National Unity in Narrative Only: State and Activist Approaches to Narratives of National Unity in Jordan and Israel

By Benjamin Gladstone
Submitted to Session S5055 (Undergraduate Research Poster Session, 2017 Annual Meeting
All Middle East;
The Hashemite monarchy and the Israeli government each constructed a narrative of national unity. In Jordan, unity was assumed among “Jordanian Jordanians” from east of the Jordan river and “Palestinian Jordanians” primarily from the West Bank and Israel; in Israel, Jews of Ashkenazi (Eastern and Central European), Mizrahi (“Eastern”), and Sephardi (Iberian) origin were viewed as fully integrated. In neither case did that narrative accurately reflect the experiences of these refugees and immigrants, who in various ways confronted marginalization, racism, and neglect at the hands of the “Jordanian Jordanian” and Ashkenazi Jewish political, cultural, economic, and social establishments, respectively. Indeed, narratives of unity have been utilized as mechanisms to ignore very real systems and histories of oppression.

The two states met with thoroughly different forms of resistance. Palestinian political activity in Jordan, although sometimes organized within the parameters of the state, as a movement tended toward fundamental challenges to Hashemite authority. The modes of political mobilization and institutional formation adopted by Palestinian refugees in Jordan threatened the sovereignty and legitimacy of the Jordanian state itself. By contrast, although some (especially recent) Mizrahi and Sephardi activists in Israel have adopted anti-Zionist rhetoric, the majority of Mizrahi and Sephardi political mobilization has critiqued particular leaders, parties, and practices from within the Zionist framework, accepting and supporting the foundational ideological tenets of the state.