The Legacy of Repression: Polarization in the Palestinian Territories

Posted: 31 Dec 2017

Date Written: August 30, 2016


What is the effect of authoritarianism on polarization within society, and how does such polarization affect collective action? This paper specifically addresses whether varying types of authoritarian strategies have an effect on the level of polarization in society, and the subsequent ability of different segments of society to coordinate. I argue that authoritarianism generates rising polarization, which in turn inhibits cooperation between groups. Specifically, the type of authoritarian strategy matters; exclusionary strategies such as repression generate higher levels of grievance and insularity, making it more difficult for groups to coordinate, than inclusionary strategies such as cooptation. To assess this dynamic, I examine a specific case of authoritarianism and polarization: the case of the Palestinian territories. Using this case, I present a two-stage theory: arguing 1) that particular forms of authoritarianism generate polarization, and 2) that polarization subsequently affects social cohesion, and capacity for collective action. Results confirm the theory that authoritarianism, in particular forms, exacerbates polarization within society. This polarization in turn affects the ability and willingness of different segments to coordinate on a common task. In particular, exclusionary strategies such as repression generate greater levels of polarization than inclusionary strategies such as cooptation. Moreover, the qualitative evidence shows that Islamists in the West Bank, the most repressed group, are much more insular and less willing to cooperate with others. These results shed light on mechanisms of authoritarian control, and provide pathways for future research on how regimes maintain power by neutralizing opposition increasingly over time. On a substantive level, these results also explain why the Palestinian community specifically, and Arab societies more generally, suffer from increasing polarization and a decreasing capacity for collective action.

Keywords: polarization, repression, authoritarianism, Palestine, experimental methods

Suggested Citation

El Kurd, Dana, The Legacy of Repression: Polarization in the Palestinian Territories (August 30, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Dana El Kurd (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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