September 23, 2019 

Introduction

The concept of civil society refers to what distinguishes between the activities of society and the activities of the political authority, and on this basis civil society is defined as: "All institutions that allow individuals to access public services and benefit from it  without the intervention or mediation of the state."

civil society  emerge  as a result of the establishment of democracies and political, industrial, scientific and religious revolutions in the world. as a synonym for freedom of expression, and organizing. the civil society was founded by the  society and imposed itself on the state by continuous peaceful and confrontational struggles. Thus, civil society is a structure, and institutions relationships founded by individuals independently away from state or political power.

Palestinian Civil Society: A national path that established the concept of the state

In the Palestinian case, the criteria used to identify the existence of a civil society in a country will not be much helpful, because if we consider that the civil society system is in a sense related to civil or social work circles away from political circles, Or what is at the governmental level than what is non-governmental, in the Palestinian case the public interferes with the private, and the political with the civil; Given the specificity of the Palestinian people, whose land is under the Israeli occupation control, the Palestine civil society  has  no knowledge of state and authority in which a civil society can be developed.

Civil society organizations were present in the Palestinian society, but their function was not similar as organizations in other countries. The absence of a Palestinian state changed its function and made it aim at highlighting the Palestinian national identity and re-establishing the state for in this case the civil society is the founder of a political authority and not the opposite.

There is no doubt that the political situation inside the Palestinian territories does not amount to the concept of a state, or liberated territories, at the same time it is not a total occupation, which doesn’t prevent the unification of efforts to build a homeland, and there are many areas in which the Palestinians can use their skills and expertise for the sake of Palestine, The work for a homeland is much broader than political action in its traditional sense. It extends to all individual, collective, political, economic or social practices. One of the most important forms of these practices is the activities of civil society.

In light of this rapid presentation of the concept of civil society in the Palestinian case, the following conclusion can be drawn: There are particular problems related to the overlap of the national agenda with the social agendas,  at a time were the Palestinian society is facing risks related to limited opportunities, Consolidating the role of civil society, with its various configurations, can be considered one of the most important options available to Palestinians to enhance their chances of a successful and accomplished  national and social assignments in pursuit of their national goals.

 Analytical study for the of Palestinian Civil Society organizations

The number of Palestinian civil society organizations reached 4616 organizations, (42% in the West Bank, 31% in Gaza Strip, 14% outside of Palestine, 11% in occupied Jerusalem, and 2% in the 48 occupied territories). About 57% of these organizations operate only within a geographically restricted area Such as one village, or a particular city within its geographical scope, while the other 43% of civil society organizations operate within an entire geographic area or throughout the Palestinian Territory, Approximately 60% of these organizations can be classified as “grassroots” or “self-help” groups created by a group of individuals aspiring to solve local problems and improve the conditions of their communities, Few of the total number of organizations focus their work on one sector of activity, most organizations focus their work on more than one sector and work field.

The sectors and fields of activity of the organizations are distributed as follows: educational organizations, women's organizations, social organizations, medical organizations, cultural organizations, human rights organizations, Trade unions, agricultural organizations, organizations for special needs, childhood and family counseling organizations, labor organizations, youth and sports organizations, media organizations, organizations of foreign relations, organizations of detainees, transport and communication organizations, environmental organizations, infrastructure organizations, religious organizations, refugee organizations, tourism and antiquities organizations.

The report reviews the main challenges that characterize the work of civil society organizations in the Palestinian territories and cities; organizations that are supposed to be subordinated to the Palestinian Authority institutions and State bodies  located in (Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza Strip)  which are divided as follows:

Challenges that characterize the work of Palestinian organizations in Jerusalem:

-The severity of Israeli occupation practices towards organizations, characterized in recent period of increased harsh measures through Israeli laws against Palestinians, such as house demolitions, deterioration of services, sanctions and administrative violations, this situation affects civil society organizations in the city by increasing the demand for services and support.

- There is a real legal dispute over the status of Palestinian organizations in Jerusalem, Jerusalem has been fully incorporated into the Israeli administrative and judicial authority, With regard to the legal framework civil society organizations in Jerusalem must be registered and licensed by the Israeli authorities, Otherwise, it will remain in an informal legal position that prevents it from accessing resources independently and puts it in a precarious position against the Israeli authorities.

-  The lack of space for a dialogue between Palestinian organizations and the Israeli authorities. Palestinian organizations do not recognize the authority and legitimacy of the occupation, thus, these organizations cannot influence the nature of services and the system of government in Jerusalem.

