The Development of Trans-Jordan, 1929-1939

Resident Scholar
Michael Rubin
Michael Rubin reviews The Development of Trans-Jordan, 1929-1939, by Maan Abu Nowar.

Because the archives of many Arab countries are either sealed or highly restricted, writings by Arab government officials are often of value. Not so, however, this study of Jordan's early development.

Abu Nowar began his career in the Arab Legion, rose to become a major-general, and then served as the Hashemite Kingdom's ambassador to London and briefly as its deputy prime minister. His flawed earlier works focused on the Jordanian role in Israel's war of independence and Jordan's own efforts to free itself from British tutelage.[1] His latest work is based on an Oxford University doctoral thesis and argues that Trans-Jordan was a distinct geographic entity (rather than an arbitrary creation of European diplomats) and that "Zionist and pro-Zionist British officials keenly endeavoured to remove him [King Abdullah I] from the country and annex it to Palestine."

The latter assertion reflects poorly not only on Abu Nowar's scholarship, but also on that of his Oxford tutors. Throughout his book, "Zionist and pro-Zionist British officials" are employed as useful straw men or foils against whom Abu Nowar can demonstrate Abdullah's independence and acumen. The problem is that Abu Nowar seldom names these bogeymen, and when he does, his labeling is inaccurate: Harry St. John Philby, for example, was a committed Arabist who subsequently became an advisor to the founder of Saudi Arabia. The founders of the State of Israel would be shocked to learn that he stood in their camp.

Nor would the masters whom Abu Nowar once served necessarily agree with his revisionism: Jordanian leaders tended to take a far more pragmatic approach to Zionism, especially given the challenges they faced from within the Arab world. His treatment of the 1936-39 Arab Revolt makes little attempt at academic objectivity: He neither mentions Arab massacres of Jews nor the incitement campaign of Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, whose strategy included outreach to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

The Development of Trans-Jordan disappoints in other ways. Analysis of Arab Legion activity is drawn exclusively from British documents rather than Jordanian sources. Discussion of political meetings within Jordanian society is slightly more useful, as Abu Nowar incorporates contemporaneous Arabic newspaper accounts not readily available elsewhere.

Overall, Abu Nowar's doctoral dissertation adds little to an understanding of Jordan's birth pangs and consolidation as a political entity--but it does demonstrate how far scholarship at Oxford University has declined.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI.

Notes

1. The Jordanian-Israeli War, 1948-1951 (Reading: Ithaca, 2003); The Struggle for Independence, 1939-1947 (Reading: Ithaca, 2001). See Efraim Karsh review of the former, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2004, p. 84-5.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Michael
Rubin


  • Michael Rubin is a former Pentagon official whose major research areas are the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and diplomacy. Rubin instructs senior military officers deploying to the Middle East and Afghanistan on regional politics, and teaches classes regarding Iran, terrorism, and Arab politics on board deploying U.S. aircraft carriers. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, both pre- and post-war Iraq, and spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. His newest book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engagement examines a half century of U.S. diplomacy with rogue regimes and terrorist groups.


    Follow Michael Rubin on Twitter.


  • Phone: 202-862-5851
    Email: mrubin@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Ahmad Majidyar
    Phone: 202-862-5845
    Email: ahmad.majidyar@aei.org

What's new on AEI

image Getting it right: US national security policy and al Qaeda since 2011
image Net neutrality rundown: What the NPRM means for you
image The Schuette decision
image Snatching failure from victory in Afghanistan
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Graduation day: How dads’ involvement impacts higher education success

Join a diverse group of panelists — including sociologists, education experts, and students — for a discussion of how public policy and culture can help families lay a firmer foundation for their children’s educational success, and of how the effects of paternal involvement vary by socioeconomic background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Getting it right: A better strategy to defeat al Qaeda

This event will coincide with the release of a new report by AEI’s Mary Habeck, which analyzes why current national security policy is failing to stop the advancement of al Qaeda and its affiliates and what the US can do to develop a successful strategy to defeat this enemy.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, April 25, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Obamacare’s rocky start and uncertain future

During this event, experts with many different views on the ACA will offer their predictions for the future.   

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.