Nermeen Murad
The Jordan Times
August 29, 2011 - 12:00am

The underlying political current against reform in Jordan is closely tied to the continued ripple effects of the 1970 clash between Palestinian “resistance groups” and the Jordanian government.

Unspoken is the fear that any relaxing of the restrictions on the security-driven containment of the Jordanians of Palestinian origin or refugee residents of camps in Jordan could recalibrate the tenuous political balance in the country and provide grounds for civil conflict.

Since Jordanians - regardless of their origins - value the continued stability of their country above all else, citizens have basically accepted the formula for coexistence for the past four decades and looked to the Hashemite regime to hold the keys to that balance, ensuring and, even more importantly, guaranteeing that it continues to be fair and equitable.

This commitment to stability and the regime has not changed. The role of the regime as an arbiter and protector of all the citizens has not changed either. What did change is the actual risk of civil unrest based on ethnic origin, which is clearly now being replaced by an imbalance between the haves and have-nots in society.

Economic hardships and financial difficulties have crossed the ethnic divide and what we face today is a new generation of Jordanian youth who, regardless of origin, are struggling to find suitable educational opportunities, rewarding employment or income-generating opportunities, and civil and political representation.

His Majesty King Abdullah has underlined the priority of addressing the demands of the Jordanian youth in recognition of the different parameters that influence this segment of the population and the need to give them voice to express these different parameters and concerns, and therefore change the formula of policy making. I believe King Abdullah, in his quest to engage the youth, is looking to them to give voice to a more united and more energised and engaged Jordan.

I also believe that for this push to succeed, it needs to come hand in hand with a bold and well-calculated policy change aimed at embracing second/third/or even fourth generation Jordanian youth without prejudice based on their ethnic origin.

In this era of regional reform, and in order to survive the waves and calls for change without imperiling our stability, we have to reduce our dependence on the policy approach that is based only on security concerns and suspicion, because that policy will not be sufficient to weather the reform storm.

The balance of power brokered by the Hashemite regime over the past four decades has been successful because that generation lived through and remembered the 1967 war and the era of Palestinian resistance after that, and therefore shared with the regime the fears and opportunities that came from that experience.

The young generations of today, however, need to have a different experience of national reconciliation and abridgement of the historically accepted - yet mostly not discussed division - to form a common identity, based on common national and personal experiences and aspirations, that is uniquely Jordanian.

Our push for reform appears to continue to stumble upon these decades-old fears and concerns. Instead of falling for the dividing narratives and redundant political policies, why not admit that we are in need of a brave national reconciliation dialogue to once and for all close this chapter in our history and thus be able to move forward and become a truly modern and democratic nation state?

It would be unfair and unacceptable to allow these fears and concerns to be transferred to the next generation of Jordanians.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017