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Thoughts toward a reconsideration of Palestinian Fragmentation post-20051

Repenser la fragmentation palestinienne après 2005
Xavier Guignard et Leila Seurat
Cet article est une traduction de :
Repenser la fragmentation palestinienne après 20051 [fr]

Texte intégral

  • 1 The authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers and the members of the REMMM editorial board for (...)
  • 2 The distinction between "Jews" and "Arabs" is inherited from the Mandate period (1920-1948), used a (...)

1To consider Palestine at the beginning of the twenty-first century is to confront a shared sense of its apparent “disappearance”. This is seen first of all in the break-up of a population which is part of a multitude of parallel realities : refugees who, in Lebanon, ask for the «right to exile» to compensate for their impossible return or who, in Syria, engage – sometimes under duress – in a civil war which throws them into a second exile ; Palestinians of Israel (sometimes incorrectly called “Israeli Arabs”2) are confirmed in their minority status alongside Jewish citizens ; or Palestinians from the occupied territories torn between two competing powers in Ramallah and Gaza. To speak of the disappearance of Palestine is also to point to the erosion of the material realities of its statehood : a fragmented territory, an impeded sovereignty, an economy and finances under Israeli control. Finally, the expression refers to the marginalization of the “cause” or its relegation both by the leaders and by the “Arab street”, more concerned by the revolutionary or counter-revolutionary dynamics that have shaken the region since 2011 (Allal et al. Vannetzel, 2017), the need to stem the “Iranian threat”, Turkish foreign policy or the resurgence of protest movements. In any case, so many allies considered natural who would have abandoned Palestine to its fate, and therefore precipitated its oblivion.

2This opening mention of disappearance has the merit of reminding us that instead of a status quo, we have a movement in progress, even for the worst. Still, this idea poses a number of problems by sticking to an otherwise questionable description of the erasure of the Palestinian question from major regional and international dynamics. It does not however, tell us anything about the sweep of Palestinian socio-political changes. Conversely, by asking the question of fragmentation we think about the dynamics that led, and still lead, to the social, political or territorial breakdown of Palestinian realities.

3This issue of the Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée starts from a hypothesis on the existence of a “2005 moment”, more exactly from the end of 2004 to mid-2007, which saw the emergence of a new modality of this fragmentation, the break-up of the Palestinian political order and subsequent institutional division of June 2007. Upstream, Palestine experienced the death of Yasser Arafat in November 2004, the end of the second Intifada (at the turn of 2004-2005) and the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza (summer 2005) implemented by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The hypothesis of the determining role of this period is not only the fruit of an institutionalist whim: the combination of the different research objects presented in this issue makes it possible to see how what happens at the “center” of the Palestinian space – however much its legitimacy may have eroded – reflects into these marginal spaces. This 2005 moment is understood here as the signifier of this pivotal period – the beginnings of which can also be found with the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas to the Prime Minister’s office in March 2003 – and cannot by itself summarize the sequence of political transformations of this period.

A history marked by fragmentation

4The history of Palestine seems impossible to write without reference to the notion of fragmentation. The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the military victory of Zionist and then Israeli forces between 1947 and 1949 led to the massive exodus of the Palestinians and their dispersion between Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and some Gulf countries. To this first dispersal were added the so-called “1967” refugees who, following the Six Day War and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, found refuge in the Arab countries bordering Israel, followed by those “displaced” by the occupation since 1967. It is thus from within a fragmented social universe that the Palestinian national project must be constructed.

  • 3 Founded in 1964, the PLO assembled all political forces, with the notable exception of Hamas and th (...)

5Originating in 1993 with the signing of the Declaration of Principle, the Oslo Accords seem to mark a break, at least symbolically, with this fragmentation, insofar as they have been interpreted as a unifying factor, including by some fringes of the refugee population who saw it as the first step towards the realization of their “right of return”, even though the agreements left this question aside, relegating it to future negotiations on permanent status. Beyond the hope their conclusion may have aroused and the paradigmatic change implied by Israel’s recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO),3 the Oslo accords have been, from the beginning, the subject of lively political and intellectual controversy, some finding in them reason to rejoice in the advance towards self-determination (Khalidi, 1997), others considering the Accords a capitulation (Said, 2001). Without going into the details of these controversies here, the dynamics aroused by Oslo – the return of a few thousand men from the security forces and civilians surrounding Arafat, the territorialization of the Palestinian national movement (Sayigh, 1997; Picaudou, 1989) and the erection of a so-called “autonomous” political entity exercising (quite relative) control over its population – resulted in the creation of new forms of political, territorial and social fragmentation.

