The Middle East is a very complicated place and no one's wearing hats that are all white or all black. (Well, except the Orthodox Jews, who must have started it before the metaphor became popular.) Everyone's got serious offenses to answer for.
That said, something seems out of whack when Elvis Costello is canceling performances in Israel because of its poor human rights record the very same week that the Queen of Jordan is being celebrated with a Global Humanitarian award out at Microsoft's Redmond campus.
That's right, a queen, and not a queen like they have in England, a cute figurehead queen. No, this is a real queen, whose husband, the king, is the autocratic, undisputable ruler of his country.Of course, by the standards of many Arab countries, Jordan is an extremely enlightened place. I mean, just look at that queen--she's apparently allowed to leave the house without being in full burka and surrounded by male cousins. But Jordan's not exactly a human rights mecca--starting with what our State Department describes, with delightful understatement, as its citizens "restricted right to change their government."
There's also, as the Department notes in its most recent human rights report on Jordan, "cases of torture, arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and the continuance of poor prison conditions," as well as "impunity, denial of due process of law, and limited judicial independence," not to mention discrimination "against women, converts from Islam, and persons of Palestinian origin" (emphasis added).
But we're not hearing about that this week. Instead, we hear from Mr. MacManus about the failings of Israel, a largely free and open society. Of course, Israel absolutely deserves to be questioned and condemned for its many failings, just as does the United States. But shouldn't there be some kind of acknowledgment, when bestowing these awards and boycotts, as to where the baseline really is? Because right now it's kind of an unacknowledged sliding scale, isn't it?
Costello, looking suspiciously Jewish.
After all, Elvis Costello can't really follow his "instinct and conscience" and take a similar stand on the problems in Jordan. Why? Because he'd never be booked there in the first place.
And where does the corporate sponsor of the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award--a giant Silicon Valley company called Applied Materials--have its business unit in the Middle East? It sure as hell isn't Jordan. It's in Israel, where the free flow of information, high levels of education, and democracy make it a place that fosters innovation.
The queen of Jordan has apparently done some great work employing technology to help provide girls with education in the developing world. We're glad to hear it. And we hope that one day she's able to bring girls up to the level of equality that they long ago achieved in the country Elvis Costello finds too morally repugnant to visit.