How Sulha works
: Explaining Customary Conflict Resolution Within Northern Israel’s Arab Community

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Sulha (Settlement in Arabic) is a ubiquitous, seven-step, transformative and restorative customary justice practice, designed to facilitate reconciliation between
    and amongst feuding clans in Muslim and Arab societies. This dissertation examines the application of this practise in the Arab community of northern Israel, where most of the country’s Arab population lives.

    The existing literature tends to treat the Sulha from a folkloristic perspective, focusing on ritual and ceremony yet lacking in-depth analysis of the process itself, which sometimes takes years to complete and is conducted for the most part in strict confidentiality between the interveners and each of the disputing clans. It especially fails to demonstrate how the application of a judicious mix of mediation and arbitration tools contributes to changing disputants’ attitudes; what tools (if any) are used by interveners to effect the desired changes; and how such tools achieve the goal of gradually replacing what is described as an almost unquenchable desire to avenge a perceived collective injury to the clan’s honour with a willingness to forgive and move on with life, through a restoration of the victim’s clan sense of honour.

    Using ethnographic and quantitative research methods, including participant observations, questionnaires, surveys, interviews with informants, existing literature, statistical analysis, and the introduction of a new concept (Reintegrative Honouring Concept), this dissertation seeks to redress these key pitfalls in the study of the Sulha process, as well as to fill other research lacunae such as the ignored impact of women on the process, the impact of the interaction between Sulha and Israel’s formal legal system, and the theoretical and functional differences between similarly-named mediation and arbitration tools in Western ADR (e.g., venting, confidentiality) and those in Sulha.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • King's College London
    SupervisorEfraim Karsh (Supervisor) & Paul Janz (Supervisor)

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