Doron Pely’s Muslim/Arab Mediation and Conflict Resolution provides a comprehensive understanding of ṣulḥa as practised by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Ṣulḥa is the Arabic word describing an informal customary conflict resolution mechanism in which family and community members serve as mediators and arbiters. Pely clearly is sympathetic to the potential impact that this practice has for restorative justice. Through interviews as well as a questionnaire administered with Palestinian-Israelis who have participated in this tradition, Pely explains to his readers the mechanisms underlying this cultural system. His appreciation for it is based on a rich and multi-dimensional analysis that includes qualitative and quantitative methods. In a compelling manner, the book traces transformations from revenge to forgiveness. Pely also outlines a new theoretical framework—namely, what he calls ‘re-integrative honouring concept’—to delineate how ṣulḥa integrates the need for rehabilitating honour among all parties within an Arab society. He juxtaposes this with theories on conventional alternative dispute resolution practices within Western contexts. Muslim/Arab Mediation and Conflict Resolution situates ṣulḥa not only within an Islamic legal and cultural framework, but also within the formal Israeli legal system. The connections between ṣulḥa and both the Islamic tradition and Israeli courts are clear and yet also tenuous. Pely captures those tensions more effectively in his discussion of the latter than the former. I particularly appreciated the ethnographic case study featured in the final chapter. In this study, Palestinian Christians appear in a fleeting manner, and it would have been helpful for Pely to account for the Christian community in Israel/Palestine and its relationship to ṣulḥa practices in a more robust manner. The book privileges ‘Arab’ over ‘Palestinian’ in referring to the indigenous Palestinian community in Israel (or historic Palestine). This discursive move resonates with Zionist discourses directed at this population that are aimed at dividing and conquering Palestinians. Most Palestinian citizens of Israel see themselves as Palestinian and identify with their Palestinian counterparts in the Occupied Territories and in the Diaspora as well. The context of the Israeli state’s racism and oppression toward Palestinians is absent in the text. It would have been relevant to include this as it would help readers grasp Palestinian mistrust and alienation from hegemonic Israeli state institutions, particularly considering the imposed segregations and violence that emanate from those institutions. To what extent do Palestinians in Israel turn to ṣulḥa and other informal spheres partly as a result of not being treated with dignity in the formal sphere? Nonetheless, the access that Pely gained to this community and the insights he was able to glean in their midst as an outside scholar from the privileged community is impressive. Although not referenced in the text, the book informs the literature in legal anthropology on customary law—with resonances to the work of Sally Falk Moore. Pely truly captures the heart of ṣulḥa and its power of uniting the collective over the individual in the process of healing and accountability. He also provides details on the stages of ṣulḥa, from conflict eruption to recruiting the victim’s clan, then garnering signatures to proceed to the payment and truce and then the negotiations followed by the verdict and ceremonial conclusion. The methodical and elaborate nature of ṣulḥa is truly an art in many ways. I also appreciated the care that Pely took to point out how this is a male-dominated domain, with the exclusion of women, but nonetheless identifying the important roles that women do take on, often privately, before, during, and after the stages of ṣulḥa. Conflict resolution literature often relegates Israel/Palestine as somehow exceptional to larger theoretical insights that we have gained in the field. Muslim/Arab Mediation and Conflict Resolution is a critical contribution in that it brings this region into conversation with broader debates in the field. Furthermore, scholarship on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict often privileges disputes between Israelis and Palestinians, and Pely’s highlighting of intra-Palestinian conflict and its management is most valuable. The book is well-organized, clearly written, theoretically and historically grounded, well-defined in terms of scope, and accessible to many audiences, including those who may not have knowledge of Arab societies. It approaches the issue of clans within an Arab context realistically without reinforcing Orientalist tropes. Pely offers an important read to those of us working at the intersection of Israel/Palestine and peace and conflict studies and beyond. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Journal of Islamic Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: May 30, 2018
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