Let us turn back to the opening question of this chapter: How have Palestinian refugees adapted economically in the communities where they live? We note some crucial differences between the economic conditions in the three areas we have studied. In Lebanon, the Palestinians do not get work permits, and are thus excluded from the legal labour market. In Jordan, Palestinians have formal rights as citizens, but complaints about discrimination are common. Refugees in the West Bank have to relate to an economy functioning under occupation.

The Palestinians, with their wide varieties of socio-economic background have reacted to these economic challenges by applying a range of strategies of adaptation. The strategy can be characterised by whether it is based on one or several activities, or whether it based on short- or long term output motives.

The case-studies show examples of the process of choosing between different income generating activities, adapted to the specific local conditions. We have seen that it is possible to take advantage of the lack of state control in Lebanon, like Abu Rashid, who managed to incorporate into the local informal economy. His case has some noteworthy features: He used his family as labour when expansion was required for his spraying business, thus keeping a better grip on the outcome. He combined different activities; spraying, renting land for farming, and building dwellings for rent.

In another case, the truck driver Ahmed in Amman who used his uncle as an agent for importing cars, showing how refugees can turn their Diaspora situation, with relatives spread in many countries, to advantage for doing international business. He was a bit more unlucky, probably because he was dependent on one activity, and did not manage to keep on through a down-period.

In the West Bank, the very productive family of Haitham combined secure jobs in UNRWA with a profitable driving school, making it possible to move out from the camp without taking up loans. An important economic adaptation to the occupation situation has been to work in Israel, where salaries are higher than in the West Bank. The intifada and the border closure have limited this option, but it is still there, on a lower scale.

Many of the cases show how important the construction of social network is; in cases where there has been a good network, like in some family enterprises, there is a solid base for productivity. Others, without close kinship and relation networks - like the driver Ahmed, whose uncle refused to help him when Ahmad faced certain difficulties, lack this social security base.

When it comes to incorporation, the fieldwork findings indicate that Palestinians have succeeded, in different degrees, in incorporate with the local informal sector, but not necessarily into the formal sector.

Furthermore, both successful and less successful families, the there is a widespread pooling of resources; for the rich family, savings can be used for collective investments, for the poorer, the collective attitude is a tool for reallocation of resources and social security. Thus, the strategy of combination of different activities to underpin long time concerns seems to have been at easier access for those refugees who from the beginning had some economic resources.


Palestinians have since 1948 been dispersed in different countries in and outside the Middle East. They display a range of coping strategies for survival in an every-day life which many, to a certain extent, do not have control over. The ever-changing political environments, for instance, have created insecure conditions which have affected the construction of viable Palestinian households. Military upheavals such as the 1948 and the 1967 wars, the 1970 civil strife in Jordan, the 14-year long civil war in Lebanon, the intifada which started in the Occupied Territories in 1987, and the Gulf war of 1990-91 are political events which have affected the settlement pattern of Palestinians in new localities more than one time and thereby affected the daily lives.

Seen from this perspective, an observer is apt to indicate that Palestinians live in an atmosphere distinguished by permanent change and fluctuation. While this observation holds true for those who have been involuntarily uprooted more than two times during their lifetime, we have nevertheless chosen to focus on the way Palestinians have coped with their refugee-existence and the strategies
they have applied in order to survive outside their homeland.

Our main concern in this report has thus been to highlight the variety of processes Palestinians have been part of, and the divergent strategies that have been implemented when responding to changing environments.

As a collective body, Palestinians are still regarded by the international community as refugees. Palestinians also still perceive themselves as bearing a collective refugee-status. However, they have, at the individual and household levels, adapted in various ways to their environments, whether these have been different states, communities or neighbourhoods.

In the introduction we outlined four main strategies of adaptation, namely assimilation, segregation, incorporation and migration. The cases presented show varying mixtures of these strategies.

