WHEN I FIRST started going in and out of Jordan three years ago, my well-honed multicultural sensibility was shocked by what I could only hear as virulent anti-Semitism. Israeli and Jew and Zionist were terms of abuse used by all but the most cosmopolitan. But as mainstream Arab media and YouTube ran footage night after night of Palestinian olive trees being uprooted by bulldozers protected by young Israeli soldiers, elderly Palestinians being attacked with sticks in their own fields and the proliferation of checkpoints and settlements, what I had first heard as anti-Semitism began to sound more like rage and fear and hopelessness.
Nearly two-thirds of Jordan’s population is Palestinian, most displaced from Jerusalem and the West Bank or from southern Israel and herded into Gaza during many years of illegal occupation. Since 2003 they have been joined by more than half a million Iraqis. Jordan throughout its short history has provided a safe haven for dispossessed people, some still hoping to go home. The people trapped in Gaza or those enduring daily deprivation and humiliation in the West Bank are their own people and they agonise with them.
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