Saturday, March 23, 2019

What is a 'Historical Connection'?

Great Britain's Ambassador to Jordan, Edward Oakden, was told two years ago by Jordan's Lower House Speaker, Atif Tarawneh, that Jordan attaches great importance to the Palestinian cause and believes that the Hashemite custodianship is the legitimate guardianship of Jerusalem's holy shrines. And he added:

"Jordan's custodianship is firm and historically entrenched and any attempt to circumvent that is bound to inflame the sensibilities of Arabs and Muslims around the world"

On that background, consider the statement of Jordan's King Abdullah II who is vowing to keep protecting Islamic and Christian holy sites in Occupied Jerusalem. He called it

a “red line” for his country

and admitted during a visit to the Zarqa governorate last week 

that he’s under pressure to alter his country’s historic role as custodian of the Jerusalem holy sites but that he wouldn’t. Abdullah says: “I will never change my position toward Jerusalem in my life.”

This is a consistent line. Last April. the King was quoted

Stressing that the Hashemite custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem is “a historical duty and responsibility that we are proud to carry”, King Abdullah said: “We will persevere in upholding this responsibility, in coordination with our brothers at the Palestinian National Authority and with your support.”

What "history" is he talking about?

The most compact statement is this, from the 2013 Jordan-PLO Agreement on the Jerusalem Holy Sites:

Recalling the role of King Al-Sharif Hussein Bin Ali in protecting, and taking care of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem and in the restoration of the Holy Sites since 1924; recalling the uninterrupted continuity of this role by His Majesty King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, who is a descendant of Al-Sharif Hussein Bin Ali; recalling that the Bay’ah (oath of allegiance) according to which Al-Sharif Hussein Bin Ali held the custodianship of the Jerusalem Holy Sites, which Custodianship was affirmed to Al-Sharif Hussein Bin Ali by the people of Jerusalem and Palestine on March 11, 1924; and recalling that the Custodianship of the Holy Sites of Jerusalem has devolved to His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin al-Hussein;

An expanded research booklet is here. That "custodianship" was based on some eight months that Ali claimed to be Caliph but was tossed out:

Two days after the Turkish Caliphate was abolished by the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 3 March 1924, Hussein declared himself Caliph at his son Abdullah's winter camp in Shunah, Transjordan.[10] The claim to the title had a mixed reception, and Hussein was soon ousted and driven out of Arabia by the Saudis, a rival clan that had no interest in the Caliphate.

That booklet first debunks Jewish history. Rather badly and so stupidly. On page 59, we read:

The present-day Israeli narrative seeks to justify the ethnic domination of Jews in the Holy Land by making the claim that the earlier 400-year connection of Jews to Jerusalem (and the later 100-year connection) gives Israel sovereignty over it. However, Jerusalem was founded by the Arab tribe of the Jebusites 2000 years before the arrival and brief rule of the Hebrews. In fact, many different nations and peoples have lived and ruled in Jerusalem, but for more than 1200 years of the last 1400 years since 638 CE, Jerusalem has been a predominately Arab and Islamic city. Moreover, in the 5000 years since Arabs founded the city, they have maintained a constant presence there (as Muslims or pre-Islam) and have ruled it for at least 3200 of the 5000 years of recorded history, compared with only about 500 years of Hebrew and Jewish rule.


Then, on pages 56-57, the Jordanian "historical connection" is explained:

...the Jordanian Hashemites took on the role of the guardians and custodians of the Muslim Holy Sites in Jerusalem. In 1918, British Commander Hogarth was instructed to deliver a guarantee to Sharif Hussein bin Ali — Emir of Mecca and father of the founding King of Jordan Abdullah I — that Muslim Holy Sites shall be considered a Muslim concern alone and shall not be subjected directly or indirectly to any non-Muslim authority. Since 1922, the Hashemites have undertaken three major restoration projects of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem and since 1948 Jordan has continuously maintained the Awqaf Administration in the Old City. The First Hashemite restoration of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque took place during the period of 1922–1924, under the auspices of Sharif Hussein and in cooperation with the Supreme Muslim Council. This exceptional historic role continued during the periods of the “British Mandate”, the period of Jordanian rule over East Jerusalem (1948–1967) and even after the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem (1967–present). Sharif Hussein bin Ali donated 24,000 golden lira to the first renovations of Al-Aqsa Mosque and requested to be buried there before his passing.  

History of less than a century.

Jordan was not officially a country, a sovereign and recognized country, until 1946, by the way.

There you have it.



Joe in Australia said...

Jordan didn't become a member of the UN until December 14th, 1955. My understanding is that the USSR had stymied this, arguing that Jordan was still effectively under British occupation. In 1956 King Hussein fired the British General, John Glubb, and in 1957 he abrogated the Anglo-Jordanian treaty under which Britain was entitled to retain bases in Jordan and had considerable power over its armed forces.

YMedad said...

While it is true that on then did Jordan become a UN member, I do not think UN membership is the most effective symbol of sovereignty. If a country chooses not to be a member, is it not sovereign? If Israel, say, leaves, is it not sovereign.

As we know, the March 1946 Treaty of London effectively granted British recognition to an independence of Transjordan and it was ratified by both the countries' parliaments.

Joe in Australia said...

I agree that UN recognition isn't determinative, but in this case it's at least indicative. It's also worth noting that the USA didn't recognise Transjordan either, not until January 31st 1949; and for the same reason.

I feel that Britain's original relationship with Jordan is what it was trying to get out of the Mandate generally: a nice little semi-colony that could be relied upon to supply its bases and add its voice to Britain's in international fora. To that end the Treaty of London stipulated that "Each of the High Contracting Parties" - that is, Britain and Transjordan - "undertakes not to adopt in foreign countries an attitude which is inconsistent with the alliance or might create difficulties with for the other party thereto." That's facially even-handed, but I would think it would have bound Transjordan much more stringently than the UK.

The really significant bit comes in the annex, though, which is well worth reading. I found my copy linked from this page. The treaty appears on pp 157-164 of the PDF.

Transjordan "may station armed forces in Trans-Jordan in places where they are stationed at the date of signature of the present Treaty, and in such other places as may be agreed upon". [my emphasis] That doesn't sound like independence to me! Nor does this: "His Highness The Amir of Trans-Jordan will grant facilities at all times for the movement and training of the armed forces of His Majesty The King".

The annex reserves the British right to the use of all forms of transport for their armed forces, and obliges the Amir to "safeguard, maintain, and develop [them] as necessary in consultation with the Government of the United Kingdom". British forces are to maintain jurisdictional and fiscal immunity "pending the conclusion of an agreement". The UK is to pay no taxes or duties on property in Trans-Jordan or goods imported thereto. Trans-Jordan is to maintain compatibility between its armed forces and those of the UK, and is to solely use British military academies for any training outside Trans-Jordan.

These provisions are not consistent with an independent country. IMO Transjordan was at that time nothing more than the British equivalent of a banana republic. And, significantly, it means that when Jordan attacked the Yishuv - to a very large extent it was the UK that was responsible.

Anonymous said...

While King Abdullah can say what he pleases to satisfy his domestic audience, Jordan's actual role with respect to Jerusalem is very limited and described in Article 9 of the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. Here it is in full and one can see the level of tolerance and restraint Israel has shown, regarding not only this Article but much of the rest of the treaty obligations Jordan undertook only to ignore, ono doubt out of concern for the King's weak position.

Article 9. Places of Historical and Religious Significance and Interfaith Relations
1. Each Party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance.
2. In this regard, in accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high pri-
ority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.
3. The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.

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