A stormy media and political debate has taken place in Jordan after Al-Quds Al-Arabi’ published what is perhaps the first letter sent to King Abdullah II on behalf of his Palestinian citizens. The letter from Palestinian representatives in Jordan addressed the head of state directly, in a friendly and a meaningful letter relating the difficulties and official exclusion suffered by Palestinians in the country.
This is such a rare event that activist Haitham Aldebs started an online discussion about where he noted that the letter tells the monarch that the state executive and institutions do not do what they are supposed to in the name of national unity. Dozens of comments on social network sites mocked the notion of differentiating between the theory and the practice: “Discrimination against Jordanians of Palestinian origin is systematic and programmed and comes from the highest levels, not just about a rogue bureaucrat here or a difficult security official there,” wrote one person.
According to prominent political activist Khaled Ramadan, “If everyone feels that justice and equity apply to them and they do not suffer from problems, there wouldn’t have been so many political and intellectual initiatives under the ‘citizenship’ heading.” That was the banner under which Ramadan stood in the latest elections which were denounced as fraudulent.
The letter produced mixed reactions. Some claimed that it argues for an “alternative nation”, with quotas for Palestinians when, in fact, the authors denounced such quotas, which have been described as “shameful”. Journalist Nahedh Hatar wrote against the letter and was keen to point out that citizens belonging to Jordanian tribes are frequently discriminated against in the private sector, “which is controlled by people of Palestinian origin”; he also referred to the “alternative homeland” and its ramifications.
The discussion about the letter spread to a wider audience through a television programme devoted entirely to it. State-owned media, however, largely ignored the letter, in line with the tendency to ignore issues relating specifically to Jordanians of Palestinian origin. For its authors, though, the responses revealed that such issues are, in fact, some of the least talked about matters in Jordan, especially when it comes to citizenship rights.
In an e-mail response to journalist Mohamed Abu Rumman of Tomorrow newspaper, activist Khalid Salaymeh reminded him that the contents of the letter sent to King Abdullah relate to Jordanian citizens and not refugees. “The game for some of those pretending to be educated seems to be very clear; it is easier to ignore discussions about Palestinian citizens on the pretext that their issues are related to the refugees’ portfolio.” Salaymeh pointed out to Abu Rumman that the discussion is about Jordanian citizens who do not have refugee status, “and yet you insist that all are refugees”. Abu Rumman has failed the test, he added, “because the citizenship you are talking about excludes the Palestinian component of our society.”
The letter presented to King Abdullah examples of what the authors called manifestations of discrimination against citizens of Palestinian origin in legislation, jobs, universities, some military courts, study missions and the media.
The Author is the director of Al Quds Al Arabi’s office in Amman. This article is a translation from the Arabic which appeared in Al Quds Al Arabi on 5 August
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.