There are approximately 10 million Palestinians in the world today, but there is no Palestinian State. The following provides information on the dispersion of Palestinians since 1948, and the resulting humanitarian consequences.

Historic Palestine (prior to 1948)

In 1948 the Palestinian population was approximately 1,300,000. Palestinians lived in their historic homeland for generations until the war of 1948 and the creation of Israel. As a result they were expelled or fled and became refugees numbering over half of the total Palestinian population (estimated at 714,150 to 744,150).

Palestinians Citizens of Israel


The remaining 156,000 Palestinians (25-35% of whom were internally displaced refugees) received “citizenship” of Israel yet lived under military administration until 1966. To date they make up the 1.3 million Palestinians in Israel, 20% of the total population. They still live in their own homeland, but now under a foreign power .Although they have access to many services there is often a deficiency in provision and they experience structural discrimination in every aspect of life. As Muslims and Christians in a self-proclaimed Jewish state, Palestinians in Israel are citizens without citizenship.They live in three main areas—The Galilee in the north, the Triangle in the centre of the country, and the Naqab in the south. Approximately 29% live in ten Arab “cities,” 55% in more than 100 Arab villages, 8% in six mixed Jewish-Arab cities, and 8% in over 40 unrecognized villages (Mada undated). About 276,000 are classified as internally displaced (CIA undated) meaning that they left or were expelled from their original villages during/after the 1948 war and although they remain in the

country, they have never been allowed to return to their original villages, which in most cases have since been destroyed or Judaized.

Palestinians citizens of Israel receive substantially less than their fair share of municipal budget allocations, have much higher unemployment rates than Jewish citizens, and experience higher poverty—particularly in the 46 Bedouin villages that Israel refuses to recognize (Kamm 2003). There is systematic, legalized discrimination in all aspects of the social, economic, political system of Israel (Cook 2006, National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in Israel 2006, Kamm 2003).

The West Bank


There are approximately 2.5 million Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank. These Palestinians have suffered for generations from violence, poverty, lack of human rights, lack of access to basic services, and so many indescribable indignities.The West Bank has been further subdivided by Israel’s “closure regime,” which includes closures, curfews, permanent and flying checkpoints, other physical obstacles, and the Wall—all of which chop up Palestinian territory into cantons and ghettos,inaccessible to one other and with varying levels of accessibility to labor and goods markets, health and education facilities, and other basic services (OCHA Barrier Reports various dates, World Bank 2004 and World Bank Technical Team 2006).
Approximately 60% of the Palestinians in the West Bank live in 615 rural villages. Rural areas suffer from proximity to settlements (and resulting settler attacks on people and property),checkpoints, and lack of access to jobs in Israel or Palestinian cities. Villages suffer from


underdeveloped infrastructure. They lack sewage systems, reliable electricity, etc. In the West Bank, there are an estimated 670,030 Palestinian refugees (Salem 2005), most of whom live in overcrowded UNRWA camps with poor water access and sanitary infrastructure, and only limited basic social services.

East Jerusalem

East Jerusalem—with an estimated population of between 168,000 Palestinians (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics July 2005) and 238,000 Palestinians (US Department of State 2005)—is part of the West Bank according to international law. East Jerusalem remains a major religious, cultural and economic centre for Palestinians, despite Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem through a series of laws and acts of expropriation and expulsion starting in 1967. Most Palestinian residents of Jerusalem do not enjoy Israeli citizenship, they only have “residency” and access to some municipal benefits, and these “rights” are under constant threat. Active building of the Wall, illegal settlements, demolition of homes, denial of building and working permits, discriminatory taxation (European Union 2004) combined with an intensive campaign to revoke residency rights of Palestinians (see B’tselem) makes life in Jerusalem increasingly stressful and expensive.

The Gaza Strip

Another approximately 1.5 million Palestinians have lived for generations under Israeli military occupation in the Gaza Strip. Israel prevents free movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Essentially, Gazans are locked in one of the world’s most densely populated prisons. The Gaza Strip, with a projected population of 1,389,789 (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics July 2005), including approximately 910,194 refugees (Salem 2005) is one of the most densely populated areas of the world. Gaza is virtually closed since Israel’s “disengagement”in August 2005 (Gisha 2007). In August 2006, Israel’s extensive bombing campaign damaged much of Gaza’s infrastructure, knocking out electricity, access to water, bridges and roads. The entry into and exit out of Gaza for work, to access health care, or to move goods is extremely restricted (World Bank Technical Team 2006), exacerbating unemployment, poverty, food insecurity (FAO and WFP 2007 forthcoming), and socio-emotional problems.

Palestinian Refugees in Arab Countries 

Jordan & Lebanon & Syria

Outside of historic Palestine, there are an estimated 2,839,639 Palestinians in Jordan, an estimated 442,699 in Syria, and an estimated 421,292 in Lebanon (Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics November 2005)—most of whom are refugees living in 32 registered refugee camps (UNRWA undated). Elsewhere in the Arab World there are an estimated 667,055 Palestinians (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics November 2005); and elsewhere in the Diaspora there are an estimated 542,708 Palestinians, more than half of whom are in the United States (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics November 2005). Palestinians in the Diaspora live in a wide range of circumstances: some hold foreign citizenship and enjoy a high standard of living while many others have no legal status and live without any protections. The Palestinian Diaspora continues to organize around its Right of Return, which is guaranteed in international law (UNGA 194 of 11 December 1948).

Please see our Concept Paper  for more information. 
B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. “Revocation of Residency in East Jerusalem” at http://www.btselem.org/english/Jerusalem/Revocation_of_Residency.asp accessed 18 January 2007.
CIA (Undated). World Factbook—Israel. Accessed from https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/is.html#People on 25 January 2007.
Cook, Jonathan. Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State. London: Pluto Press, 2006.
European Union. “Jerusalem and Ramallah Heads of Mission, Report on East Jerusalem, Summary.” Unpublished document, 2004.
FAO and WFP. Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment, West Bank and Gaza Strip. Rome, 2007 forthcoming.
Gisha. Disengaged Occupiers: The Legal Status of Gaza, January 2007. Available at http://www.gisha.org/english/index_eng.htm.
Kamm, Shira. The Arab Citizens of Israel: Status and Implications for the Middle East Conflict. Haifa: Mossawa Center, 2003.
Mada al-Carmel. “The Palestinians in Israel,” undated. Accessed from http://www.mada-research.org/about/palsinisrael.shtml on 25 January 2007.
OCHA. Barrier Reports, Costs of Closure, various dates. Available at http://www.humanitarianinfo.org/WBGS/.
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Statistical Abstract of Palestine, No. 6 (1196), November 2005. Available at http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabID=3354&lang=en
Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. “Projected Population,” July 2005. Available at http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/
Salem, Walid. The Palestinian Refugee Guide. Ramallah: Panorama Center, 2005. Available in Arabic at www.PanoramaCenter.org.
UNRWA. (undated). Publications/Statistics. Accessed from http://www.un.org/unrwa/publications/index.html on 18 January 2007
US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. “Israel and the Occupied Territories.” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 8 March 2005. Accessed from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61690.htm#ot on January 15, 2007.
World Bank Technical Team Report. “An Update on Palestinian Movement, Access and Trade in the West Bank and Gaza,” 15 August 2006.
World Bank. Four Years—Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis: An Assessment. Washington, DC, October 2004.