IntroductionThe Declaration of Principles (DoP) between the PLO and Israel and the subsequent agreements establishing the Palestinian National Authority in Gaza and Jericho have profoundly altered the political, social and economic developments in the Middle East. Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, in Lebanon, Syria and in Jordan are apt to respond in diverse ways to the DoP, as they have to the wide range of political events and economic shocks which have affected their daily life since 1948.
These responses take a variety of forms, and the purpose of the present report is to document some of the strategies and adaptations that the Palestinians have made, in the context of a rapidly changing socio-political environment. A particular focus is how the responses have created or severed links between the Palestinians and the societies where they live, and how those links may influence population movements and mobility.
The data on which this report is founded were produced during four field works in July 1994 in Jordan, Lebanon and the West Bank. Each field work lasted for about a month, and anthropological methods were used. In Jordan two studies were carried out, one in Wihdat camp (Amman New Camp) as well as one in Baqa'a camp. The other Jordanian field work concentrated on several neighbourhoods in Amman inhabited by Palestinians. In Lebanon the inhabitants of the Rashidiyya camp in the south extended their hospitality to the FAFO researcher, while in the West Bank the research concentrated on the camp of Askar (see map 1).
Given the locations of study, it is clear that the research focuses on Palestinians in diverse situations, and that it cannot claim representativeness in any quantitative sense. Neither has that been the intention. The aim has been to describe types of strategies and processes, not to count their outcomes. Given the focus, a more quantitative aim would have been difficult to achieve and perhaps also meaningless. First, the outcomes are emergent and dependent on rapidly changing circumstances. The ongoing peace process, for instance, has still not materialised into clear-cut outcomes which Palestinians can actually respond to and act towards. Therefore, it is mainly the responses to the political and economic impacts prior to the Declaration of Principles that constitute the focus of the present report.
Second, although the population is well defined in the sense that a definite set of people define themselves and are defined by others as Palestinians, it is not easy to construct a sample frame in relation to the present purpose. The Palestinians we met during our fieldwork in the camps, therefore, represent neither the complete range of coping strategies nor of opinions of all Palestinians in their current country of residence. People who, for instance, have migrated, are no longer present in the areas concerned.
We also do not claim representativity in the structural sense of depicting the Palestinian society. Like most other societies, Palestinian society is too diverse to lend itself to a coherent description of an overall structure, and we should be wary of painting an idealised picture. As Edward Said points out:
"There are many different kinds of Palestinian experience, which cannot all be assembled into one. One would therefore have to write parallel histories of the communities in Lebanon, the occupied territories, and so on. That is the central problem. It is almost impossible to imagine a single narrative . . ." (Said 1991:179)
Where we do claim certain generalisations of our results, however, is in the portrayal of the kind of processes and strategies that we have found people to be involved in. While the diverse Palestinian communities, households or persons may be seen as having their own "specific paths through modernity" (Clifford 1988:5) there is still some unity in the kinds of paths taken and the forces shaping those paths.
When people act, their actions cannot be but shaped by the socio-economic environment in which they live. To the extent that this environment exhibits a certain order, the acts must reflect that order, if they are to be successful adaptations to the situations that confront the actors. If acts may be assumed to be rational, insight into the actors' perception of the situation, the deliberations made and the acts performed are indispensable building blocks for the analysis. An important method employed here for discovering those building blocks is that of the analysis of case histories, i.e. analysis of sequences of acts seen as responses to particular events, concerns and challenges by the actors. During field work some effort was also put into the description and analysis of local classifications of social phenomena. This was partly achieved through the use of adaptations of the so called "Rapid Rural Appraisal" framework (Chambers 1983).
From the field works several areas of social organisation emerged as particularly salient, and these also guide the plan of the report.
