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King calls for end to discrimination against Jordan's Palestinians
June 30, 1999
From Correspondent Jerrold Kessel
AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- Jordan's King Abdullah visited an Israeli controlled crossing point between his country and the West Bank to deliver a long-awaited message to Palestinians under his rule.
Abdullah called on fellow Jordanians to work toward ending class divisions that have marginalized Palestinian citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom. Discrimination must end, he vowed.
Palestinians -- many of whom arrived in Jordan following the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967 -- make up more than 60 percent of the population of Jordan but have long been considered second-class citizens.
The two kefiya headdresses -- the red of the native Jordanians, or East Bankers, and the white of the Palestinians -- have intermingled freely for years in Jordan.
But the establishment has kept a firm hand on control of Jordan's public sector.
"Short of the private sector it (discrimination) is there in every sector of life. In all government departments, in all public offices ... the old school of avoiding Jordanians of Palestinian origin," said Labib Qamhawi, a Jordanian political analyst.
King Abdullah's comments have forced Jordan's legislature -- a symbol of the East Bank establishment -- to acknowledge discrimination against Palestinians.
"It's not policy in this country, but it is something we have to address," said Parliament Speaker Abdul Hadi al Majali.
The fact that Abdullah's wife, Queen Rania, is of Palestinian background, may have influenced his initiative.
But analysts says his readiness to approach the issue of actual equality for Palestinians is much more complex.
"The king knows this is bound to happen .... (but) he cannot venture into that with such a legacy of discrimination against Jordanians of Palestinian origin," Qamhawi said.
Jordan: More Israeli strikes could derail peace process
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