15 August 2008

15 August 2008 - Is Jordan an apartheid state?

Jordan, IsraelĀ“s neighbor to the east, made peace with the Jewish state in 1994 but has never revoked its laws banning Jews from becoming citizens of the Hashemite kingdom. On top of that apartheid-style law, a recent survey revealed that Jordanians are bottom of the world in Jew-hatred.

So perhaps this latest story should come as no surprise. A bus full of Israeli tourists was stopped at the border and told to hand over any Jewish religious objects in their possession--i.e. the ordinary books and shawls required for daily prayers--or they would be denied entry. They even confiscated a book by Nobel literature laureate S. Y. Agnon.

Is Jordan an apartheid state? Will the international human rights community protest? Will angry Jews spill into the streets after Friday prayers? Hmmm...


At 4:03 AM, Anonymous An Israeli said...

Not sure what the point of this post is. Let's assume, arguendo, that Jordan is an "apartheid state", whatever that means.

So? This obviously doesn't preclude Israel from being an apartheid state as well. Moreover, should Israel really adopt a position which compares itself to Jordan, a non-democratic country? Should this be our role model?

As an aside, notwithstanding any racist laws Jordan may have on its books, the issue of Jews seeking Jordanian citizenship is (almost) completely theoretical, whereas for the 20% of Arabs living inside Israel, and for the several million under Israeli occupation discrimination is, sadly, a daily reality.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Joel said...

You can't be serious. Arabs are citizens in Israel and enjoy the same legal rights as Jews. Surely you, "an Israeli," ought to know this. Regardless, it renders your attempt to create a false moral equivalence absurd.

At 6:19 PM, Anonymous An Israeli said...


You're missing my point. I'm not trying to create any legal equivalence between Israel and Jordan. The whole point was that we (Israelis) should not compare ourselves to Jordan, and if Jordan is acting in a reprehensible manner that is not a justification for Israel to do the same, or similar.

Sure, Arabs in Israel enjoy the "same legal rights as Jews". That is, if you are content with leaving the situation to the formal level. There, I agree with you, laws in Israel apply equally to Jews and Arabs, and equal rights are guaranteed to all.

But since when is legal formality the benchmark for judging equality? Here are some things to think about, for those who would like to believe Arabs inside Israel are treated equally.

First, and this is on the formal level, Arabs citizens, unlike Jews, cannot live in Israel with their chosen spouse if that spouse is from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. Of course, the whole immigration regime applies differently to Arabs than Jews (right of return, etc.)

Second, funding for education is disproportionately in favor of Jews and Jewish Schools compared with Arab schools, thus deepening the gap between the two groups.

Third, zoning and planning laws are applied unequally to Arabs, virtually limiting all expansion of Arab towns. Since 1948, not one Arab city has been built by Israel, except for Bedouin towns because there the government has a clear interest in removing Bedouins from their land and freeing it up - mostly for Jews and the IDF.

Similarly, almost all government allocated funds (welfare, health, culture, infrastructure, etc.) are in favor of Jews.

There are many many official reports and NGO reports that discuss this inequality, including official investigative commissions (The Orr Report), and supreme court cases. For a glimpse, I'll refer you to the Sikkuy NGO website, where you can read their yearly equality reports. The Hebrew site has more up to date information, but the English should suffice:

And this is the Hebrew version of the Orr report (an official committee set up by the Israeli government).


Of course, I'm not even going to start discussing the non-formal discrimination an Arab faces in Israel, for example when one attempts to rent an apartment from a Jew (good luck with that!), and the general racism of the Israeli public.

Bottom line, there is pervasive institutional discrimination of Palestinians living in Israel. If you want more information then read David Kretzmer's "The Legal Status of the Arabs In Israel", which does a nice job summarizing and developing this argument (though it's really due for a second edition). I really don't want to belabor the point, because for me, as "an Israeli", this is common knowledge, as it is to everybody here.

I also note that you only replied to my part regarding Israeli Palestinians and not the Palestinians living in the OPT. Wise choice.

At 5:18 AM, Blogger Joel said...

I don't feel obligated to reply to every part of every comment made by every person on this blog. My decision to respond or not to respond has no bearing on whether I agree or disagree.

Your position on the OPT--implicitly comparing Israeli occupation to apartheid--is also absurd, because the situation there--regrettable though it is--came about as the result of an ongoing conflict that the Palestinians bear responsibility for. And that's without touching the 19 years during which Jordan occupied the West Bank, destroying the Jewish Quarter and denying Palestinians any self-determination whatsoever.

I have described in other posts how Palestinians today have their own apartheid-style laws--worse, in fact--such as the ordinance mandating the death penalty for anyone selling land to Jews. That's in the West Bank, not just Gaza--and the rule of Hamas is far worse than anything Palestinians had to endure under Israeli occupation there.

By the way, I have read and commented on and cited etc. David Kretzmer's book. One of the points Kretzmer makes is the lengths to which Israeli courts have gone to uphold Arab rights in Israel. I can point you to a few resources that you yourself may not have considered if you want more enlightenment on the absurdity of the Israel-apartheid analogy.

Finally, on "informal discrimination"--really, this is not a phenomenon that is unique to Israel, and while more needs to be done to stop it, it is entirely appropriate--since this post is about Jordan--to point out that "informal discrimination" against minorities in Arab countries like Jordan is several orders of magnitude worse.

At 11:22 AM, Anonymous An Israeli said...


