International Relations

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



Why do some communities flee their homes during armed conflict, while others remain and risk exposure to further violence? This article investigates whether and how whole communities flee home territory, which we refer to as evacuation, in the context of strategic displacement campaigns. We explain variation in the process of forced displacement. Specifically, we differentiate between preemptive (prior to displacement violence) and violent (in response to displacement violence) evacuation. We theorize that social cohesion enhances communities’ ability to preemptively evacuate by facilitating collective action to evade imminent violence exposure. We test the theory in the context of Arab Palestinian communities’ displacement during the 1948 war in Mandate Palestine. We measure village evacuation drawing upon historical accounts of forced displacement during the war and social cohesion using an original dataset based on new archival material from a survey of Arab Palestinian villages conducted during the early 1940s.

Version notes

Changed license, and updated citation to International Security.


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Supplementary material

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This is the appendix.


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