Palestinians - Sociopolitical Organization

Palestinians inhabiting the West Bank are under Israeli rule, but in Gaza and Jericho they live under the Palestine National Authority. In Jordan, where they constitute 60 to 70 percent of the population, they are full citizens. In other Arab countries, Palestinians are resident aliens, carrying temporary UN travel document. Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem are still Jordanian nationals. In Gaza they are stateless, and within Israel they are citizens of the Jewish state.

Social Organization. Before 1948, Palestinians were divided along class lines determined by private wealth. In the Christian community, class differentiation accorded more to educational level than to wealth. The Muslim and Christian communities were always allied in the national struggle. The Palestinian diaspora after 1948 had a great leveling impact. The massive loss of land weakened the landowning class. Education is highly valued as a movable form of wealth and the determinant of status. Today there is a large professional class that prospered as a result of employment in the Persian Gulf countries.

Political Organization. In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians have been living under Israeli military rule since 1967. Those living in Arab Jerusalem, annexed to Israel in 1967, are allowed to participate in municipal elections but are barred from national elections. Because Jerusalem's Arabs are Jordanian citizens, they do not enjoy Israeli civil liberties. The Israelis permitted one round of municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 1976, but since then most town councils have been headed by Israeli military officers. The Islamic religious institutions of Jerusalem and the West Bank, which are linked to Jordan, are still under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Muslim Council. Within Israel proper, Palestinians are full citizens, but they suffer from frequent land confiscations and exclusion from military service and from higher political office. The PLO, on the other hand, functions as a nonterritorial state, with a parliament in exile, an executive committee, and militia units.

Social Control. Social control is exercised by the family, females being subjected to greater restrictions than males. In some refugee camps, social control was dictated by the PLO, which attempted to influence the patterns of female education and female morality.

Conflict. Palestinians suffer from harsh military rule in the West Bank and from constant police surveillance in Arab countries. Clashes with the Israeli military and with Israeli settlers are frequent. The mythology of the popular uprising of 1987, the intifada, still exercises a powerful influence on the popular imagination.

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