National identities: Israeli Palestinians vs Jordan Palestinians


I had recently the chance to meet someone from Arab 48 (Arab Israel) and had an interesting conversation about both mine and his national identity. For him, he clearly identifies himself to be a Palestinian although he had been born under the Israeli state, lived, studied, grew over there and has always been carrying the Israeli passport. For me, I identify my self to be a Jordanian even though that I am aware of my Palestinian heritage and the whole story of my grandparents seeking refuge in Jordan in 1948.

My self Jordanian identification didn’t please my Palestinian friend. In reality, we both belong to the descendents of the Palestinian people who had to deal with the disaster of 1948 and the creation of the Israeli state. My grandparents seek refuge in Jordan, while his didn’t leave their homes and endured the continuous discrimination against them living in a Jewish racist state that treats its Arab citizens as a second class.

The Palestinians issue is so complicated, the same people who were living under the same area that we define today as Palestine in the Arabic notion have been divided into several sects, and after 3 generations of the disaster, the scattered nation descendents are building different national identities that are based on their current special individual situation. The main biggest 3 groups are the ones living in Jordan, the ones living in Israel and the ones living in the West Bank and Gaza.

The issue of national identity is a real dilemma in the Middle East for most of today countries are recent construct of the British and French colonization at the beginning of last century. It has been less than 100 year when the colonial powers divided the Othmanian empire and drew the lines of the recent states that forms the Middle Eastern countries. For the area of Jordan and Israel/Palestine the dilemma is even more severe because there is not only an entire nation that has been divided into 3 areas, but also an entire race of Israelis who came from all over the world and settled down in Palestine taking control over its own people.

In Jordan, this has been a real issue for ages, the identity of origins have been standing on the way of building a national identity for the country which essential in merging people together and helping in advancing this country in all ways. That is why King Abdulla II had this brilliant idea a couple of years ago and a came up with the motto of ‘Jordan First’, because you can’t have this division of loyalty and mutual discrimination while trying to build for the future of this country. For me, I have always hated the family name question and the expression of relief/dis-relief on people’s faces when they conclude my origin through my family name. Palestine has always been in my heart because it was the place where my grandparents were born and lived, but it has never been my country and never would be. I have a total loyalty for Jordan and a 100% national identity for this country, and as a Jordanian citizen, I do back up every movement that helps to demolish any kind of discrimination between the citizens of this country.

While my stand would be applauded from a Jordanian point of view, I do understand my Palestinian friend disappointment, for him, and other Palestinians fighting to maintain their Palestinian identity my stand sounds like a betrayal for their cause. In the other hand, and while it does please me knowing that Palestinians in Israel are still holding to their Palestinian identity, I find it very unfair from my part or any other Arab to blame those Palestinians who decided to pick up on the Israeli identity for them being born and lived under the Israeli state and who do face discrimination against them – discrimination is everywhere – they do enjoy the benefits of a democratic state that allows them to speak up loud their identity and even engage in the Israeli political quarrel.

The question that I have in my mind is how much it is legitimate for the citizens of a certain state to work against the basic structure of that state? Like for instance Israeli Arab citizens working to turn the Israel from a Jewish state into an Arabic one and even changing the name of the state from Israel to Palestine. How legitimate it would be if any Jordanian raises a flag that he is working on changing the name of Jordan to something else? Is having an agenda of changing the identity of a certain country tolerated and accepted under the umbrella of democracy or is it something the regime of each country has to decide for itself?

The issue of national identities is very complicated. I wonder what has more credibility: The country identity defined by the identity of its people, or defining the identity of the people based on their country identity.

20 thoughts on “National identities: Israeli Palestinians vs Jordan Palestinians

  1. There are no differences between jordanians,palestinians,syrians and lebanese.we are all part of one nation,it is only for political reasons that we carefully underline the palestinian identity,because it is in the interest of the arabs to encourage a separate palestinian identity in contrast to zionism,yes the existence of a separate palestinian identity is there only for tactical reasons.

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  2. As one of my friends says [who is of Palestinian origins]: I am not Palestinian, I was born in Jordan, I lived and grew up in Jordan, I never stepped foot in Palestine, thus I am Jordanian, and it is flawed logic to say otherwise.He has a point. Your identity is basically where you were born, and where you lived and grew up. Your grandparents are really irrelevant.

