Human rights and the rightless: The case of Gaza refugees in Jordan


Sixty years since their displacement, millions of Palestinians continue to share the condition of a stateless people deprived of their basic human rights. Today, over four million registered refugees live beyond historic Palestine and nearly two million remain within 'temporary' refugee camps throughout the Middle East. This paper examines the impact of statelessness upon the human rights of Gaza refugees in Jordan. My analysis concerns the lived experience of rightlessness and the human rights discourse of Palestinian activists and the National Centre for Human Rights in Jordan. Gaza refugees have few options but to articulate their demands for human rights in terms of the right to Jordanian nationality. Their human rights work thus consists of asserting their domestic legal right to Jordanian nationality at the expense of their universal human rights. Jordan's primary human rights organization advocates on the Gazans' behalf by translating their concerns into the international language of human rights claims. In the process, however, the centre subordinates Gazans' universal human rights to the principle of state sovereignty. This paper suggests that protecting the universal rights of stateless people must address the limitations inherent within the logic of nationality as the practical basis of human rights. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.

Publication Title

International Journal of Human Rights