Jordan, Dr. Peace and Mr. Apartheid

The world must tell Jordan that peace and integration of its own Palestinians are not privileges it is giving away.

Jordan King Abdullah 311 (photo credit: AP)
Jordan King Abdullah 311
(photo credit: AP)
Last January, Faisal al-Fayez, a Jordanian senator and former prime minister, threatened Israel on national Jordanian television with “6 million Jordanian suicide bombers.” Fayez is considered one of the closest Jordanian officials to King Abdullah II; he is also a leader of the Bani Sakher tribe which has historically dominated the most important positions in the Hashemite kingdom.
Another member of the tribe, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Nayef al-Qadi, defended an official policy of stripping Jordanians of Palestinian heritage of their citizenship, a policy that has resulted in the denaturalization of more than 2,700 so far according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch. In an interview with a London-based Arab newspaper, Qadi said that “Jordan should be thanked for standing up against Israeli ambitions of unloading of the Palestinian land of its people” which he described as “the secret Israeli aim to impose a solution of Palestinian refugees at the expense of Jordan.”
Furthermore, King Abdullah, in a clear gesture of carelessness to Israel, has extended his condolences to the family and followers of Muhammad Hussein Fadallah, Hizbullah’s spiritual leader who passed away recently.
THE CAUSES of Jordan’s recent line of official hostility toward Israel are deep-rooted in the makeup of the Jordanian state itself. Jordan is a country with a Palestinian majority which allows them little or no involvement in any political or executive bodies or parliament.
This lack of political and legislative representation of Jordanians of Palestinian heritage has been enforced by decades of systematic exclusion in all aspects of life expanding into their disenfranchisement in education, employment, housing, state benefits and even business potential, all developing into an existing apartheid no different than that formerly adopted in South Africa, except for the official acknowledgement of it.
The well-established apartheid system has created substantial advantages for East Bankers who dominate all senior government and military jobs, along with tight control of security agencies, particularly the influential Jordanian General Intelligence Department, all resulting in tribal Jordanians gaining superiority over their fellow citizens of Palestinian heritage.
The fact that East Bankers have done very well under the current situation provides motive for Jordanian officials to maintain the status quo and work on extending it; especially as the helpless Palestinian majority has no say and very little it can do against such conditions.
The East Bankers’ desire to keep their privileges has gone unchallenged until recent years, when the international community mentoring the peace process has brought into its dynamics one of Jordan’s most critical commitments of the peace treaty with Israel, by which Jordan is obligated to negotiate the conditions of the displaced individuals from both sides.
When Jordanians of Palestinian heritage moved to Jordan in 1967, they were Jordanian citizens legally relocating inside their own country as Jordan had declared the West Bank a part of the Hashemite kingdom 19 years earlier. Therefore, the Palestinians’ move to Jordan was similar to an American’s move from New York to New Jersey.
This fact was hard to absorb by the Jordanian government, as it dictates that citizens of Palestinian heritage are equal to them in rights and therefore entitled to political representation.
Such concept would have shaken the privileged ruling elite and has been confronted by a dramatic rise in radical nationalism among East Bankers and extensive support of the apartheid policies of the government that pushes Palestinians to believe they should return to “Palestine” as their home country.
Since 2008, East Bankers have been embracing hostility toward Israel with dedication to “liberating Palestine” as an excuse to further exclude the Jordanians of Palestinian heritage with calls for a universal denaturalization to put pressure on Israel. Such calls have been emphasized and publicized by the media, which are tightly controlled by Jordanian intelligence.
The radical nationalists went as far as aligning themselves with Islamists to defend their cause, as both call for turning Jordanians of Palestinian heritage into refugees rather than citizens.
The anti-Palestinian/anti-Israeli conservative nationalist political salons in Amman have been calling for threatening Israel with what they describe as the Palestinian demographic bomb by sending the Palestinians to Israel.
The Jordanian state seems to subscribe to this idea through sustaining the on-going process of striping Palestinians in Jordan of their citizenships. Although it has been done to a few thousand, it is viewed as a victory for radical nationalists. This trend poses a serious threat to regional stability and Israeli national security.
Jordan cannot maintain its apartheid policies. The international community must make it clear to Jordan that both peace and integration of its own citizens are not privileges it is giving away to Israel or any other country.

The writer is a researcher at the University of Bedfordshire.