- Exile (Al-Manfa)
- Family solidarity
- Honour (Sharaf)
- Personal connections (Wasta)
The Palestinian people are largely ethnically, linguistically and religiously , being Arab, Arabic-speaking and Sunni Muslim (with Christians constituting the largest religious minority). Over 5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, which have been occupied by Israel since 1967 (also known as the Palestinian Territories).1 An additional 1.6 million remain in Israel where they make up approximately 20% of the population (see the Israeli profile).2 The experiences of those living in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza and Israel vary significantly, as they are affected by different political and physical circumstances. Millions of Palestinians also live in foreign countries across the world (often as refugees and peoples), having fled due to the impacts of conflict, occupation and exile in the region. Indeed, Palestinians form one of the largest communities in the world, and at least 5.5 million are registered refugees.3 Due to the widespread dispossession, displacement and dispersion of Palestinians, some cultural descriptions in this profile may not apply to all members of the .
Palestinian society was historically agriculture-based and very locally diverse, with many customs varying between regions. However, culture and daily life have been significantly impacted by decades of conflict, Israeli occupation, dispossession and displacement. Resilience has become an essential trait of the Palestinian character instilled as a result of these experiences over multiple generations. While many traditional social structures have collapsed under occupation, most Palestinians continue to be guided by Islamic principles and Arabic cultural values, such as hospitality, loyalty, honour and respect for elders. Family solidarity and community networks also remain strong cultural features, providing crucial support in difficult circumstances. Many local identities have also been preserved, seen in the continuing social and cultural differences between rural agriculturalist Palestinians and the urban elite. The variety of political parties and thought has also contributed to internal cultural diversity. Nevertheless, Palestinians are generally unified by a profound connection to the land, a recent history of dispossession and aspirations for greater dignity, recognition and freedom from occupation.
Land and Borders
“Palestine” broadly refers to a historical Middle Eastern region between Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Although its exact borders have been renegotiated over time, it is generally associated with the geographical area that is now the state of Israel and the currently occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza). For a time, it was also considered to include present-day Jordan. This land is held sacred among Muslims, Christians and Jews, and may also be referred to as the ‘Holy Land’ (see Religion).
Palestinian Arabs share a strong and long-standing connection to the land, having lived agrarian lifestyles as the majority population in the region for centuries. However, they were violently dispossessed from their land following the creation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948 (see History and Political Context). This event forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians as refugees and peoples. Israel seized more land over subsequent years of conflict, eventually occupying the last remaining majority-Palestinian territories in 1967 – the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. This history of dispossession continues to be a sensitive matter for many Palestinians, as their ‘homeland’ has been reconstructed into Israel and its occupied territories (see Political Sensitivities in Other Considerations). Many of those remaining in the Palestinian Territories or living as registered refugees throughout the region continue to be denied citizenship and basic civil and political rights, which has profound impacts on their lives. Without a state of their own, Palestinians now form one of the largest communities in the world (at least 5 million people).4
Life Under Occupation
The Palestinian Territories are made up of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. Both are claimed by the State of Palestine, yet continue to be occupied by Israel. Israeli occupation impacts every aspect of life in the Territories, restricting and controlling freedom of movement, the economy and borders. Palestinians have become incredibly self-reliant and resourceful in adapting to the conditions imposed on them. The majority live off modest means (often supported by overseas ) as unemployment and inflation are chronically high and fluctuate according to political relations with Israel.5 Large refugee populations have also become an underclass, often living in refugee camps (over 800,000 in the West Bank and 1.4 million in Gaza).6
The West Bank and Gaza are currently governed by two separate authorities that have different stances and relationships with the Israeli government. As a result, the lived experiences of Palestinians are very different in each territory.
The West Bank (including East Jerusalem) is a landlocked territory situated between Jordan, Israel and the Dead Sea. The territory is home to over 3 million Palestinians, of which approximately 850,000 are registered refugees with UNRWA.7,8 It is governed by the Palestinian Authority, which is headed by a President. While the Palestinian Authority oversees some domestic affairs, Israel maintains control over everyday activities, the economy, security and borders.9 The West Bank is surrounded by a large wall which physically separates the territory from Israel, strictly limiting Palestinians’ freedom of movement. The wall has cut off East Jerusalem and other portions of land from the rest of the West Bank, effectively annexing parts of the Palestinian-claimed territory to Israel. Its placement has also restricted access to many basic services and amenities in Israel (e.g. hospitals, airports and water resources).
