Attitudes to Social Divisions in Palestinian Society

However, Palestinian society also contains other divisions, for instance, between the poor and rich, the old and young, management and employees. (See also Chapter 8). What are Palestinian perceptions concerning the conflict potential of these divisions and do they vary according to region? In table 9.4 the regional index separates refugee camps (both in Gaza and the West Bank ) into a distinct category.

In comparison to the results of an international survey of several different countries, the degree of perceived conflict in Palestinian society is high1. Notably, it is highest in Arab Jerusalem, the region which also enjoys the best physical living conditions. This is also the region in which the process of change has been most profound, the competition between contending political and social ideas most enunciated and the degree of interaction with Israel most intense. Gaza as well as the camps are located on the opposing end of the spectrum. For many in Gaza, life has been characterised not so much by rapid change as by prolonged stagnation. Moreover, except in the sphere of wage labour in Israel, Gaza is in many ways sealed off from daily contact with Israeli society. The contact that does occur often takes the form of violent confrontation. It could well be that the intensity of this confrontation generates a special feeling of solidarity which mutes Gazan perceptions of conflicts that are more internal to the Palestinian situation, a point also commented on in Chapter 4 and Chapter 8. Interestingly, Arab Jerusalem where the discrepancy between men and women concerning the status of women is least is also the region in which conflict between men and women is viewed as most acute. Reversely, in Gaza where these discrepancies are most marked, the degree of reported conflict is lowest.

Do the patterns of perceived conflict vary between men and women?

In general women perceive more conflict than men. When the data is analyzed on a regional level, women resident in Arab Jerusalem seem markedly more inclined to perceive conflict than any other segment of the population. The discrepancy between men and women among Palestinians generally is particularly evident in their views concerning the degree of conflict between men and women. The gap is also notable in their varying perceptions of the conflict between unemployed and employed, a conflict that women experience directly through the loss of income of household members. The only dimension in which the pattern is broken is the conflict between management and workers, the conflict which Palestinians as a whole regard as most intense. This is a conflict which is largely played out in the work place, an arena in which women's participation is minimal.

Table 9.4 Percentage of Palestinians who perceive the degree of conflict as strong or very strong: by region
BetweenGazaWest BankArab JerusalemCamps
Rich and poor32495538
Old and young31495442
Employed and unemployed34324332
Management and workers35576444
Urban and rural14172216
Men and women28334833

Age and education also affects perception of conflict, but again these variables have very different impacts for men and women.

Table 9.5 Percentage of Palestinians who perceive the degree of conflict as strong or very strong by gender
Rich and poor4445
Old and young4149
Employed and unemployed2937
Management and workers5743
Urban and rural1518
Men and women2642

For men perceptions of conflict in general are not significantly altered by increased education. More than any other factor, they seem to be determined by age - the old reporting more intense degrees of conflict than the young. In fact the very stability of men's perception of conflict, despite different educational and age levels, is unexpected. For women the picture is very different. Their perception of conflict seems much more influenced by differentials in age and education. While older women are much more prone to report conflict, the impact of education greatly intensifies the perceived pattern of conflict among younger women. Partly this is explained by the fact that educated women are more certain in their attitudes. They make specific choices rather than stating that they simply cannot choose. But their choices go overwhelming in the direction of observing the world with a more acute sense of severe conflict. The combined impact of age and education can also partly explain the conflictive profiles of women in Arab Jerusalem, in which older, well educated women are over-represented in relation to the Palestinian population generally.

Table 9.6 Impact of background variables on perception of conflict
Rich and poor0++-0++++
Old and young0++0++++
Employed and unemployed0000++++
Management and workers0+++++0+++++
Urban and rural0000++0
Men and women0+00+++

+++	=	very strong positive correlation (more conflictive)
++	=	strong positive correlation
+	=	weak positive correlation
0	=	no correlation
-	=	weak negative correlation (less conflictive)

Significantly, economic position seems to have little, if any, impact on perceptions of conflict, a result quite different from that characteristic of Western class based societies. This would seem to indicate that class based attitudes and identifications remain relatively undeveloped in Palestinian society partly due, perhaps, to the continued primacy of family links and vertical clientele relationships.


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