Speaking to The Washington Post, King Abdullah of Jordan urged Israel to
jump-start peace negotiations with the Palestinians; otherwise, he said, “Israel
will have to choose between democracy and apartheid.”
Israel-bashing by Abdullah is nothing new, this “apartheid alert” from a regime
based on apartheid policies against a Palestinian majority is
Abdullah’s attempts to publicly bash Israel, desperately
sponsor born-dead peace talks, and welcome Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Amman,
all indicate that Abdullah is worried about the Arab Spring making its way to
While Abdullah’s kingdom has been witnessing a much calmer
tone of protest, nonetheless, they are regular and could grow into a revolution
if the Palestinians join in (which so far they have not).
majority in Jordan have endured decades of discriminatory policies. In Apartheid
South Africa, citizens were classified according to their race. As a result, the
black majority ended up being ruled by a white minority. In a similar
way, Abdullah’s Hashemite regime separates Jordan’s citizens into East Bankers
(Beduin) and Palestinians. The East Bank minority, although also discriminated
against, has been much better off than the Palestinian majority.
it really fair to compare the half- British king’s regime to Apartheid South
Africa? Let’s take a look at the facts.
Under the Hashemite regime, the
last time a Palestinian served as prime minister was 21 years ago, and Tahir
Masri lost his position in less than a year. Israel’s demonizers,
including King Abdullah, simply overlook the fact that Azmi Bishara – an
Arab-Israeli former Knesset member – ran for prime minister of Israel in 1999,
despite being an outspoken enemy of the Jewish state, and received fair Israeli
state TV coverage just like his Jewish opponents.
On the legislative
level, Israel’s Arab minority has 14 out of 120 seats in the Knesset, while
Abdullah’s Palestinian majority has six seats out of a 120-member Parliament. In
Israel, Arabs serve as mayors while not a single Palestinian is currently
serving as a mayor of any of Jordan’s cities, including the Palestinian-dominated
Amman, Abdullah’s capital.
And Jordan’s discriminatory policies are not
limited to the government, they they affect the Palestinian majority’s everyday
lives. The UN Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) confirms Abdullah’s kingdom
treats its Palestinian majority as refugees, despite the fact that they obtained
Jordanian citizenships when the Hashemite regime occupied and annexed the West
Bank in 1948. Israel, on the other hand, recognizes its Arab minority as full
citizens with no questions asked.
Abdullah himself has admitted that his
Palestinians are discriminated against. In 1999, when Abdullah was newly crowned
following the death of his father King Hussein, Abdullah visited an
Israeli-controlled crossing point between Jordan and Israel and delivered what
the CNN described then as “a long-awaited message to Palestinians under his
rule” by calling on fellow Jordanians to work toward “ending class divisions
that have marginalized Palestinian citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom,” vowing
that “discrimination must end.”
However, according to two
Palestinian-Jordanian former senior officials, Abdullah’s actual policy was to
sustain discrimination against Palestinians. This was made public in a US
Embassy-Amman cable, exposed by Wikileaks, quoting former prime minister Tahir
Masri and Abdullah’s former senior advisor, Adnan Abu Odeh.
also documents a littleknown fact, namely that only 35 percent of Jordan’s
Palestinians are registered refugees. If that is true, let’s do the
According to UNRWA there are 1.8 million registered Palestinian
refugees in Jordan. If that constitutes a mere 35%, then the total number of
Palestinians in Jordan could be as high as 5.2 million.
population is 6.5 million. Now, if Abdullah is discriminating against
approximately 5.2 million, or 80%, of his country’s 6.5 million citizens, then
accusations of “apartheid” should be more of a concern to him than to Israel,
whose Arab (Palestinian) minority has full access to state services, public
jobs, education, welfare and even the army for those
Discriminatory polices under Abdullah even extended to
withdrawing passports from Palestinians. Human Rights Watch issued a report in
2010 confirming that the Jordanian government has been withdrawing citizenship
from Palestinians in Jordan at random, and as a result destroying livelihoods
and breaking families. Human Rights Watch Middle East Director Sarah Lea-Wahtson
commented at the time that “Jordan is playing politics with the basic rights of
thousands of its citizens.”
“Playing politics” is exactly what Abdullah
was doing when he labeled Israel as a country moving towards apartheid. Abdullah
is worried his disenfranchised and angry Palestinian majority will end up
toppling him into the stream of the Arab Spring, and therefore he is doing what
most Arab governments have been doing best for years: blaming their failures and
shortcoming on Israel to distract their own people.
realize that Jordan’s Palestinians are fed up with him and his policies and that
all of his anti-Israeli talk will not deter them from joining the Arab Spring.
Abdullah must know that the Palestinian majority in Jordan is more concerned
with the daily bread they cannot afford and the dignity they no longer have
because of a king who treats them as sub-human.
Abdullah and other Arab
rulers must realize that bashing Israel will not get them an Arab-Spring
exemption.Mudar Zahran is a Palestinian-Jordanian writer who resides in