For the first time, Jordan dropped emergency medical equipment at a field hospital in Gaza – a ‘fairly unique’ action. The extremely popular Queen Rania, of Palestinian descent, lobbied for it for a long time and now also wants to raise the conscience of the West. “There is a blatant double standard.”
“We are shocked and disappointed by the world’s response to the catastrophe that is unfolding.” CNN’s interview with Jordan’s Queen Rania lasts barely ten minutes, but she knows exactly what message she wants to send to the world through the American news channel. With a confident look, she says that there is a “blatant double standard” in the West when it comes to the war in Gaza.
According to her, political leaders were quick to condemn the Hamas attacks on October 7, but according to her, there has been silence about the Israeli bombs and there has also been no unanimous demand for a ceasefire. “The Arab world sees that not just as tolerating what Israel is doing, but as complicity.” The royal support for the Palestinians goes beyond mediagenic speeches. On Tuesday, a load of emergency medical equipment was dropped by parachute at the Jordanian field hospital in Gaza. The supplies were very necessary: the newspaper reported last month Arab News that the hospital was threatened with closure due to a lack of resources.
“It is quite unique that something like this happens,” says Middle East expert Koert Debeuf (VUB) about the delivery. “It was agreed with Israel anyway, you can’t just fly through their airspace.”
The queen’s outspoken political statements and actions may be exceptional, but they are not entirely unexpected for those who know her history. Like half of the Jordanian population, Rania has Palestinian roots. She was born in Kuwait, but had to flee to Jordan during the Gulf War. As a result, she sympathizes even more with victims of war violence and uses her platform to speak up for them.
According to Debeuf, her statements do have an impact. “It is not that Western leaders will change their opinion because she says something, but people are listening. Thus, it is very likely that the country contributed to the shift in communications of the United States.” King Abdullah II canceled a summit with President Biden after a rocket attack on a hospital in Gaza. The pressure of such a decision from important partners led to the country now also calling for a humanitarian pause.
Even without CNN, Rania has no trouble sharing her views with the world. The queen has tens of millions of followers on social media, many more than her husband, and shows very diverse content there. Statements about the war as well as updates about her children and favorite fashion brands are discussed.
“She is a businesswoman and a glamorous celebrity at the same time,” says royalty expert The last news Wim Dehandschieter, who has traveled to Jordan several times and saw her at work. Rania advocates through the United Nations to improve the international rights of women and children, and in her own country she tries to get more women to work. The queen believes it is important to break clichés about Muslim women and advocates an intercultural dialogue.
With her free-spirited existence, she also sets herself apart from her predecessors. “The previous queens lived almost hidden from social life, Rania was the first to create a distinct public image,” says Dehandschieter. When she married in 1993, it was not the intention that she and her husband would ever sit on the throne. Only after six years in which they were in the spotlight as a mediagenic couple and Rania’s popularity grew, Abdullah II was suddenly appointed as the new king.
Luxurious clothing style
The queen is a beloved figure, but there is also criticism here and there. Especially within the more conservative sects of Islam, it is claimed that Rania is too strongly influenced by the West. Her luxurious clothing is seen by some as decadent and when she celebrated a grand birthday party in the desert, questions were raised about whether such a thing is acceptable when a significant part of the Jordanian population still lives in poverty. “She is sometimes called Marie Antoinette with a social conscience,” says Dehandschieter. During a state visit in 2016, King Philip had a nicer description for her and the Jordanian monarch. He called them bridge builders who could help in the fight against terrorism.
Jordan’s stability is important to the international community. Other neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Syria are much more volatile and therefore more difficult partners to negotiate with. After the outspoken support for the Palestinians, several Jordanians are wondering whether the royal family, with its harsh language, does not risk plunging the country into the conflict. Debeuf thinks that the risk is limited to this. “Jordan has enormously important historical ties with it, Palestine once even belonged to its territory. The country has always supported the Palestinian vote, the difference now is that it is happening very loudly and outspokenly. But this opinion is anyway widely supported in the Arab world.”