Transcript: Queen Rania al Abdullah of Jordan on "Face the Nation," May 5, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with Queen Rania al Abdullah of Jordan that aired on May 5, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your Majesty, thank you for making time for us.

QUEEN RANIA AL ABDULLAH: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jordan has two field hospitals inside of Gaza, Jordan is helping to get aid into the Strip. The UN estimates that at least 15,000 children have been killed since this war began in October. What is the impact in the region? 

QUEEN RANIA: Well, look, first of all, Gaza in the last seven months has become unrecognizable. Cities have turned into a wasteland. Growing happy children have been reduced to skin and bone. 2.3 million people in a short, in a small area have been going through hell every single day. 1.7 million of them have been displaced, and not just one some of them several times. And they’re currently living in conditions that are unimaginable, in makeshift shelters, in tents on the street. A UNICEF was hearing from teenage girls saying that they would rather be killed than live under these conditions. And so many have been killed, almost 35,000 People 70% of them women and children. As you mentioned, almost 15,000 Children, Gaza has the highest, unfortunately, sadly, the highest cohort of child amputees. And every couple of days, we’re losing children to starvation. We in the Arab world have been seeing this war live streamed every single day, and it has become central to our lives. And it’s been quite devastating. And the impact has been obviously, people are so traumatized by what they’re seeing every day, we were traumatized by October 7, but then this war, we feel is not, you know, Israel is saying that this was a defensive war. Obviously, it was instigated by October 7, but the way it’s being fought is not in a defensive way. You know, 60% of homes have been destroyed. 80% of schools and health care centers have been destroyed. Are we to believe that they were Hamas operatives and each one of those? You know, so so, you know, the- the impact has been very, very big on us. And I think people, I’m not sure if your viewers know this, but people view the U.S. as being a party to this war. Because, you know, Israeli officials say that without US support, they couldn’t launch this war, you know, you turn off the tap and the weapons dry out. So and so there has been anger in our part of the world, not just what- what’s happening, but at the world’s reaction. When we see these violations, human rights violations and international law violations, and we’re watching the World letting it happen. When October 7th happened, the world rightfully condemned and took strong actions, strong positions. We are outraged that the same is not happening when Palestinians are getting killed. And so there is a sense of the selective application of humanitarian law and a sense of unfairness, a sense of our lives don’t matter as much. And, you know, this is something I think that’s creating a, certainly causing a great loss of credibility to the US, but also causing us to rethink our, our view of the world order, you know. As cruel and-and ugly as the war in Gaza is, the state of our rules-based world order is looking exponentially worse. People are looking at Gaza as a reflection of the rest of the world where, you know, the rules don’t matter, where international law doesn’t matter, where UN resolutions can be ignored. And I think that sets a very, very dangerous precedent. Because actions like these, they’re not only a betrayal for the people of Gaza, but they’re actually a betrayal of the safeguards that are meant to keep us all safe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said people back home see the United States as complicit in what’s happening? 

