I absolutely adore the way that the BBC and various other international media outlets are referring to Israel’s decision to banish, cast out, exile Palestinians from the West Bank as “deporting” – instead of calling it what it is. That word conjures up images of illegal immigrants being caught in Arizona and deported to Mexico. It conjures up the thought that they weren’t supposed to be there in the first place; that they are there illegally and thus must be returned to their rightful origin. The only problem here is that in the case of Palestinians, what do Israelis and the international community consider their rightful origin to be?
The order came in to affect Tuesday, about 48 hours after Holocaust Remembrance Day – there’s some irony to that, no? The military order refers to these Palestinians as “infiltrators”. I mean seriously, you have to have some major balls to call people who lived on their own land their entire lives as “infiltrators”. You have to have outrageous guts to kick people out of their own homes and send them off to the desert, especially when consider that so many Israelis are living illegally on settlements that have been built and continue to be built on internationally-recognized stolen land. Actually, guts isn’t the right word here. You just have to have a strong enough military and a I-dont-give-a-damn attitude when it comes to the international community.
Interestingly enough, according to the human rights organization B’tselem, Jordanian women who married West Bank Palestinian men are one of the biggest targets of this law. According to the rights group, the only place for West Bankers to go is either to Gaza or to Jordan. The basic premise is not only to filter out the West Bank but to split up families, where wives and husbands are “deported” with the rest of their families staying behind.
Jordan has yet to take any kind of tangible step in this issue, other than the typical “strongly worded” letter, which I am sure the Israeli government places on a shelf somewhere. And while Jordan, which claims authority on some of the religious sites in Jerusalem, is busy calling Israel a bully, Jerusalem’s mayor says that not enough Palestinian homes are being demolished.
But then again, behind Jordan’s rabble-rousing, one must ask themselves to what extent such vocal opposition by the Jordanian government is an attempt to deflect from serious issues at home: the withdrawal of Jordanian citizenship from Jordanians of Palestinian origin. By now, everyone has either heard, or hopefully read, the Human Rights Report, Stateless Again, and if that report is indicative of anything it is that the situation is incredibly complex and, at best, incoherent. And in typical Jordanian government fashion, no information is given, no public awareness is raised – one’s status as a Jordanian is kept strictly as a surprise upon renewing one’s passport.
No one knows anything, everyone is fearful and cautious, many are avoiding renewing their passports – simply put, no one in Jordan knows anything and the government is strictly to blame for the lack of information. In all probability this is an attempt to keep the whole issue under wraps, but in the process it is has generated a great deal of fear on the street level. Everywhere I go these days it seems one of the biggest issues up for discussion is this one. And once again, the lack of information and forthrightness on the government’s part has left an abyss for rumors to be circulated, increasing the level of fear.
Last week, a friend of mine who hails from the Nabulsi family, whose immediate roots have lied in Salt since the 1800’s – before their was a country called Jordan – was telling me an interesting personal story. My friend’s immediate family carries a yellow card that they use to travel to the west bank every now and then, to visit their grandmother who is the only remaining family they have there and originally hails from Nablus. Now, my friend’s sister is registered as a “murafeq” or “companion” on their mother’s yellow card as she was under 18 when they got one. Recently, his sister, who is now 20 and hasn’t visited the West Bank since she was a child, went to renew her Jordanian passport and was told that she and her mother would need to travel to the West Bank to separate herself from her’s mother’s card and establish her own. She would need to do this within 6 months or her Jordanian passport would be withdrawn.
Imagine learning all this when you go to renew your Jordanian passport? What kind of system is this? What kind of policy is this? A system where no one knows anything and therefore they’re afraid to ask about anything, only to be faced with such a situation where they will lose their citizenship in a matter of months. Imagine the kind of erosion to one’s identity that policy must inflict?
The entire situation is incredibly shameful. These policies are shameful. The excuses provided are shameful. And the results are shameful. The Jordanian government is technically applying the same tactics as the Israelis, and both governments are attempting to call apples oranges, hoping that no one will notice in the process.
I’ll give Israelis credit for one thing over the Jordanian government: at least their being forthright about it.