Palestinian civil society

Authored by: Michael Schulz

The Routledge Handbook on the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415778626
eBook ISBN: 9780203079553
Adobe ISBN: 9781136160691


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This chapter demonstrates the important role that Palestinian civil society has played in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The concept ‘civil society’ covers ‘those areas of social life – the domestic world, the economic sphere, cultural activities and political interaction – which are organized by private or voluntary arrangements between individuals and groups outside the direct control of the state’ (Held 1993: 6). Civil society is often seen as a benign societal force which pushes for the improvement of the public good, in areas such as human rights, democracy, development, education, and so on. By challenging the state, it constitutes a balancing force to the state. However, there is nothing inherently benign about civil society, since it is made up of various interest groups that primarily serve themselves and do not necessarily work towards the broader social good. Hence, the important empirical question to address is the extent to which civil society actually serves the interests of society in general, if it is benign, and how it functions.

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