The Atlantic Whips up Sympathy for Jordanian Screwdriver Attacker

A July 28 article in the Atlantic, “The Anger in Jordan’s Streets,” seems calculated to engender readers’ sympathy towards Mohammad Jawawdeh, the Jordanian carpenter who recently attacked a security guard at the Israeli embassy in Jordan with a screwdriver and was killed as a result. Moreover, while the topic of the article is Jordanian anger partially over Israel’s installation of metal detectors on the Temple Mount, incredibly, it never explains why the metal detectors were installed.

The article also makes the erroneous claim that all Palestinians living in Jordan were “displaced” by the Israeli army, and fails to note that many of those who are “registered” as refugees are actually descendants of refugees, and not refugees themselves.

The first two paragraphs of Alice Su’s article are devoted to describing the details of Jawawdeh’s funeral and the Jawawdeh family’s mourning tent. Su describes the photos of the “lost son,” and the dates and cold water served to those who came to mourn “the teenager.” Readers learn that hundreds of people, including King Abdullah, attended the funeral. Only after this sad picture is completed do readers learn that Jawawdeh had attacked the embassy guard, who killed him in self-defense.

By the time readers learn that it was Jawawdeh who was in fact the aggressor, they have already been led to sympathize with him and his family. Even at that point, moreover, the article adopts the Jordanian claim that the attack occurred in the context of a “dispute” between Jawawdeh and the guard, and ignores the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement that the guard was stabbed from behind. Notably, Su does not even take into account the statement from the Jordanian Public Security Directorate, which seems to say that there was a verbal dispute between Jawawdeh and his coworker, not between Jawawdeh and the guard.

Su moves on to the overarching theme of her article, Jordanian anger. “Two days earlier,” she writes,

Thousands of Jordanians had marched in protest against Israel’s installation of metal detectors at Al Aqsa mosque, a highly sensitive religious site where Israeli security forces are perceived to be encroaching on Islamic holy land. Palestinians were meanwhile protesting in Jerusalem by praying en masse in the streets, refusing to pass through the metal detectors.

The shooting of two Israeli police officers on the Temple Mount (referred to by Su as Al Aqsa) that prompted the installation of the metal detectors is not even mentioned. By omitting the event that precipitated all of the others, Su has inverted cause and effect – the violence against Israelis, in her telling, is in response to Israel’s defensive measures, rather than the reverse.

The author further neglects to mention that the Temple Mount, while Islamic holy land, is also Jewish holy land, the site of the two Biblical Temples and the center of Jewish worship for millennia. If anyone is desecrating this land, it is people who commit violence on it, not people who try to prevent such violence with security measures.

Su’s description of the Palestinian protesters “praying en masse in the streets,” misleads by omission. While some protesters did pray in the streets, others threw rocks at cars and police. The Atlantic‘s readers learn that “Israeli forces killed three of the protestors, and on the same day, a Palestinian teenager killed three Israeli settlers in the West Bank.” Su doesn’t tell us whether the Palestinians that were killed were among the peaceful, or among the violent. Instead, like her peers at the Wall Street Journal and in much of the British press, Su simply assumes an equivalence with three Jews murdered by an assailant who broke into a family home and slaughtered them at their Shabbat dinner table.

Attempting to provide further background, Su erroneously claims that “more than 60 percent of Jordanians are of Palestinian descent, displaced by Israeli forces in 1948 or 1967.” In fact, a large percentage of the Jordanians of Palestinian descent are native to what is now Jordan, as Jordan itself was originally part of the British Mandate for Palestine, before the establishment of Transjordan. This majority of ethnic Palestinians has been discriminated against by the ruling Hashemite minority. The Atlantic doesn’t say whether that discrimination fuels their anger.

Regarding those Arabs who were displaced from what was left of Palestine after the creation of the Jordanian state, as CAMERA has explained before,

Historians agree that there was no single cause of the Arab flight from Palestine. In large part, the masses fled because they saw the Palestinian elite doing the same thing. In part, it was in response to exhortations by Arab military and political leaders that Palestinian civilians evacuate their homes until the end of the fighting. Vast numbers were simply fleeing the heavy fighting that surrounded them, or that they expected to soon disrupt their lives. In some instances, Palestinians were forced from their homes by the Jewish military.

Further, she writes that “some 2 million are still registered as refugees.” There is no mention of the disparate standard for Palestinian refugees as compared to refugees from any other nation. Not only actual refugees, of whom few remain, but also descendants of actual refugees are considered “refugees” by UNRWA, the UN agency that takes responsibility for Palestinian refugees. This standard is not applied to any other refugee group.

At the same time, however, the article offers a rare honest glimpse into Jordanian political opinion about Israel. Su shows that, despite the peace treaty between the Jordanian and Israeli governments, a deep-seated hostility towards Israel remains in Jordanian public opinion. Su quotes, for example, 22-year-old Abdullah Mohammad, who tells her, “we refuse any normalization or engagement with the Zionist government.” Eighty-three year old Abu Samer tells Su that, “all the Arab states are collaborating with Israel.”
Su writes,

The anger on Jordan’s streets is at once religious, national, and political, a mix of holy obligation to protect a sacred site, patriotic affront at the meaningless killing of two unarmed citizens, and decades-old humiliation at Jordanians’ inability to do anything against the reality of Israel, besides chanting and painting on the ground. [Emphasis added.]

Perhaps inadvertently, she has exposed the true source of Jordanian anger – “the reality of Israel.”

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