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  3. Tala says:

    The surfacing of ethic grouping in any place with the need to preserve it is a result of capitalism and globalization, if you look at the human fabric in most countries, you will find diversity in people holding the same nationality, cultural diversity is important because its part of one’s identity where the world is getting more and more open.if you hear people’s say on identifying themselves in a diverse medium, you will see lots of responses that are highly personal and different, because it stems from their experience of what they relate to and what you don’t relate to in the same one place and in the same family. what i never noticed before is that in Jordan there are lots of ethic groups that Jordanians, if you look close enough, you will find Jordanian Armenians, Cherkess, Palestinians, Chechens, Bedouins, people who identify themselves as Jordanian Bahais, Durz, Muslim and Christians. meen dal? wala 7ada! each has something special but all of them ARE Jordanians who have something else that they identify with or relate to when they speak for themselves. but most of the time, we don’t speak in public of our differences, because we are others-conscious, the missing part is how much each knows about the identity of the other. very little.

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  4. It is an interesting point indeed. After all, it is amusing to see these die-hard loyalties to one country or another while in fact these borders did not exist a mere 100 years ago🙂Anyway, i wanted to correct one point you mentioned. The Arab Israelis are not “trying to turn Israel from a Jewish state to an Arab state” .. but they are trying to have Israel acknowledge that they are a <>multi-ethnical<> state rather than just a Jewish state.

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  5. i agree with za3atr. in israel, the mere act of speaking arabic or identifying themselves as Palestinian is problematic. therefore, Palestinians over there strive to assert their identity. i don’t see why there should be a double standard- why Palestinian citizens of Israel must hold on to their roots steadfast, while other Palestinians in other countries can choose to ignore where they come from very easily, without being held ‘accountable’ for it. my grandparents were born in Palestine. My parents were not. I was born in the US, where I live now. I identify myself quite proudly as Palestinian-American, even though I have never lived in Palestine myself. Just because I am proud of my roots, doesnt mean I am somehow ‘betraying’ the country in which i live- a country which i call home.

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  6. Assalamu AlaikumFree Free Fulestine. There is a difference between the countries; Lebanese speak with a Lebanese dialect, Palestinians are fighting for a country they once had, Syrians and Jordanians do nothing – therefore, they’re the same ya akhi…Wassalamu AlaikumStr8 up gold Bam

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  7. hamede, I don’t think that is true. Seperate identities emerge from having different situations. There haven’t been really a palestinian country and before 100 years ago all of the arabs in the middle east had one identity under the othmanian emperor. We are not sticking to it, do we?DM, that is exactly how I feel about it. It doesn’t matter where any ancestor of mine lived! I know what is written in my passport and I know where I have been living all of my life. Tala, cultural diversity is nice, but problems arises when some group take control over another and gain advantages in an unfair way. It is a democratic liberal country with equal rights for its citizens that can manage to keep peace between those ethical groups. za3tar, I guess you are right, some of them just want more equality and less discrimination towards them in Israel. Al falestineyye, I don’t see why there should be a double standard as well. It is sad because a lot of Arabs don’t like Arab Israel and accuse them of betrayal for staying in a Jewish state while in fact they were the brave ones who refused to leave their land and are still sticking to their identities.

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  8. You have the right to be whoever you want to be. Some Arabs stay in the US for a couple of months and hen you ask them where are you from they answer “Datraweet” -that is detroit

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  9. Observer,What hamede said is true, and king hussein was one of the top proponents of the idea of craeting a seperate palastenian identity, and for that he and the syrian leadership were never on the same page; syrian leadership hold the idea that all belad alsham are one land with one people. The decision was strategic not tactical; tactics are strategy implementations.

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  10. yazan, I am glad you did🙂hareega, you are right! That is funny the detroit thing! lolMohannad, I think king’s Hussein had a sound vision. You can’t keep a palestinian identity vs a jordanian identity in a country where half or more of its population comes from a palestinian origins! We don’t need more divisions, do we?

