Civic Education in Palestine Citizenship, Human Rights, and Community Development

In a set of three seminars, the PASSIA civic education project sought to develop and em¬power groups of young Palestinian professionals to deal more effectively with the tasks ahead by enhancing their civic knowledge, skills and norms. Local and foreign experts in the field imparted basics such as the meaning of constitutional democracy, types of government, features of the political system, and the ability to identify public issues and influence public policy decisions. In addition, each seminar focused on a specific issue: one on Citizenship, one on Human Rights, and one on Community Development. This publication contains a selection of the lectures and presentations given during those three seminars, as well as an outline of the lecture programs and a selected bibliography.

April 1, 2006


In 2005, PASSIA embarked on this new project feeling that it is imperative at the current critical stage in Palestinian history that people who are and will be shaping their future are equipped with relevant knowledge and experience. The leaders of tomor­row lay today the basis of civic life in the anticipated state and promote the practice of a rule-of-law regime; yet, it is evident that there is a huge lack of the basics of civics among Palestini­ans, including appropriate understandings of constitutional principles (rule of law, separation of powers, individual free­doms and rights), concepts and purposes of citizenship and governments, and political and legal processes created to make decisions, seek consensus, and resolve conflicts in a free soci­ety, and so on.

For a democracy to survive and flourish, its citizens must know about the basic features of a democratic political system to be able to access it when their interests are at stake, and they must believe in the importance of certain key democratic values, such as tolerance for divergent viewpoints and support for the rule of law. They must also be willing and able to participate in local and national politics, and they must believe that their participa­tion is important to the continued viability of the democratic political system.

In countries emerging from authoritarian rule, citizens often lack democratic experience, especially with regard to knowl­edge about formal democratic structures and processes and thus about the opportunities that exist for advancing their interests. Another common aspect in transitioning countries is that citi­zens experience difficulty adjusting to the competition, com­promise, and loss that are inherent parts of the democratic po­litical process. Without values such as political tolerance, trust in democratic institutions, and respect for the rule of law pre­vailing, this can be severely destabilizing, particularly if it ig­nites or exacerbates economic, ethnic, religious, and other forms of tensions.

One of the tools to counter the lack of democratic socialization is civic education, which, by imparting the necessary skills and knowl­edge, helps promoting support for democratic behaviors and values among ordinary citizens.

With this in mind, PASSIA launched the project, providing training courses in civics and governance for young profession­als, with the aim to achieve a level of understanding and ac­ceptance of the rights and responsibilities among the citizens that is required for the maintenance and improvement of any constitutional democracy.

In a set of three seminars, the PASSIA civic education pro­ject sought to develop and empower groups of young profes­sionals to deal more effectively with the tasks ahead by en­hancing their civic knowledge , skills and norms. In addition to imparting basics such as the meaning of constitutional democracy, types of government, features of the political system, and the ability to identify public issues and influ­ence public policy decisions, the seminars focused on the issues of Citizenship, Human Rights, and Community Devel­opment.

This publications contains a selection of the lectures and pres­entation given during those three seminars.

Jerusalem , April 2006

Dr. Mahdi Abdul Hadi

Head of PASSIA




Dr. Mahdi Abdul Hadi


Introduction: Some Basic Ideas Related to Democratic Government

Dr. Gregory Mahler


Constitutional Democracy: Universal Principles

Dr. Gregory Mahler


Constitutional Democracy: Problems

Dr. Gregory Mahler


Democratic Institutions, Structures and Processes

Dr. Gregory Mahler


Constitutional Political Culture in the Middle East

Dr. Gregory Mahler


Constitutional Democracy - Principles and Problems

Dr. Ali Jarbawi


Constitutional Democracy as a Universal Concept and As a Political System of Governance

Dr. Ali Jarbawi


Citizens - Subjects or Metics / What is Citizenship?

Dr. Said Zaidani


Religion and State from an Islamic Perspective

Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway


Civics, Government, and Citizenship - Case Studies: Citizens as an Influential Tool of Change

Terry Bullata


The Constitutional System of the Palestinian National Authority

Feras Milhem


Community Development Projects

Luna Shamieh


Community Development - A Case Study Presentation

Isam Akel



Annexes I: Selected Bibliography

Annex II: Lecture Programs