  • 4 This distinction is made on the basis of civilian and military affectation of territorial managemen (...)

6“Oslo Palestine” (Salingue, 2014) rhymes with territorial, administrative and legal fragmentation. The division anticipated by the agreements is based on a double division, not only between discontinuous Palestinian territories (the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem) that enjoy different legal statuses, but also within them, since they are divided between areas: Palestinian autonomy (A, B and C),4 and Israeli territories (settlements, military zones or nature reserves). In practice, the redistribution provided by Oslo led, under the Labor governments of Yitzhak Rabin and of Shimon Peres, to a strengthening of Israeli spatial control in the Territories (Debié and Fouet, 2001) through legal systems of land control, through the security network via the construction of so-called bypass roads and through the expansion of settlements, thus invalidating the idea according to which the Israeli right (Likud or the Orthodox movements) would be ideologically more inclined to authorize the establishment of settlements in “Judea Samaria “.

  • 5 According to the terminology used by the agreements. Palestinians will use the term “Palestinian Na (...)

7From the mid-1990s, the territorial network, of which the checkpoint is the most visible emblem, continued to weigh on the daily life of Palestinians, but also on the market and the economic development of the territories which, as negotiated in the Paris Protocol (1994) on trade between the Interim Palestinian National Self-Government Authority (PNA)5 and Israel, were extremely limited. Fully dependent on the Israeli market, the Palestinian economy was also threatened by restrictions on movement imposed on Palestinian workers working in Israel (Farsakh, 2005). Without falling into a simplifying teleology, these restrictions shared a large part in explaining the outbreak of the second Intifada.

8By seizing upon the security issue to strengthen their domination over the Palestinian Territories, the Israelis managed to impose new mechanisms of territorial, military and institutional control of the Palestinian West Bank, subjecting them to mass arrests (Latte-Abdallah, 2019), while announcing preparations for the final separation of Palestinian and Israeli populations for which the construction of the West Bank Wall would be the most emblematic illustration. Beyond the alleged desire to “separate” the two populations, the Israeli presence in the Territories was part of an intentional design to fragment the Palestinian social fabric, a favorite tactic in Israeli domination of Palestinian society (Legrain, 1996). Far from the announced separation, these different levels of fragmentation on the ground, led to a progressive entanglement of the Israeli and Palestinian populations, particularly in the border economy, giving rise to various processes for bypassing the occupation regime (Latte-Abdallah and Parizot, 2011).

9We cannot here list all levels of fragmentation as it would imply a particular attention to family and local affiliations in the construction of Palestinian social realities (Legrain, 1999). The policy pursued by Yasser Arafat at the time of Oslo, for example, could be challenged by Palestinians in the West Bank on grounds that the political team gathered around Arafat was made up exclusively of Gazans. The PLO’s concessions in 1993 could also be read, from the inside, as the result of a desire to impose themselves at all costs on a population which had just led a six-year popular struggle against the occupation.

  • 6 A term used to designate the tens of thousands of men who came or returned to settle in Palestine a (...)

10If divisions among Palestinians both from inside and from outside marked the political history of the national movement, the construction of political power in the Autonomous Territories undoubtedly reinforced this tension which now opposes returnees6 to indigenous Palestinian elites (Picaudou and Rivoal, 2006). As for Palestinians in Israel, already marginalized by the political changes operated by the PLO since 1974 in favor of a state situated on one part of Palestine, they were de facto excluded from the process begun in Oslo (Louër, 2003).

  • 7 The guiding line of the Oslo accords, the logic of redeployment in exchange for security remains th (...)

11By outlining a fragmentary framework largely inherited from Oslo, the ambition of this dossier is to underline the existence of continuities for understanding the post-2005 period, as much in the restrictive practices mobilized by Israel to impose its domination on Palestinians7 as in the specific dynamic by which Palestinian political actors preferred the pageantry of state sovereignty (Botiveau, 1999) over practical considerations regarding its implementation. It was the choice to erect a state administration against the wishes of an external population whose interests were at best, marginal to those of the new Ramallah authority that launched the progressive decline of the Palestinian national project (Al Husseini, Signoles, 2013). The creation in June 2007 of a second “center” of Palestinian authority embodied by Hamas in the Gaza Strip only exacerbated the dynamic of decline.

