Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

World History


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Gavin Brockett

Advisor Role

Thesis Advisor

Second Advisor

Renee Worringer

Advisor Role


Third Advisor

Jasmin Habib

Advisor Role



A State in Waiting? The Lives of Fatah Political Prisoners, 1967-1985 looks at the evolution of a Fatah prisoner movement inside Israeli prisons intended for Palestinian political prisoners. An under-researched area in Palestinian studies, this project relies on a combination of oral sources and anonymous documents drafted by prisoners during their internment housed at the Abu Jihad Museum in Abu Dis, Palestine. The dissertation argues that beginning in the 1970s and lasting into the 1980s a kind of collectivity emerged and came to define prisoner interactions and their day-to-day activities. Prison, and later system-wide hunger strikes are addressed in an early chapter in order to illustrate a kind of cooperation unrivalled in other international prisoner contexts. As the largest faction represented inside the prisons, an examination of Fatah’s planning best showcases the codification of prisoner-created guidelines and rules for managing the prison experience. By examining educational programs and political structures through interviews and written documentation, the dissertation shows how Fatah prisoners worked collaboratively to create and implement plans that would first and foremost service the prisoners during their sentences, but also intellectually and politically prepare them for life after prison. What is most remarkable about these structures and plans is the way in which they were anonymously transcribed in writing and then agreed upon by all members of the faction within a given prison; a kind of democratic spirit was at play. By the 1980s, Fatah’s systems were comprehensively outlined in documents, representing a well-oiled governing machine. The dissertation concludes by showing how this prisoner movement was appropriated by the leadership in the Diaspora, used as propaganda to internationally promote Palestinian suffering, resistance, and to demonstrate a connection with their historic homeland even while they operated from places beyond the borders, including Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. This project is particularly necessary and relevant given the number of today’s political players in the Palestinian Authority’s middling management who cut their political teeth behind prison gates in the pre-First Intifada period.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season