Right now, I’m studying abroad in Amman, Jordan. I’m living closer to the Gaza Strip than the distance from my home in New Jersey to F&M. The pictures out of Gaza look like the streets I walk every day here; the now orphaned children look like the ones I see playing soccer across from my school.
The war in Gaza has rattled Amman to a degree that is palpable to someone who has been here for less than two months. Displaced Palestinians have taken refuge all over the Middle East, but many of them have landed in Jordan over the last 75 years. Today, almost half of the people in Jordan are half or fully Palestinian. The pain of the families in Gaza is felt among the population here in Amman, and has sparked massive protests all over this small country. As of now, my study abroad program has explained extensive plans to evacuate us out of Jordan to Morocco at a moment’s notice— a possibility that has become more likely with every passing day.
Violence against innocents is always bad; that is an important disclaimer to put out there. Hamas’s attacks against innocent Israelis on October 7th were nothing short of horrific. If you continue reading, you’ll find nothing that attempts to defend what happened, because there is no doing so. That being said, Israel’s attempts at retribution have been nothing short of catastrophic to a community imbued with decades of struggle. What baffles me is the idea that one wrong – a sickeningly high death count of Israelis on 10/7 – warrants the murder of more than four times as many Palestinians. Is the argument for the siege on Gaza and the killing of thousands more people really that “the ends justify the means”?
As of October 26th, the death count in Gaza reached 7,000, with almost 3,000 of those deaths being children. Israelis deserve to be safe in their homes – this is without question – and Palestinian civilians deserve the same right. These are all people with mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and children – people who have done nothing wrong but try to live their lives.
Here in Amman, people have Palestinian flags flying outside their windows and are wearing the black keffiyeh, the traditional headdress of Palestine. The deaths in Gaza aren’t just numbers to them; these people are their family, friends, and neighbors. What I’ve learned from my time in Amman is that the people here are some of the kindest, most generous and welcoming people I have ever known. They’re not people who are championing violence, and they’re no less appalled by Hamas’s atrocities than the rest of us are. They just want peace.
Jordan and other bordering countries cannot stand to absorb any more Palestinian refugees than they already have. Jordan is the second most water-scarce country in the world, and they’re ranked among the poorest as well. King Abdullah II of Jordan has continuously made it clear that the doors to Jordan will remain open to Arabs who are in need of a safe haven – because that’s how Jordanians are – but expecting them to take in more people is just an impossible ask. These sentiments are tangible in countless ways in Amman, from there being no homeless population here, to there being no hunger on the streets, to a predictable family argument over who gets to pick up the check at every single meal. People take care of each other, even when they have no obligation to – it’s vital not to take advantage of that.
In the US, we spend years in high school and beyond studying the missteps of leaders who have come before us, and learning about the mistreatment and annihilation of previous cultures. From Amman, it really doesn’t feel like many have learned those lessons. Palestinians don’t want war, and Hamas’s actions don’t speak for them more than any American politician speaks for all Americans.
Across the Middle East, the US’s troubled history in the region is not even close to forgotten. Refugees due to US involvement in Syria, Iraq, and Palestine make up a majority of the Jordanian population. The US-funded actions against Gazans feel no different, and all of these people here in Amman are devastated by the death count that is only growing.
Today, thousands and thousands of Gazans are sitting ducks, bracing themselves for retaliation against attacks that they did not condone or participate in. The slaughter of these innocents cannot and should not be justified or tolerated. In the same breath that we condemn Hamas’s actions, we should reject the notion that the mass punishment of Palestinians is just another cost of war.
Junior Daniel Maloof is a Contributing Writer. His email is email@example.com