2005, the second life of the Palestinian National Authority

12On November 11, 2004, Yasser Arafat’s mortal remains left Villacoublay military airport (France) for Egypt on the first stage of their return to the West Bank. The Israelis had refused passage and interment in Jerusalem. A French Republican Guard military band accompanied this final flight and played the French and Palestinian anthems, an honor reserved for statesmen that the Israeli government roundly denounced, pointing out the ambiguity of the Palestinian National Authority’s political status. The man who led the Palestine Liberation Organization since 1969 through all of its mistakes and successes thus disappeared, giving way to the question of his succession and legacy. “The king is dead, long live the king !” to quote the medieval adage at the heart of the work of historian Ernst Kantorowicz (1957, reed. 2020) on the “two bodies of the king”, which raises the further question of legitimacy in the construction of power and the formation of the modern state.

  • 8 He was elected for a five-year term to expire in 2009 and has never been re-elected since. He has b (...)

13The election on January 9, 20058 of Mahmoud Abbas provided the Palestinian National Authority with a new king, a new “first body”, both carnal and human. The political exercise which followed and resulted in an institutional division (2007) and the brutalization of relations with the Palestinian population raised the question of just what would constitute the “second body”, both from the point of view of its legitimation and its exercise or representation (including symbolic). The changes observed were due, not only to the change of actors at the head of the executive, but to a reformulation of the illusio (Bourdieu, 1979) among Palestinians, from modes of protest to representations of what should be the exercise of “autonomous power”. Since the Palestinian authorities did not obtain peace – which would have resulted from negotiations at the end of the 1990s – but instead, a forced pacification in its relations with Israel at the end of the second Intifada, efforts were directed toward State building at all costs.

14This imperative, the beginnings of which appeared in the years following Oslo and which later took on a new dimension with the establishment of a second and competing power legitimized at the ballot box brought back up two questions: What would be the role for spaces outside the control of the Authority? For whom is the State created? The answers reflect on the “second life of the Authority” both from the West Bank occupied territories and from Gaza, and among Palestinian diaspora communities. From Palestinian refugees living in camps in Lebanon to Palestinian towns and villages in Israel and Palestinians in Europe, these populations have never been spared by the paradigm shifts at their political center. This is why the modalities of the exercise and representation of Palestinian power since 2005 make it possible to understand the effects of fragmentation of these Palestinian realities. The Authority thus appears for what it is: neither a tool for emancipation (the second Intifada ended in bloodshed and without concession on the occupation) nor an antechamber heralding the full and complete sovereignty that Oslo had padlocked, but as a substitute for the PLO (the only legally legitimate entity in the field) whose authority to “make” the voice of Palestine “heard” beyond its borders, while limiting any protest expression inside.

  • 9 With a particular view to the separation of powers and decentralization.
  • 10 Founded in 2002 and composed of representatives of the United Nations, the United States, the Europ (...)

15The contradictions of this injunction would quickly lead to a lasting political crisis. The legislative elections of January 2006, hailed for their success by observers, gave victory to Hamas, which obtained 74 seats (out of 132), far ahead of Fatah (45 seats). While Abbas’ presidency was called upon by its international donors and supporters, notably the United States and the European Union (EU), to carry out “democratization”9 reforms (Dabed: 2012), the Islamist movement’s electoral victory suddenly reversed the trend. Under mandate from the Quartet10 (United Nations, United States, European Union and the Russian Federation), the EU set up an emergency financial mechanism to bypass the Hamas-dominated government. Israel swiftly proceeded to arrest party figures, including eight ministers and thirty-three deputies, which until its dissolution in January 2019 hampered the exercise of legislative power embodied by the Palestinian Legislative Council.

  • 11 Annex II of the Oslo Declaration of Principle (August 20, 1993). Israel had simply authorized the e (...)
  • 12 An arrangement convenient for Israel since it limits the representation of Palestine to the West Ba (...)

16In March 2006, with the announcement of a tenth government, composed exclusively of Hamas representatives, it became clear there would be increased competition between Hamas and Fatah for representation of Palestinians outside of Palestine. The Oslo Accords had prohibited the PNA from the exercise of diplomacy,11 which remained exclusively the right of the PLO. But by unilateral12 decision, the Authority in 2002, created a Ministry of Foreign Affairs, giving itself the institutional means to exist in the diplomatic field, something Hamas attempted to mobilize when it assumed the ministerial functions devolved to it in 2006 (Seurat, 2015).

  • 13 Jean-François Legrain presents a much finer history of the social and political conditions underlyi (...)