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  11. That is exactly the idea, we can argue for it or against it, but it all depends on what your ultimate goal is; if jordanians of palastenian origin explicitly declare that they have no interest in going back to palastine, then the palatenian issue from the jordanian side will burried and the israeli argument will gain more support, that is, palastenians are not a seperate group but rather are arabs who have no rights in palastine. Now for the division issues, it is all about perception and beliefs held by individuals in the society, the creation of of a seperate palastenian identity for strategic reasons had implications some of which are the devisions that exist now in our society. The reasons for those diviosion are many, and we can build a long list, but to solve those internal divisions what we need is common goals and a meritocracy.

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  12. Since throughout my life I’ve lived in 3 countries for a great length of time, and I have identity confusion more than most people.I can tell you that it takes about 3 years to become native. I’m currently more Jordanian than Canadian or Palestinian, if I move somewhere else that can change.It is not the strongest of the species that is most likely to survive, it is the most adaptable.

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  13. mohannad, but who decides what is the ultimate goal? I think that far away from politics, the most important thing for a human being is living a decent life. Now after 3 generations, it would be hard for Jordanians with Palestinian origins to move back to their grandparents villages and towns. This may help the Israeli case, but it is what happens. It should be in no way an excuse for Israel to escape from compensation and the right for those people to go back. Hani Obed, I don’t know about you, but I think that it would take much more time for me to change my identity, maybe because I have always been living here in Jordan and never lived in another country.

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  14. Tammouz says:

    My dear Arab Observer,this is the first time i visit your blog and had only the opportunity to read some of the August posts.Here is my grain of salt regarding the National identities debate that you raised:We tend to consider the person as having one identity or as having an identity that is the ‘mix’ of his different origins and life experiences.. I came to consider that a person is made of numerous identities covering different spaces of his person/being. And where these identities overlap, they superpose rather than mix… somehow as if the identity was a transparent film/foil of a specific area/shape and colored with a certain color, and that the person’s ‘resulting’ identity is the resulting ‘shape+color’ that u get when u superpose all these identities in front of a projector. Sometimes the colors add up, sometimes they mix, sometimes one color override the others and sometimes they annihilate each other… the interesting part of this metaphore is that the resulting shape and color differ depending not only on the superposed films (identities) but also on the color and angle of the light of the projector as well as the color and the form of the wall u’re projecting on.Relating this to identities, it might mean that depending on the environment u’re in, the angle u’re looking at urself or the subject that challenged ur identity, the different components of ur identity might express themselves differently, even though u are still the same person.So regarding jordanian palestinians and israeli palestinians, Jordanian and palestinian are close cultural and national identities so these two might add up or coexist smoothly. While for an Arab 48 palestinian, his palestinian national identity is under attack with constant efforts by Israel to erase it, therefore the palestinian dimension of his identity is more vindicated because simply more threatened, add to this that he might not identify with the Israeli one for many reasons.On a similar front, when you were confronted with one of the palestinians, or let’s suppose you’re among a group of palestinians of west bank or 48, and the group attacks you saying that “you’re not palestinian because you say u’re jordanian or you’re less palestinian because u don’t live on palestine soil”. I believe in this occasion, you might feel more palestinian than ever and feel offended or discriminated against, while in normal circumstances you identify as jordanian (and not even palestinian jordanian!)…I allow myself to express this view because i personally have to deal daily with multiple superposing identities that sometimes are in harmony and sometimes are conflictual. I am Lebanese, Arab, with french passport, coming from a christian family, but i am atheist! I challenge anyone to try to remove the commas between my different identities and formulate the result in one sentence.Tammouz

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  15. Tammouuuuuuuuuuuuuuz! Hi man, welcome to my blog🙂. It is good to have you hear😛.I agree totally with what you have said. That is so true. Such point of view should have been highlighted in my post. Thanks for the add. Yes each one of us has a collective of different identities. I totally relate to that and understand it. Cheers man🙂

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  16. Hey Arab ObserverI found this blog post really interesting. I’m currently writing an article for a magazine which looks at how assimilation is affecting the Palestine cause. I think what you have to say is really interesting and i would love to have a more in-depth chat with you. I was particularly interested in why Palestinians in Jordan don’t seem to feel that they can be both Jordanian and Palestinian, as many do in the Wst.And whether becoming Jordanian means abandoning the Palestinian cause anyway. Arwa

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Even though many people were born in Jordan it doesn't mean that they are Jordanians because they were forced to leave Palestine. I am Palestinian where ever i go in the world and anyone who does not say that they are Palestinian, Palestine does not need them.

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