Of House Arabs and Field Arabs

There were two kinds of Negroes. There was that old house Negro and the field Negro. And the house Negro always looked out for his master. When the field Negroes got too much out of line, he held them back in check. He put ‘em back on the plantation.

The house Negro could afford to do that because he lived better than the field Negro. He ate better; he dressed better; and he lived in a better house. He lived right up next to his master — in the attic or the basement. He ate the same food his master ate and wore his same clothes. And he could talk just like his master — good diction. And he loved his master more than his master loved himself. That’s why he didn’t want his master hurt.

If the master got sick, he’d say, “What’s the matter, boss, we sick?” [Laughter] When the master’s house caught afire, he’d try and put the fire out. He didn’t want his master’s house burned. He never wanted his master’s property threatened. And he was more defensive of it than the master was. That was the house Negro.

But then you had some field Negroes, who lived in huts, had nothing to lose. They wore the worst kind of clothes. They ate the worst food. And they caught hell. They felt the sting of the lash. They hated their master. Oh yes, they did.

If the master got sick, they’d pray that the master died. [Laughter and Applause] If the master’s house caught afire, they’d pray for a strong wind to come along. [Laughter] This was the difference between the two.

And today you still have house Negroes and field Negroes. [Applause] I’m a field Negro.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X’s words apply to all peoples. Scurrilous people who scheme against fellow citizens can be found within many a society or community.

Maan News reports, “King Abdullah II of Jordan has drawn up a new initiative to solve the Palestinian question based on the historic confederation of Jordan and Palestine.”1

First, there has been no historic confederation of Jordan and Palestine. In 1948, Jordan’s army captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem rather than allow them to fall to the Zionist fighters. The West Bank was annexed by Jordan, but it was lost to Israel in the Six Day War of 1967, along with East Jerusalem.

Second, what exactly is meant by “Palestinian question”? There is no question about the land of Palestine and its indigenous inhabitants; it is historically clear. The British had no right to, but they, nonetheless, delineated the state of Palestine within the British mandate in 1921.

Third, on what authority does Abdullah unilaterally propose a confederation without a Palestinian representative present and in agreement? Not only is it unilateral, it is dictatorial, as there was no call for a plebiscite to determine the citizenry’s mood.

But what would one expect from a dictator?

Just how historic any present-day confederation would be depends on the will of the people of Jordan and Palestine.

A discerning reader might ask himself: since when does Abdullah draw up initiatives? To those people who closely follow goings-on in the Middle East, it is well known that Abdullah takes his orders from Washington and Tel Aviv. Abdullah, despite remonstrations to the contrary, plays a crucial role in supporting the aggression-occupation of Iraq. Jordan also is heavily involved in attempts to foment violence among Palestinian factions, arming the Zionist and US favorite Fatah.2

Maan News might explain how a Palestinian-Jordanian United Kingdom would comprise “two independent sovereign states” when the politicians would be “under the king” — a Jordanian. Why not hearken back to the pan-Arabia dream and under an elected ruler?

“Abdullah’s initiative” is self-serving; it would expand the realm of the autocratic monarch and reintegrate with part of what Abdullah I once coveted: a united Hashemite-Palestinian kingdom with Abdullah as king.

Maan News also cited the Israeli daily Maariv which speculated on the possibility that “Abdullah’s initiative” “could be a test aimed at reviving the paralyzed peace process and at diverting the concern in Jordan over a possible US withdrawal from Iraq soon.”

To grasp Abdullah’s independence on his initiative, one need only notice how it was pitched to Israel as giving the Zionist state somebody to talk to on the Palestinian side: “us, the Jordanians, with participation of representatives of the Palestinian president.”

By all appearances, Abdullah is usurping the Palestinians right to speak on their own behalf.

The history between Jordan and Palestine is mixed. Jordan has granted Palestinians Jordanian citizenship since after the Six-Day War. Palestinians refugees living in Jordan were conferred Jordanian citizenship, as were Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank until July 1988 when king Hussein of Jordan officially relinquished claims to the West Bank. On a decidedly different note, in Black September of 1970, Jordan warred with the Palestine Liberation Organization fighters in Jordan. Hussein called on the US and Israel to help defeat the Palestinians who were supported by Syria.