17What followed was a series of clashes between Fatah and Hamas around the formation of the government and the distribution of powers. Dependence on international aid and Israeli security interference led to a dynamic of “civil war”,13 with Israel fanning the flames (Legrain, 2007). In June 2007, after days of armed clashes and an attempted coup by Fatah, Hamas pushed Fatah out of Gaza who promptly withdrew to the West Bank (Ramallah). As a result, the Authorities continued to coexist: one whose legitimacy arose at the ballot box, the other recognized as a legitimate interlocutor by the international community. Far from being limited to the West Bank and Gaza, the territory of their competition would henceforth extend to the camps in Lebanon where divisions between pro-PLO popular committees and those of the Alliance (al-taḥāluf) would be nurtured by this new division on the national political scene (Arsan: 2018).

  • 14 Former Director of Preventive Security in Gaza, Mr. Dahlan was a central figure in Fatah, until his (...)

18Competition between Fatah and Hamas resulted in a duplication of place and channel for resource distribution (financial, symbolic and political; Challand, 2008). Everywhere, one could observe militant strategies, careers and alliances informed by this overlapping existence. The coexistence of different popular committees in the camps in Lebanon, where local issues are transcribed in this “national” language of competition is a striking example (Guignard, 2011). We must also consider a second division, less central, which hit Fatah in 2011. Under the guise of the fight against corruption and to rule out his most embarrassing rival, Mahmoud Abbas instituted legal proceedings against a Fatah central committee member, Mohammed Dahlan,14 who chose to go into exile and settled in the United Arab Emirates. The emergence of a third node of Palestinian power in Abu Dhabi, even without the power of the authorities established in Gaza and Ramallah, completes the picture of this fragmented and competitive political space.

19As seen by Palestinians in exile, this fragmentation goes hand in hand with a feeling of estrangement projected by a power that seems not to want to govern and has shown little appetite for uniting and leading the estimated 60 % of the total Palestinian population within their purview (PCBS, 2020). The “mutation” observed by Al Husseini and Signoles (2011) within the diaspora is the result of this contradiction between state building and the formation of national identity (or consciousness). Nijmeh Ali (2018) speaks of “dispersed communities” to describe the state of abandonment of Palestinians in Syria. Whether the Palestinian president invites refugees in Lebanon to behave as “guests” or whether representations of the National Authority are seen to compete with traditional expressions of Palestinian representation (E.G., General Union of Palestinian Students in France or Popular Committees of the camps), the message seems clear: the time has come for State-making, even if only in appearance. This approach resonates with the economic line of conduct of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (2007-2013), champion of state building, who would make Palestine into a liberalized market tributary to Israel (Haddad, 2016).

  • 15 Arrested in 2002, he faces a life sentence for murder. He embodies, within Fatah, a political line (...)

20The Ramallah Authority continues, outside of its territorial limits, to compete with other centers of power in its desire to monopolize the legitimate voice of Palestine. If it opposes Hamas in the first place, it must also confront dissent within Fatah, mainly embodied by Mr. Dahlan, but also by Marwan Barghouti15, a figure central to international campaigns seeking to denounce “Israeli apartheid”. The Authority’s initiative to gain recognition for the “State of Palestine” enabled it to vindicate this right, by opening embassies, accessing international organizations (UNESCO was the first to open its doors to it as a Member State) or through international criminal justice enforcement to counter further colonization.

  • 16 Unlike the Salafist-jihadist groups, with whom cooperation is difficult, Hamas maintains good relat (...)

21Within their territories, the Authority, the authorities face several challenges. Whatever choices they make when it comes to confrontation with Israel, they are implementing policies that seek to limit competition and monopolize legitimate modes of protest. Thus, Hamas must contend with a myriad of armed groups, some of which are affiliated with Fatah16, in trying to keep control of the military agenda and the outbreak of hostilities. The movement has been accused of defending Israeli state interests since 2009 and preventing other factions from carrying out “resistance” operations and firing rockets at the Hebrew state. Hamas has been suspected of “negotiating” an end to the March of Return in exchange for a separate truce with Israel. In the West Bank, Fatah not only disarms the armed groups close to it (Tanzim, brigades of al-Aqsa martyrs) or groups claiming to be the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) or the PIJ, it also tries to govern the emerging forms of protest: boycotts or weekly demonstrations in the villages crossed by the Wall (like Nabi Saleh).

