Between a Palestinian Integration and Disintegration: The Case of the Hebron Alliance

By Harel Chorev
Submitted to Session P4684 (Palestine: Institutions, Alliances, Resistances, 2016 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Unlike scholarship on other Middle Eastern societies, the study of clans and tribes in Ottoman and British Mandatory Palestine is quite neglected. An important work on the late mandatory period even asserts that “there is no empirical evidence of great family alliances among the Palestinians.” The consequences of this perception are more widespread than one might assume. It suggests that the Palestinian social structure was different from those of other Arab societies in the area, in which inter-clan alliances were common and significantly affected political and economic realms.
Based on a comprehensive study of informal networks in Palestine during the 19th-20th centuries, the proposed paper takes issue with such perceptions. The paper will discuss what was, and probably still is, the most powerful inter-family alliance among the Palestinians – the Hebronite alliance. The impact of the Hebronite alliance stemmed from regional consolidation of the Mandate period and extended far beyond the boundaries of Mt. Hebron during the Jordanian and Israeli periods. The alliance offers extensive evidence of the continuity of the family-based structure, and in some respects, even illustrates its growing power. At the same time, this alliance reflects the adaptations required for the survival of family-based structures as a relevant phenomenon attuned to the needs of time. The story of the Hebronite alliance sheds light on major developments experienced by the Palestinians in national and local arenas, ranging from the status of Palestinian integration in the 1948 War to the process of Hebronite social, economic and political domination over Jerusalem and other places in the West Bank since the mid-20th century.
The sources for this study include a wide range of documents, newspapers and oral testimonies. Methodologically, this study combines tools and concepts from the field of historical network analysis, a field gaining traction in the Humanities.