Mudar Zahran: Promising Jews A Garden Of Eden
A Jordanian comes along and tells Israelis that Jordan is Palestine and that all our problems will be solved when the whole world recognizes that fact. Everyone will finally get off Israel’s back, bringing to life the Garden of Eden in the New Middle East. The “only” problem is that that requires King Abdullah II to give up his throne and return to Saudi Arabia from whence he came.
Mudar Zahran says he is just the man to make that happen, and he has the Jordanian Opposition Coalition (JOC), of which he is Secretary-General, behind him. Now, anyone who has read marketing articles online knows that they can brand themselves. With a little bit of skill, they can brand themselves quite well. A question I am wondering about is whether or not there is substance behind the Mudar Zahran brand. At first glance, there seems to be; from the JOC Constitution and programme for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict we read:
Jordan Opposition Coalition (JOC) is the unified opposition coalition working to bring true democracy to Jordan. Based in England, they have been in operation since 2011. Recently, the JOC finalized unification of all known opposition parties to the King of Jordan. To support their actions and beliefs, the JOC has created a mission statement, a series of white papers on a variety of issues, a Bill of Rights, and over a dozen more documents, position platform and a New Constitution that brings both democracy to the public and parity between all houses of government.
You might want to open the link — it is quite an impressive document (UPDATE 2 March 2018: the constitution has been taken down for some reason. I have saved a copy of a policy paper uploaded onto Israpundit website, in case they decide to take that down as well). At the same time, I would have liked to have seen a list of names of the “known opposition parties” that unified under the JOC, as I am sure members of the opposition parties who joined in this effort would as well. You know, something to go into the history books. Something that would give the statement credibility. (And note that Michael Ross, whose ethical stance has been questioned recently, put together the entire section on resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.)
Social Media Mudar Zahran
Since Mudar began appearing on my social media screen, he has come out with bombastic statements. He continues to do so to this day. Here are some recent examples:
Sources: A huge scandal to hit the Palestinian Authority thugs soon, with documents involving Abbas himself, showing money stolen being laundered in Jordanian banks by men close to Jordan’s Ali Baba,”king”…
— Mudar Zahran (@Mudar_Zahran) December 3, 2017
While Jordanians starve, Jordan’s Ali Baba “King” jets off to US for a mega Thanksgiving party he’s throwing at his NY residence- where his wife and children live full time. The legendary party has top Hollywood celebrities on the guest list. All paid for by the Jordanian people
— Mudar Zahran (@Mudar_Zahran) November 23, 2017
Sources: “A mega revolution is expected in Jordan by the beginning of next year”, #Jordan‘s king’s intelligence desk has confirmed to him…
More to come
— Mudar Zahran (@Mudar_Zahran) November 15, 2017
Professor Yoav Alon, expert on Jordanian history, author of two books, and 2017 IPPY-Award Gold Medalist in History (World), remarked that revolutions are unpredictable.
The whole point about them is that they come as a surprise.
I met with Professor Alon to learn what he thinks about some of Mudar’s claims.
Let us begin with Mudar’s claim that the Palestinian Jordanians and the million-member Bani Hassan Bedouin tribe want the King of Jordan to abdicate. Alon agrees that
many people in Jordan are angry – the economic situation is very difficult. For one thing, the Syrian refugees compete with Jordanians for jobs and services. This is a huge drain on the economy and the general instability in the region is worrisome. But it is my impression that the majority trust the King and appreciate his constant efforts to alleviate the situation. Abdullah made improving the economy one of the first things on his agenda since he came to the throne. There was some criticism of East Bankers against the Queen in the past, but this seems to have subsided.
More and more, the Palestinian citizens of Jordan appreciate the stability and security and normal life the Kingdom affords them, especially when they look around and see what is happening on the other side of their borders.
Mudar claims that Abed Almaala, Deputy Secretary General of JOC, represents the wishes of the million-member Bani Hassan Bedouin tribe in Jordan who want to see the downfall of King Abdullah II. Professor Alon retorts that:
It is not reasonable to suggest that the entire tribe stands behind a single man or maintains a unified opinion. We are talking about a huge tribe that is, in fact, a confederation of tribes made up of many clans and households. There are, subsequently, a wide variety of opinions and political stances held by various branches of the tribe. Nobody can claim to speak for them all with one voice.
A Conversation With Naseem Gheewan
I held a Skype audio-conversation with Naseem a while ago. He claims to be Jordan’s Shadow Government’s Secretary of Homeland Security and will be Minister of the Interior after the king will have been deposed. He says he is a businessman currently living in Holland and has known Mudar for about 10 years. Naseem says that the JOC receives a lot of private messages from Jordanians
. . . begging us to set them free.