22The control of Islamist militants, which is the basis for security cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, was given new meaning after 2007. For the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, “arrest the Islamist” no longer simply means ensuring the security of the occupier or a means of asserting its power (Frisch, 2006; Legrain, 2007; Lia, 2007), it is now understood as a means to ensure its own political survival. Such a mode of management of the opposition would gradually extend to other protest segments (Tartir and Seidel, 2019): social margins of the camps (Ouchaklian, 2016), internal opposition (arrest of trade union leader Bassam Zakarneh in November 2014, trial of the “dahlanists” in March 2015) or repression of social movements such as the teachers’ strike in 2016.

23Here then, is the paradox of Palestine after 2005: heir to a fragmented territory resulting from the Oslo accords, its power is not only sapped by persistent colonial encroachments which undermine any ambition for territorial continuity, but it must also deal with the political division arising with Hamas’ triumph in 2007. Weakened by polarization and held to the imperative of security cooperation, its authority is more and more explicitly characteristic of an “authoritarianism of the occupied” (Ghanem, 2002; Sayigh, 2011). Representative of only a fraction of the Palestinian population, the Authority pretends to ignore those on the outside who are on a path to normalizing the state’s existence. Finally, the Authority must deal with the renewal of the techniques that form the basis of the Israeli occupation regime (Perugini, 2014; Latte Abdallah and Parizot, 2017).

24During this period, research conditions in the field, were increasingly disrupted by access restrictions. The Gaza blockade made it virtually impossible to carry out long-term investigation in that enclave. In the West Bank, the partial lifting of the closure of the territory after the second Intifada (Romani, 2016) gave way to travel visa restrictions (necessarily Israeli since the Authority does not have control of its own territorial limits) for those whose destination was the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Chaveneau, 2016). The articles presented below highlight certain strategies for bypassing lands made inaccessible by authoritarian confinement, by the violence of ongoing conflicts or by Israeli restrictions. We regret, with the authors, that none of the papers presented is completely anchored in Gaza, even if numerous data allow us not to forget this territory which is experiencing, in addition to a security blackout, an unprecedented humanitarian crisis going back to the 2006 siege.

Draw me Palestine

25The various Palestinian spaces are not frozen in time, their representation and their borders evolve and remind us of the need to contextualize the categories used. In 1989, when Camille Mansour published his work on the “Palestinians of the Interior” (Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories), he emphasized that the intellectual and political center was, and would likely remain for some time, on the outside. Hence, it is the “interior” that appears as otherness in mainstream Palestinian political thought. Indeed, the meeting of these two worlds was not a smooth process and was reflected in the sociology of the emerging institutions of the Authority (Al Husseini and Doraï, 2003; Picaudou and Rivoal, 2006).

26Noting the reversal that is taking place with the emergence of Palestinian institutions in the territories (Heacock, 1999), research subsequent to Mansour’s endeavored to characterize its effects on the distant spaces of the refugee camps (Doraï, 2006; Hanafi and Knudsen, 2011) on power relations and ideological production (Dot-Pouillard, 2016). Hanafi (1997) also showed how the first effects of displacement (in particular, entrepreneurial) clouded the boundary between interior and exterior, recalling that the issue of mobility sets apart the different Palestinian margins. This is primarily due to the legal regimes that govern those Palestinians who live outside (regardless of whether they are refugees, citizens of a country maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel, etc.).

27Such research helped us understand how the displacement of centers of power or mobilization influenced the rearrangement of these spaces (and their representation) between themselves and the forms of competition or exclusion deployed in those places. Under the effect of the birth of an autonomous power in the territories, the society in exile found itself and considered itself “diasporized” (Signoles and Al Husseini, 2013), in other words assigned a new distance from the center of power, only to be “marginalized” again as a result of its inability to join forces participate in the dynamics of state control wished by the PNA, except for a small educated fraction who could, for a time, make a career of returning to Palestine (Guignard, 2016).

28The fact remains that in reaction to, or in parallel with these processes, there operated a (re) invention of the Palestinian political identity, noticeable “at a distance”, in the weakening of linkages to the national movement, in the emergence of new mobilizations or in the extension of the political space towards new exteriors. On the subject, Mjriam Abu Samra and Loubna Qutami’s article explores the political rebuilding of youth movements in exile. By comparing the current Palestinian Youth Movement with the youth movements of the 1950s-60s, they examined the reinvention of a national movement outside of Palestine through the fabrication of ideological frameworks, uprooted mobilizations and political action techniques, where exile becomes a resource to re-energize a national liberation project.

