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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Freedom of the Press, Jordanian-style

Al Quds al Arabi reports that Jordan has banned the publication of any information about its army and even its military retirees, under threat of legal action.

What prompted this move? Was it a major leak of Jordanian military secrets? Was there an embarrassing scandal they want to hush up?

The answer, apparently, lies in the expansion of the ban to include stories about retired soldiers.

Last month, as we reported, a group of retired Jordanian army veterans came out with a call for Jordan to strip the citizenship from its Palestinian Arab population.

They were concerned that Israel might succeed in re-opening the "Jordanian option" giving Jordan responsibility for helping solve the Palestinian Arab "refugee" problem, by wither declaring Jordan to be Palestine or to ask Jordan to take over parts of the West Bank. To forestall this threat, the generals suggested to sever all ties with the majority of Jordanians who are considered Palestinian and to leave Jordan for "Jordanians" (another artificial construct) and "Palestine" for "Palestinians."

The group is hardly a tiny fringe organization. According to its website, it represents some 140,000 retired veterans. The statement to strip Palestinian Jordanians of their rights was generally applauded by members.

This was deeply embarrassing to Jordan, which is trying to walk the line between ensuring that its Palestinian majority keeps their rights but also not to effectively become the de facto caretaker of the entire Palestinian Arab population.

(The counter-petition, signed by thousands, calls on Jordan to keep civil rights for Palestinians but also to use Jordanian-Palestinian Arab unity to fight Israel, sever all relations with Israel and, by implication, move more towards Hamas' vision. )

So the easiest thing to do is to shut up the people who are proposing to do what Jordan has already begun on a small scale - separating Palestinian Jordanians from other Jordanians.

Since they cannot ban a group of retired officers, it does the next best thing - it bans any of their statements from being publicized.

As of this moment, there is nothing on the website about this ban.