First, Palestinians came from several backgrounds and walks of life. They were towns people, peasants, workers or merchants to name but a few. The refugee situation destroyed some social bonds, and created others. For instance, the corporate clan (hamula)1 among the villagers often lost its importance in the new setting. Also, new social groups have grown up, such as societies based on a town or village of origin among Palestinians living in Amman. Accordingly, in order to analyse acts and responses, we have to delineate the bodies acting, i.e. decision making units. To some extent this is dependent on local contexts, but we have also found it useful to describe some general traits throughout the report.
Second, the host-societies where refugees settled had to adapt to the Palestinians, just as the Palestinians have adapted to the societies where they find themselves. This adaptation has sometimes been easy, but more often difficult, if only for the huge numbers of refugees involved. The mutual adaptations have had different outcomes in different countries. An important aspect of the adaptation of the new society in which refugees became part of is how governments in the different states have constructed the formal rights that the Palestinians enjoy and the duties they are subject to. In addition, the definition of rights and duties is one thing, their implementation and execution by government bodies another. The Palestinians, on their side, accommodate themselves to the formal system of rights and duties and its administrative expressions in a number of ways. This is dealt with in chapter 3.
A third area which came out of the field works is what one may term the social construction of locality, i.e. how social relations torn by displacement have been reconstructed, transformed or where new forms of social organisation have grown up . In some cases the Palestinians have created, been forced to create or been assigned communities that are totally distinct from adjacent neighbourhoods, in others they are incorporated or assimilated.
Locality is often thought of as a situated community, such as a refugee camp, a village or a neighbourhood in a city. However, it is useful to extend the concept to social networks and categories that are not necessarily tied to a specific place, but that are still local in the sense that subjects can be known and organised (Appadurai 1993). Examples of such localities are the networks of middle-class Palestinians in Amman, or the far flung networks of Palestinian emigrants and their families. Indeed, one may argue that such a concept of locality is particularly well suited to the Palestinian experience of dislocation, exile and Diaspora. The construction of locality is dealt with in chapter 4.
A final area is that of economic adaptation. Being both a result and a determinant of the factors discussed above, the economic adaptations of Palestinian in the various settings take different forms. Our concern here is to discuss some of the constraints and opportunities represented by the economic adaptations with regard to mobility.
Adaptation - economic, social or political - takes several forms. It is useful to distinguish between the different ideal types of adaptation, although real-world examples assumes intermediate forms2.
Adaptation may take the form of assimilation, namely that the group merges with the surrounding
society and becomes an indiscernible part of that society. For instance, in Amman, some upper-class Palestinians represent a population segment which reveals a certain degree of assimilation into the affluent mixed Jordanian-Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabal Amman.
A diametrically opposite form of adaptation is that of segregation where the group makes out a separate entity in contrast to the surrounding society. An example would be the situation during the civil war in Lebanon, where the refugee camps formed isolated enclaves in the wider Lebanese society. A third form is what we will term incorporation. By being incorporated in the society, the group retains its identity, but enters into interaction with the surrounding society in specific limited ways. In all three countries, Palestinians are to a greater or lesser degree incorporated in the economy. In Jordan, many Palestinians are economically incorporated. While not incorporated in Lebanon's formal economy, Palestinians are an integral part of the country's informal sector. Palestinians are incorporated into the Israeli labour market as a specific segment of that market, although the relationship is one of dependency. Thus, incorporation stands in the middle between assimilation and segregation. It becomes assimilation when the incorporated group in all respects acts as if it was identical to the surrounding society. It becomes segregation when the interaction is reduced to a single or no field of interaction.
A fourth form of adaptation is simply to withdraw from the host-society, the option of migration. This may be complete, in that a household leaves, or incomplete, in the form of labour migration of single members.
While we will return to these different forms of adaptation throughout the report, it should be stressed here that the general perspective of adaptation is one where the adaptation is seen as a response to a changing social, economic and political environment, but also something that contributes to the creation of that environment.
1.) The hamula is a patrilineal descent group. Among Peasants, it was usually
localized, and had great genealogical depth.