The physical presence of Israeli security forces and checkpoints interrupts much activity and movement. For example, cultural or sporting events may be deemed a ‘threat to security’ and limited or abruptly cancelled by Israeli authorities.10 Residents experience military violence on a day-to-day basis, with Palestinian civilians living under constant threat of being interrogated, assaulted or arbitrarily arrested any time they encounter authorities.11 House demolitions are also a common feature of occupation; Israeli Defence Forces demolished over 6,500 Palestinian-owned residences and structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem between 2009 and 2020, displacing more than 10,000 people.12
Many Israelis live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with estimates ranging from 620,000 to 750,000.13 Israeli settlements have become a visible feature of the territory’s landscape and one of the most noticeable aspects of occupation. Numerous UN resolutions have found the building of Israeli settlements to be a violation of the Geneva Convention and international law.14 Nevertheless, as of 2018, there are 132 settlements and 121 outposts (settlements established without Israeli government legal approval) in the West Bank. There are strong Israeli military presences established in the areas controlled by settlement activity, accompanied by roadblocks, checkpoints and other security measures that residents must negotiate on a daily basis (e.g. from work to home or to visit a family member). There were over 700 permanent obstacles that restricted or controlled Palestinian vehicular and pedestrian movement across the West Bank in 2018.15 In total, Israel has divided and zoned approximately 42% of the territory for Israeli settlers.16
Social interactions between Palestinians and Israeli settlers are generally limited. However, reports of settler violence and hostility against Palestinian West Bank residents are common (especially towards farmers living around settlements). Palestinians are generally strongly opposed to the building of settlements and increasing Israeli residency in the West Bank, often citing the illegality of the policy under international law.17 See Core Concepts of the Israeli profile for more information on Israeli settlements.
Gaza (also referred to as the Gaza Strip) is a small territory located along the Mediterranean coast, bordering Egypt and Israel. It is governed by an Islamic militant group and political party, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), and hosts a population of 2 million Palestinians, of which over 1.4 million are registered refugees.18,19 Life in Gaza has been characterised by siege, destruction and closures since Hamas came into power in 2007. The Israeli government responded to Hamas’ seizure of the territory by imposing blockades with Egypt that have sealed all land, air and sea borders and limited the flow of goods and supplies. The blockades have suffocated the economy, created massive shortages and crippled living standards with devastating consequences for Palestinian residents.20 Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world (reaching 47% in 2019), with youth unemployment being even more chronic (roughly 60%).21, 22
The population has also experienced much military violence between Israel and Hamas since 2006. Conflicts are often characterised by Israeli airstrikes and extra-judiciary assassinations as well as Palestinian rocket attacks (often by Hamas militants). While there have been fatalities on both sides, it is acknowledged that the fighting generally results in far higher Palestinian casualties (mostly civilians) than on the Israeli side.23 The most devastating conflicts to date have been the 2008-2009 Gaza War, the 2012 cross-border attacks and the 2014 Gaza War. Tensions continue to be high, with the ongoing threat of intermittent attacks and retaliations.
The blockades, violence and political instability have had massive impacts on people’s quality of life in Gaza and created widespread poverty and displacement.24 The limitations on supplies have forced Palestinians to be adaptable, innovative and resourceful in sourcing and producing goods. However, almost half the population relies on food aid rations from UNRWA.25 The humanitarian situation in Gaza deteriorated significantly following the 2014 conflict. According to the UN, human potential has been suffocated to the point of de-development.26 The territory has often been described as a ‘prison’ as the Israeli government’s restrictions on movement make it almost impossible for Palestinians to leave the area.27 Therefore, most young residents have never experienced life outside of Gaza.28
Exile, Migration and the Diaspora
Approximately 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs lived in Palestine in 1947 (prior to the creation of Israel).29 However, at least 750,000 were violently expelled and made refugees beyond Israel’s borders between 1947 and 1949.30 Many Palestinians were displaced to the West Bank and Gaza, while others fled to surrounding Arab countries (predominantly Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Iraq).31 Migration continued following subsequent political turmoil over the 20th century. Many Palestinians have suffered forced displacement twice: once from their original homes, and then from their host country. For example, Palestinians that fled to Iraq and Syria were targeted by militant groups and/or forced to leave during the US-led invasion of Iraq and the Syrian Civil War.
