Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan
by Joseph A. Massad
New York: Columbia University Press, 2001. 276 pp. $49.50 ($19.50, paper).
Reviewed by Asher Susser
Tel Aviv University
Middle East Quarterly
Massad has done a thorough job of mastering the source material, but his ideological bias runs deep and devalues the results. Massad portrays Jordanians as the malleable creatures of others, non-participants in their own national enterprise who think only the thoughts Westerners imbed in their minds. Or, in the characteristically obtuse jargon of this book: the "juridical-military dyad introduced by British colonialism was both a repressive and a productive success. Today's Jordanian national identity and Jordanian national culture are living testament to that achievement."
Since these Westerners, like Glubb Pasha, were infected by Orientalist biases, they imparted an Orientalist mindset to their hapless Jordanian wards, from King Hussein on down: "Note, how the king's nationalist views … are in tandem with Glubb's Orientalist views of Jordanians as Bedouins … the latter being part of Glubb's … de-Bedouinization and re-Bedouinization campaigns in the country." To believe Massad, Glubb simply de-Bedouinizes and re-Bedouinizes the mindless Jordanians at will, and King Hussein, without a thought of his own, trails along as if on a leash. Jordanians, incapable of imagination, are but putty in the hands of one grand mental manipulator: Glubb Pasha.
Had Massad given the Jordanians their due in the molding of their own identity, he might have redeemed part of his argument. The "colonial effects" are there; no one would sensibly deny them. But by inflating them, Massad deflates his own credibility.
Factual distortion and sheer invention would also seem perfectly permissible in Massad's account. Three examples of many:
(1) Massad refers to the Israeli raid and "massacre" in Samu' in November 1966. The Jordanians themselves, however, did not claim that a massacre had been committed. Samir Mutawi, author of the semiofficial version of Jordan's role in the 1967 war, wrote that Jordanian troops engaged the Israelis at Samu', and in "the ensuing battle eighteen Jordanians were killed and many more wounded." No massacre. A few pages later Massad himself gives similar figures (fifteen soldiers and three civilians killed). So after throwing in the word "massacre," Massad ends up debunking himself.
(2) Massad would have us believe that domestic opponents of the regime alone assassinated Jordanian prime minister Hazza' al-Majali in August 1960. In fact, it was masterminded by the intelligence services of the Syrian province of the United Arab Republic. This was so well known at the time that King Hussein considered retaliating with a military strike against Syria.
(3) Massad writes of the battle of Karamah in March 1968 that the Israeli army "could not escape unscathed (as it had during the 1967 war and on many other occasions). For the first time in its history, it received heavy damages in personnel and materiel." This is pure bunk. Yes, Israel sustained heavy losses at Karamah: twenty-eight of its soldiers were killed there. But Massad seems to have forgotten (or never to have known) that 800 Israeli soldiers were killed in June 1967, and that 6,000 Israeli soldiers and civilians perished in the 1948 war. Ignorance? Dehumanization? A bit of both? What is certain is that when it comes to Israeli losses, Massad isn't counting.
 Samir A. Mutawi, Jordan in the 1967 War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 77.
Related Topics: Jordan | Asher Susser | Summer 2003 MEQ
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