Social Text 21.2 (2003) 75-94
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The Incorporation of the Palestinian Minority by the Israeli State, 1948-1970
On the Nature, Transformation, and Constraints of Collaboration
Ahmad H. Sa'di
Although widely acknowledged as a universal phenomenon, collaboration has remained understudied in social sciences. Robinson (1972), who recognized the significance of collaboration for the functioning and the effectiveness of regimes that principally rely on political control, argued that collaboration emanates from both compelling circumstances that the regime creates and a local social system conducive to such a behavior. Guha (1997) maintained that collaboration is only one aspect of such circumstances. Resistance comprises the other side of the coin. It is unfortunate that the insights of Robinson and Guha, which were developed within the discussion on colonialism, have not been elaborated and extended so as to deal with deeply divided societies governed by relations of control. The main argument in this article is that the Palestinians in Israel (those living within the 1948 Green Line) were incorporated by the Israeli state after 1948 through a system of collaboration. Theoretically the article relies on insights from Robinson (1972) and Guha (1997) as well as additional sources from the Gramscian tradition. Meanwhile, the historical framework was dictated by theoretical and practical considerations. While before 1948 organizations of the Yishuv—the Jewish community in Palestine—had been successful in attaining the collaboration of individual Palestinians through bribery, since the establishment of Israel in 1948 collaboration has become the official system of the minority's incorporation. Because the interest in this article is in collaboration as a system of governance rather than as a phenomenon relating to the behavior of individuals, 1948 will be regarded as the point of departure. The discussion ends in the early 1970s because reliable archival materials are unobtainable thereafter; nonetheless, the consequences for the Palestinian minority of the system of collaboration have been unraveling until the present, a subject which will also be theorized and discussed. Within this time frame, the system of collaboration has changed, and along with that its superstructure of cultural codes, vocabulary, subtexts, and myths has also been altered. These changes will be analyzed within their historical context. [End Page 75]
Al-Nakbah and Its Consequences
The 1948 war is one of those momentous events about which the fourteenth-century Arab social historian Ibn Khaldun wrote: "When there is a general change of conditions, it is as if the entire creation had changed and the whole world been altered" (quoted in Hourani 1992, 3). Indeed, Al-Nakbah (the immense catastrophe) challenged the basic tenets of the human existence of the Palestinians; the homeland, the place of residence, the land—a major source of wealth, dignity, and influence—and the physical and cultural environment, the validity and endurance of which Palestinians had never questioned, turned out to be most insecure. Even the very existence of Palestinian society as an imagined community ceased to be taken for granted. After the end of the war, only a small minority of 160,000 out of the 900,000 Palestinians remained in the part of Palestine upon which Israel was established (Abu-Lughod 1971; see also Hadawi 1967). They were ruled by a military government that restricted their movements, controlled various aspects of their lives, and acted as a tool for the expropriation of the bulk of their lands (Jiryis 1976; Lustick 1982; Kretzmer 1987). After eighteen years, the military government was replaced by a system of control that was more elaborate and less visible (Lustick 1982). This shattering and disorienting transformation led to the accentuation of personal survival among the Palestinians. Moreover, their dependence upon the regime, their lack of secure prospects, and their precarious existential conditions constituted persuasive circumstances for some Palestinians to collaborate.
Even during the war, the Israeli regime had begun to use those who collaborated with the Yishuv in the institutionalization of its rule over the captured Palestinian localities. Such collaborators acted as informers, and in some cases they were elevated to...