Jordan is not Yemen, but they are really not far apart [Archives:2003/694/Opinion]

December 15 2003

Hassan Al-Haifi
Over the last couple of days this observer is beginning to realize that the Yemeni people are highly more politicized than most of their Arab brethren elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula and perhaps throughout the Arab World. In retrospect, one begins to wonder if Iraq is not closer to Yemen than the geography of the country would actually entail. In Yemen, one would not have to dig out any public opinion about the situation in Iraq. That is almost the talk of the town on a daily basis. In Amman, unless one seeks out views from people, no one is ready to come out with any of their feelings about any situation, let alone the situation in Iraq. Even with the majority of the Jordanian population being Palestinian, one is surprised that there is very little talk about what is going on in the West Bank or Gaza. However, there is no question about where the sympathies of most of the people lie on most of the issues facing the Arab Nation: The Americans really have no business being in Iraq, notwithstanding all the reasoning and justifications put up by the White House and the rest of the Bush Administration and the Neo-con establishment behind them. Even government officials here in Amman are fully in line with the overall public mood that the Americans and the Israelis are on the same track. Many are also ready to undermine the American position and would be willing to suggest that US Policy is now really Israeli policy. However, that does not seem to be only the Arab view. In fact, even past US Presidents are ready to point out that the position of the present American Administration in the White House is far too biased towards “Sharon and undermines the just rights of the Palestinians”, as former President Jimmy Carter stated outright on the Larry King Live Show of Friday the 12th of December.
Of course, the Jordanian Press is keen on making events in Iraq and Palestine front-page news, but the general public mood is far from entrenched in any political dialogue, as is the case in Yemen. In Yemen, all the orientations along the overall political, economic and social spectrum are unanimous in their anti-occupation of Iraq and in their attitude towards the agenda of belligerency followed by Ariel Sharon and his thugs in the West Bank and Gaza. In Jordan, there is no doubt a common disapproval of the latest developments in the region. But again, one must dig out this feeling. This is understandable for only one reason. The people of Jordan are more inclined to concentrate on meeting the needs of livelihood and raising their families, with a view towards having the next generation outdo the one that precedes it, in terms of all the human development indicators and in terms of the standards of living. The latter seems to be the right pragmatic approach, but one tends to feel there is indeed a need for greater political dialogue. Maybe the tightrope that Jordan has had to walk on for half a century has brought the Jordanian people to a high pragmatic level of thinking that talk is cheap, and without continuous sustainable development there is no way for any talk to become effective. There is nothing wrong with that kind of thinking at all, and as long as there is continued progress, one might think this to be healthy thinking.
But in Yemen, emotions have a strong position in people's lives. All across the social and economic spectrum, people are ready to divulge of their feelings and find no reason to withhold strong phrases to underscore their feelings about the American “invasion” of Iraq and the “ugly” intransigent policies of Ariel Sharon, who is regarded by most Yemenis as a non-kosher butcher, no more – no less. Unmistakably, one enjoys hearing Yemenis speak their minds about all the political forces at play, in Yemen and elsewhere. However, Jordan has shown also that there is significance to putting a greater focus on productivity and raising the level of intellect and cultural attainment of the people of any country, as well as the standard of living. Accordingly, the public opinions expressed will not only have greater weight, but will also manage to get across to a much wider audience throughout the world.
So, what is more important politics or development? It is clear by now to this observer anyway that both, political thinking and awareness (and of course participation) and enhanced cultural attainments are key to making any political activities reasonably agreeable to all concerned.
One might think that Yemenis and Jordanians might be able to exchange much of their experiences to the overall benefit of both states. This observer believes that the cordial relationship of the leaders of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Republic of Yemen can go along way in taking advantage of such an exchange, and letting the voice of the Arab Nation reach a greater span of the listening ears throughout the world.