Shadia Kanaan

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Lawrence Ziring

Second Advisor

Dr. Gunter Hega

Third Advisor

Dr. Datta Sandhu

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


One definition of civil society dominated all theoretical and historical perspectives when it comes to the special case of civil society in Palestine. "Civil society is concerned with a society's total self re-producing ability through its inner strength in a manner that is distinct from the state" (Bishara 1995, 143). The hypothesis of this work is that civil society in Palestine existed and flourished in spite the absence of a national state and had played a fundamental role in the social and economic development of Palestinian society throughout its history. Civil society in Palestine poses an exception to the theory of civil society in general, in that it does not deal with its relationship with the state, but, rather, that it existed despite the absence of a state. More important is the fact that it had to deal with consecutive foreign authorities whose legislation and laws were meant to deter and arrest the development of civil society's performance on all levels. This unique nature is the focus of this paper: the fact that it survived and functioned as an alternative to the state in providing basic services to the population and laying the foundations for the arrival of a national state, or a quasi-state, in form of the autonomous rule under the Palestinian Authority (PA). The paper will go on to show the irony of the reversal that occurred with the arrival of the PA which either absorbed, contained, or canceled the institutional components of civil society. The imperatives of enforcing the peace process with Israel contradicted and collided with the requirements of democratic practices, thus shaking the foundations of civil society.