Political Violence, Activism and Conflict

Sent On: 
Mon, 2021-12-06
Newsletter Number: 

Photo Haaretz - Dr. Dajani at Auschwitz


In 2014, Palestinian professor Mohammed Dajani Daoudi [Muḥammad Dajānī Dāwūdī] took thirty Palestinian students to Cracow and Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, as part of a conflict resolution programme. After the trip, Dajani was indicted as a traitor by some Palestinians as they considered it an Israeli propaganda trip and normalization. Concerned by the impact of extremism on Palestinians due to the ongoing conflict, Dajani has united a moderate voice in his Islamic movement Wasatia [Wasaṭiyya]. The term Wasatia focuses on centrism, moderation, justice and balance. It comes from the Arabic word wasat [wasaṭ] which means "centre of the circle" or “middle way.” The Wasatia movement seeks to fill the gap that they believe exists in the spectrum of Palestinian politics as a nonviolent Islamist and democratic movement.


I have analysed how a Palestinian nonviolent movement with values of moderation functions in a more radicalized environment. To do this, I have conducted a content analysis of the website of the movement, several interviews in newspapers, YouTube videos and social media statements, and a qualitative in-depth interview with Dr. Dajani (please click here to the text of this interview). Besides, the paper has used and built on nonviolence, social movement mobilization and collective identity theories to shed light on the Wasatia movement.


A collective identity refers to a shared idea that prevails in a group, through which an individual feels connected to a broader community, category, or institution. Since a collective identity is not always a pre-existing fact in a movement, the attempts of activists to “frame” an identity are important in recruiting participants. Collective identity helps create bonds between individuals through shared morals and goals. A collective identity must be sufficiently open and broad to attract members. The Palestinian collective identity is contestable. By appealing to Islam as the most important component of the collective identity, Wasatia speaks to a large group of Palestinians. Wasatia tries to mobilise people by endeavouring to define the Palestinian collective identity by emphasising the importance of a moderate interpretation of religion and the emotions that come from fighting for a common cause. Furthermore, Wasatia’s attempt of creating a collective identity reaches further: it demonstrates that it shares essentially the same moral frame of reference as their “opponents”, Israeli Jews, and that its real opponents are religious extremists.


Wasatia is pursuing an institutionalised form of movement activity with an organisation and an academic institute. It uses education and dialogue as catalysts for reconciliation. It promotes learning about the suffering of the other, the (Israeli) Jews. Wasatia hopes that this enables Palestinians to humanize Israelis. Wasatia also tries to counter misinterpretations of the Quran, for instance on Facebook. As Dajani puts it himself, “the gap is and has always been very wide between the song and the singer’.”


Wasatia as a philosophy is more widespread in the Arab world. Egypt, for example, has a moderate Islamist political party, the al-Wasat Party, and Malaysia has the Wasatiyyah Institute to repel extremism in the religion of Islam.


To read more about the goals, strategies, achievements and challenges of the Palestinian movement Wasatia click here.



December 6, 2021


Janneke Wijman,

Masters Student International Development Studies at the University of Amsterdam

Intern at the Centre for Arab-West Understanding, February-June 2021