On Calling Jordan An Apartheid State

Muder Zahran recently published an article in the Jerusalem Post regarding the Jordanian treatment of its citizens who are of Palestinian origin – referring to the state as adopting a “well-established apartheid system” that is “no different than that formerly adopted in South Africa, except for the official acknowledgement of it.”

While this isn’t the first time Jordan is called an apartheid state, Zahran depicts Jordan as a country that essentially treats Jordanians of Palestinian origin as official second class citizens, with little to no rights. While I do acknowledge that the Kingdom is far from perfect, specifically with regards to equal rights, calling the country an apartheid state is a bit of a stretch. I mean South Africa under apartheid? Really? Zahran goes so far as to say that “Jordan is a country with a Palestinian majority which allows them little or no involvement in any political or executive bodies or parliament.”

All in all, it is a depiction of a country where the East Banker is “dominant” and “superior” compared to the “helpless Palestinian majority.”

While the article is essentially an attack on the right conservative flank in the Kingdom, Zahran seems a bit all over the map, and is fraught with generalizations. Probably the worst part about the article is that he refers to Jordan as New Jersey.

New Jersey? Really?

What is interesting is that Ammon apparently translated the English article and posted it up, resulting in Zahran writing a letter to the editor of the site claiming that he will never publish anything about Jordanian affairs again. Even more interesting is that he also included a letter his father wrote to him, chastising him and even disassociating himself and his family from his son’s article.

The only reason I’m writing anything about this is simply because Zahran’s words are rather exemplary of the kind of discourse that is essentially damaging to anyone or any movement that is attempting to have a genuine dialog about these very issues. By and far, Zahran paints an incredibly gloomy picture that is meant for effect, but in reality, it is counterproductive to those of us trying to grapple with this issue on a national level.

Yes, a true discourse is needed about Jordanian/Palestinian issues in the Kingdom – that’s for sure. However, this is what I consider to be a benchmark for the kind of discourse that seeks to be sensationalist as opposed to genuine; sacrificing candidness for hyperbole, and subsequently, the author’s credibility.

And that gets us absolutely no where.


  • I don’t think in Apartheid South Africa though they withdrew by the scratch of a pen from some mid-level public servant the nationality from somebody and leave them with no identity…is it fair to compare to South Africa? NO, are they “second class citizens”? Hell yes…

  • labels aside, what was your objection? OK here is a good start, the pal-jos are whiny little brats and we need to do our best to do the east Jordanian justice and make sure that they get more benefits and support from the gov’t because currently they are so impoverished because they … wait for employment in the gov’t, abuse the employment systems in place, enforce the law of tribalism and nepotism, and refuse to work jobs that foreign workers make an honest living from and look down on them …
    that’s a good starting point i think, a good chunk of the poor can have their lives improved if they divorce their ego and supremacy. So now that your economical victimhood argument is disarmed, where do you suggest is a good starting point? the right to Jordanian nationality?

  • I can’t believe the audacity of the people shifting the blame to Jordan on this. If Palestinians had a country of their own, and a right to return to it, then these problems wouldn’t exist, this is a problem Israel created, and at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, a problem they’re spinning really well. I hope people start blaming the right people, and a genuine apartheid state in its own right, Israel.

    Jordan can’t risk jeopardising the Palestinian cause by appearing to be an alternative home, all while trying to give Palestinians an honourable life. The situation in Jordan isn’t perfect, but it is beyond Jordanian hands. Can’t we get ONE decent opinion article about Jordan that’s right in-between calling Jordan an alternative home or an apartheid state? Ya tokho ya ekser mokho?

  • The mere fact that the article was published in the Jerusalem Post is prima facie condemnation of its credibility. On the other hand, exaggerated claims are good sometimes: they allow you to think in sharper terms — similar to text book economic models.

  • but no body is addressing the issue! I don’t know where you got the news that there’s a genuine dialogue about the issue or even an attempt to address it. Time is a big factor here, the problem is decades long and every time the victim tries to say i’m being victimized he’s immediately accused of being a sensationalist or a traitor, I would agree with you if the problem zahran points out is new and fresh.