What we find as striking similarities between the settings is a certain unity in the kinds of responses taken by individual Palestinians and their households when the resources at hand have been similar. Likewise, the lack of these resources also engender comparable responses. In this report we have tried to trace some of these responses made by Palestinians residing in different refugee camps, and to a certain extent, by those living outside camps. The resources do not necessarily represent material goods and capital. Resources also include:
  1. the family as a collective network;
  2. favourable legal regulations governing the Palestinian presence;
  3. accumulated knowledge in the form of specialised vocations and education;
  4. access to economically profitable labour markets;
  5. networks over geographical boundaries.
The first resource, family networks and collectives, is a key-variable for understanding the multiple forms and composition of coping strategies applied by refugees. Households, for instance, operate as a collective economic entity where household members pool parts or all of their income. If one member participates in the labour market, he or she is able to increase another householdmember's career opportunity by investing in that member's education. In the long run, investment in one member's education-expenses is seen to increase the opportunities available to the whole household. Individuals thus perceive their interests as compatible to the interests of the collective they are members in.

In all four settings we find examples where family networks have been instrumental when Palestinian households have adapted to their environments. In some cases family networks are incorporated into their surroundings such as the case of Fuad (presented on page 69) who has established a carpenter workshop in Amman and settled right outside the Nasr camp. In other cases, family networks have constituted segregated entities within the society. Maher in Askar (presented on page 50) lived outside the camp for three years but did not incorporate in the new neighbourhood. He chose to move back to the camp mainly because it was the place where his relatives reside.

At times, we are able to observe adaptation strategies which illustrate both incorporation and segregation depending on the context in which the adaptation process has taken place. Abu Rashid and his family in Lebanon (presented on page 66), for instance, are incorporated in the economic sphere of the country in which they reside in. However, the members of the extended family continue to reside in Rashidiyya, a camp clearly segregated from the surrounding society, although they own a four-storey building outside the camp. A segregated settlement-pattern is thereby exhibited which does not necessarily reflect the overall adaptation of the family in the country they reside in.

The second type of resources which significantly affect the adaptation process of Palestinians in the states they reside in are the degree of favourable legal regulations. The legal framework found in each state has long been underestimated as an important factor when the situation of Palestinians in different states in the Middle East was compared. The possession or non-possession of vital documents such as residency permits, working permits, UNRWA-registration cards, ID-cards and citizenship, provide states with control mechanisms which individual Palestinians have to succumb to. Legal regulations thus create a situation of insecurity to the very existence of Palestinians in the places where they reside whenever individuals do not fulfil the requirements set by the states. If the option of migration to other countries where the personal security is better is not available or possible due to economic reasons or legal requirements, many Palestinians are thus forced to live in a security situation marked by a high degree of uncertainty.

The government in Lebanon has not been favourable towards the Palestinian presence on its territory, mainly due to the country's fragile state-structure. Legally defined as foreigners residing in the country, Palestinians have developed a segregated economy mainly because working permits have been scarce, but also as a result of the civil war. Refugee camps exist as segregated communities where Palestinians are uneasy and anxious about their future right to remain in the country. This anxiety will increase if the current peace process does not offer viable alternatives for their current legal insecure presence in Lebanon.

Jordan, on the other hand, has applied a policy of integration in regard to legal regulations where the large bulk of Palestinians from the West Bank have received Jordanian citizenships. The result has been partly one of assimilation, especially in the case of Palestinians who have been able to invest in Jordan either by buying land or operating enterprises. However, having acquired financial assets in the form of houses and enterprises in the state where Palestinians reside does not necessarily result in stronger incentives of belonging to Jordan. Rather, an economically well-off situation creates room for independent actions which several respondents exposed. The cases of Abu Ghassan who previously lived in Nasr camp in Amman (presented on page 43) and Dr. Ja'far (presented on page 47) indicate that, depending on the opportunities available, they do not necessarily prefer to settle in Jordan. Abu Ghassan was not certain whether to build a house for his son now that the question of return to the West Bank is being discussed. Likewise, Dr. Ja'far preferred to live in the Gulf but was forced to settle in Jordan following the Gulf war of 1991.