There continue to be large numbers of Palestinians living in foreign countries across the world (often as refugees) due to the mass exile after the creation of the Israeli state in 1948. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (2020), the current world population of Palestinians is approximately 13.5 million, of which roughly half live outside of .32 Most live in other Arab countries (5,986,000), with the largest population being in Jordan (3 million) of which 2.2 million are registered refugees.33, 34, 35 Other significant populations are in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Approximately 720,000 Palestinians live outside the Middle East, with one of the most substantial populations being in Chile.36 Many also migrated to Europe, North America and Australia.
The experiences of the are generally different to those of Palestinians remaining in Israel, West Bank and Gaza. It is also important to differentiate between the experiences of those living in surrounding Middle Eastern countries and those living further away (e.g. Europe, North and South America, Australia, etc.). The social, economic and political circumstances of Palestinian refugees and migrants can vary significantly depending on their host country, as well as their political status.
Palestinians living in other Arab-majority countries may share the same language and religion with their host country (i.e. being Arabic-speaking and Muslim or Christian). However, they can face marginalisation and discrimination as a national, non-citizen and group.37 Jordan is the only host country that has granted Palestinian refugees full citizenship rights. Outside of this, many face difficult challenges as people denied citizenship and basic civil and political rights.38 For example, Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon are denied the right to work in certain professions and have limited access to health and educational services, often making them heavily reliant on refugee agencies.39 It is common for Palestinian refugees to be socially excluded in many Arab countries and stigmatised as lower-class outsiders.40 Second- and third-generation Palestinian migrants often continue to be affected by such marginalisation and exclusion from citizenship, even if they are born in the host country. Experiences of discrimination have propelled some to migrate further to Western countries. It is estimated the majority of Palestinians living in Europe arrived as refugees from Lebanon, Egypt and Israel.41
History and Political Context
Palestinians are engaged in an ongoing struggle to resist the Israeli government’s occupation of land and suppression of their national identity, freedom and independence. While the current situation is highly complex, it is important to have a general understanding of the historical and political context in order to appreciate people’s experiences and current cultural attitudes. Indeed, the Palestinian desire for independence goes back many years as the Arab population has been occupied by foreign powers throughout much of human history. For example, the region was under Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule for centuries before falling under British control after World War I.
British Mandate and Jewish Immigration
Britain established the region as ‘Mandatory Palestine’ (also known as ‘British Palestine’) in 1923. This was widely opposed by Arab Palestinians who comprised almost 90% of the population of Palestine at this time, and owned about 97% of its land.42 Many perceived British occupation as a form of subjugation.43 The British promised independence after the mandate period.44 However, they also pledged to facilitate the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people”, as stated in the Balfour Declaration.45, 46 The declaration reflected growing movements that had been taking hold across Europe, largely in reaction to . For a number of Jews, refers to the ideology of establishing, supporting and protecting a Jewish nation-state in the historic region of Palestine, which they believe to be their ancient homeland (see Core Concepts of the Israeli profile for more information). Many Jews had already begun migrating to Palestine based on this principle before the British Mandate was established, making up around 10% of the population (84,000 people) according to the 1922 census.47
The demographics of Palestine were rapidly transformed as Jewish immigration and land confiscation increased tenfold during the British Mandate. The Jewish population grew from approximately 84,000 in 1922 to at least 608,000 in 1946, constituting over a third of the population.48 Violence between the Jewish minority and Arab majority escalated as it became clear that the region’s future and independence would largely be determined by each community’s population size and land ownership by the end of the mandate period.49 Many Arabs viewed the claim of land as a form of and oppression that sought to drive present inhabitants out of their homeland.50 In 1947, the UN recommended that the region be partitioned into two separate states for Arabs and Jews respectively (i.e. ‘Palestine’ and ‘Israel’) in an effort to give both communities their own state and independence.51 However, this was opposed by the Arab majority who desired a unified Arab Palestine, and saw the partition as another instance of a foreign power dispossessing the Palestinian people of their land and autonomy.