29In so doing, they made it possible to place the question of fragmentation in the long view of Palestinian political history and within the very spaces of exile, where other authors have analyzed it from the perspective of the effects of militant, ideological generations taken in their regional context (Dot-Pouillard, 2016). These works however, converge on the fact that they start from ideology in order to understand its translation into political decisions that give flesh (and spirit) to the question of national liberation. This work is a methodical genealogical exploration that questions the formation and militant adoption of a political repertoire, as well as the articulation between different perceptions of the territory “to be liberated” and the interaction strategies maintained by these militants with Israel, the Arab countries or other Palestinian areas. As their work recalls, Palestine is first and foremost a place for the projection of political action which continues to be debated by those who, in exile, were least dispossessed by the emergence of power in the territories.

30Nicolas Dot-Pouillard addressed more directly the effects of this 2005 moment outside the territories. In Lebanon, 2005 marked the departure of the Syrian troops after massive social mobilizations which drove Lebanon into a new era of its post-civil war political management (1975-1990). A year later, the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC) was created and the PLO reopened its representation in Beirut. The two sides entered a new era, each “playing the game” of state representation and the other’s sovereignty. The Palestinian voice which was now heard was no longer that of some 175,000 refugees from the camps in Lebanon according to the LPDC counts, but that of Ramallah through its embassy. The change left a lot of people on the sidelines. Dot-Pouillard relates the reinvention of places of the political spectrum (where it is exercised as well as where it is imaginatively deployed) through two apparently contradictory movements: the relocation through competition between newly created neighborhood committees and popular committees, inherited from the presence of the PLO in Lebanon, and the emergence of a Salafist-jihadist militancy, which was already observed in the 2000s (Rougier, 2004). What is left of the Palestinian identity in the forms of engagement seeking a definitive installation (tawṭīn) outside Palestine or an integration into a transnational ideology? Dot-Pouillard’s first suggestion is that these political forms give credit to the aspirations of those who define themselves as such, which the current Palestinian national movement does not seem capable of doing.

Mobilization, between the Authority and Israel

31If we stick to the example of the Intifada of Jerusalem which began in the fall of 2015, also called “Intifada of individuals” (Intifāḍat al-afrād), the forms of mobilization used were the work of young actors, detached from any visible partisan connection. How should we consider these protests, as an individualization of protest or as an abandonment of collective processes? The mobilizations erupting in the territories generally encounter difficulties when attempting to solve insoluble problems: how to oppose the Authority without serving the occupation? How to fight for social and political rights while making allowances for the omnipresence of Israeli colonialism?

  • 17 In Gaza, the situation was different. Since 30 March 2018, a weekly Great March of Return was organ (...)

32The answer is all the more complex given that the Authority, whose legitimacy is shaky, fears any protest rally, even the most symbolic celebrations. May 15, 2018 was the day of the 70th commemoration of the Nakba (the 1948 “catastrophe” which marks the exodus of the Palestinian population as a result of the creation of Israel). In the West Bank, the authorities feared an overflow of the anti-establishment dynamics against them and mobilized their security forces en masse. They restricted calls for mobilization as much as possible.17 By doing so they challenged their symbolic role as “guardians of patriotism”, to use the expression of one of the people interviewed by Caterina Bandini.

33The Palestinians Caterina Bandini met were part of a dialogue initiative launched by a group of settlers, around the guardian figure of Rabbi Menachem Froman (who died in 2013). She noted the ambiguity of a Palestinian power bound by its cooperation (at least for security reasons) with Israel, yet handling with efficiency the accusation of “normalization” against Palestinians engaged in dialogue with Israelis, an extremely powerful social stigma in a colonized society. What were the activists she met betting on? Oslo did not stop colonization, quite the contrary, and those in Israel with whom “peace” is contemplated are precisely those with whom they must live, due to the pressure of the expansion of the settlements. Through their action, they intend to denounce both the monopolization, by the Palestinian power, of the resources and advantages of nationalism that the Authority opposes to any alternative form of mobilization and the failure of its mandate in gaining sovereignty (expressed by separation from the Israelis).

