Middle East


Hamas Expulsions

Jordan’s surprise deportation of four leading Hamas figures to Qatar has prompted a chorus of condemnation from Arab commentators. The Nov. 21 expulsion of Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal and three other leading Hamas members punctuated a crisis that began in August with a crackdown on the group’s activities. The four were arrested upon their return from a trip to Iran. Authorities portrayed the expulsions as voluntary, saying that the four were “allowed to leave” the country. But in an interview with the Jordanian Islamist weekly Al-Sabeel in late November, Meshaal said that he and his colleagues were forcibly taken from their prison cells and put on a private Qatari jet.

Writing on Nov. 26 in London’s biweekly newsmagazine Middle East International, Sana Kamel notes that the government took this action because it knew that its case against the Hamas leaders would not stand up in court. The expulsions have “opened the door for the authorities not only to expel any citizen who opposes government policy, but also to violate the constitution at will.”

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the Palestinian expatriate Al-Quds al-Arabi of London, described (Nov. 25) the deportation as undermining recent reform efforts. Noting that the deportees were Jordanian citizens, Atwan said the action “makes a mockery of all the talk about democratic and economic openness” in Jordan, and added that “the Jordanian street is in a state of shock.”

Jordanian political analyst Lamis Andoni, writing on Nov. 26 in Middle East International, interprets the deportation as the completion of Jordan’s “disengagement” from the West Bank begun by King Hussein in the 1980s. Under King Abdullah, the country has sought “a total separation of Jordanian political parties and popular movements from Palestinian affairs.”