    You’ve tweewted about the right of return earlier , here’s the facts in this short video


  • Zahran, Bambam and such creatures represent the typical Palestinian-Racists in Jordan; They want to live their ” “Palestinian” Reality” on the Jordanian soil with all the rights, benefits and privileges of being Jordanian YET without any obligation towards Jordan and any respect for its Identity, People and History. Their #1 enemy is Jordan and they write in Israeli newspapers (newspapers of the country whose according to them, stole their land).

  • I agree with his original article, Palestinian while holding “Jordanian” citizen are discriminated against and that is the ugly realty of right wing Jordanian Zionist who will kiss the asses of the Zionist and the white man to keep “power” ..

  • Yes, Rural Jordanian. Let’s do a holocaust for all these “Palestinian-Racists.”

    Zizo, who ever said we are taking about facts, where do you get these silly ideas from?


  • Well, thank you Naseem for the excellent post. I will start by clarifying that I am a Jordanian from Palestinian origins. I am not going to say that Jordan is so perfect, because no country is a perfect country. But Jordan has given rights to Palestinians more than any other country has given to Palestinians. There’s no other country has given Palestinians full citizenship as Jordan did. Look to Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. I was watching a documentary the other day (Al Jazeera Production) on Black September. It is really sad to see how some and I say “some” Palestinian resistance movements forgot that they were established to fight against Israel and they started to fight against their brothers “Jordanians” who provided them with shelter. I feel embarrassed by some Palestinian movements who also tried to assassinate the Late King Hussein.

    In order to ask for your rights, you have to know your responsibilities toward this country, when Palestinians came to Jordan, some of them “us” thought that we can overtake this country. There’s an old Arab proverb that says “Daef b eedo saif”, which translates to “A guest with a sword in his hand”.

    A claim such as the one discussed above “Jordan: Apartheid State” is far from truth, I can name a lot of government officials who are from Palestinian origins such as Taher Al-Masri (Ex-Prime Minister) and many more. By the way, the current Head of the Jordanian Army is from Palestinian origins, Mesh’al Al Zaben.

    For those who will read my post, and think that I am against Palestine or Palestinians, I say, that I am more Palestinian than anyone of you. But we need to know our limits and to love and respect the country that helped us get proper education and good living conditions.

    I am a proud Palestinian who loves Jordan and Jordanians.

  • @Mahmoud Lattouf
    You are NOT a guest, you are a full citizen. You act like a guest due to your ignorance of your own history. As long as you carry the Jordanian nationality you are legally a citizen . your citizenship was not a gift from the government it was due to the annexation of the west bank in 1950 which resulted in you becoming a Jordanian and prevented the birth of a Palestinian state. You’re feeling as a second class citizen is exactly why the problem still exists .

  • It seems you think that such brown nose like yours wuld get you respect, GUESS WHAT, IT WILL NOT!

  • Thank you Zizo. This land belongs to people called “Jordanians” and when Palestinians came to this land, they were supposed to behave as guests, but they are not guests anymore. You are missing a lot of points I tried to highlight. The full citizenship has its responsibilities as well.

    I belong to Jordan as much as I belong to Palestine. We have to understand that if a Palestinian got mistreated in Jordan, it is committed from a narrow-minded person who does not represent Jordan and the Jordanians.

    We have to stop playing the victim’s role every time.

    I know the history very well, and I try to be objective. You need to read neutral sources of history you refer to. I try to admit my mistakes and my own people mistakes before I blame others. I think you need to look again and read my post and try to understand the points I tried to make.

    I wonder how you came to the conclusion that I feel as a second class citizen?! I enjoy my full rights as any other Jordanian.

    I am not a pro-government, and I don’t agree with the foreign policy and their stands on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Israeli Relations, Lebanon, and many others. (For the guy claiming I have a good file with the Mukhabarat!)

    But we have to be objective.

    Thank you,

  • Why don’t you post with your real name? Are you afraid? I don’t wait for respect saying my own opinion. But I think you feel shy of your own name!