The Creation of Israel and the Nakba (Catastrophe)
The State of Israel was declared and established in 1948. This was a violent process that saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs forcibly expelled from the region, mostly by militia groups.52 Today, Palestinians remember the date of Israel’s creation (May 15th) as the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe), marking the beginning of an cleansing of Palestine and almost total destruction of Palestinian society. It also symbolises the beginning of ‘al-ghurba’, which means ‘banishment from the homeland’ or ‘separation from one’s native country’.53 This refers to the experience of exiled Palestinians and the formation of a large global (see Exile, Migration and the Diaspora).54
Conflict and Violence
Most Palestinians have been impacted directly or indirectly by the violence and conflicts that have occurred in the region since the Nakba. Such events have also shaped the living overseas. Open warfare erupted between Israel and neighbouring Arab countries in 1948 (Arab-Israeli War), 1956 (Suez Crisis), 1967 (Six-Day War) and 1973 (October War).55 In addition to the human impact of the violence, these conflicts resulted in more Palestinians being displaced and dispossessed of the land. Israel seized more territory outside the borders of the UN agreement following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, eventually occupying all the territories that had been originally designated to Palestine (West Bank and Gaza) following the Six-Day War in 1967.
Tensions continued to rise in the West Bank and Gaza as Palestinians increasingly struggled under occupation. Frustration erupted in 1987 with the First Intifada (‘first uprising’). This uprising started with peaceful protests and boycotts by Palestinian residents, but escalated after Israeli forces responded with violence. Many Palestinians anticipated Israel’s territorial control of the West Bank and Gaza to ease following the end of the First Intifada in 1993. However, the occupation became further entrenched. Disappointment at the failure of further peace talks led to the Second Intifada (2000-2005), which was much more violent than the first. Military attacks have also continued into the present day, especially between Israeli forces and Gazans (see Life Under Occupation). While there have been fatalities on both sides, the fighting has resulted in far higher civilian casualties on the Palestinian side. However, ultimately violence continues to be a constant feature of occupation, impacting the lives of multiple generations of Palestinians.
The Palestinian Identity
The notion of a unified Palestinian identity has deep roots in history. However, the term “Palestinian” came into common global use after the creation of the Israeli state, to refer to the Arab people who lived in the region previously.56 Similarly, Palestinian Arabs use the term to indicate the nationalist concept of a Palestinian people with rightful claim to the land and statehood.57 As the contemporary Palestinian identity was largely solidified through politics, it is closely associated with the people’s emancipatory struggle and resistance against dispossession, oppression, injustice, exile and separation.58 In this way, the Palestinian identity can symbolise a ‘cause’ just as much as an , regional or national identity.59 Some individuals with dual identities (e.g. Palestinian-Australian) may feel more connected with their Palestinian identity as their political awareness grows, and they develop a greater sense of responsibility to represent their people’s plight.
At its simplest, to be “Palestinian” today generally signifies that one shares a genealogical link to the land. For example, one may live in the region or descend from a family that once did. The ability to trace these links back through previous generations remains central to the expression of the Palestinian identity outside the region.60 For example, Palestinians living overseas commonly explain their connection to Palestine when first meeting one another.61 People tend to emphasise their shared identity as Palestinian Arabs with a common homeland, rather than focusing on religious differences (e.g. Muslim or Christian).62 Discrimination between Palestinians based on , or linguistic grounds is rare.63
The concept of a Palestinian identity also signifies a sense of a shared past and future in the form of a Palestinian state.64 This is complex, as the understanding of “Palestine” can be expressed in a number of ways. For example, Palestine can invoke concrete ideas of the past, and may represent a real, tangible, geographic place or state that an individual hopes to return to. However, many Palestinians living or born in exile have been prevented from visiting or returning to the region by the Israeli government. Therefore, their understanding of Palestine may be more fluid, imagined through stories passed through the family as cultural heritage.65
Creative Expression and Collective Memory
Creativity and imagination are important features of Palestinian culture. As many people are prevented from being able to access their material cultural heritage (such as historic sites and buildings), different mediums are being used to express identity and pass on collective memory. The Palestinian people’s history, struggles and aspirations are often embodied in artistic expression, such as music, art, dance, film and literature. Many Palestinians (especially youth) use such mediums to convey their people’s plight to the broader world.
