This article examines the strategies, structures, and practices that allowed for the emergence of communities without police institutions during two Palestinian uprisings, the 1936–39 revolt and the 1987–91 intifada. For each period, the article identifies efforts to disengage from and disempower the state police, to establish alternative systems of anticolonial justice, and to employ disciplinary violence to serve the imperatives and enforce the decisions of Palestinian nationalist bodies. In particular, Palestinian systems of anticolonial justice drew on communal reconciliation (sulh) and other preexisting local iterations of communal justice. These local forms relied on discourses of egalitarianism and consensus, which produced stability in periods of upheaval but also obscured the inequalities they reproduced. Ultimately, the anticolonial structures that Palestinians established proved unable to withstand intense internal and external pressure, and some elements of the coercive forces that served them were absorbed into state police institutions.

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