Comforting the Occupation. Work, Education, and Political Activism of Palestinian Families in a Refugee Camp

By Glotzer, Richard | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Comforting the Occupation. Work, Education, and Political Activism of Palestinian Families in a Refugee Camp


Glotzer, Richard, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


Rosenfield, Maya. COMFORTING THE OCCUPATION. WORK, EDUCATION, AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM OF PALESTINIAN FAMILIES IN A REFUGEE CAMP. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA 2004. Soft cover, ISBN 0-8047-4987-6.

Confronting the Occupation is a thoughtful and interesting volume. The author, anthropologist Maya Rosenfeld, describes and analyses the lives and world of Palestinian families in the Dheisheh refugee camp located near Bethlehem. Based on field observations and the close relationships she developed with members of this community, her work covers the period from 1992 well into the present Sharon Government. Rosenfeld owns her own political perspectives, and while clearly sympathetic to the people of Dheisheh, she examines the development and meaning of political and social action without trying to sway her readers.

The contested terrain described by Rosenfeld is rich in history of all kinds. Any point of entry is sure to raise criticisms that some important set (or interpretation) of antecedent events has been left out. The author does provide readers a good sense of context which is further expanded through reference notes and the availability of an extensive bibliography. She begins by sketching out the pre 1948 period to establish certain social, economic, and educational, features of Palestinian life.

If Palestinian family and village life were modest in their economic manifestations, families often owned their own land, livestock, and homes, and were part of a social structure characterized by the usual economic and social distinctions between segments of the community. Freedom to travel to buy and sell agricultural products, engage in trade, and work away from one's own village, were rights taken for granted. Social structure was traditional and intergenerational, with families arranging marriages and strongly influencing the occupational direction of their children. Advanced formal education was reserved for a few young men and was not considered essential for those whose lives appeared reasonably secure in controlling the means of their livelihoods.

Israel's successful war of independence (1948) and subsequent victories (1967,1973), have changed Palestinian life dramatically, as have Palestinian response - political organizing and a First and second Intifada. The claims of the State have manifest themselves in the displacement of Palestinians from their property, villages, economic livelihoods, offering instead a new twilight status as permanent residents of temporary refugee camps. …

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