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(photo credit: AP [file])
Jordanian authorities have started revoking the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians living in Jordan to avoid a situation in which they would be "resettled" permanently in the kingdom, Jordanian and Palestinian officials revealed on Monday.
The new measure has increased tensions between Jordanians and Palestinians, who make up around 70 percent of the kingdom's population.
The tensions reached their peak over the weekend when tens of thousands of fans of Jordan's Al-Faisali soccer team chanted slogans condemning Palestinians as traitors and collaborators with Israel. Al-Faisali was playing the rival Wihdat soccer team, made up of Jordanian-Palestinians, in the Jordanian town of Zarqa.
Anti-riot policemen had to interfere to stop the Jordanian fans from lynching the Wihdat team members and their fans, eyewitnesses reported. They said the Jordanian fans of Al-Faisali hurled empty bottles and fireworks at the Palestinian players and their supporters.
Reports in a number of Jordanian newspapers said that the Jordanian fans also chanted anti-Palestinian slogans and cursed Palestine, the PLO, Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque.
Prince Ali bin Hussein, chairman of Jordan's National Football Association, strongly condemned the racist slurs chanted by the Jordanian fans, saying those responsible would be severely punished.
Baker al-Udwan, director of Al-Faisali team, also condemned the behavior of his team's supporters. He said that a minority of "outcasts" and "corrupt" elements were behind the embarrassing verbal and physical assault on the Palestinian soccer players and their fans.
"We condemn this uncivilized demeanor and welcome any step that would result in the elimination of this tiny group of parasites," he said.
Tarek Khoury, chairman of the Wihdat team, instructed his players to abandon the field as soon as the Jordanian fans started hurling abuse against Palestinians and the Aksa Mosque.
Palestinians said that the confrontation with the Jordanians was yet another indication of increased tensions between the two sides.
"Many Palestinians living in Jordan are convinced that the Jordanian authorities are trying to squeeze them out," said Ismail Jaber, a West Bank lawyer who has been living in the kingdom for nearly 20 years. "There is growing discontent and uncertainty among Palestinians here."
He and other Palestinians said that Jordanians' "hostile" attitude toward them had escalated after the rise to power of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier this year.
Several Jordanian government officials, they said, are convinced that Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are secretly working toward turning Jordan into a Palestinian state.
As a preemptive measure, the Jordanian authorities recently began revoking the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians, leaving many of them in a state of panic and uncertainty regarding the future.
The Jordanians have justified the latest measure by arguing that it's aimed at avoiding a situation in which the Palestinians would ever be prevented from returning to their original homes inside Israel.
Since 1988, when the late King Hussein cut off his country's administrative and legal ties with the West Bank, the Jordanian authorities have been working toward "disengaging" from the Palestinians under the pretext of preserving their national identity.
That decision, said Jordan's Interior Minister Nayef al-Kadi, was taken at the request of the PLO and the Arab world to consolidate the status of the PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
"Our goal is to prevent Israel from emptying the Palestinian territories of their original inhabitants," the minister explained, confirming that the kingdom had begun revoking the citizenship of Palestinians.
"We should be thanked for taking this measure," he said. "We are fulfilling our national duty because Israel wants to expel the Palestinians from their homeland."
Kadi said that, despite the new policy, Palestinians would be permitted to retain their status as residents of the kingdom by holding "yellow ID cards" that are issued to those who have families and homes in the West Bank.
He said that Palestinians working for the Palestinian Authority or the PLO were among those who have had their Jordanian passports taken from them, in addition to anyone who did not serve in the Jordanian army.
The Jordanian minister said that the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank had been notified of the decision to revoke the Jordanian citizenship of Palestinians.
A PA official in Ramallah expressed deep concern over Jordan's latest move and said that it would only worsen the conditions of Palestinians living in the kingdom. The official said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas raised the issue with King Abdullah II on a number of occasions, but the Jordanians have refused to retract.
Asked by the London-based Al-Hayat daily where the Palestinians should go after they lose their Jordanian passports, the minister replied: "We're not expelling anyone, nor are we revoking the citizenship of Jordanian nationals. We are only correcting the mistake that was created after Jordan's disengagement from the West Bank [in 1988]. We want to highlight the true identity and nationality of every person."
Kadi claimed that the kingdom was seeking, through the new measure, to thwart an Israeli "plot" to transfer more Palestinians to Jordan with the hope of replacing it with a Palestinian state.
"We insist that Jordan is not Palestine, just as Palestine is not Jordan," he stressed. "We will continue to help the Palestinians hold on to their Palestinian identity by pursuing the implementation of the 1988 disengagement plan from the West Bank."