Tribal Fusion: The Palestine Pipe Dream

Many in the international community perceive the existence of a Palestinian nation and thus state as a foregone conclusion, and moreover, view them as a monolith. This all began when Yasser Arafat essentially invented a nation of people from a patchwork of various tribes who inhabited the Levant, including various places in what are now Israel proper and Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). The painted rosy picture of the unification of the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank is the most recent sub-myth of this phony narrative. There exists a stark reality that the clan aspect of Palestinian society has become more important since the Second Intifada in 2000, with the social hierarchy of these clans in particular playing a huge role in the Palestinian power structure. What the world conveniently ignores or is ignorant of, is that aside from 3.7 million multi-tribal Palestinians currently living in the territories who will be directly affected by the impending declaration, there are 2.7 million Palestinians in Jordan, 600,000 in Syria, 400,000 in Lebanon, and 280,000 in Egypt…all of who belong to various clans, many of whom engage in honor killing against each other to this day.


For example, the Shawwa clan was relied on by Egypt to help administer Gaza. They continue to be a prominent force, with scion Azzam Shawwa, who was once the Director of Foreign Relations for the Bank of Palestine in Gaza. Although his family hails from Gaza, he is in fact a member of Fatah which is the ruling party in the West Bank and was the former Minister of Energy in the Palestinian Authority. He also received higher education in the U.S. The al-Rayyis clan, also based in Gaza, produced the Justice Minister of the Palestinian Authority in Nahid al-Rayyis. The Shawwa and al-Rayyis clans are just two of many entities which serve to demonstrate the influential presence of Fatah in what is now Hamas-controlled Gaza. On the opposite side of the coin in Jerusalem, there is the al-Husayni family, which produced the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni. He espoused Nazi ideology and was one of the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood which eventually lead to the creation of Hamas in Gaza. (On a side note, while Hamas rule Gaza, their official headquarters were in Damascus, until recently.) His distant cousin Rafiq al-Husayni is a member of Fatah and was Chief of Staff to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Then there are the Nashashibi clan, who were one of the most powerful families in what was Palestine under the British Mandate, and bitter rivals to the Husayni clan. In the early days of the Zionist movement, they emerged as the more moderate force, pushing for a compromise with the Jews.They were instrumental in King Abdullah’s unification of the Arab parts of Palestine and Transjordan following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The ramifications of this are felt to this day, with Jordan housing nearly 3 million supposed “Palestinians”, 170,000 of whom do not hold Jordanian citizenship and are refugees, compared with Israel who has given full rights and citizenship to all Arabs living within its borders. The same can not be said for Jews currently living in towns (those legal and with legal ambiguity) in Judea and Samaria, who’s fate will be unknown upon the declaration of a Palestinian state.

Nashashibi family of Jerusalem (1929, Israel National Photo Collection)
Nashashibi family of Jerusalem (1929, Israel National Photo Collection)

A glaring piece of history which is not mentioned in the narrative is the fact that it was these and many other wealthy clans that sold land to Jews at inflated prices, even before the British took control. Most of the land was owned by absentee landlords who lived in Cairo, Damascus and Beirut. Those who sold their land also included: the mayors of Gaza City, Jerusalem, and Jaffa (what is now part of Tel Aviv). Moreover, both Jordan and Egypt eventually came to rely on these clans in convincing Arabs to flee to all four corners of the Middle East, promising they could return once the Jews were defeated. This promise has obviously not been fulfilled to this day. The irony was that, it was these landowners who were terrorized by rebels from rival factions who sold their land to the Jews and left Palestine.

As it stands, there are hundreds of clans of different social, political, and economic stripes within the Palestinian sphere. They reside in Gaza, Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, Tulkarem, Halhul, Qalqilya, Anabta, Jenin, and Salfit. There are certain towns and clans in the West Bank which are significantly more prosperous than others. The West Bank as a whole is more prosperous than Gaza. This dynamic can potentially serve as a recipe for class envy. Moreover, the tribes in Gaza are organized into six different tribal configurations. Some are friendly with Hamas, some with Fatah, and others pledge alliance to no one but themselves. Some of these clans have members who currently reside in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt…all of whom are experiencing upheaval on some level. The Palestinian Authority and possibly Hamas are thus attempting to physically bring to fruition an idea which was conjured up by Yasser Arafat after the 1967 War and was done so purely for PR purposes. Even if the goal of “right of return” is achieved, it is unclear what group of people will hold alliance to which faction of a newly formed government, if at all, and how these people will get along with each other.

Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar Ilan University has a much better idea. His plan calls for the establishment of eight independent sovereign states in the West Bank, which he refers to as the Palestinian Emirates fashioned after the U.A.E.


About the Author
Born in Ukraine and grew up in the NYC metro area. After working as a trader on Wall St. for 8 years, made aliyah in 2010. After living in Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to NYC and started a company to import boutique wines from Judea & Samaria. He uses his business and my website as a vehicle educate young Jews about Israel, the Middle East and Judaism. His ultimate goal is to return to Israel and inspire young Russian-speaking Jews in the US to make aliyah.