34Caterina Bandini’s work finds an echo in the work of Minas Ouchaklian, who, from the Dheisheh refugee camp, observed other forms of mobilization experimenting with opposition to the Authority. Relying on the assumption of a change in the methods of control of those populations at the margins, he sees in the second life of the Authority the moment when the power decides to no longer exercise control at a distance in these exceptional spaces (Hanafi et al. Long, 2010), but to exercise control over the speakable and the militant doable in a more direct way. Ouhaklian’s ethnographic investigation into the footsteps of a riot and the police power mobilized underlines how the transformations of (security) power are shaping social relations, by instilling doubt, paranoia and fear of denunciation. A whole ecosystem of social and police control which shows how authoritarianism is a “syndrome” (Camau and Geisser, 2003), acting within a social space which can simultaneously defend it, embody it and be disaggregated from it. These two contributions share an approach to showing how different forms of mobilization raise the issue of emancipation from the patronage of the central power as a strategy to avoid too direct a confrontation with the Authority. In other words, how militants try to do without the Authority but, in doing so, expose the incompleteness of its claim for a State (permanence of exceptional spaces, of the colonial presence) to which it responds only by force or exclusion.

35Camille Lévy’s investigative work explores another Palestinian mobilization, unaffected by the issue of the Authority, because it is taking place in Israel. The mobilization of Palestinian Christians in Israel is not so much part of this post-2005 Palestinian temporality as it is part of Israeli ethnonationalism (which inspired the 2018 Jewish Nation-State Law) or of the perception of a rise in religious sectarianism in the region, which is occurring at their expense. The distinctive identity observed by Lévy in the attitude of Christian elites stems from the mobilization of a lexicon and religious references that give a singular path to Palestinian Christianity in Israel. She notes, however, that it does not occur to the detriment of their Palestinian identity but rather within its framework. It is in relation to their experience as Palestinians that confessional elites, artists and militant groups seek to organize and unite a population who find their rightful place in opposition to the Israeli management of national minorities, first and foremost Palestinians. Lévy underlines that the strength of the nationalist discourse in this “double minority” population barely masks the erosion of the social bond experienced on a daily basis, between Christian communities, as well as among Palestinians in Israel and also with those in the territories, who have never seemed so far away. The absence of the Authority as a point of reference, despite its location a few kilometers from the Palestinian villages of Israel, is a reminder of the limited reach of the political center.

Dealing with fragmentation

36Finally, two contributions make it possible to illustrate, through the detours of economics or artistic practices, the way Palestinians deal with this fragmented reality.

37The work of Taher Labadi, who like other researchers of Palestinian origin has been denied access to the field, shows how the restriction mechanisms described above go so far as to hinder academic work. Forced to rely on other sources for further research, Labadi, as others, uses these bans as resources for socio-political analysis of economic realities. Contrary to the ideology promoted by major international organizations that continue to assess the “success” of the Palestinian economy, Labadi refutes the theory of the existence of an “autonomous” Palestinian economy. Far from confining himself to presenting the systems of constraints and dependencies in which the Palestinian economy has been embedded since Oslo, he shows how it is entrenched in multiple constraints at the intersection of the Israeli occupation and the international aid on which entire sectors of Palestinian society now depend.

38Focused on the attributes of sovereignty, the elites in place in Ramallah have made growth and institutional consolidation a priority, an economic counterpart to the fixation on a “State at any cost”. On the contrary, Labadi’s work undermines the very idea of ​singularity, given the situation of entanglement with the Israeli economy. In doing so, he analyzes the dependence of the Palestinian economy by detailing the modalities of Israel’s control over its productive apparatus, its workforce and distribution channels. He highlights how the influx of international aid has destabilized some economic sectors and the damaging role of predation by national elites. His work emphasizes the idea of fragmentation as a condition for the absorption of Palestinian economic activity by the Israeli economy. Drawing on the work of Raja Khalidi, Labadi shows how enclaves coexist in Palestine and how they depend, each in their own way, on the Israeli metropolis, and form a fragmented space held in a peripheral dimension.

39At the crossroads of Arab and theatrical studies, the work of Najla Nakhlé-Cerruti shows how, from the point of view of the literary creation process as well as stage production, the artist collective “Identity in a laboratory” has managed to overcome the structural constraints of the occupation: by adapting to obstacles to the mobility of artists and movement of theatrical troupes; by using theater as a tool of political resistance.

40Through the theatrical scene she was able to reflect on the mobilizations of the Palestinians of East Jerusalem through the Palestinian National Theater, together with Palestinians of Israel founders in 2016 of the Khashabi Theater, the first independent Palestinian theater in Haifa – a city emptied of its Palestinian population in 1948 and as such a symbol of the Nakba. As she studied these two places the author was able to meet a generation of very different artists and identify heuristic transformations such as the transition from Hebrew to Arabic by a younger generation of Palestinians living in Israel and educated in Israeli universities. Here again, the period that begins at the end of the second Intifada is of particular interest to the author; a period in which increasing restrictions led her to reflect on writing and directing in the fragmentary conditions of contemporary Palestine. Far from initiating a reduction of the places of creation, this context produces, at all levels of the creative process, “attempts to enlarge” the theatrical space. The stage space appears as a means of going beyond the imposed borders and of bringing people together “through the stage and on the stage”. Contrary to the center / periphery dichotomy, it is indeed a polycentric Palestine that invites us to think about the experience of the troupe, emphasizing the diasporic dimension of the Palestinian identity and the multiplicity of its components.

