Recently I stood on top of the Mt. Nebo gazing into Palestine. Here, according to the Bible, Moses once stood when he was first given a view of the Promised Land that God was giving to the Israelites. As I stood there, I couldn’t help but to reflect on the tears shed, lives lost, blood spilled for this arid piece of land, west of the river Jordan, which many consider to be ‘holy.’
I also couldn’t help but to think about the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stupidity of our world leaders who have failed miserably in bringing the permanent peace to the region, and thousands of Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee their homes and seek shelter in neighboring Arab countries.
The majority of Palestinian refugees eventually ended up in Jordan. The population of this tiny country swelled immensely after 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars, and the relations between Bedouin Jordanians (Jordanian-Jordanians) and Palestinian- Jordanians became intricately complex. And so they remain up to this day.
It is fascinating to be in Jordan today and talk to the young Palestinian-Jordanians about their national identity. While their parents and grandparents still vividly recall and long for the life in Palestine, most of their descendants were born in Jordan, educated in Jordanian public schools and now swear their loyalty to the King. Like many Arabs, they still deeply care about the establishment of the Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but that is not their life’s aim. Putting bread on the table each day is.
They will tell you about this only in hushed tones, because acknowledging publicly that Jordan is their home would mean that the Israeli project of creating an alternative home for Palestinians in Jordan is successful, and West Bankers would label them as traitors. On the other hand, they are also not fully integrated into the Jordanian society since some extremists segments of the Jordanian-Jordanian population are bent on sending them back home Palestine.
Couple of weeks ago I attended a lecture given by the head of the Political Science department at University of Jordan, and he seemed to be the torchbearer for this cause. According to him, Palestinians have brought nothing but trouble to Jordan, and 4 million of them who are currently living in Jordan as Jordanian citizens and contributing heavily to the Jordanian economy, are nothing but ‘temporary guests.’
It is fascinating, but it also pains me to witness these subtle conflicts playing out right in front of me. National identity here is still very fluid, but nonetheless it remains a powerful force that can rally people to revolt.
Bojan Francuz is studying abroad in Jordan with SIT Study Abroad.