Policy Paper: The 1988 Disengagement Regulations and Their Effects on Identity and Participation in Jordan

E.J. Karmel , Ali al-Batran
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Since its 1950 inclusion of Palestinians as citizens, the Hashemite Kingdom has continually confronted issues of identity, and many Jordanians have continued to feel as if their nationality is precariously situated. This sentiment became especially acute following Jordan’s disengagement from the West Bank in 1988. Not only did the disengagement regulations strip 1.5 million Palestinian-Jordanians of their Jordanian nationality overnight, but they have since been used as a basis for continued citizenship revocations. While the exact numbers of post-disengagement nationality revocations remains unclear, the impact that these revocations have had on society is overtly manifest. The seemingly random nationality withdrawals have created a national atmosphere in which no one feels secure. Nationality rights, which are constitutionally entrenched and protected by law, seem subject to sporadic revocations. As a result, much of the population – and particularly Palestinian-Jordanians – have been unwilling to confront the Jordanian authorities and increasingly hesitant to exert themselves in Jordanian politics. Disengagement and the subsequent nationality revocations, however, cannot be understood in a vacuum. Instead they are but the most recent step in a long-term project to define Jordanian identity. Since 1950, the government has pursued several unsuccessful attempts to achieve a consolidated concept of Jordanian nationality. The campaigns have largely failed to foster national stability because they have focused on identity rather than legal nationality, and conflated the two concepts in the process. That is, at the expense of consolidating a civil basis for being Jordanian, the government has attempted to prescribe a Jordanian identity, and thereby excluded large cross sections of the population. As a result, the Kingdom is composed of nationals who continue to define themselves as “Eastern-Jordanian” or “Palestinian-Jordanian” or a multitude of other hyphenated-national identities. Thus, while the government has focused on these unsuccessful efforts to “Jordanize” the Kingdom’s population, this paper suggests an alternate approach to consolidating and stabilizing nationality and national identity. Instead of defining “Jordanian” though a process of exclusion, it suggests an inclusionary method that defines being “Jordanian” not on ethnic or cultural grounds, but upon a civil basis rooted in the rule of law.

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