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Palestinians in Jordan: Denying your rights, for your own good

March 26, 2010

now you see it... you don't

“Welcome to Jordan! We deny your rights…for your own good!”

That sounds like newspeak if I ever heard it. Picture this conversation taking place:

State: “Sorry sir, but it seems that there is a problem. You’re no longer a Jordanian citizen and we will be destroying your national ID number right about…well, now. As of this moment you are a Palestinian”

Palestinian: “Wait, wtf?? You have got to be kidding me. I’ve never been there in my life! I’ve always lived here in Jordan and had a Jordanian passport!”

State: “Yeh, but this is for the good of your peoples’. We are stripping you of your citizenship rights so that we preserve your right of return to Palestine. You know, cause Israel sucks and stuff. In the meantime, enjoy the limbo. Soz!”

According to Human Rights Watch over 2, 700 Jordanians of Palestinian origin have had their Jordanian citizenship revoked. Imagine waking up one morning and suddenly you don’t belong anywhere anymore. Sounds crazy, but that’s how it went down. The report and ensuing stories have caused a stir and elicited official denials in Jordan. This is a touchy subject as relationships between Jordanians of Palestinian origin and the East Bank Jordanians (also called Trans-Jordanians i.e. the original inhabitants of what is now ‘Jordan’) hasn’t really been the same since Black September, when a bunch of revolutionary Palestinian upstarts attempted to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy in 1970. Ahhh, the ’70s…

Anyway, according to Jordan’s nationality law, all Palestinians residing in the West Bank in 1949 or thereafter were to receive Jordanian citizenship. This has meant that all Palestinians fleeing the 1948 war were given Jordanian passports with the exception of those from Gaza (estimated at 120,000) that arrived later, in 1967. The influx of Palestinians into Jordan lead to great demographic changes, with the percentage of Jordanians of Palestinian origin estimated anywhere between 50 to 70 percent today. In everyday life people are able to distinguish themselves by their last names or accents, and so questioning and re-questioning the national identity issues in every social interaction.

Since Jordan rescinded control over the West Bank in 1988 to the PLO, there have been reports of random revoking of citizenship from Jordanians of Palestinian origin. This has been based on a vague interpretation of the severance agreement and unwritten conditions that state that Jordanians of Palestinian origin must first renew their West Bank residence permit (issued and renewed by Israel) so as to maintain their Jordanian nationality. This apparently also applies to Jordanians of Palestinian origin that have never been to the West Bank nor had a residence permit there to renew in the first place!

To the average person or family this means, among other things:
1. Denied access to free primary education (unless it is provided by UNRWA)
2. Higher non-national university fees.
3. More expensive health care services.
4. Denial to work in an organised profession such as law, pharmacy and engineering (as you must be a Jordanian to belong to an association so that you can practice)
5. Restricted ability to drive as renewing a driver’s license is at a higher cost and shorter duration.
6. Prohibited or restricted travel.

So why is this happening? Well the government claims it is insuring Palestinians’ right of return should and when a Palestinian state is established by forcing Palestinians to obtain their West Bank residency permits.

“Our goal is to prevent Israel from emptying the Palestinian territories of their original inhabitants”

“We should be thanked for taking this measure. We are fulfilling our national duty because Israel wants to expel the Palestinians from their homeland.” Source.

However another interpretation would be that this is nothing to do with the right of return; this is about fears of a Palestinian majority in Jordan threatening the East Bank Jordanian identity and government attempts to assuage these fears and appease its support base.

This is about dumping the refugee problem back into the West Bank.

And last but not least, this is about that everlasting fear that Jordan be declared the alternative Palestinian homeland while Israel annexes what remains of the West Bank.

You decide.

In the meantime I ask you this: what is a stateless person meant to do while waiting for the “eventual” establishment of a Palestinian state (whatever that might mean)? How does someone support her/himself and family if s/he is incapable of studying, working or travelling?

Oh, no wait yeh this is for their own good.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2010 12:02 pm

    “We should be thanked for taking this measure. We are fulfilling our national duty because Israel wants to expel the Palestinians from their homeland.”


    Liked the article

  2. Frost permalink
    October 24, 2010 8:35 pm

    Your article is well written and seems factual. Would you mind commenting back with your sources for the 6 points of limited access for these nationality revoked Palestinians, as well as source for the Jordanian officials replies?

  3. ladysuperior permalink
    October 28, 2010 6:10 pm

    Hello Frost –

    The quote is by the current Jordanian minister of interior, Nayef al-Kadi, made in the summer of 2009.

    The rest is based on my assumptions, knowledge and take on the issue.

    If you’re interested in finding out more I recommend reading “Stateless Again: Palestinian-Origin Jordanians Deprived of their Nationality” by Human Rights Watch.

    Happy reading!

  4. Domtak permalink
    November 30, 2010 6:57 pm

    First of all thank you so much for writing this, i loved the sarcasm in it.
    i have stumbled upon this article today after having an argument with my peer at school who is Jordanian. A teacher asked “If King Abdullah had to take a year off, and someone must be chosen as a replacement, a leader for one year. What should be ths persons characteristics” The first and only thing said by the boy was :”He must me a non-Palestinian”

  5. leila permalink
    December 10, 2010 11:50 am

    This is the reality. Israel wants to remove the right to return for all Palestinians as part of the two state solution. The US is trying hard to put pressure on Lebanon and all host countries to absorb the Palestinians and therefore remove the “problem”. No one should accept to have their right to return given away.

    • March 3, 2012 9:24 pm

      They had no “right of return” in the first place.

      There once was this country that fought a War of Independence, which was, in essence, a “civil war”. A whole bunch of folks left their homes and property behind and sought safety behind the army of, and amongst the population of, the same-thinking side who fought against the rebels and against independence. After the war, which resulted in independence, the fleeing refugees asked permission to return to their homes and property. And George Washington basically told them to piss off and enjoy their new homes in England.


  1. Palestinians in Jordan: Denying your rights, for your own good | Jordan today

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