Some characteristics of Palestinian and/or Arab life have also become national symbols. For example, the ‘kefiyyeh’ (a checkered black and white scarf) has become an emblem of Palestinian nationalism.66 Meanwhile, the olive tree (a common feature of the Palestinian landscape) has come to symbolise the Palestinian identity and attachment to their land; its slow growth, longevity and drought resistance is seen to represent Palestinian resistance and resilience.67
Ultimately, a Palestinian’s family represents the deepest connection to their origin, heritage and identity. This is especially important for the , who may seek to maintain these links outside of Palestine. Oral storytelling is a key feature of Palestinian households that keeps tradition, cultural heritage and memory alive throughout experiences of displacement and dispossession.
Resilience and Activism
The constant denial of the Palestinian national identity, and human rights has led many to develop a strong sense of activism, especially amongst communities. Individuals commonly hold a sense of responsibility to defend and justify their people’s fight. Political engagement with the Palestinian cause is especially common overseas, with many actively raising awareness through film screenings, fund raising and artistic expression (see Creative Expression and Collective Memory).
Palestinians are generally very proud of their people’s strength and resilience. Dedication and service to the Palestinian cause and resistance efforts has also become one of the greatest sources of honour and continues to confer social respect. For example, some of the most celebrated national heroes are resistance fighters and those who have been imprisoned or (killed) while standing up for the rights of Palestinians.
Much social behaviour is traditionally influenced by Palestinians’ awareness of their personal honour. In this sense, ‘honour’ encompasses an individual’s reputation, prestige and worth. Preservation of honour and community opinion is often at the forefront of people’s minds (although this differs across geographical and demographic contexts). It influences people to behave conservatively in accordance with social expectations, to avoid drawing attention to themselves or risk doing something perceived to be dishonourable.
A person’s honour is determined by their personal actions as well as the behaviour of those they are associated with (i.e. their family, community or any 'group' they belong to). Therefore, if an individual does something dishonourable, their origins (e.g. family) may be implicated as the cause. In this way, there is a cultural pressure on individuals to protect their personal reputation and the image of those around them. This may require people to emphasise their positive qualities, family members’ achievements and adherence to social expectations in order to give a public impression of dignity and integrity.
There are many ways one can gain or lose honour. Traditionally, honourable behaviour relates to having a high social status, maintaining women’s sexual modesty and exhibiting core Arab values, such as honesty and hospitality. However, this has also evolved over time. For example, education is seen to bring honour to the Palestinian family as it has become highly valued for both men and women. In the political climate, dedication and service to the Palestinian cause has also become one of the greatest sources of honour (see Resilience and Activism), as well as connection with the land (a prized and diminishing resource).
The senior male of a family is considered to be responsible for protecting the honour of the family. They are often concerned with the modesty and chastity of the women in their family, which can inform rules of behaviour around their dress, social interactions, economic activity and public involvement (see more in the Family section). These expectations vary depending on the attitude of an individual family. However, a breach of social compliance by a woman can be perceived as a failure on the man’s behalf (her father, husband or brother). Palestinians from rural areas tend to hold tightly to traditional social dynamics and informal , such as the preservation of honour, whereas some urban areas have allowed for more expansion of social and individual freedoms.
Palestinian culture is , whereby strong loyalty is shown to one’s extended family and friends, the community, and the broader collective of Palestinian people. People’s relationships with their neighbours and community are generally closer than that experienced by many in the English-speaking West. Friends are often very loyal, performing favours for each other on a regular basis. This is important in the Palestinian Territories where a shortage of resources and underfunded social services are often unable to meet basic needs. It is common to call on personal contacts for support, opportunities and assistance in navigating life under occupation (see Clan Systems for more information on this).
