Kaitlin Clary Bottock | 2008 Islamic fundamentalism has surfaced in Palestinian refugee communities; but fundamentalism has only gained power and support in some of the countries in which these communities are located. This thesis studies the rise of this movement within refugee communities in order to discern what factors lead fundamentalists to attain power. I argue that the rise in Islamic fundamentalism in Palestinian refugee communities depends on the domestic opportunities afforded it by both the state and society of the country in which these communities exist. I define fundamentalism as the designation for activities that advocate the use of the Qur’an and shari’a, and employ Islamic principles as a political platform in their operations.
As the potency of fundamentalist movements among Palestinian refugees varies across countries, the factors that precipitate its rise must too vary from country to country. Despite the fact that many scholars claim fundamentalism to be innate to the refugees themselves, I argue that this is not the case. My first chapter outlines Palestinian refugee history in order to provide meaning to refugee identity. No matter where they live currently, they share similar experiences of exile and face challenges in their host countries. I contend that with the defeat of Arab nationalism in 1967, Palestinians set off in search of a unique identity separate from other Arab nationals.
My second chapter will look at the events that constitute a modern revival of Islamic fundamentalism. I will argue that fundamentalism began its ascent after the Arab defeat in 1967, but only appeared as a major global player after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Since 1979, an array of events have brought fundamentalism to encompass a broad scope of activities, including national government, political opposition, resistance, transnational military force, and at times, terrorism. I argue that this revival provides valuable support to refugee fundamentalists, but I maintain that domestic opportunities are necessary to translate fundamentalism into action, activity, and operation. I support this claim using Sidney Tarrow’s refutation of the Strong Transnational Thesis.
I use the case studies of Jordan and Lebanon to provide evidence for my argument. I contend that these cases clearly show that fundamentalism does not result from characteristics intrinsic to the refugee community, but instead depends on the domestic context it operates in. In Jordan, the state tried to assimilate the refugees into society. The Hashemite monarchy took steps in order to curb Palestinian influence in the country, especially after Black September in 1970. The regime fostered a relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, which absorbed many marginalized fundamentalists. This relationship also moderated the policies of the Brotherhood. Although other groups and organizations exist, they face the regime’s repression mechanism. The Jordanian state has curbed opportunities for fundamentalists. In Lebanon, fundamentalists have successfully executed and expanded their operations, ranging from militant groups to social and philanthropic organizations. They benefit from autonomy of the camps, and segregation from a sectarian society. They also capitalize the failure of the state to provide goods and services for refugees. The sectarian nature of state and society has provided opportunities for Islamic fundamentalism in refugee communities in Lebanon. These cases clearly demonstrate that Islamic fundamentalism requires domestic opportunities in order to establish itself in refugee communities.