From God to art to politics, in Amman

This is Alice Rothchild’s second dispatch from her trip to the Middle East. The first concerned a church devoted to refugees.

March 23, 2019

Leaving the Nazarene Church, I meet up with a reporter from the Electronic Intifada, Tamara Nassar, who is excited to inform me that this week is Israeli Apartheid Week, organized by the Jordanian BDS chapter. I learn that there is a general sentiment here that supports boycotting Israel and Israelis broadly rather than just complicit institutions. Tamara talks of another unaffiliated group focused on anti-normalization called Etharrak that recently was critical of Netflix for filming a new TV series using Amman as Tel Aviv. These activists denounced this effort as normalizing relations with Israel. As Tamara wrote in a piece for Electronic Intifada, two Jordanian actors pulled out of the show and there were protests at one of the film locations.

Etharrak condemned the filming in a letter to the Royal Film Commission of Jordan, an official body that promotes and facilitates foreign film and television production in the country.

Israel uses cultural normalization “to beautify and whitewash its crimes, terrorism and occupation,” the letter stated.

Activists have demanded answers from the film commission on the nature of the TV series and the authorization it received to film in Amman.

They also stated that the Royal Film Commission should not have approved a production without full knowledge of the content of the film, which could potentially support Israeli policies and a Zionist agenda. So much for Wadi ‘Araba, the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

I am beginning to get a glimpse into the complexity and tensions within Jordanian society. I hear that an estimated forty percent of Jordanians are of the 100% variety, (although I could not find an official statistic on this, I suspect because 100% is difficult to define) and the rest hail from Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Jordan has “the second highest share of refugees compared to its population in the world.” More than two million registered Palestinian refugees live in the country, but most (not all) have full citizenship. The wars in Syria and Iraq have produced new waves of refugees, an increase in security concerns, tremendous strains on public services, and an influx of low wage laborers. The booming Jordanian economy has slowed and the majority of the population is young and employable. Decent jobs are in increasingly short supply.

Despite the great highways and snazzy skyscrapers, Tamara (who grew up in Jordan) informs me that public schools in Jordan are terrible, that much of the…

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