Although few people have been taking part in protests against price hikes in Jordan, analysts believe the public movement could still make a difference.
Protesters are seen in front of parliament in Amman, Jordan, Feb. 1, 2018. The sign reads “Don’t raise prices.”
Jordanians are taking to the streets in protest of price hikes involving hundreds of essential goods, including bread, which came into effect at the beginning of February after parliament approved a controversial 2018 state budget. But unlike 2011, when Jordanians held large demonstrations across the kingdom calling for political reforms, this time the protests are few and far between. Every week following Friday prayers, small crowds would gather in downtown Amman, Salt, Kerak, Ma’an and Madaba calling on King Abdullah to sack the government and dissolve parliament. The protests are mostly peaceful, although there were confrontations with police forces in Kerak on Feb. 8 that led to a number of arrests.
But despite bitter attacks on the government’s economic policies by a number of Lower House deputies, Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki survived a no-confidence motion Feb. 18 submitted by the Islamist-led Al-Islah parliamentary bloc. The outcome of the vote is expected to increase public denunciation of both the government and parliament.
The government says the sales tax increase on essential goods and the lifting of bread subsidies are part of its agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to restructure the economy and reduce expenditures. In an interview with Jordan television on Feb. 13, Mulki said the country would have gone bankrupt had it not been for recent economic measures that saw subsidies lifted on several commodities. But he also blamed populist policies and unwise public spending by previous governments for the decline in economic performance. He said the economy would “exit the bottleneck by mid-2019.”
Mulki’s comments have failed to lift the public mood. On social media, Jordanians were skeptical of Mulki’s promise that their suffering would end by mid-2019. Some pointed to the fact that Jordan had been bowing to the IMF’s orders since the early 1990s. Others blamed the current conditions on the government’s inability to fight corruption and for relying solely on “citizens’ pockets” by levying and collecting taxes.
With the official unemployment rate standing at 18% — it is higher among young people and women — and a third of the population living below the poverty line, many Jordanians are doubtful that recent economic measures will improve their livelihoods. The undersecretary of the Finance Ministry, Izziddin Kanakrieh, was quoted by Ammon News as saying that 6 billion Jordanian dinars ($8.4 billion) of the 9 billion Jordanian dinars ($12.6 billion) state budget for 2018 will be spent on salaries and pensions and servicing the kingdom’s debt while only 1 billion Jordanian dinars ($1.4 billion) will go to capital expenditure.
Trust between the public and the government has reached a new low after the recent price hikes. Adding to the government’s growing unpopularity is the fact that the IMF declared Feb. 15 that it has never recommended lifting bread subsidies or increasing taxes on medicines, adding that economic reforms should not constitute a burden on the poor.
But despite the high disapproval of recent government measures, which included an increase in the electricity tariff and the price of fuel, pundits have been surprised by the low-key public reaction so far. Hassan Barari, a professor of political science at the University of Jordan, told Al-Monitor that successive government policies have put Jordanians under unbearable pressure. “People will take to the street as they are now convinced that it’s not the fault of a single government but the failure of an entire economic policy,” he said.
“The solution is in the hands of the king and it is no longer an issue of blaming the government or replacing it. When it comes to the inability to put food on the table, the concept of social security collapses and this threatens the legitimacy of the regime itself,” Barari added.
While Barari said he could not predict how Jordanians would react in the future, he believes the street is reaching a boiling point. He pointed to a new phenomenon that appeared a few days before price hikes went into effect. Between mid-January and the first week of February, a number of armed bank heists took place in Amman, mostly ending in failure. In addition, there were reports of robberies involving gas stations, pharmacies and post offices. In most cases, the perpetrators were young Jordanians with no prior criminal records.
Barari and other pundits warned of the relationship between worsening economic conditions and the rise in crime and social violence. Al-Ghad newspaper columnist Fahd al-Khitan told Al-Monitor that Jordanians are right to be angry over the difficult economic phase and have the right to protest. “These protests must remain peaceful and we should be wary of attempts to revive radical slogans from the days of the Arab Spring demonstrations,” he said.
“As for the phenomenon of armed robberies, we should look at the reasons behind the rise of such incidents and their effect on social peace,” Khitan added.
One explanation for the worsening economic conditions came from Abdullah, who told university students Feb. 1 that Jordan was paying the price of its political stand over Jerusalem without divulging the identity of those putting pressure on the kingdom. But Barari told Al-Monitor that to say that Jordan is paying for its position on Palestine is not convincing. “The suffering of Jordanians has been going on for a while and it’s about bad economic policies and not political stands,” he said.
While the flow of foreign aid from the Gulf countries has slowed down considerably, the United States remains Jordan’s biggest financial supporter. On Feb. 14, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed an agreement that guarantees Jordan nearly $1.3 billion in annual assistance for the next five years. The agreement saw an increase in annual US aid despite Jordan’s criticism of President Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem in December.
In a country where political parties are weak and parliament is comprised mostly of government loyalists, Jordanians have limited venues to express their anger and distrust of the political system. While public protests have been surprisingly small, observers believe the street remains unpredictable.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher told Al-Monitor that the return of protests is linked to the confidence crisis between citizens and governments. “There is a lack of political will to fight corruption and people are feeling this. There is no drive to instill political reforms because there are no reformers,” he said.
“In fact, there is an attack on reformers and I am convinced that we cannot create economic reforms without carrying out genuine political reforms first,” Muasher added.
