JERUSALEM – On the occasion of the 72nd anniversary of the Palestinian dispersal and expulsion from their homes and land in Palestine on May 15, 1948, in what is now known as the Nakba or catastrophe, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said that the Palestinian population has doubled nine times since then.
The Nakba resulted in the displacement of 800,000 Palestinians out of the 1.4 million Palestinians who lived in historical Palestine in 1948 in 1,300 villages and towns. The majority of the displaced Palestinians ended up in neighbouring Arab countries and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and other countries in the world.
Furthermore, thousands of Palestinians – who stayed in the area controlled by the Israeli occupation in 1948 – were driven out of their homes and lands, which were seized by the occupation.
According to the documentary evidence, the Israeli occupation controlled 774 towns and villages and destroyed 531 Palestinian towns and villages during the Nakba. The atrocities of Zionist forces also included more than 70 massacres in which more than 15,000 Palestinians were killed.
The population of Palestine in 1914 was around 690,000; of whom only 8% were Jewish, said the PCBS.
In 1948, the number of Palestinians in Palestine exceeded 2 million; 31.5% of the population were Jews as the number of Jews doubled more than six times during this period.
Between 1932 and 1939, the largest number of Jewish immigrants to Palestine reached 225,000. Between 1940 and 1947, more than 93,000 Jews poured into Palestine. Palestine received around 318,000 Jews between 1932 and 1947 and 540,000 from 1948 to 1975.
Despite the displacement of more than 800,000 Palestinians in 1948, and the displacement of more than 200,000 Palestinians (the majority of them to Jordan) after the 1967 war, the Palestinian world population totalled 13.4 million by the end of 2019, which means that the number of Palestinians in the world has doubled more than nine times since the events of the Nakba of 1948, and more than half of them lived in historical Palestine by the end of 2019, where their number reached 6.64 million (1.60 million in the territories occupied in 1948).
Population estimates indicated that the number in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, by the end of 2019 was 3.02 million and around 2.02 million in the Gaza Strip. As for the population of Jerusalem Governorate, it was about 457,000 people of which approximately 65% (about 295,000 people) live in those parts of Jerusalem which were annexed by the Israeli occupation in 1967.
Hence, data showed that Palestinians represented 49.7% of the population living in historical Palestine, while Jews constituted 50.3% by the end of 2019.
The Israeli occupation continues its control over 85% of the area of historical Palestine, which amounts to 27,000 square kilometres (km2).
The remaining areas continue to endure further attempts at usurpation and control. It should be noted that Jews under the British Mandate used only 1,682 km2 of land of historical Palestine which represents 6.2%.
Records of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees reported in 2019 that the total number was around 5.6 million, 28.4% of whom live in 58 camps (10 in Jordan, nine in Syria, 12 in Lebanon, 19 in the West Bank and eight in the Gaza Strip).
Estimates, however, indicated that this is the minimum number of refugees since many of them are not registered.
This number does not include the Palestinians displaced in the period from 1949 till the June 1967 war. The UNRWA definition of refugees does not cover Palestinians who migrated or those who were displaced after 1967 because of the war and who were not registered refugees.
- Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the Israeli regime’s discriminatory land policies against Palestinians in the West Bank, besieged Gaza Strip, and elsewhere in the occupied territories, saying while Palestinian communities are squeezed and their residents’ access to land is being sharply restricted, Israeli-inhabited towns are growing.
The New York-based body, in a report published on Tuesday, said a great proportion of the Palestinian population has been confined to densely-populated towns and villages as a result of the Tel Aviv regime’s decades-long discriminatory policies of land expropriation.
It noted that even though Palestinian neighbourhoods have little room to expand, Israeli authorities nurture the growth and expansion of nearby predominantly Israeli communities – most of which have been constructed on Palestinian-owned lands.
Moreover, many Israeli-populated towns have admissions committees, which effectively do not allow Palestinians to live there.
The HRW went on to say that the Israeli regime directly controls 93 per cent of the land in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem al-Quds, and the so-called Israel Land Authority (ILA) manages and allocates such pieces of land.
Almost half the members of ILA’s governing body apparently belong to an Israeli fund whose explicit mandate is to develop and lease land for Israeli Jews and not any other segment of the population.
Palestinian citizens of Israel constitute 21 per cent of the population, but Israeli and Palestinian rights groups estimated in 2017 that less than three per cent of all land there falls under the jurisdiction of Palestinian municipalities.
Human Rights Watch noted that Israeli authorities have seized hundreds of thousands of dunums of land (10 dunums equals one hectare) from Palestinians since 1948, and much of the confiscation took place the following year, when the Tel Aviv regime imposed military rule on most Palestinians in the occupied territories.
During this period, Israeli authorities confined Palestinians to dozens of enclaves and severely restricted their movement. They also used various military regulations and new laws to seize land belonging to internally-displaced Palestinians.
HRW then underlined that the Israeli regime’s policies in recent years have not only failed to overturn earlier land grabs, but have actually further restricted land available for the residential growth of Palestinians.
The group then cited the findings of a 2003 report that ‘many Arab towns and villages were surrounded by land designated for purposes’ such as so-called security zones, regional councils, parks and nature reserves or highways, which ‘prevent or impede the possibility of their expansion in the future’.
Additionally, the Arab Centre for Alternative Planning told the HRW that it estimates that 15 to 20 per cent of homes in Palestinian towns and villages lack permits because their owners’ applications have either been rejected or because they did not apply, knowing that Israeli officials would reject their requests.
The group then warned that between 60,000 and 70,000 homes in the occupied territories, excluding Jerusalem al-Quds, are estimated to be at risk of full demolition.
By contrast, in the cases reviewed by Human Rights Watch, Israeli planning authorities have offered sufficient land and zoning permissions to similarly-situated, predominantly Israeli communities to help their growth.
Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East executive director at the HRW, said, ‘These practices are well-known when it comes to the occupied West Bank, but Israeli authorities are also enforcing discriminatory land practices inside Israel.’