The common narrative regarding the Palestinian Arabs during the British Mandate period highlights the disastrous effects of social and political disintegration on their integration as a national community, as well as on their ability to deal with the British and the Jewish Yishuv. The analysis offered here examines integration and disintegration processes in Palestinian society through diverse local, regional and national networks. The main argument is that disintegration and integration processes were not exclusively contradictory, as is commonly perceived, but rather dialectical developments that often ultimately served Palestinian integration, although this process did not mature until the fateful War of 1948.
This article presents a new approach for analyzing the characteristics and historical transformations of an institution central to Palestinian society and the Fertile Crescent at large – the Elite Family. The approach perceives elite families in the twentieth century as complex organizations with three fundamental traits: structure, distinct goals and strategy.Based on the cases of the al-Jaʿbarī family from Hebron and the al-Maṣrī family from Nablus, the article comparatively examines the ways each family dealt with historical shifts from the early twentieth century through the late 1970s and how this affected its sociopolitical status. My principal argument is that the three attributes of goals, structure and strategy – which were influenced by local conditions too – shaped the different ways in which the two families managed changes and challenges, and directly determined the degree to which each endured in the sociopolitical arena. This approach challenges the prevalent view of the West Bankʼs elite families as “traditional” players that were doomed to fall from grace due to the major upheaval that the Palestinians experienced during the second half of the twentieth century.