April 15, 2006
Reason #63 Why Palestinians Don’t Have a Country
Human Rights Watch released a letter last week requesting Jordan to allow Palestinians fleeing violence Iraq to resettle in Jordan. There are currently about 129 Iraqi Palestinians stranded on the Iraqi side of the Jordanian border. The refugees, who have lived in Baghdad for decades told Human Rights Watch they fled after seeing other Palestinians murdered or disappear in Iraq the past few months. Unlike Iraqi nationals, Palestinians cannot enter Jordan on tourist visas. Although most Jordanians are of Palestinian-descent.
I find this news most heartbreaking and upsetting because it’s indicative of a larger problem among Arabs. Among Arabs there doesn’t seem to be as a strong sense of identity or of pan-Arabism. This secular and socialist movement was eclipsed in the ’80s with the growth of Islamist ideologies. But I wish as Arabs there was more unity in the protection of human rights. I digress…returned to the HRW report…
In “Jordan: Open Door to Palestinians Fleeing Iraq” Bill Frelick, refugee policy director for HRW says:
“Jordan is slamming the door in the face of a small, but desperate group of people, who have seen their relatives murdered in Baghdad. [It] should not treat Iraqi Palestinians fleeing persecution more harshly than other Iraqis fleeing violence, who have generally been allowed to enter Jordan.”
This incident serves as a microcosm. Let’s think about this if 129 Iraqi-Palestinians can’t enter Jordan, there isn’t much hope for the millions of Palestinians in the West Bank who are seeking passports to travel and work in other Arab countries. Mass migration from the West Bank is Jordan’s nightmare.
While the number of Palestinians with Jordanian citizenship is estimated to be around 60 percent of the population, the families of the original Jordanians feel threatened. The growing Palestinian dependence on Jordan has angered anti-Palestinian groups in the country. This issue needs to be resolved soon.
The Arab League has barred its Arab members from granting citizenship to Palestinian Arab refugees (or their descendants) “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.” Jordan is the only Arab country which historically gave citizenship rights to Palestinian refugees. There has to be a stronger network of support for Palestinians from Arab countries. They can’t continue to wait for the occupation to end.
Even Jordan’s Queen Rania was criticized three years ago at the Arab Summit in Amman when she suggested citizenship should be given to stateless Palestinians whose mothers are of Palestinian-Jordanian descent. More has to be done for Palestinians who want to migrate to Jordan and Egypt for work or school.
If Palestinians can’t harvest olives or can’t get to jobs in other parts of the West Bank because of full closures and partial curfews, there must be alternatives provided by neighboring Arab countries. Legal status is one of them. The fact that Palestinians can carry an Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian or Lebanese passport will not dilute their sense of wanting a country of their own someday. The yearning to return to a state of their own is the core of the Palestinians’ psyche. If we learned anything from the last 60 years, it is that the Palestinians will not just disperse or disappear. A lack of Arab support is one of the things that has prevented Palestinians from having their own state.
But until that happens, Palestinians have a right to education, employment and improving their lives. Arab countries can’t allow another generation of Palestinians to be marginalized in refugee camps.
Children in West Bank waiting to get into Jordan