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Jordan knows about terrorism from bitter experience. Terrorist actions have taken the lives of many of the country’s citizens, and it has ravaged national development. Therefore, Jordan has good reason to be at the forefront of efforts to eliminate this enemy of peace.

Unfortunately, the phenomenon of terrorism has become mistakenly identified with Islam. Certain groups have claimed religious justification for terrorist acts, falsely blackening what is a religion of peace and justice. Suicide is not “martyrdom,” and the killing of innocent people cannot rightly be considered jihad, which is best translated as “a righteous struggle to promote the faith.” True jihad in the service of Islam requires respect for human life and respect for treaties. Islam explicitly forbids the killing of civilians, and at its core lie the principles of tolerance and dialogue. Moreover, the murder and torture of innocent civilians is not exclusive to any one race or nation, nor to the followers of any one religion. Although the Middle East has often been known as a hotbed of terrorism, a look around the globe will show that terrorism truly knows no boundaries. In recent years, we have seen horrific proof of this in Tokyo, Oklahoma City, London, Tel Aviv, Karachi, Addis Ababa, New Delhi, al-Khalil (Hebron) and many other places. It is therefore vital that terrorism be confronted on the international level.

 

At the Summit of the Peacemakers held in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt in March 1996, the late King Hussein challenged participants to tackle the scourge of terrorism by adopting a balanced and realistic approach. “If we are to eliminate terrorism,” he said, “we must first of all establish an international mechanism to define it.” Then states must work together in establishing logistical means for uprooting it. This means cutting off its sources of funding, training and operations, in addition to deterring and dissuading any country that supports terrorism or hosts its apparatus. Vital to the logistics of fighting terrorism is the sharing of intelligence and information related to terrorist operations and individuals.



At the Summit of the Peacemakers. Left to right: Turkish President Suleiman Demirel, King Hussein of Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, US President Bill Clinton, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and PNA President Yasser Arafat, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, March 13, 1996.
© Agence France Presse

 
King Hussein went on to say, however, that it is not enough just to tackle the mechanics of terror organizations. States in the Middle East and throughout the world must address the situations of frustration and despair that breed violence. According to King Hussein, “we must shoulder our responsibilities and work together to protect the dignity of human beings, whoever and wherever they may be.”  


HM King Hussein at a joint press conference with French President Jacques Chirac during his state visit, Amman, October 23, 1996 © Elyseť Palace Archives

 

  • King Hussein: Tolerance and Dialogue

Jordan’s record in dealing with terrorism is exemplary. The Jordanian security services have discovered and prevented a number of operations launched in recent years by groups dedicated to violently wrecking the Middle East peace process. Jordan’s border with Israel and the occupied West Bank is not monitored by any outside force, and Jordan has for many years successfully prevented incursions into these areas from its own territory. This testifies not only to the effectiveness of the Jordanian state’s campaign against terrorism, but also to the hospitable and peace-loving nature of the Jordanian people, without whose cooperation such success would not be possible.

Jordan has not sacrificed its respect for human rights and democracy in the fight against terrorism. The Jordanian approach has reduced the incentive for opposition groups to take up arms to achieve their aims. Islamist and secular groups which have faced governmental repression in other countries have been allowed to participate in the Jordanian democratic experiment, and the experience has produced a responsible political opposition opposed to the use of violence to achieve their aims. This is one of the great success stories of Jordan’s modern political history.

Opposition movements have remained peaceful within Jordan. While some have called for the country to expel members of these movements, Jordan has stood by the right of its citizens to exercise their freedom of speech. The Kingdom, though, has not allowed groups which advocate violence to operate “with a free hand” inside the country. Like many countries which value both freedom and security, Jordan has tried to strike a balance between the two imperatives.

Jordan’s commitment to being an oasis of peace recently came under attack during a most regrettable incident. On September 25, 1997, agents allegedly from the Israeli Mossad disguised as Canadian tourists attempted to murder Khaled Mish’al, a Jordanian citizen and member of the Hamas political wing. The alleged Mossad agents injected Mr. Mish’al with a nerve toxin designed to kill him hours later, but Mr. Mish’al’s bodyguard was able to chase down the attackers and detain them until police arrived on the scene to take them into custody.

During the hours and days immediately after the bungled attempt, His Majesty King Hussein made saving the life of Mr. Mish’al his number one priority. A flurry of high-level contacts ensued between top Israeli officials, King Hussein, Prince El Hassan and international mediaries, and finally Israel turned over information about the poison used, as well as the antidote, to Jordanian doctors who then brought Mr. Mish’al back from the brink of death.

In the complex and delicate diplomatic maneuvering which took place during the days following the attack, King Hussein deftly managed to turn a dangerous and difficult situation to his advantage, scoring several impressive gains for Jordanians and their Palestinian brothers. First and foremost, the life of Jordanian citizen Khaled Mish’al was saved. Secondly, after His Majesty publicly called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to do so, the Israeli leader on October 1 freed elderly and ailing Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who had served eight years in Israeli prisons. King Hussein also won the release of all Jordanians held in Israeli jails, as well as a commitment from the Israeli government to release scores of Palestinian prisoners. Finally, King Hussein received an apology from the highest levels of the Israeli government and a promise never to allow such an event to occur again within Jordan.