QUEEN RANIA: They see it as an enabler, you know. So clearly the US is the country that has most leverage over the US- over Israel. And like I said, you know, it is the biggest ally and biggest supporter. And the Arab world is getting- the rest of the world actually is getting mixed messages. On the one hand, the US is demanding that more aid rightfully go back into Gaza. At the same time, they’re- they’re denying that the starvation is intentional. On the one hand, they are outraged by the attacks on the aid convoys. But at the same time, they’re denying that Israel is violating international humanitarian law. There’s an expression of concern over civilian deaths, but at the same time, there’s a provision of offensive weapons to Israel that are used against Palestinians. So in a sense, you know, you- when you try so hard to thread the needle, you can risk dropping the ball, you can risk letting your values and principles unravel and, and that has a deep impact. So for example, even when the US allowed the UN Security Council resolution on the ceasefire to pass, the next day, there was an announcement saying that it’s not it’s not legally binding. UN resolutions are absolutely legally binding. And these legal frameworks are there to ensure that all countries adhere to standards of conduct. They’re either applicable to everyone or they’re not. Either everyone is accountable or no one is. So the next time a country breaks rules, you know, and the US comes and tries to apply more authority, those countries are going to say, well, you made an exception here. So why apply it to us? So I think people, you know, we are seeing Israel falling short of moral standard after moral stand- legal standard after legal standard, and the world is refusing to act. So I think Gaza now is like a microcosm of our new world disorder, of the breakdown of international norms of the return of might is right. And I think that’s very dangerous, not just for our region, but for the entire world. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, recently President Biden, just about a month ago, warned Prime Minister Netanyahu that US policy would change, if Israel’s behavior and conduct in this war didn’t change. Do you believe the US is starting to use the leverage you say it has?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, look, there’s definitely been a change in tone and language. And you’re right, the President has been warning and has been trying very hard to persuade Netanyahu, for example, to not enter Rafah. But we’ve seen time and again, Israeli officials, not heeding the warnings or counsel or advice of allies. So, I think it’s time that the international community, including the US, really use this political leverage to compel Israel to end the war and to let aid in.


QUEEN RANIA: It’s an- it’s- by taking measures, right. So again, it’s by standing up for international law, saying, for example, the building of illegal settlements is- is wrong. And it has to stop. It’s by saying that, you know, we’re not going to provide you with offensive weapons, it’s by saying, we’re not going to continue to use our veto to not hold Israel accountable- accountable, when it breaks the law. Diplomatic pressure is also very, very important. So there are many tools that the US has in order to compel Israel to do the right thing. And I think, for the sake of our world, the US may be Israel’s most- closest ally, but a good friend holds a friend accountable. You don’t give them a carte blanche when they’re not doing the right thing. And I think it does Israel a great disservice when we don’t hold it accountable, because it creates a culture of impunity. And that has been the situation for decades, where they feel that they can, they can be the exception to every international law and standard. Either you’re part of the international community, and you abide by the rules, or you’re a pariah state that’s not- that’s made an exception to every rule. So, so I think that if you care about your ally, you will actually take action to set them- and that will be for Israel’s best interest in the long term.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In the beginning of this war, you were outspoken about the humanitarian concerns very early on, and you are the Queen of Jordan, but you’re also Palestinian.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You argued people need to understand that Palestinian mothers love their children just as much as Israeli mothers. Why do you feel like that needed to be said?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, because, you know, for decades, the dehumanization of Palestinians, has been an intentional approach that Israel adopted in order to numb people to Palestinian suffering. You know, it’s actually quite surprising to see just how deep the undercurrents of dehumanization has run. Israelis have pretty much you know, Arabs are generally accused of teaching hate, Palestinians as well. But it’s Israelis have actually 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. They don’t learn about Palestinians. They’re never introduced to them as real people. Any attempts to bring Palestinian stories into books are-are barred. So this sense of- and we actually saw that, you know, among the people blocking aid into Palestinians were young teenagers, I can’t understand how anybody could be so indifferent to human suffering.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re talking now about some of the protests that are trying to interrupt the shipment of aid into Gaza?

QUEEN RANIA: 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. It’s something in their nature. It’s- it’s, it’s not because there is violence inflicted on them. And so when you reduce people to a violent, people who are different to us, so they’re not moral like us, so therefore it’s okay to inflict pain and suffering on them because they don’t feel it the same way we do. It allows people to do bad things. That’s-that’s the mental loophole of dehumanization, it allows you to justify the unjustifiable, to do bad things and still see yourself as a good person. And we’re seeing that happen in the case of Palestinians, they don’t feel the Palestinians, that’s why I said the mothers love their children the same way because, you know, it allows you to do bad things and not really have a moral dilemma with it. And that’s what- what’s happening. But you know, dehumanization works both ways. Because when you lose your ability to empathize towards the other side, you become hardened yourself, it degrades your own, your own humanity. And we’re seeing this happening in Israeli society where they’re become so hardened. And I just want to urge people to- to understand that this narrative, this propaganda that’s been fed this anti-Palestinian racism, that Palestinians do not want peace, that Palestinians only understand the language of violence and force, that is incorrect.

