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Friday, July 03, 2009

Jordan's identity crisis

An important article was published in Al Quds this week, reprinted from Al Jazeera, that uncovers the problems that Jordan has with its Palestinian Arab population that rarely gets any Western coverage. Here is my translation:
There has been a dramatic debate in recent years in Jordan on the issue of national identity, but recently some important politicians have, for the first time, recognized the existence of an identity crisis in the kingdom which is inhabited by six million people of whom 42 percent are of Palestinian origin. [Usually, this figure is reported as over 60%. Perhaps they no longer include West Bank Palestinians? - EoZ]

At a symposium held last week, the former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdel Raouf Rawabdeh spoke of the division of the national identity between the Jordanians and the Palestinians, in an explicit recognition by a leading politician of the State's failure to find the identity that covers the main groups in the country.

Writer and political analyst Mohammad Abu Rumman says that today more than ever, Jordan is beset by an identity crisis. He said that it is no longer possible to cover up the crisis between the two main groups of Jordanians and Palestinians, saying that without a dialogue now there may be a new political conflict between them in the future.

According to Abu Rumman, Jordan is still dealing with the problem of identity in response to the legacy of the events of 1970, the events known as "Black September" which the army of Jordan faced after the Palestinian militant groups were accused of trying to undermine the state.

He says the State is responsible for the identity crisis, and said that "the State evades the questions and answering the common concerns of Jordanians and Palestinians."

However, writer and political analyst Oraib Rantaoi did not see that there is an identity crisis in Jordan since it now universally accepted in the nation that Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine.

Rantaoi said: "Now there is the emerging Palestinian identity, Jordanians clearly can not talk about a crisis between the identities."

Strikingly, Rantaoi said that talk about identity crisis is "a modern and noisy debate between the elites, not the ordinary citizens, whether Jordanian or Palestinian descent."

During the recent years has become known in the media as "the Likud of Palestinians in Jordan", in a clear reference to politicians and writers who described the perceptions of "racism" in the dialogue between the Palestinians and the Jordanians.

The opinion of the minister and former MP Abdul Rahim Malhas is that the identity crisis in Jordan "will be resolved only by solving the Palestinian issue."

Malhas said Jordan's quest to solve the two countries' aim is to transform the Palestinian citizens in the state to enjoy the rights of residence in the Kingdom. [after a Palestinian state? -EoZ]

However, Malhas is pessimistic of any solution to the Palestinians to go to their homeland, saying, "The image of a Palestinian state is one of a repressive police state that does not respect freedom and, consequently, would be a repellent for the rest of the day, and this is what constitutes a threat to the Jordanian and Palestinian identity."

He recognizes that what Palestinians and Jordanians are talking behind closed doors is different from what they say in public about "national unity."
It almost sounds like some Jordanians are pinning their hopes on a Palestinian Arab state that would allow them to ask their Palestinian citizens to move there. This would be consistent with the increasing restrictions that Jordan has been imposing on Palestinian Arab citizenship.

But notice what this long article is missing: any interviews with Palestinian Jordanians! No one is asking what they want, whether they want to become full Jordanian citizens and not looked upon as second-class. No one is asking them if they have any interest in moving to "Palestine" - or even if they want to have more political rights in Jordan. The entire article, thoughtful as it is, betrays the deep bigotry against Palestinian Arabs inJordan today by not even deigning to ask them what they think, and assuming that the Jordanian elite knows what is best for them.

Notice also the phrase "emerging Palestinian identity." If the Palestinian Arabs have had national aspirations for decades, why is it considered "emerging?" This is just more proof that Palestinian Arab identity has been imposed from without, not grown from within. If the Arab nations hadn't treated PalestinianArabs like second-class citizens or worse, they would have disappeared as a "people" the way that the many Arab tribes of the 19th century have assimilated into their larger nations.