  • Pal-Jors :
    1- Pay taxes
    2- Loyal to the Hashemite thrown
    3- Don’t create or participate in tribal violence
    4- Don’t create or participate in society violence
    5- Depend on them selves for a living not the charity of the government hence creating a vibrant economy
    6- Intellectually and culturally advanced and continue to thrive in all countries in the world.
    …………..etc etc


  • @ zizo the ignorant racist:
    1- And real Jordanians don’t?! btw 98% of the citizens don’t pay an income tax in Jordan ..
    2- Yep very much loyal to the point you tried to kill HM the Late Great King Hussein 20 times and take over the country .. wela wa mina el 7ob ma qatal 😉
    3 & 4- Well here’s a flash news for you; Just a couple of days ago a huge “tribal” fight in Irbid refugee camp led to the death of at least one man http://www.addustour.com/ViewTopic.aspx?ac=\LocalAndGover\20107\LocalAndGover_issue1016_day22_id253730.htm .. and who tried to bomb Al-Mukhabarat building in Baqa’a refugee camp again? you should pay a visit to your people someday to see the ugly truth.
    5- Wait a minute, who goes in thousands every single morning to get Exemptions From The Royal Court on every thing? yes the Pal-Jors 🙂
    6- or in another word Palestinians are god’s chosen people. weli bedri .. bedri.

  • Black-Iris,Will my reply to Good Citizen be published? If not I can write another one that fits your “rules” but I deserve a chance to reply

  • @ A good citizen

    (2nd reply)

    your reply only proves how racist you are by trying to justify racism. ( Some Palestinians did so and so 40 years ago that’s why we should treat ALL Jordanians from Palestinian origin like they’re second class citizens). Right?

  • @zizo: i haven’t blocked or moderated any comments and nothing was caught in my spam box. i think you may have experienced a technical difficulty when pressing the submit button. also, in reference to your comment of ” I don’t know where you got the news that there’s a genuine dialogue about the issue or even an attempt to address it.”

    i don’t know where you got the impression that there isn’t. simply put, there are a handful of genuine attempts that i’ve seen happen in the past three or four years alone.

  • Dear All…

    It is perhaps ironic that the thread of comments that have unfolded are only an indication of what I was implying in the last few lines of my post…

    this is a topic that NEEDS to be talked about, but talk is worthless unless there is genuine dialog evolving, otherwise, it’s just theater.

    we cannot insist on the need to talk about this topic and yet, when presented with a platform or an opportunity to do so, turn around and resort to name-calling and throwing around the word “racist” – as if when talking about jordanian and palestinian people we are referring to whites and blacks in Johannesburg, as this article would have us believe…

    there needs to be a recognition of the fact that we are not only cut from the same cloth, as cain and abel, but that our destinies, for better or worse, are intertwined. it lies on a single path and whatever our origin may be, we both tread this path like two people whose feet are tied together. and we either move as one, or beat the crap out of each other. only one of those options is a viable one, the other will simply lead us to our mutual doom.

    these conversations spur on the r-word like it was nothing, when the connotations stem deep beneath the skin.

    speaking as a citizen of this country who is passionate about the palestinian cause as i am about the development and future of jordan, and recognizing that both are, again, intertwined…i am sick and tired of the finger-pointing, especially in a situation that is far from being one-sided (i dont care how much you dislike the status quo in jordan, or even if you absolutely hate the country…no reasonable academic can refer to it as an apartheid state).

    the situation is complex, historic and ongoing…and to paint it as black and white…to say that all jordanians of palestinian origin are at fault, or that all trans-jordanians are at fault…is both ludicrous and shameful…and i feel embarrassed for any jordanian citizen who attempts to make such arguments. and i feel sick to the stomach when i think about the legacy of ideology they will be passing on to their kids today, or in the near future. a legacy of mutual intolerance that manifests quietly in a country where the education system teaches no critical thought, and most beliefs are quite simply put, inherited.

    i don’t care. we’re both right. we’re both wrong.

    i think the sooner we realize that…the sooner we can develop a genuine dialog about this that aims for resolution…

    or at the very least…evolution


  • Jordan is a country with Palestinian-origin majority, and theres no doubt about that. And it is clear that most of the Ministers come from Jordanian families, and most of the Parliament members as well. Head of the Army, Police, Secret Service. Well if these are the facts ahead of us, with the majority being excluded from holding high rank positions “except for the newly assigned prime minister”, then theres an actual problem, and theres something wrong going on.

