Jordanian queen says she tries to put herself in shoes of hostages’ mothers

In CBS interview, Rania says Israel took wrong approach in war against Hamas; defends anti-Israel protests on college campuses while condemning rising antisemitism

Jordan's Queen Rania speaks to CBS's "Face the Nation" in an interview aired May 5, 2024. (Screenshot, CBS)
Jordan's Queen Rania speaks to CBS's "Face the Nation" in an interview aired May 5, 2024. (Screenshot, CBS)

Jordan’s Queen Rania al-Abdullah, in an interview aired Sunday, discussed the empathy she feels for Israel mothers who have children in Hamas captivity but urged Israel not to channel the trauma of the October 7 massacre to fuel a cycle of “retribution and revenge.”

Speaking to CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Rania spoke about the need for Israelis to remain sympathetic to ordinary Palestinian civilians. She also discussed the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protests that have erupted on college campuses in the United States and elsewhere, condemning attempts to paint the protesting students as “pro-Hamas” and  asserting that the majority of the demonstrations were peaceful.

Rania, who has been highly critical of Israel throughout the war in Gaza, said that due to her heritage, she identifies more with the Palestinian side of the conflict, but seeks to remain sympathetic to the Israeli side as well.

“I challenge myself every single day to put myself in the shoes of an Israeli mother, who has a child that’s been taken as a hostage… and I try to empathize and see where they’re coming from,” she said.

“We need the hostages to go home as soon as possible,” she added. “And we need the war to end as soon as possible so that Palestinians can go back to their homes, if they have homes left.”

As “traumatic and devastating” as October 7 was, Israel’s response to the brutal massacre “has not helped the situation,” Jordan’s queen opined, turning her attention to Israel’s war against Hamas and the impact it has had on Gaza’s civilian population.

“You cannot just rely on this visceral reaction of retribution and revenge, because then you’re just going into the cycle of violence and just digging deeper in it, and it’s just going to keep getting worse,” she said, suggesting that Israel should have chosen a method other than an all-out war in Gaza to target the terror organization.

“Israel could have retaliated through surgical strikes against Hamas, but that’s not what we’re seeing today. We are seeing a war that isn’t fought in a defensive way,” Rania added.

This picture taken on April 30, 2024, shows of tents at a camp housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip (AFP)

The war in Gaza began following the October 7 terror onslaught, during which thousands of Hamas-led terrorists carried out a massacre inside Israel in which some 1,200 people were slaughtered, the majority of them civilians. An additional 252 people were seized as hostages and taken to Gaza, of whom 129 are believed to remain in captivity, not all of them alive.

In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas and launched an aerial campaign and ground offensive in Gaza to topple the terror group’s rule and release the hostages.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that more than 34,500 people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave since the start of the war, although the figures cannot be independently verified and include at least 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle.

The way in which the war against Hamas is being waged is the result of a decades-long policy of “dehumanization” of Palestinians, Rania charged, telling CBS that Israel has “walled Palestinians out of sight and out of mind.”

“It’s kind of reduced them to nameless, faceless security threats that you have to defend yourself against… I’m talking about a deep culture, an omnipresent perspective about Palestinians, that says that Palestinians are subhuman, that they are violent because of something intrinsic in them,” she claimed.

Reducing Palestinians to people who are “not moral like us” is what allows Israel to “inflict pain and suffering on them,” Rania said, warning that “dehumanization works both ways.”

“When you lose your ability to empathize toward the other side, you become hardened yourself, it degrades your own humanity,” she continued, stressing again that it is incorrect to assume that “Palestinians only understand the language of violence and force.”

In the wake of the October 7 massacre, anti-Palestinian rhetoric has featured heavily in some right-wing spaces, including in the political sphere. In November, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party, claimed that there are “two million Nazis” in the West Bank, while MK Amichai Eliyahu of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party suggested that Israel could drop “some kind of nuclear bomb on Gaza,  flattening them, eliminating everybody there.”

Concerted efforts have also been carried out by right-wing groups to block humanitarian aid from entering the Palestinian enclave, with activists claiming that all Israel is doing is providing assistance to the terror group. They also say aid should not go to Gaza while Israel’s hostages are still being held captive there.

Turning her attention to the eruption of pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel activism on college campuses in the US in recent weeks, Rania rejected the notion that the demonstrations are antisemitic in nature, even as videos and photos have emerged of protesters making antisemitic remarks or displaying signs bearing antisemitic slogans.

Anti-Israel signs at the illegal tent encampment at George Washington University campus in Washington, DC, May 2, 2024. (Tani Levitt)

“Antisemitism is when you persecute somebody, or you discriminate against somebody based on their Jewish identity,” the Jordanian queen said, calling antisemitism “the worst kind of bigotry” and “pure hatred.”

“Israel is a state. It has political policy, political parties. So you can criticize the State of Israel, but that’s not necessarily antisemitism,” she said, stressing that she believes “it would be wrong to hold the Jewish community responsible for the actions or policies of Israel.”

Despite drawing a distinction between anti-Israel action and antisemitism, Rania acknowledged the rise of antisemitism in the wake of the war in Gaza.

Students in the US have a right to protest, but at the same time “it’s important for students to abide by the rules of the campus,” she said.

“There is a rise in antisemitism, and it’s wrong for any student to feel unsafe on campus. That being said, emotions are running high and I think people are losing sight of what these students are protesting.

“For them, the issue of Gaza and the Palestinian conflict is more about social justice. They are standing up for human rights, for international law, for the principles that underpin international law. They’re standing up for the future that they’re going to inherit,” Rania added, asserting that “the vast majority of these protests want to be peaceful, they don’t want to be destructive.”

“To paint all these students and all these protests in a broad paintbrush and to vilify them as being pro-Hamas or pro-terrorism or antisemitic, I think that’s inaccurate.”

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