Rebuilding From the Rubble Yet Again: Whither the Fourth Phase of Palestinian Collective Action?


Beshara Doumani is the Mahmoud Darwish Chair for Palestinian Studies at Brown University. His research focuses on the social histories of peoples, places, and time periods marginalized by mainstream scholarship on the early modern and modern Middle East. He also writes on academic freedom, the politics and ethics of knowledge production, and the Palestinian condition. His books include Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900, and Family Life in the Ottoman Mediterranean: A Social History.
Doumani is the former President of Birzeit University in Palestine, the founding director of Brown University’s Center for Middle East Studies, and of the New Directions in Palestinian Studies Research Initiative. From 2008-2011 he led a team that produced the strategic plan for the establishment of the Palestinian Museum. He is currently serving as the co-editor of the Jerusalem Quarterly and working on a modern history of the Palestinians through the social life of stone.


The Hamas attack on October 7. 2024 was planned and intended as a rupture that puts an end to the deteriorating third phase of Palestinian national politics. The ongoing domicide/genocide in Gaza perpetrated by the Israeli government will fail to foreclose a future for Palestinian collective action, but it will help shape it, as will the rapidly changing regional and global political orders. It is unclear what the fourth phase will look like, as it depends on how the Palestinians rebuild from the rubble, a process which they have had to engage in repeatedly for the past four generations. What is clear, is that the new forms of collective action will, for the first time, no longer be fully tethered to the state-centric and human rights frameworks. The Palestinian condition could become, therefore, even more central as a litmus test to larger visions for global futures. That is a heavy burden to bear for a relentlessly battered and traumatized people.