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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Palestinians in Jordan

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Jordan Facts
Area:    92,300 sq. km.
Capital:    Amman
Total Population:    4,435,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

Given Jordan's relatively weak position in the region, its peace treaty with Israel and its political alliance with the United States, Jordanian governmental authorities keep a close eye on the Palestinian population, especially its most radical elements. One can view the condition and future of Palestinians in two ways: 1) The Palestinians are a disenfranchised majority in Jordan without equal rights or 2) Palestinians in Jordan by and large have it better than their ethnic brethren both economically and politically than in any other country in the region. Regardless of either position, there does not appear to be widespread sentiment among Jordanian Palestinians that the constitutional monarchy should be overthrown. While grievances against domestic policies exist, Palestinians in Jordan appear to be more concerned with the plight of Palestinians in the Palestinian Authority (PA) - controlled territory. The establishment of a Human Rights Department by the Jordanian Department of the Interior in 2006 may solely serve as rhetoric. However, it reflects a growing understanding by Jordanian government officials that issues of citizenship, equal economic and political rights need to be addressed for the Palestinians in Jordan.


Analytic Summary

Palestinians constitute more than half of Jordan's population, and are Sunni Muslim by a significant majority. A people without a sovereign state of its own, Jordan's Palestinian community is comprised of those who found themselves under Jordanian rule when part of Palestine was incorporated into Transjordan upon its foundation in 1946 and those who fled to Jordan as a result of Israel's 1948 War of Independence and the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel occupied the Palestinian-populated West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinians range from prominent individuals assimilated fully into Jordanian society to impoverished refugees. Linguistically (LANG = 0) and religiously (BELIEF = 0), Palestinians are not distinct from Jordanians, but differ in historical origin. Although certain Palestinians have "made it" in Jordanian society, (i.e., the queen is Palestinian), as a whole, they suffer economic discrimination (ECDIS01-06 = 2) in areas such as appointments to positions in the Government and the military, in admittance to public universities, and in the granting of university scholarships. Politically, as well, Palestinians suffer restrictions and social exclusion (POLDIS01-06 = 3). Although they represent more than half of the total population, the Palestinians are grossly underrepresented in governmental institutions. In 2006, Jordanians of Palestinian origin contributed 4 of 28 ministers. In the Parliament, 9 of 55 senators and 18 of 110 lower house members were of Palestinian origin. No Palestinians held any of the governorships in Jordan. In the electoral system, greater representation is given to regions with non-Palestinian populations. Additionally, approximately 150,000 Palestinian residents mostly refugees or children of refugees who arrived from Gaza after 1967 do not qualify for citizenship. Recognizing the large gap in political representation and economic opportunities between Jordanians and Jordanian-Palestinians, the government has recently conceded to offer mechanisms for upward social mobility and increased political representation. In 2006, the Department of the Interior established a Human Rights Department. Interior Minister Id Al-Fayiz sees the newly established Human Rights Department as responsible for promoting human and civil rights, as an ongoing series of new initiatives, including prison reform and modifications in qualifications for residence of Palestinians in Jordan. However, it is yet to be discovered as to whether this new department is anything other than political rhetoric.

While the Jordanian state is generally not repressive, (a notable exception being 1971's Black September crackdown), there are documented recent occurrences of arrests. There have been other instances of repression in recent years. On March 26, 2004, large rallies were held throughout the kingdom in response to the assassination of Palestinian Hamas Spiritual Leader Shaykh Ahmad Yasin. (PROT04 = 3) According to the government, rallies in the Al-Wihdat refugee camp spiraled out of control. According to some sources, more than 200 people were arrested, many accused of burning the Jordanian national flag. In addition, MP Tayseer al-Fitiani alleged that riot police beat him on his arrival at the scene after the demonstrators had dispersed. (REPNVIOL04,06 = 4; REPNVIOL05 = 2).

The main conventional political outlet for Palestinians in Jordan is the Jordan People's Democratic Party and the Islamic Action Front; the main current militant organization is Hamas, whose members can live, but not operate legally, in Jordan. There have been no instances of Palestinian rebellion recently (REB98-06 = 0); and although political protest is discouraged, it occurs sporadically within the country (PROT99-06 = 3). Thousands of Jordanians and Palestinians marched through the streets in October 1999 to protest recent Jordanian measures against the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), and in August 2000, the Islamic Action Front organized several large demonstrations in support of Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem. There was heavy police presence at these demonstrations; however, security forces did not prevent the demonstrations. In August 2001, more than 1,500 Palestinians demanded the Jordanian government cut ties with Israel made under a 1994 peace treaty. During 2002, a march by some 2,500 Jordanians and Palestinians, including members of the royal family (the queen is Palestinian), called for immediate intervention to end Palestinian suffering at Israeli hands. Also that year, in June 2003, at the Al-Ruwayshid refugee camp, residents staged a sit-in to protest their living conditions. While inter-communal conflict has not occurred for many years, in 2006, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin shot and killed a British tourist and wounded six others at a popular Roman ruin in Amman (INTERCON06 = 1).



Lexis-Nexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006.

U.S. Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Jordan. 2000-2006.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006