Skip to main content

(New York) - Jordanian authorities should fully investigate and publicly condemn the recent refusal by the owner of an Aqaba restaurant to serve Israeli Jews, Human Rights Watch said today.

The restaurant owner told Human Rights Watch that the people she turned away in late November 2010 had gone on to file a complaint with the police, but that the police told her they did not intend to pursue the incident. Jordan is bound by its international obligations to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in any place intended for use by the general public, such as a restaurant, Human Rights Watch said.

"When it comes to restaurants, there's an obligation even on private businesses not to discriminate based on nationality or religion," said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Jordanian authorities should investigate and make sure they have adequate laws and other tools to address such incidents."

Salwa Al-Barghouti, owner of the Jifra restaurant, told Human Rights Watch that she had asked the two Israelis to leave "because they were Israeli." Asked if they were behaving offensively, she said they were not, and added that she had barred Israelis on several previous occasions.

International human rights law prevents states from discriminating on the basis of a person's nationality or religion. States are also required to "prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms," including access to public space. International law specifically defines restaurants as public spaces.

Sentiment about the Arab-Israeli conflict runs high in Jordan, which is host to a large number of Palestinians who became refugees as a result of Arab-Israeli wars and are now Jordanian citizens. Al-Barghuti told reporters that she was motivated in barring the Israelis by what she said were Israeli crimes against Palestinians, reported.

TTThe Higher Executive Committee to Protect the Homeland and Confront Normalization [of relations between Jordan and Israel], a civil society organization, congratulated al-Barghuti in a public statement for her action, which, it said, reflected "the conscience of the Jordanian people vis-à-vis the enmity of the Zionist entity."

"There is a significant difference between peaceful opposition to other countries' policies and racial discrimination against their citizens," Wilcke said. "No Israeli in Jordan, and no Arab in Israel or elsewhere, should face discrimination because of the actions of their government."

Al-Barghouti said that the police at the local station had summoned her because the two Israelis had filed a complaint, but that the police empathized with her, and there has been no further investigation into the incident.

Jordan acceded to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1974, but published the convention in the Official Gazette only in 2006, enacting it into domestic law.

Article 5(f) of the CERD provides that states must prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination, including discrimination in "the right of access to any place or service intended for use by the general public, such as transport, hotels, restaurants, cafes, theatres, and parks" based on "national origin."

Article 2 of CERD obliges states to prohibit racial discrimination, including by means of legislation. Jordan has not reported to the UN committee monitoring implementation of CERD since 1997, although reports on the implementation of the convention are due every two years. In its 1997 report, Jordan cited a number of articles in its penal code that it said prohibited racial discrimination, but none apply to discrimination against non-Jordanians. Article 6 of CERD requires Jordan to ensure to everyone within its jurisdiction effective protection and remedies against racial discrimination, including reparation for damages suffered. There appears to be no comprehensive anti-discrimination law in Jordan that would allow victims of discrimination to bring claims against perpetrators.

Human Rights Watch has called upon Israel to abide by its obligations under CERD, including opposing an Israeli law that prohibited granting residency or citizenship status to Palestinians from the Occupied Territories who are married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents.

"Jordan should take its commitment to end racial discrimination seriously," Wilcke said. "It should adopt comprehensive legislation against all forms of discrimination to give all victims adequate protection and compensation."

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country

Most Viewed