Sulha Peacemaking and the Politics of Persuasion

This article focuses on the Arab tradition of mediation and reconciliation known as sulha, as it is practiced in Galilee villages in tandem with the state justice system in cases of murder. Drawing on incidents occurring between 1992 and 1996, the author describes and analyzes the underlying principles of the sulha process, the formation of the mediating body, its mechanisms and procedures, and finally the formal public ceremony that ends the conflict between the families of the victim and the attacker. By highlighting sulha practice and its underlying ideals of cooperation, negotiation, and compromise, the author challenges the emphasis on violence and feud that characterizes much of the anthropological literature on Arab society and politics.

Sharon Lang is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Redlands, Redlands, California.