If you read my comments carefully you'll notice that I never said that Israel has an apartheid regime, whether inside or outside the Green Line. In fact, I find the whole apartheid discussion tedious and beside the point.

Of course, the situation in SA was very different than the situation in Israel and the OPT, and I'm not trying to compare.

For me, the situation here is bad enough, and it'll stay bad whether we call it apartheid, which I didn't, or not. Read my comments. They referred to inequality and discrimination, not apartheid.

Notwithstanding the work of courts, which, being a lawyer I'm very familiar with, the courts can't go at it alone, and even the courts haven't done enough. Also, a fact to bear in mind is that some court decisions are being flouted, especially when it comes to these areas.

Finally, I agree that discrimination of minorities is vastly worse in Arab countries. I don't think you'll have anyone disagreeing with you there. But still, Israel should not borrow, or even compare itself to these countries, which was what I was saying in my first comment.

At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The claim that Jordanian law bans Jews from becoming citizens is false.

The sources linked to in this post cite part of the 1954 citizenship law. That provision accords Jordanian citizenship to Palestinian refugees of the 1948 war. In doing so, it excludes Jews holding the citizenship of the British mandate of Palestine:

One could of course argue that Jordan should have also offered citizenship to Jewish citizens of the British mandate of Palestine who lost their homes in the 1948 war. But to claim that Jordan now and forever bans Jews from holding Jordanian citizenship is false.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Joel said...

Well, anonymous, that is an interesting point. Thanks for responding. The question remains, however: does Jordanian law actually allow Jews to become citizens? And if not, well...

I don't have a problem with giving Palestinians preference in receiving Jordanian citizenship. Israel has a Law of Return that does the same for Jews. What I do object to is the idea that members of a religious group would all be excluded from citizenship. That's apartheid - and if Jordan hasn't actually taken the legal steps to allow citizenship regardless of religion, it has a problem...

At 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The question remains, however: does Jordanian law actually allow Jews to become citizens? And if not, well..."

There is no question: the law contains no general ban on Jews being naturalized. The same law haw provisions for naturalization. As you can see, there is nothing banning Jews from becoming citizens:

Chapter 3 - Naturalization
Article 12

Any person other than a Jordanian who is not incapable by law may apply to the Council of Ministers for grant of a certificate of Jordanian naturalization if:

(1)He has been regularly resident in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for a period of four years preceding the date of his application;

(2)He intends to reside in Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan.

Article 13

(1)The Council of Ministers may grant or reject an application for naturalization under article 12 of this Law.

(2)The Council of Ministers may, subject to the approval of his Majesty the King, waive the requirement of four years' previous residence if the applicant is an Arab or if, for some special reason, his naturalization is in the public interest.

(3)A certificate of Jordanian naturalization shall not be granted to any person unless he loses by such naturalization the nationality he possessed at the date thereof.

(4)A certificate of naturalization shall not be granted to any person who acquired Jordanian nationality by naturalization and who later lost the same by opting to acquire the nationality of a foreign State.

(5)A certificate of naturalization granted by the Council of Ministers shall bear the signature of the Minsiter of Internal Affairs or his deputy.


Accusing countries of racial discrimination is a very serious matter. In the absence of any real evidence, you shouldn't state or insinuate ('still an open question') that there is such a ban. If you care about accuracy, you should retract/correct the relevant part of your post.

At 6:08 AM, Blogger Joel said...

There's no discrimination in Jordan? I see. That's why border police confiscated Jewish religious articles, that's why Jordanian journalists who even travel to Israel have their union membership revoked... etc. We certainly have evidence of informal discrimination, which seems to enjoy some official protection. Whether we are talking about formal discrimination is another matter. The citizenship laws are relevant, as are other laws--so, fine, let us begin a discussion about those. Let's go beyond citizenship and examine Jordanian law more thoroughly.

You are on firm ground when you cite the statutes--but is it illegal to discriminate against Jews, as Jews, in Jordan? As I argued in my original post, Jordan has not revoked the 1954 law, though I will concede that subsequent legal developments are a mitigating factor.

The point of the post was to demonstrate the absurdity of accusations of "apartheid" against Israel, which are leveled with monotonous regularity on the basis of incorrect information and facile but false comparisons, by posing the same question about a neighboring state that was reported to be discriminating against Jews. It was not a serious accusation but a rhetorical one, made for a rhetorical purpose.

At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It was not a serious accusation but a rhetorical one, made for a rhetorical purpose."

Indeed. If you think criticisms of Israel are inaccurate/exaggerated, making inaccurate (or, as you concede, rhetorical/non-serious) accusations against other countries is just distraction.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Joel said...

Well, Anonymous, it can also be folly to take a rhetorical point too harshly (as all of us do on occasion). Why get so exercised about Jordan, demanding retractions, etc.?

I appreciate your contributions here, and find I am curious about your own political leanings. I find it curious that you do not condemn the Jordanian behavior at the border--not that I believe you endorse it, but there's no recognition in your remarks about the state of attitudes towards Jews in Jordan.

At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This exchange should demonstrate to readers who care about facts over ideology that instead of taking your "rhetorical point[s] too harshly" they shouldn't take you seriously at all -- because any factual claim you make may upon checking actually turn out to be only [empty] "rhetoric," whose accuracy you don't want to be accountable for.

At 3:53 PM, Blogger Joel said...

Ah, good stuff, "Anonymous"--now we get to the abuse.

At least I have the courage to put my name to my commentary, for better or for worse.

Good luck to you.


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