jews. Thus Bevin…appears, by Feb. 1948, to be resigned to the inevitable emergence of a Jewish State but intent on frustrating the emergence of a Palestinian Arab state.” (Avi Shlaim, op cit, pp. 139-140)
An authoritative account of King Abdullah’s military plans in respect to Palestine was given by Glubb Pasha, the British commander of the Arab Legion, to Maj.-Gen. C. D. Packard, the director of Military Intelligence at the War Office in London. He made it clear that there was no intention to move before May 15, 1948. Abdullah would not march over the Jewish frontiers as assigned by resolution # 181. The main objectives of the invading force would be Beersheba, Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin with forward elements in Tulkarm and the area just south of Lydda (Shlaim Op cit, p. 153). King Abdullah was assasinated by Palestinian Arab nationalists on a visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1950. A brief (few months) rule by his son Talal ended by moving the ruling to the young Talal’s son Hussain.
Israel declared Jerusalem its capital in 1950 and the same year King Hussain annexed the West Bank. Both were illegal moves by standards of International law (according to UN resolutions). A Palestinian uprising in 1956 in the West Bank was put down by the Jordanian army.
Britain was aware of Hasehmite/Zionist agreements (conducted at Nahartayim between Abdullah and Golda Meir and continuing in the decades that followed) and encouraged Abdullah’s ambitions well ahead of Israel’s establishment. These were contrary to the wishes of the inhabitants of Palestine. Abdullah was put in power by the British in the area, expanding his emirate West of the Jordan would be consistent with Britain’s interests. On 7 Feb. 1948, Bevin in his Foreign Office in London received Tawfiq Abul Huda and “Glubb Pasha” for discussions on the future of Palestine. Glub Pasa who led the Arab irregulars from the East was actually British. Fighting really only occured around Jerusalem and mostly due to lack of communications. Jordan was given a green light to occupy the Arab part of Palestine provided they refrain from invading the areas allotted to the Jewish State. Bevin had clearly “become resigned to the inevitable emergence of a Jewish state”, while opposing the emergence of a Palestinian Arab state (Avi Shlaim, Collusion Across the Jordan, p. 139).
In 1970-1971, the PLO was violently removed from Jordan (Israeli airforce was dispatched to threaten the Syrian forces not to intervene in King Hussain’s war with the PLO). The presence of Palestinians with political (and military) power in Jordan was deemed threatening to the Kingdom’s stability especially since the majority of Jordan’s residents are Palestinain refugees. Later, the PLO was also deemed a threat in Lebanon where they relocated 1971. This resulted in the Lebanon bout of fighting in 1975-1976 between segments of the Lebanese militias and the PLO and its Lebanese allies. In both cases, the rather ironic result has been to increase the power of Palestinian nationalism (because of their alienation). As Edward Said put it: “The Palestinians were assaulted for their extraterritorial presence in Jordan and Lebanon – however different the particular circumstances- and confirmed variously in their circumscribed nationalistic aspirations” (“The Question of Palestine,” Vintage Books, New York, 1979, p. 167). It is thus not a coincidence that in 1974, the PLO was recognized by the Arab states as the “sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”
Jordan’s relinquished its claim on the West Bank followed and the PLO’s issued its declaration of Independence (both in 1988). This declaration made it clear that the Palestinian leadership was finally ready for statehood alongside the state of Israel (based on UN resolutions) and paved the way for talks between the US and the PLO in December 1988 and later for the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO.
Today the Palestinian leadership and polity is in at least part of their own land (Palestine) and not in Jordan or Lebanon. Expelling Palestinians and a repeat of the ethnic cleansing events of 1947-1949 is being talked about seriously in Israel. But, 8 million Palestinians continue to struggle for freedom and repatriation using all available means (legitimate and illegitimate, violent and non-violent). Every calamity seems to increase their determination to return to their homes and lands and to practice their right to self determination like any other people. Bush and Abdullah II may not have more wisdom or insight to see this today than Bevin and Abdullah did in 1947.
Unless we and these leaders realize what has and continued to happen (the dispossession of the Palestinians with complicity and schemes by both local and regional powers), not much will change for the better and violence will unfortunately continue and even increase. As always, Palestinian civilians will be the largest victims of this cycle of violence. Others will continue to suffer too from terrorism and other atrocities. And the politicians will continue to talk and make promises and insist on dealing with symptoms rather than curing the disease. And many more innocents will likely die. That is a real shame.
(Dr. Mazin B. Qumsiyeh is Chair of the Media Committee, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition)