x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Palestinians feel insecure in Jordan

Recent measures to revoke the citizenship of hundreds of Jordanians of Palestinian origin is creating a state of panic and confusion.

A Jordanian woman of Palestinian origin waits for a yellow card permit to be issued in place of her green permit in Amman.
A Jordanian woman of Palestinian origin waits for a yellow card permit to be issued in place of her green permit in Amman.
AMMAN // Recent measures to revoke the citizenship of hundreds of Jordanians of Palestinian origin is creating a state of panic and confusion among people who fear they will be deported and left stateless.

But the government here maintains it is only asking Jordanians of Palestinian origin to clarify their status by renewing permits that recognise them as citizens in the West Bank in an attempt to fend off moves by Israel to remove Palestinians from the territories.

Nayef Qadi, the minister of interior, said Jordan was trying to implement a 1988 administrative decision that severed legal and administrative ties with the West Bank. It was taken at the request of the Palestinians and Arab countries during a 1974 summit in Rabat, Morocco, to allow the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to act as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians.

"We want ... to preserve the identity of Palestinians," Mr Qadi told Al Hayat daily.

Jordan is concerned that Israel's right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu wants to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the expense of the country by considering Jordan as the alternative homeland for Palestinians and resettle thousands of its two million refugees there. Such a scenario would upset the demographic balance of the country, where it is estimated at least 60 per cent of the population is of Palestinian origin, and render Jordanians from the eastern bank of the river a minority in the country.

According to the administrative decision, Palestinians living in Jordan before 1988 were issued yellow cards, which granted them citizenship rights in the country, while those in the West Bank with family in Jordan were given green cards. The latter entitled them to a temporary Jordanian passport to facilitate their travel but not to citizenship rights.

Jordan, however, recently started to ask more yellow-card holders who also have an Israeli permit that recognises them as citizens in the West Bank to renew their permits. It gave them a six-month grace period to ensure they did not lose their right of citizenship in the Palestinian territories.

"We are not evicting anyone nor are we revoking the Jordanian citizenship," Mr Qadi said, "but we are rectifying the situation and want to highlight everybody's true identity. Others should stop distorting what we are doing."

Between March and June this year, authorities replaced 5,130 green cards with yellow, and 190 yellow cards with green, stripping their holders of Jordanian nationality. In 2008, authorities revoked the citizenship of 204 Jordanians of Palestinian origin, while 4,139 were granted Jordanian citizenship.

Those who carry a Palestinian passport, including those working for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, had their citizenship revoked.

The struggle over citizenship has revealed how Jordanians of Palestinian origin are worried about their future.

"We were surprised when my older brother, who works in Dubai, attempted to renew his passport last month and his national number was revoked. He was given a green card. He refused to take it. After a hassle, he managed to have his passport renewed but only for one year instead of five years," said Ammar, who did not not want her surname used.

Her family moved from Nablus to Amman in 1976.

"Now we are all afraid and concerned and we even discussed the possibility of selling our property here and leaving the country although we consider ourselves as Jordanians. We have nothing in Palestine."

Some analysts are not convinced by the government's justifications for revoking citizenship. The decision itself was rebuffed as unconstitutional because it was not approved by parliament nor ratified by the late King Hussein.

"It is part of the power game inside Jordan and has nothing to do with the alternative homeland," said Labib Qamhawi, an independent analyst. "There is no reason why they should do this. Citizens cannot be deprived from their nationality, and now they [authorities] are doing it in such a way that most people are even scared to submit their passports for renewal.

"It is quite sad that the government of Jordan has decided at the end of the day to adopt this policy whereby it is treating its national Jordanians of Palestinian origin as being a temporary case and not as citizens. The justifications given by the minister of interior hold no merit and legally they are not correct," he said. "There is a peace treaty that guarantees the security, stability and continuity of Jordan. Why should they attack the Jordanians of Palestinian origin instead of attacking the real source of the problem which is the Israeli government and the Israeli political parties."

The debate has also shown how Jordan is concerned about maintaining its national identity. Jordan opened its doors to Palestinian refugees who flooded into the country in two waves in the wake of the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967 and granted them citizenship rights. However, many Palestinians feel they are under-represented in the country's political system.

"The problem is twofold. Palestinians are concerned about their future ? and the struggle in Palestine is about the square metre of land, therefore, Jordan is concerned and wants every person who is originally from Palestine to cling on to their right of return," Nabeel Gheisah, an editor and columnist at Arab Alyawm, an independent daily said. "Ordinary Jordanians of Palestinian origin are preoccupied with their daily affairs here, where they want to work and make a living, but there are some who want more than that. They want political representation in the country that measures up with their numbers. That is the problem."