This remarkable book examines how the Islamist movement and its competition with secular-nationalist factions have transformed the identities of ordinary Palestinians since the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, of the late 1980s. Drawing upon his years living in the region and more than eighty in-depth interviews, Loren Lybarger offers a riveting account of how activists within a society divided by religion, politics, class, age, and region have forged new identities in response to shifting conditions of occupation, peace negotiations, and the fragmentation of Palestinian life.
Lybarger personally witnessed the tragic days of the first intifada, the subsequent Oslo Peace Process and its failures, and the new escalation of violence with the second intifada in 2000. He rejects the simplistic notion that Palestinians inevitably fall into one of two camps: pragmatists who are willing to accept territorial compromise, and extremists who reject compromise in favor of armed struggle. Listening carefully to Palestinians themselves, he reveals that the conflicts evident among the Islamists and secular nationalists are mirrored by the internal struggles and divided loyalties of individual Palestinians.
Identity and Religion in Palestine is the first book of its kind in English to capture so faithfully the rich diversity of voices from this troubled part of the world. Lybarger provides vital insights into the complex social dynamics through which Islamism has reshaped what it means to be Palestinian.
Loren D. Lybarger is Assistant Professor of Classics and World Religions at Ohio University, Athens.
"Lybarger, a volunteer with the Mennonite Central Committee, lived and worked among the Palestinian villagers and refugee camp inhabitants in the Israel-occupied West Bank and Gaza for several years when he gathered the material for this book...Observations and conclusions are based on in-depth interviews with men and women, members or supporters of diverse political factions. The authoršs account presents the human face of this wide range of orientations."--D. Peretz, Choice
"[T]his book is a major contribution to our understanding of the recent developments in Palestinian identity. It is easy to imagine historians several decades from now drawing on this book to recover the political debates that took place in Palestinian society on the eve of the second Intifada and at the turn of the twenty-first century."--Weldon C. Matthews, Journal of Islamic Studies
"[A]n original and discerning study."--Khaled Hroub, Journal of Palestine
"The book's achievement lies not in its creditable interviews or riveting narrative, though these are a boon; rather, it resides in the ability to convey advice for the future through these mediums. Islamist groups have become an innate element of Palestinian society, and whether they will become a positive or negative force within the peace process depends on the international community's approach toward negotiations for a viable Palestinian state."--K. Luisa Gandolfo, The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences
"Loren Lybarger's Identity and Religion in Palestine does a masterly job of communicating the rich texture of life that lies behind this widely misunderstood label. . . . [T]his book is unique. The rich biographical sketches and lengthy quotations from Palestinians themselves constitute a treasure that both enriches and challenges conventional labels such as Islamist, secular, modern and traditional."--Don Holsinger, Mennonite Quarterly Review
Table of Contents:
Note on Transliterations xix
Chronology of Events xxi
CHAPTER ONE: Islamism and Secular Nationalism 1
CHAPTER TWO: The Secular-Nationalist Milieu 27
CHAPTER THREE: The Islamist Milieu 73
CHAPTER FOUR: Thawra Camp: A Case Study of Shifting Identities 123
CHAPTER FIVE: Karama Camp: Islamist-Secularist Dynamics in the Gaza Strip 179