Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Playing the Identity Card

Jordan and its Palestinians


By Chris Phillips
Jordan has been the subject of criticism for its decision to withdraw citizenship from several thousand of its citizens of Palestinian origin. Although the decision has been defended by Jordan as a means to counter Israeli plans to transfer the Palestinian population of the West Bank to Jordan, there is more at play in the situation. Palestinians in Jordan are predisposed to economic and political disenfranchisement, and the decision to withdraw their citizenship is an unrealistic solution to this problem.
For a country that takes great care to promote a positive image abroad, Jordan has recently been subjected to unusually harsh criticism from Western NGOs. In February, Human Rights Watch accused Amman of arbitrarily withdrawing citizenship from several thousand of its citizens of Palestinian origin, “denying them basic citizenship rights such as access to education and health care.” Similarly, the previous month Freedom House, the Washington-based democracy watchdog, relegated the Hashemite Kingdom from the tiny list of ‘partly free’ Arab governments to the ever-increasing collection of ‘not free’ states in the Middle East.
The two complaints are not unrelated. The failure of Jordanian democratizing initiatives has much to do with government fears that genuine freedom will allow its Palestinian-originating majority to dominate over the East Bank elite who have ruled in Amman since independence. The practice of withdrawing citizenship from a select few stems from the same concerns. Though over half of Jordan’s population are of Palestinian origin, many are economically and politically disenfranchised and social divisions remain acute. Despite sixty years of attempted integration, the Hashemite monarchy has still not come to terms with its ‘Palestinian problem’.... http://www.majalla.com/en/ideas/article37894.ece
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