MARGARET BRENNAN: To see Hamas as representing Palestinian people, you’re saying, is wrong?

QUEEN RANIA: Absolutely wrong. And also, just to- just to point out that most of the people alive in Gaza today were not alive when Hamas was elected. They were either child- they were not born, or they were children at the time. So absolutely, Hamas does not represent the majority of- of Palestinians. And if Palestinians hate Israelis, it is not because of their religion, or their identity, it’s because of the fact that they’ve only interacted with them as enforcers of a military state. They have only known them to their check- checkpoints and bullets and guns. It’s not something that’s inherently in them against Jewish people. In fact, I always try to remind people that you know, we have coexisted, Christians, Muslims and Jewish people, for the longest time. That’s where the three monotheistic religions were born. And prior to the birth of Zionism, the Muslim majority in Palestine, lived in complete friendship and tolerance with the- with the Jewish minority, there was never an issue of antisemitism there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you know, historians will argue, antisemitism has been present throughout history, right. And it is hard for people to hear some of what you’re saying and not react in that way, where they hear a characterization of criticism of the Israeli government or the Israeli military, and see where you’re separating from Jewish people. A lot of people don’t hear a difference.

QUEEN RANIA: Antisemitism is absolutely present. And it’s- and it’s been on the rise, it’s been on the surge. And it is the worst kind of bigotry, it is pure hatred. And I always say that Muslims have to be- have to be at the forefront of fighting antisemitism, because Islamophobia is the other side of the same disease, and it’s also on the rise. Judaism is a religion of peace. It is the first of the three monotheistic religions. And as Muslims, you know, we- it was- it was Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We all believe in the same God. And the issue is when you try to conflate anti-Israeli policy with antisemitism, right. Antisemitism is when you persecute somebody, or you discriminate against somebody based on their Jewish identity. Israel is a state. It has political policy, political parties. So you can criticize the State of Israel but that’s not necessarily antisemitism. So when people stand up and speak against the war in Gaza, when they’re talking about the- speak against the collective punishment, when you deprive people of food as a weapon of war, when- when entire populations displaced, when there’s indiscriminate bombing. That is not antisemitism, that is speaking against Israeli policy. And I think it would be wrong to hold the Jewish community responsible for the actions of the, or the policies of, Israel. And many Jewish people absolutely reject this- this conflation. They didn’t they- they- they want to protect their Jewish identity and say that they- the Jewish faith has existed 3,000 years before the birth of the State of Israel. So it- it predates the State of Israel and- and it’s [inaudible] to conflate the religious aspect with the politics. I don’t think it serves anybody and it certainly doesn’t bring us closer to peace.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, let me ask you about that because, you know, there are protests at colleges across the United States, here in New York, other cities, in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. But there is also this perception among some students that they are unsafe, because they are, for example, Jewish students. What do you think of the protests and are you surprised to see young Americans protesting like this?

