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Palestinian Civil Society: A time for action by Amal Abusrour

Palestinian Civil Society: A time for action by Amal Abusrour

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Published by Alex Matine
In her paper 'Palestinian Civil Society: A time for action' Amal Abusrour of Palestine conceives of a new role for civil society in the Palestinian state, directly challenging government structures to provide good governance, peace-building, and strong independent statehood.
In her paper 'Palestinian Civil Society: A time for action' Amal Abusrour of Palestine conceives of a new role for civil society in the Palestinian state, directly challenging government structures to provide good governance, peace-building, and strong independent statehood.

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Published by: Alex Matine on Jun 03, 2009
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02/03/2013

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The Atkin Paper Series
Palestinian Civil Society: A time for action
 Amal Abusrour
March 2009
 
1
 About the Atkin Paper Series
Thanks to the generosity of the
 Atkin Foundation
, the
International Centre for theStudy of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR)
offers young leaders fromIsrael and the Arab world the opportunity to come to London for a period of fourmonths. The purpose of the fellowship is to provide young leaders from Israel and the Arab world with an opportunity to develop their ideas on how to further peace andunderstanding in the Middle East through research, debate and constructive dialoguein a neutral political environment. The end result is a policy paper that will provide a
deeper understanding and a new perspective on a specic topic or event.
Editor
Dr. Peter R. Neumann
DirectorInternational Centre for the Study ofRadicalisation and Political Violence(ICSR), King’s College London
Editor
 Jeni Mitchell 
King’s College London
Editorial Assistant
Katie Rothman
Project Manager, International Centre forthe Study of Radicalisation and PoliticalViolence (ICSR), King’s College London
To order hardcopies or contact the editor,please write to mail@icsr.info. All papers in the
 Atkin Paper Series
 can be downloaded free of chargeat
www.icsr.info
 About Amal Abusrour
 A 
mal Abusrour completed a BA in Social Science from Al Quds University,an MA in Politics and International Studies from the University of Leedsand completed a one year non-degree program in public policy and publicadministration at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She worked for the
Reform Program at the Palestinian Prime Minister Ofce for two years, before Hamas
electoral victory in 2006. Currently she is a civil society activist and works for one ofthe Local NGOs in Palestine.
Summary
T
he role of Palestinian civil society in affecting the political organization of thefuture Palestinian state should be perceived through the challenge in relationto the state. Paving the way towards democracy and independence arenot mere responsibilities of political parties. Palestinian civil society has both thecapacity and power to monitor and affect good governance, peace-building, and theforthcoming Palestinian elections through mobilizing the silent majority that evolvedafter last legislative elections in 2006 and the split between the West Bank and Gaza.This challenge should be twofold; political to establish an independent state andsocial to create a democratic and functioning society.
 
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Palestinian Civil Society: A time for action
By Amal Abusrour 
I
n Western media reports, Palestinian society is often – and exclusively – seenthrough the prism of militant groups and their political leaderships. The resultingperception is that of a dysfunctional, over-militarised society in which there is nospace for tolerance and dialogue. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. As this paper will show, Palestine has potentially one of the most sophisticated andvibrant civil societies in the Arab world, and the failure to recognise and cultivateit as a force for positive change has been one of the great missed opportunities inadvancing democracy, peace and pluralism.The purpose of this paper is to think about the role of civil society in Palestineand, in particular, how it could be nurtured to make a more effective contributionto constructing a peaceful and democratic society. The importance of doing so isunderlined by the current failure of Palestinian political institutions. In the 15 yearssince the conclusion of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has provedunable to provide the peace and security which many Palestinians had hoped for.The Hamas government, elected in 2006, brought further misery and increased thepublic’s alienation from the political process. Indeed, with divided leadership andrising clan power, civil society is the one remaining pillar that holds Palestiniansociety together.The questions this paper investigates are therefore more pressing than ever.How can Palestinian civil society contribute to fostering peace and good governanceunder the current circumstances? What role should it take in the forthcomingelections? More generally, what approach towards civil society-state relations shouldPalestinian civil society adopt?In looking at these questions, this paper utilises three models of state-civil
society relations developed by the political scientist Dina Craissati. The rst
‘integration’ – is based on liberal theory and stipulates that there is no competitionbetween the state and civil society.
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By contrast, the second model – ‘rejection’ – isdrawn from the socialist democracy model and posits that the role of civil society isto attain political rights through class struggle and confrontation with the state. Thethird model – ‘challenge’ – derives its principles from ’radical politics’ and suggests
1 Chandhoke, Neera.
State and Civil Society: Explorations in Political Theory 
. London: SagePublications (1995).

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