A discourse that portrays the Palestinian refugee as a suffering but struggling stateless person who has return to Palestine as his or her ultimate goal is dominating both in academic research and in Palestinian politics today.
By the use of data collected in Wihdat Camp in Amman in 2009, this study argues that not only the Palestinian elite but also those who live in refugee camps have started defining themselves as Jordanian citizens, and that this is contributing to the development of a hybrid Palestinian-Jordanian identity. This means that the image of the Palestinian refugee that is dominates both in the academic and in the Palestinian political discourse only to a small extent fits the large group of Palestinian refugees who are Jordanian citizens.
The study shows that the hybrid Palestinian-Jordanian identity is manifested in the camp Palestinians’ attitudes to the Right of Return and in changes in their marriage preferences. Although the camp refugees in Jordan still consider return to Palestine to be the right of every Palestinian refugee regardless of their juridical status in their host countries, they no longer see return as an option for themselves. This is expressed by changes in choice of marriage partner. While a partner from the same village or family was the preferred choice for the first generations of refugees, the preferred choice today is a ‘stranger’; someone from outside the family and village circle. Choosing a ‘stranger’ is an important strategy for enhancing the family networks and bettering their possibilities in Jordan, something that again contributes to greater integration and a reinforcement of the hybrid Palestinian-Jordanian identity.
The development of a hybrid Palestinian-Jordanian identity takes place in an environment of increasing polarisation between Jordanians of East Bank and Palestinian origin and of growing East Bank Jordanian nationalism. Thus, unless this identity is accepted by the East Bank Jordanians, it will not necessarily lead to Jordan developing into a more homogenous state. It may just as well develop into a bi-national state with two distinct national groups that both consider themselves to be Jordanian citizens with full rights.