The policy of integration in Jordan where the Palestinian population has been naturalised as Jordanians has not achieved its aim, a uniform Jordanian identity has yet to evolve. On the one hand, Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin still nourish their Palestinian roots. Special arenas, such as the Palestinian societies, have been created where Palestinians are able to exercise and manifest their identity as Palestinians. On the other hand, it is apparent that many Palestinians reside in Jordan mainly due to the lack of opportunity for residing elsewhere; they have either been prevented from settling in the West bank during the Israeli occupation, or they have fled from the Gulf as a result of the 1991 Gulf war.

On the West Bank, we have the special situation of a refugee community living among a native community where both communities are constituted of Palestinians living under Israeli rule. Both refugees and natives have thus endured the politics of occupation where Palestinians have depended on the Israeli authorities' issuing of viable ID-cards, travel documents and work permits.

The third resource indicated as important elements of an adaptation process is the accumulation of knowledge in the form of specialised apprenticeship or education. We observed that the inhabitants of the other four refugee camps in this study belong predominantly to the group of refugees who lost their main source of livelihood- land- after their exodus. Current camp residents had thus, as a starting point, less means to choose their places of residence and the kinds of economic activity they could participate in. Camps evolved thus as segregated communities and developed into distinguishable neighbourhoods.

In cases where camp residents sought to increase the resources at hand, many applied a strategy where investment in education and vocational training created increased opportunities for multiple-choice careers. The opportunities created enabled many to either move out of the camp and incorporate into the neighbouring communities or emigrate to another country in order to further increase. The case of Zeinab in the camp of Askar (presented on page 74) illustrates how a family of peasant background strengthened its coping strategies by investing in the education of the youngest members who were able to migrate and work in Oman creating thus a surplus which was reinvested in the education of other household members.

The availability of external labour markets where wages are higher than the local labour markets offer a fourth option where Palestinians have been able to increase the opportunities at hand thereby establishing more viable coping strategies. Palestinians who have crossed the green-line dividing the West Bank and Israel and sought work in the Israeli labour market have been able to earn manifold the wages they would have earned in their local labour market. The strengthening of coping strategies does not only imply obtaining higher wages. The case of Jamal from Askar (presented on page 36) indicates how future opportunities were sought not only by working in Israel, but also by making an engagement with an Arab Israeli girl. Jamal and his family perceived this alliance, initiated in the labour market, as increasing the economic capabilities of the family as well as the legal and social potential of the family as a collective.
West Bankers who work in the Israeli labour market display one form of incorporation between the Palestinian refugee community and the surrounding environment which is entered into in specific limited ways.

Adaptation through migration represents the fifth type of resource available to a large number of Palestinian householdmembers living both inside and outside camps. Perhaps paradoxically, migration appears to be one of the most rewarding coping strategies available to Palestinians, although in its essence, it represents a measure of physical withdrawal from the society in which Palestinian reside. For apparent reasons, it was not possible to portray the situation of emigrants during our fieldwork simply because they were not present. We argue, however, that when members from a certain household have been able to migrate, to the Gulf countries or to the West, the social network of the household as a collective becomes significantly enlarged. This enlargement of social networks has had crucial economic consequences for householdmembers. Members who have migrated have been able to send remittances, they have alleviated the financial condition of households by sponsoring the education, health and living expenses of other members of the household.

While social mobilisation in the local society is linked to factors such as social class and regional background, migration introduces an alternative adaptation strategy. By enlarging the social network of refugees, members of the Palestinian Diaspora become increasingly mobile. This mobility, however, is to a large extent dependent on regulations set by the state in which Palestinians reside as well as by foreign countries and the international community. These constraints illustrate on the one hand the limits which Palestinians face in their effort to maximise the opportunities available to them. On the other hand, these constraints also illustrate the external character of obstacles which Palestinians face in their effort to saw roots in the places where they reside. Palestinians are, more than other residents in the societies in which they live, to a large extent dependent on stable external factors in order to be able to plan short- and long-term objectives. The emergence of wars, internal strife and civil wars in the states where Palestinians have settled, as well as the insecure state-policies form structural external determinants which Palestinians have not been able to control. To a large extent, the external nature of these determinants have engendered types of adaptation strategies which would not have crystallised had the external structures been more stable.

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