Mudar Zahran is a prominent Palestinian-Jordanian opposition leader that supports secular democracy and peace with Israel. In his new appearance on Hannity, Zahran spoke about Palestinians turning against Hamas (see below).
His parents were born in Jerusalem and moved to Jordan during the Hashemite occupation of the disputed territories west of the Jordan River (commonly referred to as the West Bank by Palestinians and Judea & Samaria by Israelis). His family is one of the most influential within Jordan’s Palestinian majority. An entire part of Amman is officially named “Zahran Area” in their honor.
Before being forced into exile in the United Kingdom, Zahran was serving as the Economic Specialist and Assistant Policy Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Amman. He also served the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
During his work with the U.S. Embassy, Zahran covered sensitive matters regarding Jordan, reporting to two U.S. Ambassadors. His reports were forwarded to the U.S. State Department, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, Treasury Department and, occasionally, to the FBI.
He was a civil rights activist in Jordan and stood against the Jordanian government’s discriminatory policies towards Palestinians. He fled Jordan in 2010 and is a regular commentator for Middle Eastern media outlets. Zahran envisions a future Jordan that is an “armless welfare state that secures the rights of Jordanians from all heritages and origins and maintains the peace agreement with Israel.”
He has previously written for the Clarion Prject on the Palestinian Authority.
The following is Mudar Zahran’s interview with Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro:
Mauro: Mudar, you’re in the West Bank at this very moment. Polls show that Hamas is more popular in the West Bank than in Gaza. Is it only a matter of time before the West Bank becomes controlled by Hamas or at least a terrorist stronghold?
Zahran: Hamas could overtake the West Bank easily if, say, elections were held today. But Hamas can never overtake the West Bank militarily. This is where we have to be fair and say that Palestinian Authority President Abbas, despite everything, has done a good job of cracking down on Hamas in the West Bank. Also, the Palestinian Authority closely coordinates with Israeli security agencies so, while Hamas’s popularity is skyrocketing here, they are not a major threat.
Mauro: How are your moderate, peaceful views accepted by Palestinians in Jordan and the West Bank? The last poll showed that 60% of Palestinians oppose a permanent peace with Israel.
Zahran: It is a fact that my people will always view Israel as illegitimate and they will most likely always believe that Jews are just immigrants who arrived here from Poland. This might change in 30 years but not now.
Nonetheless, I have been interviewing people from the West Bank and Gaza, in person and over the phone, and I have been in touch with figures that usually cannot speak in public and I can authoritatively confirm that most Palestinians have had enough of fighting and cannot tolerate their current conditions.
Most West Bank figures I’ve met curse out Israel openly but still wish they could go back to the good old days when they could work in Israel.
As for my people in Jordan, they are very, very different. Look at the anti-Israel protests that the Jordanian King’s very own media has been calling for. Palestinians are not joining those—not because they don’t hate Israel—but because they hate the king more than Israel. In fact, Israel is not even on their list now as their greatest worry is the king.
A recent study announced by a Jordanian/Bedouin/East Banker/Yale Professor confirmed that only 8% of Palestinians in Jordan would return to Israel if given the chance. In other words, the “Let’s fight the Jews” notion is dying quickly. It’s “Let’s hate the Jewish bastards but not fight them.”
Mauro: Some analysts say that toppling Hamas in Gaza is not an option because more extreme Salafists will replace Hamas. Do you agree?
Zahran: Unless Egypt is involved, then Gaza will be a humanitarian disaster no matter what the situation is. It is possible that Gaza could become “Act Two” for the Islamic State terrorist group. Egypt must accept its duties in Gaza and needs to step in to protect Gazans and provide for them. This alone could end Hamas in Gaza.
Mauro: Everyone knows that Hamas will re-arm and re-build the tunnels and we’ll be back to where we were. As a pro-peace Palestinian, what is the appropriate solution as you see it?
Zahran: If Egypt was involved with boots on the ground, Hamas would not be able to do much. Hamas is in need of a ceasefire, so Israel should give it one on the condition that Egypt sends soldiers to Gaza as peacekeepers on the border with Israel, eventually leading to Egypt being the dominant force on the ground.
Mauro: What’s a more long-term solution to the conflict? An independent Palestinian state? What would Palestinians accept as a solution?
Zahran: This is all a wakeup call that no other solutions exist besides a Jewish Israel and a Palestinian Jordan with the Jordan River in between.
The Jordanian citizenship law states that all non-Jewish Palestinians are natural-born Jordanians, so those Gazans are Jordanians. If the king was willing to let them in, they wouldn’t be under the bombings now.
We need a Palestinian state and we already have one in Jordan. The problem is that King Abdullah refuses to recognize that. I have been warning for years that unless the world tolerates a Palestinian state in Jordan, more trouble was ahead and I believe my words ring true now.
Mauro: But if Jordan became a Palestinian state, what makes you believe the fight over the West Bank would end? Wouldn’t Palestinians continue fighting for that as part of the Palestinian state?
Zahran: Palestinians fight because they do not have a country. Once they have a safe, prosperous and somewhat free country, they won’t have a reason to fight. The Palestinian Jordan must be a demilitarized welfare state that stops at the river Jordan.
Read Clarion Project’s previous interview with Mudar Zahran.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.