The Weekly ACRPS seminar was devoted, on Wednesday December 13 to the study "De-mobilizing a Mobilized Society: The Effect of the Palestinian Authority on Political Engagement", undertaken by Dr. Dana El Kurd, who this year obtained her PhD from the University of Texas.
Dr. El Kurd proposed a number of questions regarding the impact of the Palestinian Authority on the dynamics of political protest in the West Bank. She discussed the PA's role in reducing the impact and spread of such protest, particularly in the West Bank, despite the high level of engagement in political protest (demonstrations, sit-ins, strikes, etc.) in the history of Palestinian society. The Palestinian Authority took control as a central governing body after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, and came to play an increasing role in limiting the nature and dynamics of political protest.
Dr. El Kurd explained that the Palestinian Authority does not have complete control over the Palestinian territories; its control does not extend further than the areas obtained under the Oslo II Accord in 1995. Area A, the site of most urban centers, where most Palestinians live, is under direct PA control. Area B is mostly rural areas, under joint PA and Israeli control and Area C is a mix of both, but under full Israeli security and administrative control.
This order allowed for the limitation of the PA's contribution to political protest and social dynamics. The power arrangement also constrained the PA's potential to reinforce social cohesion, especially among the Palestinian middle class, and undermined its power to lead and inform protests in the West Bank, in its areas of governance.
Dr. El Kurd used a collection of raw data and made a qualitative assessment of the historical development of the PA since its establishment under the Oslo Accords. She concluded that political protest in the West Bank had decreased in places where the Palestinian Authority had more direct control.
The researcher also collected data from Palestinian news sources, the Institute for Palestine Studies and the records of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The data followed the protests on a daily basis from 2007 to 2016, in the neighborhood/village where the protest took place, the population of the neighborhood/village concerned, the density of settlements in that area, and the impact of Israeli incursions into the protest movement. Using the "regression analysis" method, the results show that the rates of protests in PA-controlled areas are much lower than protests in other areas.
The researcher also used data to illustrate the causal relationship between presence of the PA and low protest rates, highlighting PA strategies and influence on the middle class. She pointed to specific protests in the West Bank, such as those in the village Bil'in and in the cities of Jerusalem and Ramallah, to show how the Palestinian Authority deals with political protests. Dr. El Kurd distinguished between those who work in the Palestinian Authority and those who do not. She found that the Authority was able to attract the middle class in the areas examined, while it could not control the other layers of Palestinian society.
To conclude the presentation, the audience participated in a rich discussion with Dr. El Kurd, dealing with methodological and analytical issues in the research.