Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Black August?

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has always had an uncomfortable relationship with the common population of the Jordan River region. Being a foreign line of nobility that was placed atop one part of the partition of the former Ottoman Empire after World War I, and being functionally exiled from Peninsular Arabia by their rivals the House of Saud, it is no wonder that domestic politics in Jordan are still based as much on the fears of insecure rulers as anything else.

How insecure? How about the fact that over 70% of the population of Jordan self-identifies as "Palestinian"? How about the uncomfortable historical fact that the land itself has been promised, and claimed, thrice over in the aftermath of the defeat of the Ottoman overlords? (Syria certainly hasn't forgotten that, and has acted upon their claim in the recent enough past.) How about the fact that the last time the Palestine Liberation Organization tried to take over the country (in 1970), the result was a war *inside Jordan*... General Information Only, but to explain the full horror of that: Black September.

So when rumors get going, the conspiracy theories circulate, and when those rumors are that Israel is supposedly going to evict all the Palestinians from the West Bank area... panic ensues in the highest reaches of the Jordanian government.
(Israeli) Defense officials said this week that despite Israeli assurances that the Netanyahu government was not planning on evicting Palestinians to Jordan, Amman's anxiety was still high, likely an indication that "the Jordanians are still concerned that Israel is considering Jordan as an alternative for a Palestinian state," one official said. "The visit was aimed at assuaging those fears and ensuring that strategic relations between the countries stay on track."
Reasonable fear, though. The original division of the region into the Palestine Mandate and the Trans-Jordan was in part an intentional effort by the British to make Trans-Jordan (now the Kingdom of Jordan) an Arab-ruled Palestinian nation. No organized forcible relocations happened until the British were out of the picture though (but a lot happened from 1948 on... mostly exiling the Jewish residents of the Arab-ruled states surrounding Israel. There were removals of Palestinians from land in the Mandate as well, and then the massive self-exile of the Arab population from the Mandate at the time of Israeli Independence).

Well, here we go again:
Alarmed by rumors regarding a US-backed scheme to turn Jordan into a homeland for Palestinians, Abdullah is planning a series of steps to foil any attempt to resettle Palestinian refugees in the kingdom.

The rumors were triggered by talks about a plan to establish a decentralized government in Jordan, where local communities would enjoy some form of autonomy.

The Jordanian authorities' decision to revoke the citizenship of Palestinians in Jordan - who make up more than 70 percent of the kingdom's population - added fuel to the fire by giving substance to the rumors.
Not the best move, that. Let's hope it wasn't a fatal mistake.

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