Jeremy Corbyn leads a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London in 2014, one year before becoming Labour Party leader. Photo: File.
This marked a massive rise from the previous such survey, in which only 39% of Jews believed Corbyn was antisemitic.
British Jews also expressed an extremely low opinion of the Labour Party in general. The poll showed that 85.6% believed Labour suffered from “very high” levels of antisemitism.
Corbyn and his party have been beset with a series of high-profile antisemitism scandals for several years, which has resulted in the resignation and suspension of several prominent officials. Corbyn himself was recently caught on video saying that “Zionists” did not understand “English irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time.”
Makuya in Jerusalem 201 (YouTube)
Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the youths. I delight to sit in his shade, And his fruit is sweet to my mouth. (Song of Songs 2:3)
For ten days in late August, Israeli Rabbi Benny Lau and his wife, Rabbanit Noah Lau, traveled from Jerusalem to Japan to lead Bible study for groups of Makuya Japanese Christians. The Laus traveled to five Japanese towns and spent three days together at a weekend conference with 3,400 members of the Makuya group.
Makuya is Japanese for the Hebrew word Mishkan, the tent of meeting, where human beings come into contact with God. The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary that the Israelites used in the desert, before entering Israel and building the First Holy Temple.
The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. (Credit: Agencia O Globo)
Jair Bolsonaro, the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election in Brazil, was stabbed during a campaign rally Thursday and was undergoing surgery.
The far-right politician, whose heated rhetoric has electrified some voters and angered others – -who accuse him of racism and homophobia – in a deeply polarized electorate, was attacked amid a crowd in the south-east state of Minas Gerais. Bolsonaro has performed strongly in recent opinion polls.
Those same polls suggested that he will likely receive the most votes in next month’s presidential elections, especially if the country’s former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (‘Lula’) remains blocked from standing. He is currently in prison, but is appealing against his candidacy ban – imposed after his conviction for corruption.
Republican lawmakers have made it clear they have no intention of repealing Obamacare in the current Congress.
Republicans in the nation’s top lawmaking body have never really wanted to get rid of Obamacare. They would prefer to present the program, which David Horowitz correctly describes as “the greatest assault on individual freedom and individual choice in our lifetimes,” as a villain and whip up sentiment against it and run against it every election. They view Obamacare as good for the business of politics. They may chip away at it from time to time or tinker with it at the margins, but make no mistake: these creatures of Washington want to keep it in place. This is the Republicans’ dirty secret.
The Trump administration has decided to reopen a case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, previously closed by the Obama administration in 2014, alleging that the university had allowed Jewish students to be subjected to a hostile environment in violation of Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The issue, ignored by the Obama administration, was whether the students were discriminated against based on their actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or ethnicity. Kenneth L. Marcus, the new assistant secretary of education for civil rights, decided that the case deserved another look.
Nestled in the Han River in the middle of South Korea’s bustling capital of Seoul, Yeoui Island is hardly where one would expect to find the largest mega-church in the world. Home to the city’s business and financial district, its skyline dotted with skyscrapers, the island boasts some of the country’s most powerful institutions, such as the Korean stock exchange and the headquarters of LG, the international conglomerate.
The AfD’s opponents, who often brand the party as “far right” or “extremist,” claim that the party’s alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups pose an existential threat to Germany’s constitutional order. The AfD’s supporters counter that Germany’s politically correct establishment, afraid of losing its power and influence, is attempting to outlaw a legitimate party that has pledged to put the interests of German citizens first.
Israel’s Palestinian foes regard “martyrdom” as the supremely highest expression of Islamic sacredness. Nonetheless, there are certain conspicuously prominent disjunctions between the relevant obligations of faith and expectations of international law. Unambiguously, only the latter set of obligations can offer a suitably authoritative source for assessing Palestinian resorts to armed force.
This is the case even when the stated objective of such resorts would be “self-determination” and/or “national liberation.”
“Setting fire to the ground,” a “major catastrophe,” bringing “new instability” are the headlines that have greeted Donald Trump’s unorthodox decisions over the past year. Withdrawing from UNESCO, moving the US Embassy, leaving the Iran deal and cutting funding to UNRWA and funding for Pakistan were seen as extreme decisions in the Middle East and around the world. Insofar as there is a “Trump Doctrine,” it has been to call this bluff.
In the mind-set of Trump and his team, the time has come for the United States to move quickly to reverse decades of foreign policy norms, ending the status quo, and ripping up what the previous administrations did.
The jihadi assault on and massacre of Christians continued unabated throughout the Muslim word. According to one report titled, “Armed gangs WIPE OUT 15 villages in mass Christian slaughter in Nigeria,” several Islamic terrorists “stormed through 15 villages to massacre Christians and destroy their churches in a violent crackdown against the religion…. Dozens of people have been killed after the gangs ransacked towns and villages to clear them of all aspects of the Christian faith.
Wars are raging in various parts of the Middle East, although there is a tendency not to call the conflicts by that name because of the fear conjured up by the word.
One conflagration is the war Iran is waging against those – headed by Israel – who stand in the way of its plans to take over the entire Middle East.
Another is the Assad regime’s war to take back control of the entire country, and a third is the PLO’s battle for survival.
Much has been written about the first of these wars, and reports have claimed that from early 2017 on, Israel has launched over 200 attacks in Syria, mainly at targets connected to Iran.