“Abdullah’s initiative” has some points going for it. It is predicated upon “complete Israeli approval of the Arab peace initiative.” It envisions a consolidation of Arabs, probably something Israel will not like. However, under the pliable Abdullah, it might have some appeal.

Abdullah II might bear in mind what happened to his great grandfather Abdullah I. The Hijazi Abdullah pined for a Greater Syria comprising Jordan, Syria, and Iraq under a Hashemite dynasty. Despite disappointment he colluded with western powers and was finally rewarded with the emirate of Transjordan in 1923. He even showed a willingness to enter into a separate peace agreement with Israel, but this was blocked by the Arab League’s strident opposition.

For ingratiating himself with Zionists, Abdullah II was assassinated in the Al Aqsa Mosque in 1951 by a Palestinian gunman.

For any initiative to be legitimate, it must be backed by the people. Of course conferring with the occupier is necessary, but the occupier can not be allowed to dictate the terms of the Palestinian people’s will.

Arab rulers must abide by their people’s wishes. The choice is to be a house Arab or a field Arab. To bend to the oppressors of one’s people only invites scorn and disrepute.

  1. King Abdullah II of Jordan proposes a United Kingdom of Jordan and Palestine to solve the Palestinian question,” Maan News, 18 May 2007. []
  2. Roee Nahmias, “Egypt, Jordan want Hamas gov’t toppled,” ynet news, 30 September 2006; Sarah El Deeb, “Israeli planes pound Hamas, while Fatah and Hamas gunmen exchange bursts of weapons fire,” Associated Press, 19 May 2007; Tony Sayegh, “Is it really just an Inter-Palestinian Fight?” Palestinian Pundit, 17 May 2007. []
Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. peter said on May 21st, 2007 at 10:13pm #

    Abdullah’s idea has great merit. Division of the West Bank between Jordan and Israel is the only plan that has any chance of success. The suggestion that Arabs living east of the Jordan River are somehow different to Arabs living west of the Jordan River is nonsensical and has been the cause of untold suffering. Abdullah’s family has preserved Jordan as an exclusively Arab State in 77% of Palestine for the last 85 years. He is entitled more than any one else to represent the West Bank Arabs. Isn’t their freedom from Israeli occupation the most pressing issue? Another State between Israel and Jordan is a recipe for continuing disaster. The Quartet realise this and perhaps even the Arab League will begin to understand this as Arab kills Arab in Gaza and Lebanon.It’s time the West Bank Arabs came in from the field and out of the cold. A warm welcome will await them as citizens of Jordan, a status they previously enjoyed for 20 years.

  2. Leyla said on May 21st, 2007 at 10:56pm #

    What goes around comes around…

  3. Hue Longer said on May 22nd, 2007 at 1:49pm #

    lol Peter,
    Perhaps you should have chosen a better metaphor than, “It’s time the West Bank Arabs came in from the field and out of the cold”…considering the name of the article

  4. Ariadna said on May 22nd, 2007 at 5:01pm #

    Peter must get his understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from hasbara materials only. “Thery’re all Arabs, why not move over to Jordan?” [so that the state ‘for Jews only’ can achieve Eretz Israel], and “King Abdullah speaks for them” [because he speaks for us…], “so there’s no need for them to speak for themselves” are ziopropaganda standbys.
    “Arab kills Arab” [they’re savages, they’re not civilized like the Israeli soldiers who kill Palestinian children for sport] ” is another. Yes, Dahlan’s house Arabs are willing to kill Arabs for a few shekels.
    The Palestinians’ right of return–the real thing, not the upside down “return” of Russains and others who claim they are descendants of long dead tribesmen (landsmen) of 3,000 years ago, is legitimate by international law, by human rights and by the unflinching will of 7,000 Palestinian refugees.
    Israel can continue to commit crimes against humanity hoping that the Palestinians will somehow at some point just go away but it will never happen.
    In the end there will be ONE STATE and the “Israelis” who cannot live in a state that is no longer for Jews only will go back where they came from (taking the house Arabs with them) because, to paraphrase the hasbara man above, the suggestion that zionist Jews living in Palestine are somehow different from zionist jews living in NYC, Miami, Kiev, Odessa or Moscow is nonsensical and has been the cause of untold suffering.