- The increasing isolation of civil society organizations in Jerusalem, where most of the large organizations were forced to leave the city under the strict policies and threats of closure of the Israeli ‘s authorities therefore, these organizations had to relocate its offices to cities in the West Bank.

Challenges that characterize the work of Palestinian organizations in the West Bank:

- Great control from the Palestinian authorities and their increased control over civil society organizations, influencing decisions on registration of organizations approval, or organization dissolution, the establishment of their governing bodies, etc.

- Occupation measures and the policy of cutting cities and villages through the apartheid wall and checkpoints affect the activities of community-based organizations, which impose difficulties on freedom of movement, especially in areas called "Area C".

- The isolation policy and annexation in areas called “C”, where civil society organizations are often the only Palestinian entity capable of providing services in those parts of the West Bank on behalf of the Palestinian Authority; also the only entity capable of supporting government service activities, by that providing information, and channel of communication between the local population and the Palestinian authorities.

Challenges that characterize the work of Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip:

- the continued Israeli closure and blockade on Gaza Strip since 2006.This blocked did not only creates difficulties for the lives of people, but also creates a situation where the demand for CSO services continues to grow and affects the sustainability of CSO activities.

- Most civil society organizations in the Gaza Strip have become predominantly relief or charitable organizations, while other sectors for example of the same importance to local development are being neglected. This situation was imposed by the siege on Gaza Strip and the repeated Israeli wars against Gaza.

- Financial resources are also a major concern among civil society organizations, a reflection of the nature of activities that most organizations focus on, they are mostly relief activities as a result of the worsening living conditions of besieged Gaza and its war-torn cities, as well as a significant restriction on the movement and access of funds by Israeli authorities or the Palestinian Authority.

- The existence of different legal systems, due to the Palestinian political division, organizations have become invoked by the laws of local authorities, At the same time, the organizations respond to the requirements and procedures of the government in Ramallah, and this creates uncertainty for the organizations there.

- There is difficulty in recognizing the identity of civil society organizations, and there is a dilemma regarding their culture, activities and attitudes in an environment of political conflict.

Important clause summarizing the nature of the work of Palestinian civil society organizations:

The lack of a strategic vision and a common perception of the roles that CSOs can play can be considered a major weakness, there are other weaknesses associated with the tendency of civil society organizations to become self-contained within the service delivery function, this affects the strategic development process, the dynamics of better representation of people's needs, furthermore, the linkages between sectors, norms and communities, as well as relations with donors and political actors.

 Some of the clause that can be identified and should be considered when providing a closer view on the reality of Palestinian civil society organizations and the nature of their formation:

- The unclear identity of the Palestinian civil society organizations in addition to their ambiguous relationship with the political authorities, and the division between the Palestinian territories (West Bank which is divided into areas A, B and C, and its separation from Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip), this effects on the formation and activities of civil society organizations, that contributes to the emergence of different identities and conflicts, and limits the organizations capacities.

- The impact of the Israeli occupation that mainly limits the ability to operate and  the capacity of Palestinian civil society organizations.

- There is a prevailing situation of self-isolation by civil society organizations, were organization tend to focus on their own performance and function, despite some tendencies for cooperation and networking.

- Existing legal frameworks and public freedoms are not sufficiently supportive of freedom of association and the value of civil society work.

- The current fragility of civil society organizations in their relations with government bodies and political parties; despite their historically political and national role, these organizations now lack the proper mechanisms to influence decision-makers, political authorities, democratic processes, or even ways to defend themselves as a major community component.

- Most organizations are involved in providing services, even though their main funding is through short- and medium-term projects and programs, this creates an unstable position in the work of the organizations and forces them to invest their resources in fundraising and seeking funding.

- Cooperation, partnership-building and fund-raising between national Palestinian civil society organizations and between international non-governmental organizations (INGOS) and international organizations (IOS) are predominantly competitive between local and international actors, In addition, international NGOs are often inclined to participate directly in the implementation of the project.

- The absence of a comprehensive perception of the priorities of civil work within the national context, which can be formulated by all the official and partisan and intellectual bodies that has activities in line with the priorities of strengthening the steadfastness of the Palestinian citizen on his land.

- There are no government initiatives to develop an official guide to civil society organizations and international actors active in the Palestinian territories, it can be carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, with a full classification of all these institutions on the basis of employment, funding, programs, integrity and transparency.