International Relations

Social Cohesion and Community Displacement in Armed Conflict: Evidence from Palestinian Villages in the 1948 War

Daniel Arnon Emory University
Richard McAlexander University of Pennsylvania
Michael Rubin University of Connecticut


Why do some communities flee their homes during armed conflict, while others remain and risk exposure to violence? This article investigates whether and how whole communities are forcibly displaced during armed conflict, which we refer to as evacuation. We focus on the form of forced displacement, differentiating between preemptive evacuation (prior to violence exposure) and violent evacuation (in response to violence exposure). We theorize that community social cohesion, by facilitating collective action, enhances communities’ ability to preemptively evacuate and escape violence. We test the theory in the context of the 1948 war in Mandate Palestine. We measure village evacuation drawing upon historical accounts of population displacement during the war and measure community social cohesion using an original village-level dataset based on new archival material from a survey of Arab Palestinian villages during the early 1940s. The findings shed new light on civilian agency in conflict and displacement processes and outcomes.


Thumbnail image of Depopulation_Social_Cohesion.pdf

Supplementary material

Thumbnail image of Depopulation_Social_Cohesion-Appendix.pdf
This is the appendix.


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