Naseem told me that Abdullah buys oil from ISIS and sells food and supplies donated by Saudi Arabia in markets in Jordan and outside of Jordan. He provided a bit of gossip, telling me that Abdullah was married for five years to Saad Hariri’s sister and kept it secret from the Jordanian people. I am unable to verify these points.
Naseem went on:
The USA and Saudi Arabia support us. We are waiting for them to say it is time to start our takeover. . . . In the foreseeable future, everything will become clear.
This comment seems to be consistent with a tweet from Mudar:
Jordan has one large tribe: Called Jordanian West Bankers (AKA Palestinians), 6.2 million. s for Jordanian East Bankers, they have one leader, my renowned deputy, Mr. Abed AlMaala. We get along with our national army well.
— Mudar Zahran (@Mudar_Zahran) November 21, 2017
I guess Mudar is suggesting that when they get the go-ahead, the Jordanian army will carry the leaders of the JOC into Amman on their shoulders. If that happens, I will congratulate him; but somehow I doubt it.
Other Things Mudar Has Said
Mudar says that the Zahran family is well-established and has a prominent station in Jordanian society. As proof of that, he claims that one of the seven royal palaces is named after them and is in an exclusive region of Amman in which there are many embassies. Indeed, there is a Zahran Palace and a Zahran Street, and embassies in the region. However, Yoav Alon told me:
According to a very knowledgeable Jordanian historian, Zahran Palace (like Basman, another palace) was called after an area in the Hijaz owned by the Hashemite family who originated from Mecca.
How convenient for Mudar that his last name and the name of the palace are the same. It makes for a nice fairy tale.
Several times, Mudar has said that he lives in a safe house. However, a reliable source in the UK, who prefers to remain anonymous, refuted this, claiming that the Zahran family lives a perfectly normal life in south-east England.
Mudar Zahran’s Motives
Mudar often claims that he gets no remuneration for his lectures, that he takes nothing beyond reimbursement for direct expenses. I verified this with one organization in the UK that I knew he had visited. They affirmed this.
I must admit that I do not understand why he does not accept a fee for lectures. It is quite respectable to do so. After all, one does have to support oneself and one’s family. My anonymous source confirmed that Mudar does, in fact, live under very humble circumstances; fees for lectures could be a respectable way to supplement the family budget. However, perhaps he wishes to ward off any potential accusation of trying to make a living off of the Jewish tendency to embrace anyone who claims to love us and have our best interests at heart. So, Mudar does not make any money from his endeavours. Why is he doing this?
Keep in mind, Naseem remarked that
What people do not understand is that merely being engaged in this, it is a big risk to our lives.
I do believe that is true to a certain extent. I am not sure how much their lives are really at risk outside of Jordan, but I do believe that if Mudar were to return to Jordan, not only would he be jailed (he was tried and found guilty, in absentia, of four crimes against the state and the king) but he might also be killed. Therefore, his claim that he has political asylum rings true, and my anonymous source verified that he obtained asylum relatively quickly.
Shay Golub, political consultant, gave the following opinion after I discussed the issues with him:
Like many ideologists, Mudar has an idea – same as in all industries, you have people with ideas, but usually ideas are not enough. You need someone who can make them a reality – it seems he has an idea but so far there is no real evidence that he has the resources to make it real.
Political people, and he is a political person, tend to exaggerate what they do; it is possible that he took some facts and added more “value” – and remember: politicians tend to believe their own stories.
On the other hand, it is not inconceivable that the Jordanian government finds it convenient that he is there because he takes the place of an opposition in the general public consciousness. It is far better to have someone without real influence and power in Jordan onto whom the regime can divert attention, rather than other more viable threats to the Jordanian leadership.
Yosef Hartuv, blogger and political analyst, looked at it more from our Israeli perspective:
Do we have something real here, or is there a degree of wish fulfillment, that this is what we would like to hear? Mudar is somewhat a product of the West, particularly since he studied and now lives in the UK, and his audience includes primarily those who would like to see these things happen, but there is a bit of a question of relevance if they are not Jordanians.
In some ways, the Mudar issue may be very similar to Breaking the Silence. They do not, in all truth, have an audience here [in Israel] but the things they say in Europe are things that the Europeans love to hear, things that Americans love to hear. For some of them, considering how hated they are by their fellow countrymen, it takes a high-degree of moral-narcissim to continue for any length of time. But this too will likely be forgotten, as their idolization in Europe and America seems to supplant any desire to share a common identity with their fellow citizens.
I think, following the recent conference held in Jerusalem [Jordan Is Palestine], Mudar will learn to live with the fact that people in Jordan do not necessarily care what he says. I am left with a feeling of: quite likely there is not a whole lot going on here. But it is up to each individual to decide how to relate to it. Bear in mind that supporting something like this may be more of wish fulfillment, of what we would like to see happen, than of anything based in reality. In the meantime, we may be facilitating a situation in which Mudar gets the idea that he actually has a finger on the pulse of history or, more specifically, of Jordanian history.
