Gaza elder uses Facebook to promote tribal arbitration techniques

Gaza elder uses Facebook to promote tribal arbitration techniques
Mahmoud Thabet, a prominent Palestinian tribal judge, has realised social media can be ideal to remind youths in Gaza of their tribal heritage and promote tribal-based activism and knowledge.
2 min read
03 January, 2016
Mr. Mahmoud Thabet has embraced digital tools to promote tribal arbitration traditions [Abdul-Hakim Abu Rayyash]
Mahmoud Thabet, who is also known as Abu al-Said, is a prominent Palestinian tribal figure who has discovered social media can be a great tool to introduce the terms and concepts used in tribal arbitration in the Gaza Strip, and teach young people about their heritage.

Thabet, who is in his sixties, was closely involved in drafting the clauses related to social reconciliation and reparations in the Cairo Agreement of 2011 between Hamas and Fatah.

He has also authored several books on tribal-based arbitration.

Thabet's main platform is a Facebook page he has created for the purpose. The page, which Thabet updates on a daily basis, is a rich resource for customary and bedouin terminology, and provides quick answers to queries by followers regarding their proper usage and context.

The popularity of technology among Gazan youths and lack of awareness of tribal activism were two reasons that prompted Thabet to start his project, he told The New Arab.

Thabet admitted tribal activism has suffered a decline in the past several years. However, he believes social media is an ideal way to address youths and convince them to take interest in the tribal and customary traditions of Palestine.

One reason behind the decline are the reconciliation committees established by modern Palestinian factions, Thabet said. Another is that tribal courts were affected by the inter-Palestinian division like many other areas of Palestinian life.

Rhyming wisdom

There are several stock phrases and formulas used in tribal arbitration contexts that his page teaches, usually taking on the form of rhyming retorts.

"This is a falsehood that never happened, straight from the devil's mouth," goes one such phrase, used in the tribal court to rebutt a claim. 

A phrase that roughly translates as "tightly bound are the cattle," meanwhile, means the opposite, and is used to affirm the sincerity of the claim. 

"Did you know the tribal tradition in Palestine had undertaken functions borne today by the Red Cross before the Geneva Convention was signed? The fighting among Bedouins required having meditators acceptable to all, to carry messages between warring factions in safety," says one introductory post on the page.

Thabet said tribal activism was widespread in various eras in Palestine, from the Ottoman era to the British Mandate of Palestine, and then under the Egyptian administration of Gaza, the Israeli occupation of the Strip and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.