Law at work : law, labour and citizenship among West Bank Palestinians
The thesis explores the cultural and political practices of law among West Bank
Palestinians. It asks why law is central to the ways in which many Palestinians
articulate their claims for justice, yet at the same time law is also often experienced
as coercive or as a promise unfulfilled? The thesis examines the role of legal regimes
in creating, transforming and rejecting political struggles. In doing so it addresses
issues of law, coercion, collective action, state building, nationalism and territory.
The thesis is based on 18 months fieldwork in a West Bank village among a group of
The thesis argues that due to the law's association with illegitimate or weak nation
states, these labourers do not associate law with morality. However, promises of
legal entitlements provide one of the few avenues through which the labourers can
attempt to gain access to political and economic resources. The importance of
citizenship for access to these resources means that legal processes form the grounds
upon which many of their struggles are fought. The contradictory relationship
between territory and citizenship in the West Bank means that the labourers are
denied the formal promises of protection under Israeli law. The labourers are forced
to rely on a territorially and politically weak PNA, which is unable or unwilling to
provide for them.
The thesis argues that coercion and discrimination are internal to the structures of
law in the West Bank. The state of Israel and the PNA claim to be regimes based on
the 'rule of law'. At the same time the relationship between the Israeli state and the
PNA is based on national exclusivity, territorial integration and political inequality.
In this situation, 'the rule of law' can only be maintained by a coercive separation of
Israelis and Palestinians and discriminatory politics. Legal equality and justice at one
level depends on coercion and discrimination at another.