Jordan is the West's favorite Arab nation. And for good reason, since it is the best of a generally bad lot. Most westerners admired King Hussein, adore his best-selling widow Queen Noor, and respect his son, King Abdullah. U.S. President George W. Bush recently, and appropriately, praised King Abdullah for his devotion to peace in the region. No one has to write "The Case for Jordan," as I have had to write The Case for Israel.
But any fair comparison between the Middle East's most reviled and condemned nation, Israel, and its most praised nation, Jordan, starkly reveals the invidious double standard applied to Israel.
A few largely unknown facts about Jordan:
Jordan has a law on its books explicitly prohibiting any Jew from becoming a citizen, or any Jordanian from selling land to a Jew. It has refused to amend this law despite repeated demands.
Jordan has perfected the art of torture and uses it routinely against dissidents, suspected terrorists and perceived opponents of the monarchy. I'm talking about real torture here, not the kind of rough interrogation occasionally employed by the U.S. and Israel. Jordan even threatens to torture and tortures the entirely innocent relatives of suspected terrorists, as it did with Abu Nidal's mother.
The United States is fully aware of Jordan's proficiency in torture, having "subcontracted" some of its own difficult cases to Jordanian "experts" (along with Egyptian and Philippine torture experts). Yet the UN has never condemned Jordan for its use of torture.
Jordan killed more Palestinians in one month -- September 1970, known as Black September -- than Israel has killed during the three years of suicide bombings that began in the fall of 2000. The brutality of the Jordanian Army toward Palestinian dissidents and terrorists was far more egregious than anything Israel has ever done.
The Jordanian Army has deliberately bombed civilian areas of Israeli cities in clear violation of international law. In 1967, before Israel fired a single shot at Jordan, the Jordanian Army fired 1,600 missiles into west Jerusalem, targeting apartment buildings, shops and other non-military targets. Israel did not respond by bombing Amman, which it easily could have done. It responded by attacking Jordanian military targets and then offering a cease-fire, which Jordan rejected.
Jordan is not a democracy. It is a hereditary monarchy which stifles dissent, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Its democratic facades a legislature, cabinet, judiciary are all subject to control by the Hashemite minority rulers who were placed in charge of the majority Palestinian population by a colonial decision.
Why do Americans not know the case against Jordan? Because it is in no one's interest to make it. Jordan is an ally of the United States (at least some of the time). It is a peace partner with Israel (at least now). It is the best of the Arab states in the Middle East, but "best" is a comparative term with a relatively low basis for comparison.
Why then am I making the case against Jordan? Simply to demonstrate the double standard so widely employed in judging Israel. Nothing justifies this double standard. Yes, Israel receives American aid, but so does Jordan (as well as Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and other Arab states). Indeed Jordan receives, on a per capita basis, more actual aid than Israel, if aid is defined as receiving assistance in return for nothing. Israel earns its aid by giving back an enormous amount especially in the area of military intelligence and technology. The aid given to Jordan is entirely a one-way street that goes primarily into propping up its minority monarchy and preventing its Palestinian majority from taking over. Israel, as a democracy, needs no aid to prevent internal upheaval.
So this case against Jordan is really part of the case for Israel. It invites fair-minded people to ask why Jordan which by any standard of fair judgment is less democratic, more oppressive, and far more racist gets a pass while Israel is subject to so much vilification.
Having made the case against Jordan, let me add that I, too, admired King Hussein, whom I had the pleasure of meeting. I, too, respect his son King Abdullah, who recently met with Bush and restated his commitment to a peaceful two-state solution. But I must insist and the world must insist on a single standard of judgment and criticism with regard to all nations. By any such standard, Israel deserves less criticism and more praise than Jordan.