Being Gazan: identity, institutions, and internationality in the Gaza Strip

By Lyndall Herman
Submitted to Session P4684 (Palestine: Institutions, Alliances, Resistances, 2016 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
In recent years there have been great strides in addressing the place of international organizations in various facets of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Much of this recent research has focused on the West Bank, the role of these organizations in creating aid dependency, and the perspectives of Palestinian elites. In contrast, research that focuses on the Gaza Strip and the role of international organizations there is missing. This project brings together several of these lines of inquiry: by focusing on the place of international organizations working in the Gaza Strip between 1948-1967 time it interrogates these organizations relationships with Gazan’s and the ensuing legacy in the structures of governance within the Gaza Strip. This project investigates the role of international organizations in emulating traditional structures of governance, in particular through the provision of services typically associated with national governments: education, health care, job creation programs, and housing programs. By researching the initiation of these practices and their subsequent impact on each organization’s local employees and the communities served, this project explores the significance of internationality as a basis for analyzing the spaces, bureaucracies, and hierarchies created by these organizations. Interrogation of the archival record of prominent international organizations during the 1948-1967 period (including the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), and the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)) is augmented by placing these documents in dialogue with the oral recollections of Gazan’s. This bi-modal approach presents an argument for the significance of analyzing past and present structures of governance in Gaza on the basis of a legacy of internationality.