When processes collide leadership, legitimacy and liberation in Palestine

University dissertation from Umeå : Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Umeå universitet

Abstract: Palestinian national movement leadership has long been intertwined with thecontext of the national movement processes – liberation, peace and statebuilding. Over time, as these processes have not come to fruition, the numerousleadership groups have had to negotiate their relationships with these processesas both the groups and processes increasingly overlap, creating significantobservable points of tension within Palestinian politics. There are currentlymultiple levels of leadership across the national movement: two representativegoverning institutions – the Palestine Liberation Organisation and thePalestinian Authority; two dominant political movements – Fatah and Hamas;and numerous popular resistance initiatives such as the Boycott, Divestment andSanctions movement coalition that has different levels of endorsement (or lackof) by the other leaderships. This thesis seeks to map the Palestinian nationalliberation movement leadership, examining the inter-relations between themultiple leadership groups and internal (i.e. intra-Palestinian) legitimacies.Examining the internal legitimacies of the Palestinian leaderships results in anexpansion of how internal legitimacy can be conceptualised. For the historicalperiod (1958-2008) analysed, I found revolutionary, representative,oppositional, institutional, democratic and moral legitimacy types within thePalestinian case. Furthermore, these were all attributed to respective nationalmovement processes. Analysing the recent period (2016-2017) requires the useof a relational approach to further develop understandings of legitimacy. Thisapproach transforms legitimacy into a process of (de)legitimisation, whichinteracts with the national movement processes and helps us capture and analysethe complexities of the Palestinian case – that of concurrent, multiple andcontending perspectives. I found the continuation of the liberation and statebuilding processes as simultaneous bases of legitimisation to be a critical point oftension within the tandem legitimisation-delegitisimation process. Engaging arelational approach demonstrated the need for ongoing leadershipreconstruction. I conclude that, in order to negotiate the interactions andcontestations between the multiple and dynamic processes that underlielegitimacy, leaderships face an ultimatum of ‘reconstruct or delegitimise’. WherePalestinian leadership groups have stagnated and not engaged with a process ofreconstruction, we see processes of delegitimisation arising that can explain thecurrent leadership complexities within the Palestinian national movement.