The Mudar Zahran Brand
I asked my anonymous source if the Jordanian expat community in the UK or in Europe support Mudar and the JOC to any extent. He said:
I am not quite sure. He has support from various individuals but not necessarily the Jordanian community. It is a small organisation, with between 5-10 activists.
Of course, my anonymous source would not have access to the private messages Naseem claims he gets from Jordanians who are afraid to speak up publicly; therefore he may not have information of all that is happening. However, it does not seem that voicing support for Mudar’s ideas when living in Europe or the UK would be such a risk, especially if Mudar himself does not really live in a safe house.
I asked William Blesch, founder of Breakthrough Business Branding, for an analysis of Mudar’s online presence from a branding perspective. Blesch’s firm is a luxury marketing agency and strategic consultancy that focuses on personal and business premium and luxury brands. I asked William for his opinion because I wanted another perspective in examining Mudar’s message:
Personal Facebook timeline followed by 1,691, and political page followed by 20,186.
Compare that to Nancy Pelosi (584K followers) / Shelly Yachimovich (203K followers) / Khaled Ali, the opposition leader in Egypt (279K followers). Mudar’s numbers are comparable to Walid Jumblatt, opposition leader of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party (26K followers), but the leader of Lebanon’s Amal Party (another opposition party) has well over 326K followers. Therefore, on Facebook at least, we can say that Mudar Zahran has the following of a minor politician.
From a branding and marketing perspective, his Facebook presence is an example of poor branding. It does not provide would-be followers with any kind of grasp of the man or his organization. Posts in the timeline alone are good … but can easily be seen as mere propaganda.
On Twitter, he has about the same number of followers. 20K plus. This is good, but it’s harder to tell with Twitter because you don’t know whether you’re being followed by real people or bots. I did a quick scroll through his Twitter feed and he does a good job of keeping it updated. However, he doesn’t have many “likes” or retweets at all.
So, either he is not popular, or those who are following him are not paying attention.
Branding is all about defining the narrative you want your target audience to receive … and then ensuring that all channels of communication are in agreement in broadcasting that narrative. Zahran is not consistent and he does certain things that hurt his overall message.
Is Mudar’s lack of larger influence one of ineffective online branding? Or is his ineffective online branding a symptom of lack of substance?
Perhaps things will work out as Golub suggests, that ideas come to fruition, often, only after the idea-maker has left this world. I do not wish that on Mudar, but sometimes prophets are only appreciated after they have passed. His idea certainly would provide a convenient solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict and that is likely why Mudar has captured the imaginations of so many Jews and Israelis. It would be the dream solution, as Hartuv suggests.
And perhaps Mudar’s stories only work with Jews and Israelis who know nothing about Jordan and next to nothing about how tribal societies operate.
Furthermore, given the strength of the strategic alliance between Israel and Jordan, described to me by Professor Alon, it is not likely that Mudar would be supported by the Israeli leadership unless he was able to prove that he had the Jordanian army on his side and some pretty hefty resources backing him up. Somehow I do not think that is true because if it was, he would not come to a minor conference in Israel organized by a little-known website owner who moved to Israel only a few years ago, and he would not give lectures to the Jewish community in Glascow. He would be too busy with secret meetings with Israel’s and America’s top brass and military strategists. Don’t you think?
If, one day, Mudar does ride up to the Jordanian House of Representatives in a chauffeur driven limousine, I will eat my hat. And I will shout out: “Chapeau, Mudar Zahran, you are a man of your word. And a formidable word that is!” Do you think he would give me an interview then, or have I blown my chances with this article?
My experience of Mudar has been that he has been open to answer my questions, but he tended to have a particular goal in mind in his relations with me, that of using me to write articles he felt it better were written by someone else instead of him. For example, he gave me information in the hope that I would write up the article on Daqamseh in a particular fashion. I did not and he was upset, but not upset enough to cut me off. Later, when my first article about him drew a response from a certain member of the Jordanian administration, he asked me to tweet her a particular response as if it was coming from me. I refused.
He got me to talk to Naseem for the purposes, I think, of being able to tell the world that Naseem Gheewan is a real person. The only thing I can say is that I spoke to someone who says his name is Naseem Gheewan but I have no idea what he looks like because it was an audio call and not a video call. His voice was not that of Mudar, so it was a different person. Who really? I do not know. Mudar told me I could not ask anything calling Nassem’s credibility into question and after the call asked if I was going to tell everyone I had spoken to Naseem Gheewan.So here, Mudar, I am telling the world I spoke to someone you say is Naseem Gheewan and who you say is going to be an important personage in your new government. I wonder if this is what you intended.
Before this article went online, I tried to call Mudar for a comment on what I wrote up in this article, but he did not answer and did not return my call.