Queen Noor's Blind Spots
A review of Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor
(Miramax Books, March 2003)
Posted: May 12, 2003
By Kenneth Jacobson,
Associate National Director and Director of International Affairs,
Queen Noor of Jordan, the fourth wife of the late King Hussein, is beautiful, smart, American born and reared, pro-Palestinian and totally immersed in the anti-Israel myths of the Middle East. While her perspective on the Middle East is not without interest, the reader must approach with caution.
Because of King Hussein's role in helping to bring about a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, the reader expects the memories of a friend - not uncritical - but from the heart and hand of a friend. Instead, an interesting not very detailed personal history of Queen Noor's life with King Hussein unfolds against a backdrop in which Jordan is portrayed as key to whatever happens geo-politically in the region, though it is small and helpless, while Israel is portrayed as the gigantic neighborhood bully and Israel's supporters in the U.S. as political and media manipulators.
Throughout the memoir Queen Noor downplays her life of privilege before she became a queen. She notes that her father was deeply in debt while he was the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). However, before he was with the FAA and certainly after, he apparently was able to provide a financially and socially rich milieu for his family. Lisa Halaby, as she was then known, went to elite private girls schools in Washington, D.C., New York and Massachusetts, had a horse which she rode regularly, made her debut while she was an undergraduate at Princeton, and lived a thoroughly upper class lifestyle. Her father's roles in government and aviation placed her at the center of an astonishing world of elites whose political, social and financial connections - especially in the Middle East - made her later incarnation as Queen of Jordan not only possible, but somewhat inevitable.
Her Arab heritage also played an enormous part in her transformation from Lisa Halaby to Queen Noor of Jordan. She states that "To my mother's long-standing frustration, I was most intrigued by my Arab roots…." She also reports that she read widely of the history and culture of the Arab world. Much of Queen Noor's understanding of the history of the region, however, places her squarely in the profoundly pro-Palestinian camp. She is extremely critical of Israel even to questioning its existence:
"Everyone I knew, including my new friends in Jordan expressed horror at the realities of the Holocaust. But they resented, as I was growing to, how Arabs were cast as the aggressors in the dispute between Israel and the Arab countries, when it was their land that had been seized to resolve a European political problem. Jews, Muslims, and Christians had lived peacefully in the Middle East and indeed in Palestine for centuries. It was not until the rise of Zionism and the creation of Israel that animosities took root."
The Queen does not find fault with other Arab nations, except when they target Jordan or King Hussein. In her skewed world view, Israel is always the aggressor; the Palestinians are always oppressed, except when King Hussein has to expel "Palestinian resistance fighters" from Jordan because they had attempted to take over the country. Noor relates "The thousands of captured Palestinian fighters being held in Jordanian camps by the army were also treated tolerantly."
She discusses the fact that Jordan did have to fight Syria and the PLO -- at the time to defend itself, and that Hussein told her it was the "gravest threat" in Jordan's "history." Noor has no concept of the irony involved when she assails Israel's right to self defense against the Palestinians. She also fails to point out that the terrorist cell calling itself Black September was so named because of the mass Palestinian expulsion from Jordan by the King in 1970 - in September -- although she does mention that King Hussein topped their hit list and that they were responsible for the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.
While Queen Noor is not so insensitive or crass as to actually use the phrase "Jewish Lobby," (she does not shrink from "Zionist Lobby, however) or to speak of "Jewish control" of the media or finance, she does have a great deal to say about the power of Jews in the United States, particularly in Washington, DC and in media and entertainment - implying "Jewish control." She writes, for example,
"Confronting the power of the Zionist Lobby for the first time was sobering. The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee was founded in Washington in 1980, the year of our state visit, in an effort to promote a more balanced U.S. Middle East policy and to correct anti-Arab Stereotypes. But it was a rank amateur compared to groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC's supporters were CEOs of large American corporations and representatives of the top levels of media and entertainment businesses, financial institutions, legal and medical professions, and, increasingly, the highest reaches of government. Their activism at the grassroots level was legendary. I remember hearing about a news program in the late 1980s that was planning a story critical of Israel during the intifada, the Palestinian uprising. Hundreds of telegrams poured into the studio protesting the anti-Israel 'bias' of the program two hours before it was even aired! I had first learned of this bias, in the years prior to my marriage, from American correspondents covering the region. They frequently complained about writing dispatches that they considered evenhanded only to find that their editors at home had rewritten them with a pro-Israel slant. Stories casting Arabs in a positive light were greeted with muted enthusiasm, they said."
The Queen has other blind spots and prejudices. While she calls the late Yitzhak Rabin a friend, and speaks of the sadness she and the King felt at his death, she also writes of the problems that she believed accumulated between Jordan and Israel afterward. She has few good words for Netanyahu, Sharon or even Ehud Barak. She mentions Barak only in relation to his role as the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and then negatively, and does not mention his role as Prime Minister at all. She has no wish to see the need for or understand Israel's self defense against terrorism. She snipes at Israel throughout the memoir.
The only sympathy she can muster is for the Palestinians and their cause, but only in relation to Israel; the Queen has no compassion to waste on the Palestinians and Yasir Arafat when Jordan has been the target. She sees no comparisons between Jordan's and Israel's need to defend against terror. While some of her criticism may be valid, it loses its soundness in the face of her obvious belief that the core problem is Israel's very existence.
Back to Top