QUEEN RANIA: First of all, I think it’s important to point out that law and order are paramount for everybody. And so, it- it is important for students to abide by the rules of the campus, to not disrupt classes, to not disrupt other students exper- college experience. At the same time, as I said, there is a rise in antisemitism, and it’s wrong for any student to have to feel unsafe on campus. That being said, we need to- emotions are running high and I think people are- are losing sight of what these- 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. So they’re asking their universities to divest from an illegal occupation. But at the same time, may- maybe more importantly, they are suggesting that there is more to the story than we have been told. That there is that the narrative that we have been fed that- that- that Israel is the victim and the Palestinians are- are violent people who deserve what’s happening to them. That- that is not the entire story.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you think that’s happening on college campuses? Why do you think young people feel this way?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, actually, it’s a lot of people feel this way. But college campuses have always been the site of- of activism. You know, young students are learning about these issues at that age. You want to stand up, you’re more idealistic, you want to stand up for values you believe in. You’re- you’re outraged when- when things are not going right, when- when- when what you’re taught, and what you believe should be the right thing isn’t happening. And so they’re expressing their views. But I think to- to paint all these students and all these protests in a- in a broad paintbrush and to vilify them as being, you know, pro-Hamas or pro-terrorism or antisemitic, I think that’s inaccurate. And I think it’s- it’s somewhat patronizing to some of these students, because a lot of people were saying, well, you know, “They don’t even know what they’re protesting, they’re just protesting for the sake of it.” A lot of them are well read, thoughtful young individuals who know exactly what they’re protesting. They are protesting for justice. And–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –Do you think it will change US foreign policy?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, I- I- I don’t- I don’t know if it will change US foreign policy. It’s certainly a grassroots movement and an ex- expression of a generation that feel that there is a contradiction between the values and principles that they were taught that this country stands for and what’s actually happening on the ground. And, again, let’s not forget that there are a substantial number of Jewish students who are involved in these protests. And the vast majority of these protests want to be peaceful, they don’t want to be destructive. And I think the most important thing is to have genuine engagement with- with- with the students, to have an open debate to hear from them and- and explain to them. I mean, a lot of times they’re saying, “Well, these kids, you need education.” I think we need to go into this knowing that we need education as well. So it’s a give and take. And we saw an example in Brown University, where that kind of healthy debate ended up, you know, sort of calming things down and where it was a win-win situation. So the more you use force, I think the more that inflames the situation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How are young people in Jordan thinking about this right now? I mean, what is the sentiment in terms of the American unconditional support for the government of Israel?

QUEEN RANIA: I have to say, in one word, there’s outrage, you know. There is outrage, because, you know, for most young people, even those who maybe were against American foreign policy, or whatever disagreed with it, we always looked up to the US, you know, as a country of a democratic country, with democratic values, with application of law with freedom of speech, with, you know, human rights, etc. And, as I said, you know, the young people are now feeling extremely disillusioned, how can this be happening, while the US is allowing it to happen, while the rest of the world is- is allowing it to happen? Blatant disregard for international law, and- and- and just, you know, when the US- when- when Israel says, you know, that we are not targeting civilians and then you look at the reality on the ground that we’re seeing with our own two eyes, and we’re seeing and by the admission of some Israeli intelligence sources, they were saying that they often attacked their targets at night in their homes, with their families, which has led to the deaths of thousands of women and children. We have seen wild- widely spread reports about Israel using AI systems to generate the largest number of targets, prioritizing quantity over quality. And so- the- really by taking humanity out of the equation, in their calculus, it’s okay to flatten the entire neighborhood or kill the entire family to get one target. And so the whole principle of proportionality and distinction between- between civilians and combatants has been abandoned in this war. And, you know, when- when Israelis are telling us, you know, “They’re dying because Hamas is using them as human shields.” Well, you know, you have a place like- like Gaza, which is one of the most densely populated places in the world, being hit by an unprecedented number of dumb bombs, which are untargeted, unguided bombs, or massive bombs, which are the 2000-pound bombs. To put in perspective, in fighting ISIS, the US only used one such bomb, because it’s known that it has a very high risk of killing civilians. So you hit the most densely populated place on earth with an unprecedented number of unguided bombs, and mass of bombs, and we are supposed to believe that Israel is trying to avoid killing civilians? It just doesn’t- it doesn’t add up.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve had protests in Jordan–


MARGARET BRENNAN: Outside embassies and alike. Amnesty International says Jordanian security arrested at least 1,500 people for protesting. Why? Are you concerned there is a threat to the stability of Jordan?

