Jordanian soccer match shows East, West bank tensions

WikiLeaks: "East Bank" team's fans mock Hashemite Kingdom's Queen Rania's Palestinian origins: "divorce her, and we'll marry you two of ours."

December 7, 2010 13:19
2 minute read.
PLAYERS OF the Palestinian, Jordanian soccer teams

Palestinian Jordan soccer 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Anti-Palestinian taunts at a Jordanian soccer game last year revealed an undercurrent of rarely reported ethnic tension inside the Hashemite Kingdom, according to one of the US cables released by WikiLeaks on Monday.

According to the dispatch, written on July 28, 2009, by the US charge d’affaires in Amman, Lawrence Mandel, “Anti-Palestinian hooliganism and slogans denigrating the Palestinian origins of both the Queen and the Crown Prince led to the cancellation of a July 17 soccer game” between two rival teams, one – Faisali – which “is the favored team of tribal East Bankers,” and the other – Wahadat – the “proxy champions” of the Palestinian Jordanians.

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Faisali supporters chanted about the Palestinian origins of Queen Rania with the cheer, “Divorce her you father of Hussein, and we’ll marry you to two of ours.”

According to the dispatch, “There is broad recognition throughout Jordan that the Faisali-Wahdat incident exposed the uncomfortable gap between East Bankers and Palestinian-origin Jordanians – one that most would rather keep well-hidden for the sake of political stability.

“The connection between this rift and the Hashemite monarchy, including the newly-appointed Crown Prince, makes the incident even more unsettling.”

The charges d’affaires said that even the “most forthcoming contacts” were reluctant to talk about the issue, “recognizing that it strikes at the core of Jordanian identity politics.”

One source was quoted as saying that non-Palestinian East Bankers are “uncomfortable with the increasing pressures for reform that will inevitably lessen their near-monopoly on political and social power.”

The dispatch said that Jordan’s “self-censoring media” did not deal with the hooliganism at the game, nor tell why the game was called off. Internet news sites, however, were replete with commentary on the game.

Many on the Internet “defended the Faisali supporters as ‘real’ Jordanians fighting against undue Palestinian influence.”

According to the dispatch, “The King’s silence on the game and its political implications is deafening. High level government contacts and members of the diplomatic community are puzzled by the King’s failure to respond to a verbal attack on his family that also dips into Jordanian identity politics.”

While perhaps unintentional, the dispatch read, “The King’s silence has effectively empowered the pro-status quo establishment.”

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