International Journal of Middle East Studies

Articles

The Role of the Professional Middle Class in the Mobilization of Palestinian Society: The Medical and Agricultural Committees

Glenn E. Robinsona1

a1 Teaches political science at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif. 93943, U.S.A.

The political mobilization of Palestinians in the occupied territories in the 1980s was closely tied to the rise of a new elite and the marginalization of the traditional notable leadership. Such mobilization was necessary in order to overcome, at least in part, the class, kin, and regional cleavages that had long fragmented Palestinian society and that had been used by occupying powers to undermine collective national action. The mobilization of Palestinian society by a new elite was made possible by structural changes that had led to the peripheralization of the traditional elite. The three most important structural changes were the dramaticrise of wage labor after 1967, which transfigured a basically peasant society, extensive land confiscations, and the widespread availability of university education after 1972. Each of these developments helped to break traditional patron–client relations that had been the social base of the old elite and paved the way for the rise of a more extensive, better educated, more rural, and nonlanded elite which had gained cohesion in thePalestinian universities. In addition, these developments, and in particular the diminution of the Palestinian peasantry, meant that large segments of the population had, in effect, been cleaved from their social moorings and were, thus, more open for recruitment into new forms of social relations and organizations. It is to refer to these structural changes in Palestinian society that I use the term “social mobilization.”

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