QUEEN RANIA: Not at all. I- we know, since the beginning of this war, we’ve had thousands of people go out, I think we’ve had about 1700 demonstrations of people going out, advocating, and- and standing out in solidarity with the Palestinian people. And you know, at the end of the day, Jordan- and most of these demonstrations have been friction-free with the police. And, but- the end- end of the day, Jordan is a country of law and order. So as long as people abide- are abiding by the law, as I said, with the demonstrations here, then they are free to protest. It’s only when we see vandalism or attacks on public and private property, that the security forces obviously have responsibility to come in, to step in. But, again, Jordan has been probably at the forefront of countries that have stood up and spoken openly about, in defense of, what’s happening, and, you know, in defense of Palestinians, and that’s not just the leadership, but that’s also the people themselves, the people, the government and the leadership. So we’re- we’re on the same page on this. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the Director of National Intelligence in this country, Avril Haines, testified, saying there will be a generational impact from the war in Gaza. And that was also a gesture to terror recruitment. How concerned are you that that is what may happen to some of these young people, who you say are just inundated with images of what’s happening?

QUEEN RANIA: You know, like I said, it’s- it’s not just the people who are on the extreme that- that are being enraged by this. It’s people who are in the middle as well, people who are westernized, people who studied here, people who- who are suddenly just looking at the world and saying, you know, they’re so the solution. They’re saying, you know, clearly there are different standards, that humanitarian law is applied selectively, and that our lives don’t matter. And that it’s okay for- for, you know, almost 15,000 children to be killed, 19,000 to be orphaned. It’s okay for- for, you know, the infrastructure to be obliterated. It’s okay to use- to stop the delivery of aid and food to an entire population. That is collective punishment. It’s a war crime, and it’s happening. And so, the young people are saying, you know, I guess the West doesn’t like us. So- so, in my opinion, this is probably one of the most radical, large- sorry, largest recruitment event that we’ve seen in recent history. Because it’s turned a lot of people away. And it’s making people feel like there’s just no justice in this world. And that is a very dangerous place to be.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That is- what you are describing is what Defense Secretary Austin warned Israel about, that you could have a tactical win and a strategic loss in the long term. That’s what I hear you saying, that this will lead to more terror recruitment?

QUEEN RANIA: Absolutely. And I- again, I do not need to ask ourselves this- the simple question, is this war making Israel safer? Is it making our world safer? You know, I would argue, after 35,000 people dead, after the obliteration of the civilian infrastructure, in- in Gaza, after the violations of so much, after the rhetoric that we’re hearing, you know, from Israeli officials, calling Palestinians human animals, or saying, when the Prime Minister says that Palestinians are children of darkness, that they only understand the rules of the jungle, you know? When officials say we need to find a more effective way than death to inflict suffering on Palestinians. How is that making Israel safer? I mean, you know, how? This is- we need to create- peace is not about politics only, it’s about people. It’s about culture, it’s about state of mind. It’s about choosing tolerance over suspicion, it’s about choosing compromise and reconciliation over the false promise of victory. And the politics inside of Israel has shifted so far to the right that it’s become acceptable. Israelis are surprised when the word genocide is used, because they cannot see Palestinians as anything but as a security threat, that they deserve what’s happening to them.You know, in a poll–

MARGARET BRENNAN: They’re traumatized after October 7, many Israelis.

QUEEN RANIA: Absolutely traumatized, I understand that. And I understand that, because of my own background, that I would identify with the Palestinian side more, and I- because of that, I challenge myself every single day to put myself in the shoes of an Israeli mother, who is- who has a child that’s been taken as hostage, or- or any young Israeli who has been taught and who’s heard of the horrible persecution that the Jewish people had to endure in Europe. And- and I tried to empathize and see where they’re coming from. And absolutely, you know, we need the hostages to go home as soon as possible. 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. So, I understand that- that what happened on October 7 was traumatic and devastating for Israeli society. But the reaction to it has not helped the situation. You cannot just rely on your- this visceral reaction of retribution and revenge. Because then you’re just- you know, you’re just going into the cycle of violence and just digging deeper in it, and it’s just going to keep getting worse. The- Israel could have retaliated through surgical strikes against Hamas. But that’s not what we’re seeing today. You know, we are seeing a war that is not fought in a defensive way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you were at the White House in February, President Biden mentioned that your husband, King Abdullah, and two of your children had participated in airdrops in Gaza. But you’ve referred to the airdrops as “just drops in an ocean”. What is needed at this point to reverse the famine in North Gaza?

