January 15th, 2009
Gaza E.R.
In Amman, All Eyes on Gaza

Rawan Jabaji

Missiles started falling on Gaza the day I arrived in Amman, Jordan, to attend my cousin’s wedding and visit with family members I hadn’t seen in eight years. Then a few days later, Israeli ground troops entered Northern Gaza. From that moment on Gaza was all people talked about. CNN International, BBC, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya–all the TV stations were reporting on Gaza around the clock. At family functions, my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends all engaged in heated discussions about the crisis. Every taxi driver had the radio tuned to the news. New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout the city were canceled in solidarity.

An estimated 60 percent of Jordanians are of Palestinian origin or descent—including my family. Palestinians were issued citizenship in Jordan following the wars of 1948 and 1967, when they fled to Amman as refugees. Historically, they’ve attempted to blend in, fearing that their Jordanian loyalty may be questioned. But now, almost 60 years later, the children and grandchildren of Palestinian refugees, who were born and raised in Jordan, are showing their Palestinian pride. Events in Gaza have mobilized the youth to express solidarity by participating in rallies throughout the city, and by wearing the keffiyeh, the traditional checkered scarf that you’ve seen worn by hipsters on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The black-and-white scarf is customarily worn by Palestinians, while the red-and-white version is worn in Jordan. Jordanians of Palestinian descent usually choose red, as part of their effort to assimilate. But at a hair salon I went to in Amman, the trendy hair dresser in Nike Dunks threading a woman’s eyebrows was wearing the black-and-white keffiyeh, and not around his neck, but around his head, in the traditional style usually only seen on older men. And in Amman’s most exclusive and chic mall, Al Baraka, young girls shopped for designer clutches sporting black-and-white keffiyehs togged around their necks.

During my stay in Amman, demonstrations and donation drives were taking place almost daily. Behind most mosques, tents were set up for people wishing to donate food, clothing, or blankets to Gazans.

On Friday, January 9th thousands in Jordan took to the streets in one of the strongest demonstrations since the Israeli military offensive began just over two weeks before. Approximately 10,000 people marched in downtown Amman, demanding the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and an end to peace with Israel. Security forces fired tear gas at more than 2,000 protesters to prevent them from approaching the Israeli embassy. Water cannons were used to disperse some of the protesters. Al Jazeera television correspondent Yaser Abu Hilala, head of the Amman bureau, was beaten up by anti-riot police while covering a demonstration, though he claims to have clearly identified himself as a journalist.

Back at home in New York, the situation in Gaza seems far away. And comparatively, all eyes are not on Gaza. The story has been reduced to a short segment with recycled stock footage from Ramattan TV.

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