Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jordan taking away citizenship rights from some Palestinian Jordanians

Over the past two decades, Jordan has been quietly consistently and methodically restricting citizenship rights for its Palestinian Arab residents. These deliberate moves have been essentially invisible to the West.

Most people don't realize that, although Jordan extended full citizenship to Palestinian Arabs on both banks of the Jordan river in 1950, they revoked the citizenship of West Bank Palestinian Arabs in 1988 (except for those in UNRWA-run camps.) This affected some 750,000 people, ironically roughly the same number who became refugees in 1948 to begin with. King Hussein justified this move of turning three-quarters of a million people stateless by saying it was "with the aim of enhancing the Palestinian national orientation, and highlighting the Palestinian identity."

As a result, Jordan adopted a tiered passport system, giving some citizens full rights but restricting West Bank Palestinian Arabs to either "yellow card" (five year) or "green card" (two year) status, effectively reducing citizenship rights into travel documents. (There are also some 150,000 Gazans in Jordan who have "blue card" status with no citizenship rights.) Those with green cards can only travel to Jordan with specific work permits or to visit family on a temporary basis.

In recent years, Jordan has been tightening these restrictions even further, often swapping the five-year yellow cards with two-year green cards for its Palestinian Arab residents.

In 2006, Jordan admitted that it had a policy that anyone who held a Palestinian Authority passport would lose their all their rights as Jordanians. Apparently this policy has been accelerating even more recently.

Al-Quds today quotes a Jordanian newspaper with specific cases of East Bank families losing their Jordanian citizenship for merely having had visited the West Bank in the past decade. From the interviews and the comments, it is apparent that Jordanian Palestinians are upset and angry at their dwindling rights. It is equally apparent that Jordan is doing everything possible to marginalize and exclude their Palestinian Arab population.

Yet the world is completely silent at these actions by Jordan. As long as the Arab kingdoms can justify their systematic discrimination against their Palestinian brethren as being for the Palestinians' own good, they are immune from criticism by the West. And the Palestinian Arab leaders will not publicize their suffering that comes directly from Arab regimes so as not to dilute their blaming Israel exclusively for their six decades of pain.

Human rights organizations are particularly quiet about this methodical discrimination against Palestinian Arabs in the Arab world. In fact, Jordan is the country that treats Palestinian Arabs far better than any other, even though its bigotry against the Palestinian 60% of its population is transparent and obvious.

You will never find anyone calling Jordan's purposeful disenfranchisement of over a million Palestinian Arabs a "naqba."