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1 The authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers and the members of the REMMM editorial board for their comments and suggestions for improvement, which made it possible to clarify the purpose of this introduction. They also wish to thank Jean-François Legrain for his careful and benevolent proofreading, as well as Robin Beaumont for his editing work.

2 The distinction between "Jews" and "Arabs" is inherited from the Mandate period (1920-1948), used at the time to challenge Palestinian vindications. If we are to speak of Palestinians from Lebanon, it would be fair to talk about Palestinians from Israel.

3 Founded in 1964, the PLO assembled all political forces, with the notable exception of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

4 This distinction is made on the basis of civilian and military affectation of territorial management, between the nascent Authority and the occupying power, and was intended to frame the process of withdrawal of the Israeli army. To these three areas must be added military zones, nature reserves and security perimeters around settlements.

5 According to the terminology used by the agreements. Palestinians will use the term “Palestinian National Authority” (PNA), for reasons of legitimacy; It is this term that has become established and that we will take up again in this article.

6 A term used to designate the tens of thousands of men who came or returned to settle in Palestine after 1993 to form the bulk of the politico-military apparatus of the PNA. There are also Palestinian investors from the Arab and Western diaspora.

7 The guiding line of the Oslo accords, the logic of redeployment in exchange for security remains the central discursive framework of the Israelis.

8 He was elected for a five-year term to expire in 2009 and has never been re-elected since. He has been president for the duration.

9 With a particular view to the separation of powers and decentralization.

10 Founded in 2002 and composed of representatives of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia, the Quartet proposed to the two parties a roadmap for coexistence between Israel and Palestine, within recognized borders. This step-by-step plan (which first demanded from the Palestinians an end to violence and a fight “against terrorism” was accepted by the Palestinian side, but Israel set conditions which distorted the initial Brief. The Quartet eventually played a decisive role in the boycott of the Palestinian government after the January 2006 legislative elections.

11 Annex II of the Oslo Declaration of Principle (August 20, 1993). Israel had simply authorized the establishment of a Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation headed by Nabil Shaath, whose role was reduced to governing trade and financial agreements with other states and managing development aid.

12 An arrangement convenient for Israel since it limits the representation of Palestine to the West Bank and occupied territories.

13 Jean-François Legrain presents a much finer history of the social and political conditions underlying this confrontation, going back to the roots of the popular protest against the domination of Fatah. He points to the turning point represented by these elections in entrusting Hamas with the leadership of the national movement and the responsibility of the actors cited in the drift toward a “civil war”. His work shows how this institutional history is possibly related to the underlying social tensions, which he models in return.

14 Former Director of Preventive Security in Gaza, Mr. Dahlan was a central figure in Fatah, until his expulsion from the central committee in 2009. Since his exile, he has been at the heart of political-business relations in the United Arab Emirates, the Balkans and the Arab countries.

15 Arrested in 2002, he faces a life sentence for murder. He embodies, within Fatah, a political line that combines political pragmatism and support for the “two-state solution” with dissenting pluralism, embracing both peaceful forms and the armed struggle to counter the Israeli occupation. He continues to enjoy popularity, see Bucaille (1999).

16 Unlike the Salafist-jihadist groups, with whom cooperation is difficult, Hamas maintains good relations with the armed Fatah groups in Gaza.

17 In Gaza, the situation was different. Since 30 March 2018, a weekly Great March of Return was organized, in the form of a rally along the border with nearly 200 deaths at the hands of the Israeli army. In another action, on 14 May 2018 to protest the displacement of the American embassy to Jerusalem, 60 people were killed.

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Xavier Guignard et Leila Seurat, « Thoughts toward a reconsideration of Palestinian Fragmentation post-2005 »Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée [En ligne], 147 | 2020, mis en ligne le , consulté le 24 février 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Xavier Guignard

Paris 1 Univ, Cnrs, CESSP, Paris, France

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Leila Seurat

IEP Paris, Cnrs, Paris, France

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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