Fears that Palestinians are granted Jordanian citizenship in huge numbers and gradually swamping the natives has long been a worry among the country’s indigenous population of so-called East Bankers. But new research says their concerns are unfounded.
Data published in the Jordanian daily A-Dustour this week revealed that the scope of "political naturalization," a euphemism for Palestinians receiving Jordanian nationality, was much smaller than commonly believed. Only 217 West Bank Palestinians were granted citizenship in Jordan during the past decade, a far smaller number than the thousands of Jordanians of Palestinian origin whose nationality was revoked.
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Oraib Al-Rantawi, director of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies and a columnist for the newspaper, said Ministry of Interior records showed that less than 0.5% of the 46,000 people to receive Jordanian citizenship since 2000 were Palestinian. The few that did, Al-Rantawi claimed, got it for purely technical reasons, such as marrying a Jordanian or reclaiming citizenship previously revoked.
This revelation was news to many Jordanians who believe there is a master-plan, both by Israel and elements in Jordan, to turn the kingdom into an alternative Palestinian state.
"These numbers show that all the noise surrounding political naturalization was unjustified," Said Diab, secretary-general of the Jordanian Popular Democratic Unity Party, a breakaway from the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), told The Media Line. "In fact, there is no political naturalization in Jordan."
The figures come at a sensitive time for Jordan, whose king has been parrying with the opposition over democratic reforms. Jordan’s elections have been skewed to give more weight to the country’s mostly rural East Banker population amid concerns that its Palestinians may constitute a majority and try to assert control. Jordan ruled the West Bank between 1948 and 1967.
The exact number of Palestinians living in Jordan is unknown, though some believe they constitute a majority. Some two million Palestinian refugees are registered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Jordan, mostly as Jordanian citizens.
The issue is among the most sensitive in a society ruled since independence by an Arabian dynasty claiming lineage from the prophet Muhammad. East Bankers are generally loyal to the king, but their fealty towards his wife has become questionable.
In early February, a group of 36 Jordanian tribes issued an unprecedented statement attacking Queen Rania. The tribesmen accused the queen of transferring lands belonging to them to members of her family and of overstepping her authorities as the king's wife. Public criticism of the Jordanian royal family is punishable by a three-year prison term.
But these issues seemed to mask a deeper animosity towards the queen for her Palestinian background. The authors of the petition accused Rania of facilitating the naturalization of 78,000 Palestinians between 2005 and 2010. The new data published by Al-Rantawi were meant to discredit these numbers.
The accusations were so serious, that the royal court instructed Jordan’s ambassador to France to protest to the chairman and chief executive of Agence France Press, which had reported the protest.
Fears of an Israeli forced expulsion of Palestinians to Jordan, fueled by unofficial remarks by Israeli politicians to that effect, dominate public debate among East-Bank Jordanians.
After Jordan dropped its claim to the West Bank in 1988, it promptly issued a set of regulations to deal with millions of Palestinians formerly under Jordanian control. Assaf David, an expert on Jordan at the Truman Institute in Jerusalem, said Jordan was treating its Palestinians as "citizens on condition," hoping they will reclaim full Palestinian nationality when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
"To maintain their Jordanian citizenship, many Palestinians living in Jordan must produce a document called 'authorization of occupation' issued by the Israeli Authorities, proving they still maintain family ties with the West Bank," David told The Media Line. "Israel has no interest in creating more 'Palestinian Jordanians', so Israel and Jordan are waging a demographic war on the backs of Palestinians."
David said he doubted the numbers published in A-Dustour
, saying it was a pro-government publication owned by the Al-Sharif family, of Palestinian origin. He said Palestinian Jordanians often expressed their rejection of Jordan as an alternative Palestinian homeland.
Better data seemed to exist about Palestinian Jordanians whose citizenship was revoked. According to Human Rights Watch, over 2,700 Jordanians were stripped of their nationality between 2004 and 2008.
Darwish Al-Qawasmi, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, had his
citizenship revoked four years ago after he failed to prove an ongoing
connection with the West Bank.
"I was born in Jordan 60 years ago, and have no Palestinian ID. If you
take away my Jordanian citizenship, what will you give me in return?"
Al-Qawasmi told The Media Line. He said that as a non-citizen he cannot
be treated in Jordanian public hospitals and his children, also born in
Jordan, cannot register in national registries.
"This is not right," Al-Qawasmi said. "A principled solution must be found."