  • @Nas I know you mean well but watch out your reply is counterproductive even though it asks for tolerance . I will not elaborate , enough said.
    All the best to you

  • As a Jordanian of Bedouin origin, I believe the root of our problem stems from the fact that historically, the government, in its efforts to build a state in a tribal society, and up until recently (some would argue it still is), has actively promoted the preservation of the tribal order and as the state grew, tribal society, through mass enrollment in the armed forces and other government bodies was relegated to a position of dependence on the government.

    This dependence of the state on “Trans Jordanians”, “Indigenous Jordanians”, “East Jordanians” or whatever you want to call us in the army which is still drawn predominantly from the same tribal society that has manned it in past and in other government bodies; a corollary of which is the common assertion that it is Jordan’s tribes who uphold the monarchy, has created a sense of loyalty and “entitlement” over all others in the mind of the mainstream Trans Jordanian.

    The way I see it, this has actually worked against us, we still, till this day, aspire to join the armed forces, the Intelligence Department, different ministries, the Royal Court, etc.., nothing wrong here, except that we are indirectly encouraged to remain in a state of dependence on the government for jobs, those of us who own land having to sell it to afford better education for our children and to support a lifestyle that we cannot otherwise afford. I was much criticized by my relatives for choosing to leave Jordan for better prospects rather than just settle for any job in Amman or as they put it “El balad malyaneh wa’6ayef, e7ke m3 flan 5aleh ydabrak”…

    Sure, certain lines of descent in almost every prominent Jordanian tribe or family have benefited greatly from government policies that pushed to gain or enforce the cooperation of the paramount sheikhs or mukhtars of such tribes and families to indirectly rule society, sheikhs and mukhtars who in return enjoyed many privileges and whose sons and grandsons were rewarded and favored by the government for top state positions later (our privileged line of descent for example was that of Mithgal’s) but one cannot assume that this was the case with everyone else, people and friends around me always assumed that I am no short of “wasta” and that I will get a scholarship and a hot job later because of who I am related to but mind you, none of that happened and I made it on my own.

    I meant to write this to share my concern and frustration with the way people from my background are leading their lives today, eroding their long inherited estates and largely unaware of the need to change.

    Oh, and on the article, this Zahran dude is oblivious! he cracked me up, I was well familiar with pretty much all of what he wrote BUT I didn’t know that Alfayez and Alqadi are from the same tribe lol

  • To the nameless person addressing me: You, and Zahran, may wish to get your accusations right before lashing out, and/or if you really expect an engaging conversation… even if in disagreement.
    Next time you want to get personal with me, ask for a meeting first, you might become a wiser warrior if you know your target.
    You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.

  • It takes no Enistien to realize Palestinians in Jordan are discrimnated against badly, and actually do live in apartheid, the fact that you crossed out the whole thing is by itself a clue that you are in the governemnt’s line, even though you are a palestinian yourself, or if necessary a Salti woman from Palestine, as your siblings in Salt claim to be from that town.

    To sum up, you are denying the obvious, should someone deny that Paris is in France, the he or she is either insane, or simply lying to themselves. Which one do you choose to be dear? Or is the close friendship with S.Z. the reason why you are so pro-gov?

  • One more time, and I’ll be able to check back in here as the Mayor of The Black Iris.

    To: Ms. Toukan – is that your name, or are you addressing me? I’m going to assume the latter.
    I don’t think apartheid and Einstein are relevant to us, so I’m going to chose to put such definitive labels aside and will refrain from using them in my discourse here. Both have extremely complex definitions and connotations, let’s try not to use them out of context.

    You bring up an interesting, although mistaken, assumption. I’m not pro government as an institution. And I’m certainly not pro vending machine government. I do however think gov should be part of citizen conversations and citizens should be part of gov conversations. We’ve created a massive divide between public sector and community and it’s not working for anyone – Jordan and elsewhere around this world. I’m hoping we agree on this point at least.

    A few months ago at a conference on communication I asked if gov were in the room and why they weren’t part of the dialog. Many jumped up saying they’re glad there’s no gov, we’d never agree if they were around, and they just don’t get it. I believe that’s exactly where our problems reside. Imagine how much more interesting and progressive the debate on this post would be if there were a couple of enlightened government voices here.

    Systems working and talking in silos, decade after decade, and not getting very far, yet all allegedly working for the well being of the human being. There’s a lot we didn’t get right. Access and engagement have been neglected far too long. In a nutshell, I think we’re choking from over governing and over governance and there’s a huge flaw in how gov and citizens relate to each other. Consequently, wisdom has become and endangered species.

