Jordanian Police Atrocities Against Palestinians,
a Message to Israel?
With the advent of the new batch of Wikileaks classified documents, came a cable issued by the U.S. Embassy in Amman that reported “bullying” practiced by the fans of al-Faisali Soccer Club (predominantly East-Bank Jordanians) against the fans of al-Wihdat Soccer Club representing enthusiasts of Palestinian origin. The cable reported al-Faisali fans chanted anti-Palestinian slogans that extended to insulting members of the Jordanian royal family, specifically Queen Rania, who is of a Palestinian heritage.
I was working as an economist and an assistant to the Iraq policy coordinator of the American Embassy in Amman when the cable was prepared in July 2009. While I do not have the luxury of talking about the details of my work or anything I have done for the American Embassy in Amman within my official capacity; I still can say that I clearly remember that I informed the embassy in Amman about the taunts used by al-Faisal fans during that soccer match, including “One, two, one, two, O Father of Hussein (the King) divorce her (Queen Rania) so we would marry you two of ours” and “Openly, Openly, we don’t want to see no Palestinians”.
The cable issued by the American deputy chief of mission in Amman, Lawrence Mandel, whom I had the privilege of working with, expressed surprise with “the silence of the Jordanian king” on the matter despite the fact that insults extended to member of his own family.
Last Thursday, days after that cable was leaked, the Jordanian gendarmerie locked thousands of Palestinian fans of al-Wihdat club in a stadium after a game and attacked mercilessly attacked those leaving hundreds wounded including one child in critical condition [warning: graphic image], where eyewitnesses, including a former parliament member of Palestinian origin, reported that the gendarmerie attacked the fans without being provoked at all.
What happened does not stop at being police brutality; it’s much deeper than that. Since the year 2008, the Jordanian Government and its strongest body, the General Intelligence Department, have adopted an extreme policy of further isolation, exclusion and intimidation of Jordanians of Palestinian origins. This has crushed the Palestinians in Jordan, who are the majority of the population according to all U.S. State Department reports, so they hinge on the verge of becoming refugees again. This is exactly what Jordanian Intelligence Department has been advocating behind closed doors, the belief that such a scenario would “put pressure on Israel”.
This policy is similar to the very policy of the ruling elite in Apartheid South Africa, which intended to isolate the black majority from power and resources of the country, just as is the case in Jordan now, the South African Police exhibited extreme brutality against the marginalized majority.
However, soccer in Jordan is more complex, as the General Intelligence Department have been using soccer to spread the spirit of division and discrimination against the Palestinians, thus turning the soccer fields into by-proxy battle grounds in which the Jordanian state exhibited intimidation and control over Palestinian majority, reminding them that they are merely “guests and refugees”.
Furthermore, the atrocities of last Thursday come at a time characterized by a strain in the relationship between Palestinians and East Bankers in Jordan, especially after the recent parliamentary elections which were based on an electoral law that gives the Palestinians a very limited number of seats. The Jordanian government insisted on applying a controversial law despite criticism from its closest allies, resulting in the Palestinian overwhelming majority in Jordan being represented by a number of seats similar to that of the Arabs in Israel, who represent little over 23 percent of the population.
Another puzzling coincidence includes the fact that the Jordanian Gendarmerie assault came after the leak of the cable mentioned earlier. Also, the stadium in which the atrocities took place is named after King Abdullah II, all suggesting the atrocities possibly carried a deep and clear message to the Palestinians – that any international sympathy will not help them and would instead bring them more pain and suffering. If that was the case, then it constitutes a very blatant warning from the Jordanian state.
On the other hand, what happened describes the depth of the hole the Jordanian state has dug for itself by further extending policies of exclusion of the Palestinians to eventually put pressure on Israel. Israel has enough legal and military strength to make such a Jordanian stunt unfeasible, even for a try.
In addition, the peace negotiations, encountered by a radicalization of Jordan in dealing with the Palestinians, has put the Jordan regime out of any potential comprehensive and realistic solution, especially that the Palestinians are less likely now to accept any Jordanian involvement West of the river.
Also, the forces of tribal extremism in Jordan are obviously extending their bullying and insults to the monarchy, as noted in the American Embassy’s cable; a matter the Jordanian monarchy cannot afford to ignore nor is it able to encounter at the same time as East Banker tribes control security agencies and the military. Those tribes exhibit hostility to both, the Palestinians and the Israel.
However, the Jordanian government still seems determined to continue digging deeper into the hole it has created for itself. The Jordanian intelligence has the tightest grip on Jordanian policies and therefore continues escalating internal tension. This is exactly what happened before the Jordanian civil war in 1970, as Natheer Rashid, who was the intelligence director then, acknowledges in his memoir and in interviews with al-Jazeera, that the intelligence sought escalation and urged the late King Hussein to collide with Palestinians, resulting in terrible massacres of Palestinian civilians while the Palestinian militant organizations have remained alive and relocated to Lebanon. The move did not serve the Palestinian refugees, Israel or the Lebanese, but instead well-accommodated the Jordanian state.