QUEEN RANIA: Right, so- so you know, those airdrops were just acts of desperation. And my husband said from day one, they are inefficient, they’re costly, and they do not begin to meet the needs of the people of Gaza. But in our calculus, it was anything is better than nothing, right? And, you know, the hunger figures in the Gaza are unprecedented. Every single person in Gaza is hungry, a quarter of the population is starving. And when we saw that devastating attack on the World Central Kitchens, there was a lot of pressure on Israel to allow more food and aid into Gaza. There’s been a slight uptick. But really, at the end of the day, there’s- they’re not even close to meeting the needs of–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, who could distribute that? If- if the war ended, even, would Jordan be able to come in and help with reconstruction?

QUEEN RANIA: So this is- so- so- so this is the thing, you know, I think what that strike did, for example, was stop aid, make lots of agencies suspend their operations because they didn’t feel safe working in Gaza. And this after Israel has- has- has bombed flower fields, agricultural land, fishing boats, basically decimating Gaza’s ability to feed itself, not just today, but for years to come. And so what is required is a permanent ceasefire that allows the hostages to go back home and people to go back to their homes. We need to put pressure on Israel to open all access points. And the land access is the most efficient way to deliver aid at- at scale. We just streamline the vetting process which now is so complicated and arbitrary. And- and you know, they could find one thing in a truck that they’re- don’t approve, and the whole truck has to go back. And- and the last thing is that we need to allow aid workers safe access within Gaza, so that they can actually deliver the aid to the people that need it. But if we do not flood Gaza with aid soon then we are going to be facing a mass famine. And I don’t know how the world just is happy doing that. It’s just- it’s- it’s a major stain on our global consciousness to see this happening in slow motion, and not do something about it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jordan has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1994. If Israel goes into southern Gaza into Rafa, as the Prime Minister says he intends to do, will peace hold?

QUEEN RANIA: As you said, we’ve had peace with Israel since ’94. And Jordan always honors the commitments that it signs up to in peace agreements. We will always be on the side of peace and diplomacy. But- but diplomacy requires trust, and a lot of that trust has been eroded over the years because of violations. against people in Gaza and the West Bank. And- and because of the undermining of the Jordanian custodianship of the Christian and Muslim sites in Jerusalem, which are part of this agreement—

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean by that? What’s happened?

QUEEN RANIA: Well, time and again, you know, we have violations against Christian sites and Muslim sites by Israeli troops who are not allowing people to go in, who are arresting people, who are not allowing people to pray. We’re seeing that happening all the time. And so this is constantly undermining the Hashemite role and custodianship of these holy sites. And so- so there is an issue with that. And with it comes- when when it comes to Rafah, the world you know, there are ongoing daily strikes on Rafah as we speak. But if there was to be a full scale invasion, then you know, the world has warned that there will be a blood- bloodbath for the simple reason that half the population of Gaza is now sheltering in Rafah, we’re talking about 50,000 people per square mile. And since the beginning of this war, there was- they were pushed systematically, further and further south. Rafah is the end of the line, there’s nowhere else for them to go, there’s only a six square mile piece of land that could- could be considered safe zone. So they have nowhere to go. And I don’t know how Israel could go in surgically without causing a massive number of civilian deaths. And so I think the world really needs to compel Israel not to do it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your Majesty, thank you for your time. I’m being told we are out of time. 

QUEEN RANIA: Thank you. 

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