    If I could redesign the world, my idea of gov resources are very few in number, and three kinds of people: designers, project managers, support – thinking like platform providers.

    بعدين انا مش سلطية، انا عمانية

  • Wonderful nice, etc. yet…..That is exactly what Zahran was talking about, the government which is based on tribal enitlment rules us, the Jordanians of Palestinian heritage out as if we do not exist, that is why they do not hve to talk to you or even acknowledge you exist, because you are a “Palestinian”…yet again, yoy ruled out everything Zahran said as “Rubbish”……..sure…Jordan is a greta country……..we produce rockets, palestinians rule the country and in fact tribalism doe snot exist…..did I mention our moon comes in disco-light color spectrum? Jordan SUCKS…..AND IT SOON WILL BREAK DOWN AS A SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND EVEN POLITICAL SYSTEM,.

  • I was born in Kuwait to paperless stateless Palestinian parents and lived there as a second class citizen with no Kuwaiti citizenship given to me as a birth right. I lived in three more Arab countries where I had to renew my residency every 6 months. At age 27 I became a Jordanian citizen thanks to my unique job at Jordan TV and the late King’s appreciation of my hard work. I Lived in the USA five years and became a citizen!!!!! (cont)

  • I write from a world away, a non Muslim country, yet people get on leaky boats and pay smugglers big money to bring them here. We use refugee camps while we establish if they are real refugees and not criminals. This process can take quite a while but nothing like forty years!
    If I understand correctly, Jordan covers a large fertile area of middle east, bigger than Israel as both had borders ascribed after WW2; that Jordan and surrounding people tribes have similar ancestry, religion and language. Yet the refugee camps established FORTY YEARS AGO still have no rooftops?? Is this the way to treat your relatives?! How shameful. Your holy’ book’ says that Muslims are supposed to be generous and hospitable to each other.
    Jordan became a country with borders the same way as Israel did, so it is inconsistent to move to Jordan and be a perpetual refugee within those borders, while refusing to recognise Israel’s right to return to the land of their ancestors as per their ascribed borders, courtesy of the Balfour Declaration after Germany/Arabs lost WW2. Weren’t the non-Muslim victorious Allies nice to let you rule your own country? That generous peace should not have lead to such nastiness in the ME.
    You can hate the Jewish people all you like, but they as a people of a strong culture have done mighty things which benefit the whole world. Yet jewish are 0.02% of the world, compared to arabic 20% of the world population. Review the huge number of Jewish people who have been awarded the Nobel prize! This despite incredible persecution from the rest of the world.
    Please people, stop and think.
    The whole middle east gets a free ride economically on the oil dollar. If you are still unable to welcome and integrate related people, even though you have the space, the money and the culture, you are a sad excuse of a country. You are blind to your responsibilities to your refugee relatives as you are blind to the advantages you could have if you were a friend to the rich Jewish culture on your doorstep. Remember, early in his life, didn’t your Prophet owe his life to the Jewish people of Medina?

  • Dear Dane: just checking…but is your comment meant to be sarcastic in tone or did you literally mean what you wrote? just checking…

  • “I wonder how you came to the conclusion that I feel as a second class citizen?! I enjoy my full rights as any other Jordanian.”

    pffft oh give me a break….can a simple jordanian palestinian from zarka join the Army? the Royal air force? mukhabarat? even police? NO, can he enjoy studying in jordan university for free like the thousands of army kids studying under makromat? NO, or study abroad like thousands of sons of beduin jordanians with diwan paying? NO, can he become defence minister? No, interior minister? No, foreign minister? No…i can go on all day…

    Now can this simple jordanian palestinian from zarka NOT pay taxes? Hell No…or even not pay the municipality for the water and electricity he uses like thousands of tribes where they shoot at municipality employees who come to take a meter reading? No…can this simple jordanian palestinian take a gun to university , shoot around and start a brawl and not get expelled like a tribal jordanian? No….i can go on all day here too…

    its clear some jordanian palestinian like to play the grateful guest role either out of ignorace or kissing … or both, and it still wont make a difference, your family name will stay your family name so drop the act…

Your Two Piasters: