Polarized and Demobilized
Legacies of Authoritarianism in Palestine
Part of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies Series
A frank assessment of how burgeoning authoritarianism among elites has divided Palestinians and divested them of political power.
After the 1994 Oslo Accords, Palestinians were hopeful that an end to the Israeli occupation was within reach, and that a state would be theirs by 1999. With this promise, international powers became increasingly involved in Palestinian politics, and many shadows of statehood arose in the territories. Today, however, no state has emerged, and the occupation has become more entrenched. Concurrently, the Palestinian Authority has become increasingly authoritarian, and Palestinians ever more polarised and demobilised.
Palestine is not unique in this: international involvement, and its disruptive effects, have been a constant across the contemporary Arab world. This book argues that internationally backed authoritarianism has an effect on society itself, not just on regime-level dynamics. It explains how the Oslo paradigm has demobilised Palestinians in a way that direct Israeli occupation, for many years, failed to do. Using a multi-method approach including interviews, historical analysis, and cutting-edge experimental data, Dana El Kurd reveals how international involvement has insulated Palestinian elites from the public, and strengthened their ability to engage in authoritarian practices. In turn, those practices have had profound effects on society, including crippling levels of polarisation and a weakened capacity for collective action.
Dana El Kurd is a researcher at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies and a lecturer in its sister institution, the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. She specialises in comparative politics and international relations of the Arab world, particularly how authoritarianism endures, and how societies challenge it meaningfully.