Why Jordan’s on-air TV fight turns its tables on Syria
Except maybe when it comes to the Tunisian Revolution, there is no consensus among all Jordanians on other Arab mega issues
One would be astonished, speechless, highly agitated and, at the same time, thrilled and amused to see a live talk show turning into an on-air flight during which the studio’s table had been smashed by the two guests.
The incident meant here is the on-air flight that erupted earlier this week between the two Jordanian journalists Shaker al-Jawhary and Mohammad Sharif al-Jaiousy while they were discussing the Syrian crisis.
That video, which went viral, saw the studio’s table broken apart by the two speakers right after a very short time of heated argument during which they traded insults with each other. It is normal in such situation that the moderator loses control especially when the smashed table was meant to be used as a weapon.
Not to sound as if giving some kind of detective account and just for the sake of record, the heated argument between the two guests reached its climax when one of them accused the other of “deviating” or “departing” from the norm.
Given the floor, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad supporter, al-Jaiousy, the editor in chief of news website al-Mustaqbal al-Arabi, boasted as being a Baathist, reporter for the Syrian Baath Newspaper, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), the Lebanese Al-Binaa Newspaper and editor-in-chief of the Jordan News Network and Top Jordan News.
Directing his speech to al-Jawhary, head of the Electronic Media Association in Jordan, al-Jaiousy said, “You used to publish my columns before you deviated.” Highly annoyed, al-Jawhary interrupted by saying, “The word deviation better suits those who support the slaughter of people and who trade their stances and sell themselves to the devil.” Also irritated, al-Jaiousy responded to al-Jawhary by saying, “You shut up as it is you who changes his opinions depending on the price offered.” With “shut up” said, the “table drama” began.
Except maybe when it comes to the Tunisian Revolution, there is no consensus among all Jordanians on other Arab mega issuesRaed Omari
Although the on-air fight was a complete shock to viewers and the last expected outcome of a live talk show, such an incident is not the first on Jordanian satellite channels especially when the Syrian crisis is the topic of the argument.
It happened in July 2012 that a Jordanian lawmaker brandished a gun at a former MP during also a live talk show on the Syrian crisis. The program ended with a physical confrontation between the two guests. Not only that, one of the speakers hurled his shoe at the other and threatened him with a revolver as both men jumped out of their seats.
The fight between al-Jawhary and al-Jaiousy was not that big “action show” in Jordan, as Jordanians are well acquainted with such incidents especially after one their MPs opened fire on a colleague in a corridor of the kingdom’s parliament following a dispute over political budgets, needless to mention here the several physical confrontations that erupted among other deputies while sessions were on.
Such behavior, be it during a live talk show or a parliament session, can’t be justified, understood and rationalized under whatsoever circumstances. Reason, objectivity, listening, calmness and respect of others people’s views are the least required from speakers during closed-door meetings. Fights are abhorred, illegal and unjustifiable even in a prison, let alone on-air talk show or parliaments.
Then, it is no way to legitimize or even justify the fight between al-Jawhary and al-Jaiousy and other similar incidents – even euphemism expressions have no place within such context.
However, why when it comes to Arab politics, mainly the Syrian crisis, you see Jordanian journalists, lawmakers, political commentators, political parties’ leaders and even “non-allied” taxi drivers in a state of irritation and intolerance is a worth-noting phenomenon anyway and could be discussed within a logical context, probably from a psychoanalysis perspective.
Except maybe when it comes to the Tunisian Revolution, there is no consensus among all Jordanians on other Arab mega issues, including Egypt’s January 25 and June 30 revolutions, the Libyan uprising, the Fateh-Hamas dispute, the Arab resistance vs. moderation camps, Islamism vs. secularism, terrorism and the Syrian war.
For geographical, geopolitical, economic, security and even tribal considerations, Syria’s ongoing struggle is the most controversial matter among Jordanians that is always discussed with uneasiness not only at political salons, live talk shows but even in coffees and during family gatherings. It is all due to the direct impact of the Syrian war on Jordan manifested in security concerns and non-stop influx of refugees that is adding more burdens to the already financially-troubled kingdom.
With no need to go into the Jordanian official posture on Syria, there is sympathy among almost all Jordanians towards the suffering of their brotherly Syrians despite their increasing burdens as a result of the Syrian refugee crisis.
However, many in Jordan sometimes raise the question of whether the war in Syria was really needed dwelling on the massive destruction to their northern neighbor and the accompanying large-scale suffering of the Syrian people and, of course, the war’s consequences on their security-concerned and financially-troubled country.
A ‘castle of resistance’
Why Syria is Jordanians’ most controversial issue has to do also with the fact that Jordan is home to several Baathist and pan-Arab nationalist political parties who either studied in Syria, where they were members of Damascus’ ruling Baathist party, or still see Syria as the last Arab “castle of resistance” and President Assad as the “last man standing.”
Taking into consideration the interrelated Jordanian-Syrian history and also the geographical proximity between the two countries, political impact becomes natural. I mean here, that Assad has supporters in Jordan, though very few, and also the Syrian opposition.
All in all, Jordan is not an exception at all when it comes to Arab politics. It is like almost everywhere in the Arab world, Jordanians’ discussions are always under the effect of the state of deep polarization engulfing any talk over Arab mega matters.
Following Egypt’s June 30 uprising, Jordanians were divided between supporters of ousted president Mohamed Mursi and Egypt’s army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. As in almost all Arab states, whether Egypt’s June 30 uprising was a popular revolution or a coup was a big controversy in Jordan and a reason for a deep state of polarization.
There is a reason behind the “bad temper” in Jordan that has to do with a conviction among all Jordanians, myself included, that the political and economic woes their resource-poor country has been long suffering from are mostly borrowed from the outside turbulent region, starting from Palestinian 1948 Nakba and 1967 Naksa, through Lebanon’s 1975-1989 civil war, the 1981 massacre in Syrian city of Hama, Iraq’s 1990-1991 and 2003 wars and now the Syrian war.
To conclude with the on-air fight drama, even if bad-tempered, highly agitated, and deeply polarized or in a state of die-hard allegiance to a certain party or adherence to certain ideas and principles, one should defend his/her rationale positively in words and not in hands. If you feel that you can’t help but respond aggressively to criticism, simply apologize for attending a debate over matters contrary to your opinion.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2