In some cases, whole neighbourhoods may be involved in helping to meet challenges. For example, when a family experiences a particular hardship (such as the death of a family member), it is customary for the entire community to assist with cooking and cleaning so the family has time to mourn without the stress of daily activity. Men are traditionally considered to be financially responsible for others and are also expected to assist any woman in the community that is struggling financially (e.g. widows).
Personal Connections (Wasta)
A Palestinian’s status or influence is often determined by their personal connections. Prominent family names continue to carry social capital, even if the family itself is no longer particularly ‘wealthy’. Affiliation to a particular political party can also confer a certain social status or class. Relationships and reputations play an important role in completing professional, personal and social tasks. This is understood through the concept of ‘wasta’ (loosely translating to ‘who you know’), which refers to utilising one’s connections and/or influence in order to get things done.68 This can be observed when people turn to a close friend or relative for help instead of an institution (for example, getting hired or waiving a fine).
Wasta and are considered to be legitimate ways of gaining opportunities and completing transactions. However, it also manifests as preference based on who one knows. Therefore, one’s social mobility is often tied to their personal networks or family name. This is most noticeable in job opportunities, whereby members of notable families are more likely to secure better jobs. Meanwhile, those in disadvantaged positions often lack such contacts. This is one of the largest indicators of privilege amongst Palestinians, frequently manifesting in a rural-urban divide.
Palestinian Arab society is characterised by an extended family system, traditionally known as a or ‘hamula’. Membership to a is determined by shared ancestry through the father’s male lineage that generally connects multiple extended families. Women who marry outside of their will become members of their husband’s – as do children of the marriage. Some Palestinians have more fluid ideas of inclusion, stemming from widespread dispossession and exile. For example, Palestinian refugees residing in camps have been known to recreate identities with one another based on their place of origin (rather than bloodline) in order to form the support systems needed.69
provide a strong source of individual and family security. members generally share a sense of solidarity and loyalty to protect one another from outside harm. Traditionally, men share a code of honour (mithaq al-sharaf) based on the idea that an attack or threat to one member constitutes an insult to the entire . This could be a physical attack, or something honour-based (see Honour). Today, often play an important role and have considerable local influence in conditions where the government cannot provide reliable protection or support.70 For example, they have become particularly strong under the conditions of Israeli occupation. Members will often manage and distribute finances among the to offer crucial support to households suffering from lack of employment. This is especially noticeable in Gaza, where economic conditions are dire and unemployment is a chronic problem.71
The system is present throughout all social classes in the Palestinian Territories; professionals are just as likely to have identities as unskilled labourers. However, Palestinians are generally less likely to maintain such identities when living under stable governments with strong civil societies. For example, since the Palestinian Authority established further rule of law and governmental institutions in the West Bank, the influences of the tribal system and blood relations have weakened. Moreover, this specific system does not play a very active role in the lives of those resettled in Western countries. While many of those living overseas (particularly second- or third-generation Palestinians) may not be familiar with “” identities per se, they usually continue to place emphasis on extended family support systems.
There are several Palestinian Bedouin groups that live across the Palestinian Territories and Israel who share a lineage distinct from the majority of Palestinian Arab . They mainly identify as “Palestinian”, but use the term “Bedouin” to refer to their tribal heritage and culture.72 Traditionally, Bedouins were semi-nomadic tribes that traversed the desert throughout the region without state interference. However, Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement in the Palestinian Territories and Israel have limited their nomadic-herder lifestyle.73 Thousands have been displaced from desert homelands in present-day Israel and relocated mostly to the West Bank.74 The vast majority of Palestinian Bedouins are no longer nomadic.
It is estimated around 40,000 Bedouins live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, mostly in towns or cities.75 Their families are generally socioeconomically disadvantaged and often have less access to adequate infrastructure, education and healthcare than the majority Palestinian population.76 Those that remain in Israel live in some of the poorest conditions (mostly in the Negev desert), often with the constant threat of eviction or home demolition.
While tribal life has been heavily impacted by occupation, several Palestinian Bedouin groups continue to maintain aspects of traditional tribal Arab culture. This is particularly evident in family structures and marriage patterns. Bedouins typically live in extended family groups that have a very strong social organisation, typified by adherence to family solidarity and honour.77 Tribes are customarily headed by a sheikh who functions as the tribe advisor and mediator in and family disputes.78
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