July 15, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9447

Palestinian Journalist: The Palestinians Need A Social Contract To Uproot The Violence Which Is Entrenched In Their Society And In All Arab Societies

July 15, 2021
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 9447

In a June 27, 2021 article in Al-Ayyam, Palestinian political analyst Akram 'Atallah discussed the violence which, he said, is entrenched in Palestinian society and Arab societies in general. He stated that, unlike other human societies, which curbed their violence when they adopted the model of the modern state and endorsed humane values that limit the use of force, especially by the authorities, Arab societies, including Palestinian society, failed to do so and remain steeped in violence. The Arabs, 'Attallah elaborates, adopted the modern state and its values only outwardly, while maintaining  their aggressive and tribal norms, to the extent that violence has become "a sacred culture." He called on the Palestinians to form a contract between the various components of their society, so as to curb the struggles and conflicts among them and contain the damage that has already been caused by the culture of violence.  

'Attallah's article was apparently published in the context of the recent death of Palestinian political activist Nizar Banat, who was a vocal critic of the Palestinian Authority. Banat was reportedly beaten to death on June 24, 2021 by security forces that came to arrest him. The incident intensified the existing criticism against the Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by President Mahmoud 'Abbas, and against the violence employed by its security forces against its opponents. 

Akram 'Atallah (Source:

The following are translated excerpts from Akram 'Atallah's article:[1]

"Over the past decade, Arab societies rediscovered themselves and their authentic culture, which is unaffected by the human values that mankind formed at the cost of tremendous bloodshed. The Arabs exposed all [their] urges, bloodshed and tyranny… and revealed that no social contract unites them except for [the principle of] force, which is the only factor regulating their relations, and that their struggles are unconstrained by moral boundaries.  

"The Arabs discovered that the civil states they have formed in the post-colonial era are fragile and fictional in terms of modern values and political culture, and that their political culture… is far removed from that of a modern state and closer to that of a tribal state. The crisis of the last decade [i.e., the Arab Spring] revealed something even worse: that violence is entrenched in these societies, and that the oppositions [to the Arab regimes] are as violent as the regimes, and sometimes even crueler…

"The shock of the last decade should have caused an upheaval among the researchers and think tanks – however meager and few – in the Arab world, and among the intellectuals. But [the intellectuals] have largely lost their way, because the Arab arena is controlled by the media of the wealthy Gulf [states]… These [media] managed to entice a large part of this elite and persuade it to replace its enlightened position with positions of incitement and rebellion, [the positions] of the instigators of violence, causing [the elite] to forgo reason and their critical reading [of reality].

"We Palestinians are not far from the culture of violence. In fact, we are an authentic part of its Arab environment. This is reflected in [our] politics, and was exposed after the Palestinians started to govern themselves and discovered that they are true members of this culture – because regional conflicts, which reached Palestine and took control of it, imbued it with these values.

"Violence has been part of human society since the dawn of time… Societies [once] survived by raiding, killing, robbing and looting, until, in the last ten thousand years, culture emerged, and, after the discovery of agriculture, stable societies began to form… [Several] millennia later, with the advent of the concept of the state, which originated in urban communities… societies emerged which were sustained by industrialized cities. [But] there were [also] societies whose urban population grew without [developing] these urban characteristics and continued to harbor violence beneath the skin, waiting to be released.

"Some societies redistributed power, curbed the excessive power of the state and subjected it to conditions, constraints and oversight mechanisms. Over time, violence and the culture of violence in these [countries] waned. [But] the Arab and Islamic societies remained hostage to violence, and in some of them violence even became part of a sacred culture. ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban and their ilk, which directed their violence inward, reflect the culture of the populations [in which they operate] and even found [these populations] to be incubators [nourishing their growth].

"Violence is the method of the pre-state era, and in Arab countries, the state is just a sham imitation of a cultural model that their societies, unlike other societies, have never [really] followed. [The concept of] the state has never really become entrenched in the Arab consciousness,  neither in terms of the peoples' culture nor in terms of their use of force. In fact, the past half century shows that the concept of the state [in Arab countries] is reduced to mere force, and that their internal relations are based on a struggle to monopolize power and employ it against others. Whoever loses the election – if there are elections – or whoever is overthrown in an uprising, can expect to be imprisoned or murdered the minute power shifts to his political opponent. When force is monopolized in ways that contravene the law, it becomes a tribal and unrestrained tool for revenge.

"It is saddening that we Palestinians belong to this culture of violence, which has not managed to internalize the requirements of a society based on humane relations between its components, nor the vital importance of containing struggles and differences in a non-violent way. Nor do we realize that these primitive eras have ended and the era of the [modern] state has begun. Our relations are still far removed from the values of the [modern] state. The events that [now] afflict us mean that rephrasing the social contract between the Palestinian [sectors] is a top priority, not only due to the presence of the occupation, but because our society is [now] engaged in rebuilding itself and its regime… [This contract is required] in order to contain the damage we have sustained and avoid harming ourselves [further], and so we do not need a bad shock to understand that we harbor a culture that is truly frightening in the extent of its violence!!!"


[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), June 27, 2021.

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