OpinionIsrael News

Who stole Palestinian land? Jordan

The Hashemites had no connection to the land until the Arab revolt, and then Abdullah was imposed on the residents by imperial Britain.

The Monastery, Petra, Jordan, Sept. 30, 2011. Credit: Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons.
The Monastery, Petra, Jordan, Sept. 30, 2011. Credit: Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons.
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

The Palestinians, one-sided critics of Israel and anti-Semites have little interest in historical facts. Nothing can penetrate their veil of ignorance. Still, there is hope for students whose minds have not yet been closed or poisoned by propaganda. One place to start is the myth about the Jews stealing Palestinians’ land. Even many people more familiar with the region’s history don’t know that the real thieves are the Hashemites of Jordan.

While the Jewish people have been inextricably connected to the land of Israel—what Westerners came to call Palestine—for 3,000 years, the current occupiers of two-thirds of Palestine arrived in the early 20th century after being expelled from their native land of Arabia.

The Hashemite family ruled over Mecca and Medina until it was defeated in 1924 by King Abdulaziz bin Saud, founder of the current Saudi kingdom. Beforehand, the Hashemites, led by Sharif Hussein, allied themselves with the British and mounted a successful revolt against the Ottoman Turks. As compensation for their assistance, the British decided to make Hussein’s sons kings of the territories carved out of the Ottoman Empire following World War I.

One of those territories was Palestine, which had been promised as the Jewish National Home by the Balfour Declaration. In 1921, however, “with the stroke of a pen one Sunday afternoon in Cairo,” Winston Churchill severed nearly four-fifths of Palestine—some 35,000 square miles—to create a new Arab entity, Transjordan. As a consolation prize for the Hijaz and Arabia going to the Saud family, Churchill rewarded Sharif Hussein’s son Abdullah by installing him as Transjordan’s emir.

The British government presented a memorandum to the League of Nations stating that Transjordan would be excluded from the provisions of the mandate for Palestine dealing with Jewish settlement. The League approved the proposal on Sept. 16, 1922. On June 17, 1946, Transjordan became an independent nation.

It is an article of faith on the far-left that Israel is an imperialist implant and that Palestinians, not Jews, are the indigenous people. They love the phrase “settler-colonialism.” The accusations do apply—to Jordan. The Palestinians were not indigenous to what is now Jordan but had a presence in the area for perhaps a thousand years after their ancestors left Arabia. The Hashemites had no connection to the land until the Arab revolt, and then Abdullah was imposed on the residents by imperial Britain.

The Palestinians, who identified primarily as Muslims and members of clans, objected to the division of Palestine, which they believed should be part of Greater Syria. They did not clamor for an independent Palestinian state.

The United Nation’s partition resolution called for the creation of a Jewish and Arab state in what was left of Palestine. Jordan joined the other Arab invasion forces in May 1948 to destroy the new State of Israel and divide the spoils—not to create a Palestinian state. The Arabs lost the war, but Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. Abdullah captured most of the territory allocated for an Arab state and part of Jerusalem—which was supposed to be internationalized—and annexed them. Only Britain and Pakistan recognized Jordan’s occupation of the West Bank.

Where were the defenders of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination? Where were the U.N. resolutions calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state? Where were the human rights crusaders and the boycott advocates?

One of many inconsistencies in the Palestinian narrative about their “ancestral home” is that the Palestinians did not demand the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria. Palestinians and their supporters are at a loss to explain this, so they pretend those 19 years of Jordanian occupation were a gap in the timeline of Middle East history.

What more evidence do you need that the Palestinian national movement and its enablers are anti-Semitic? Under Arab/Muslim rule, no one had a problem with the occupation of Judea and Samaria, and it was unquestionably occupied then rather than disputed as it is today. Is it pure coincidence that occupation of that part of “Palestine” only became a concern when it came under Jewish administration?

Jordan lost Judea and Samaria to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, but still occupies an area that once was Palestine. Still, you never hear Palestinians or their supporters direct their vitriol at Jordan.

The Palestinians claim they were in Palestine from time immemorial, descendants of the Canaanites. Why then don’t they complain about Jordan taking their land? Why doesn’t the nakba (“catastrophe”) apply to the loss of statehood caused by King Abdullah and his fellow Arab leaders?

For years, Jordan was the only Arab country that granted Palestinians citizenship, but that is no longer the case. Most of the Jordanian population is Palestinian, but they are feared as a fifth column that threatens the Hashemites’ dominance. Those fears have been exacerbated by the influx of thousands of Palestinian refugees from Syria. The king also remembers the PLO’s attempt to take over the country in 1970, which led to the expulsion of Palestinians to Lebanon.

While it has come to be associated with the right-wing in Israel, it is a fact that Jordan is geographically and demographically a Palestinian state. The Hashemite dynasty is over if Jordan becomes the de facto Palestinian state. Is it any wonder King Hussein abandoned his claim to Judea and Samaria?

Ironically, the Palestinians and their supporters don’t recognize that having their state on both banks of the Jordan would give them a stronger foothold and the capacity to build a modern state with an army. They would also not have to contend with a dispute over the rightful owners of the land. Israel could say the Balfour Declaration (and the historical record) intended that the area given to Jordan should be part of Israel, but the Zionists long ago gave up that claim. If the Hashemites want to fight over their homeland, they will have to challenge the Saudis.

Given these facts, shouldn’t the BDS movement be directed at Jordan? Isn’t the minority tribal autocracy in Jordan akin to apartheid? Shouldn’t human rights advocates focus their ire on the Hashemites, the true interlopers in Palestine, instead of the Jews who have lived in the land for millennia? Shouldn’t the international community insist that Jordan be recognized as the Palestinian state and that Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank be given Jordanian citizenship?

There is no need for a second Palestinian state.

These are all good points to rebut specious arguments about Israel stealing or occupying Palestinian land that are not being employed. That’s hasbara (or PR, which is not a dirty word), but the political reality is something else.

Besides Palestinian and Jordanian opposition to the idea, recognizing Jordan as Palestine would have mostly negative consequences for the United States and Israel. It would mean the end of the pro-Western Hashemite dynasty. It would give Palestinians, potentially led by Islamists, control over an area more than four times larger than Israel, a stronger state than what two-staters advocate and a direct link to Israel’s most implacable enemies. The Palestinians, who covet the small fraction of Palestine that is Israel, are too myopic to see the benefits of the Jordan solution. Many Israelis who make this case are equally foolish, because Palestine replacing Jordan would create a greater security threat than a rump state in a portion of Judea and Samaria linked to Gaza, which would be surrounded by stronger powers whose interest is to ensure the Palestinian state remains as weak and unthreatening as possible.

Still, the fact remains that Jordan is the occupier denying Palestinians self-determination and most guilty of the sins detractors attribute to Israel.

Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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