Chapter 1

The Transformation of Palestinian Society:
Fragmentation and Occupation

Salim Tamari


The present level of living conditions study is the first contemporary attempt to present a social and demographic profile of Palestinian society in order to isolate its dynamic variables for the purpose of analysis, comparison, and social planning. The society it describes is one that is dispersed over several social formations and communities, its fragmentation being the product of successive wars (most notably the war of l948 and the June war of l967) with the Israelis. The condition of exile, which has affected more than one half of Palestinians, has stamped the collective consciousness, cultural trends, as well as the political behaviour of Palestinians throughout the Middle East and in the diaspora.

The purpose of this chapter is to present the socio-historical context of the material discussed in the survey. The focus is on those segments of Palestinian society which came under Israeli control in 1967. Collectively those segments (with the Galilee) contain the largest global concentration of Palestinians today. Data for 1991 indicate that a full 42% of all Palestinians live in the occupied territories and in Israel (18.6% in the West Bank and Jerusalem, 10.8% in Gaza, and 12.6% in Israel).1 The bulk of the rest are distributed in Jordan (31.6%), Lebanon (5.7%), Syria (5.2%), and the rest of the Arab world (7.7%).2 This pattern of dispersal is particularly crucial for our analysis in this survey, not only because the future of the Palestinians is being determined on part of their historic land in the current peace negotiations, but also because these territories constitute a historic continuity with Mandatory Palestine of the pre-1948 period.


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