World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Palestinian refugees

Palestine and Palestinian refugees under the care of UNRWA
Refugees (June 1946 – May 1948): 711,000 (estimated)[1]
1948 refugees still alive (2012): 30 to 50,000 (estimated)[2][3]
Descendants (2012): 4,950,000 (estimated)[2]
Total (2012): 5,000,000 (estimated)[2][4][5] For the basis of this figure also see the UNRWA Definition
Regions with significant populations: Gaza Strip, West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel
Languages: Arabic, Hebrew, other
Religions: Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Judaism, Greek Orthodoxy, Greek Catholicism, other forms of Christianity

Palestine refugees (per United Nations Resolution 194) originally included Arabs whose normal places of residence were in Israel and Jews who had had their homes in Mandatory Palestine, such as those from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.[6] Their right of return was recognized in United Nations Resolution 194 of 1948.[7] Today, the term refers primarily to the patrilineal descendants of Arab refugees originating in the Mandate, as per the UNRWA definition. In 2012, the number of registered patrilineal descendants of the original Palestine refugees, based on the UNRWA registration requirements, is estimated to be 4,950,000.[2][3][4][5] The number of original Palestine refugees has declined from 711,000 in 1950[1] to approximately 30 to 50,000 in 2012.

In the hostilities of 1948, 85% of the Palestinian Arab population left their homes, either driven by force or by fear, fleeing to the West Bank and Gaza, and to the contiguous countries of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.[8] They, and their descendants, who are also entitled to registration, are assisted by UNWRA in 58 registered camps, 10 of which were established in the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967 to cope with new Palestinian refugees.[9] Including unregistered, displaced persons and refugee descendants, the Palestinian Arab refugee and displaced population is the largest in the world.[10] Their conditions of life are precarious. Citizenship or legal residency in host countries is denied in Lebanon where the absorption of Palestinians would upset a delicate confessional balance, but available in Jordan where approximately 40% of UNWRA-registered Palestinian refugees have acquired full citizenship rights.[11][12] Resolution 194 was adopted by the General Assembly on 11 December 1948, calling for the return of refugees from the ongoing Arab-Israeli hostilities. It forms one basis for the Palestinian Arab claim for a 'right of return'.

Though the 1948 refugees and their descendants are broadly defined as "refugees" (laji'un), Palestinian Arabs make several distinctions. The PLO, especially those who have returned and form part of the PNA, but also Palestinian refugee camp residents in Lebanon, repudiate this term, since it implies being a passive victim, and prefer the autonym of 'returnees' (a'idun).[13] Those who left since 1967, and their descendants, are called nazihun or 'displaced persons', though many descend from the 1948 group.[14]

An independent poll conducted in 2003 with the Palestinian populations of Gaza, West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon showed that the majority (54%) would accept a financial compensation and a place to live in West Bank or Gaza in place of returning to the exact place in modern-day Israel where they or their ancestors lived (this possibility of settlement is contemplated in the Resolution 194).[15]



The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) defines a Palestine refugee as a person "whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict".[5] The patrilineal descendants of the original Palestine refugees "are also eligible for registration."[5] UNRWA aids all "those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance"[5] and those who first became refugees as a result of the Six-Day War, regardless whether they reside in areas designated as Palestine refugee camps or in other permanent communities. A Palestine refugee camp is "a plot of land placed at the disposal of UNRWA by the host government to accommodate Palestine refugees and to set up facilities to cater to their needs".[5] Only around 1.4 million of registered Palestine refugees, approximately one-third, live in the 58 UNRWA-recognised refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.[5] The UNRWA definition does not cover final status.[5][16] In many cases UNHCR provides support for the children of Palestine refugees too.

Registered descendants of UNRWA Palestine refugees, like “Nansen passport” and “Certificate of Eligibility” holders (the documents issued to those displaced by World War II) or like UNHCR refugees,[17] inherit the same Palestine refugee status as their male parent.

The UNRWA is an organ of the United Nations created exclusively for the purpose of aiding those displaced by the Arab-Israeli wars, with an annual budget of approximately $600 million.[18]

Origin of the Palestine refugees

1948 Palestinian exodus

Main articles
1948 Palestinian exodus

1947–48 civil war
1948 Arab–Israeli War
1948 Palestine war
Causes of the exodus
Nakba Day
Palestine refugee camps
Palestinian refugee
Palestinian right of return
Present absentee
Transfer Committee
Resolution 194

Mandatory Palestine
Israeli Declaration of Independence
Israeli–Palestinian conflict history
New Historians
Palestine · Plan Dalet
1947 partition plan · UNRWA

Key incidents
Battle of Haifa
Deir Yassin massacre
Exodus from Lydda

Notable writers
Aref al-Aref · Yoav Gelber
Efraim Karsh · Walid Khalidi
Nur Masalha · Benny Morris
Ilan Pappé · Tom Segev
Avraham Sela · Avi Shlaim

Related categories/lists
List of depopulated villages

Related templates

Most Arab Palestine refugees have retained their refugee status and continue to reside in refugee camps, including within the State of Palestine in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. Their descendants form a sizable portion of the Palestinian diaspora.

Arab Palestine refugees from the 1948 Palestine War

During the 1948 Palestine War, 711,000 out of around 900,000 Palestine Arabs fled or were expelled from the territories that became the State of Israel.[1] The causes and responsibilities of the exodus are a matter of controversy among historians and commentators of the conflict.[19]

Whereas historians now agree on most of the events of that period, there remains disagreement as to whether the exodus was the result of a plan designed before or during the war by Arab leaders on one side and Jewish leaders on the other or was an unintended consequence of the war.[20]

In a study of bias in Palestinian and Zionist sources dealing with the nakba, Steven Glazer lists a number of early Zionist historians and writers, notably Joseph Schechtman, Leo Kohn, Jon Kimche and Maria Syrkin, who considered that:

"...the Arabs in Palestine were asked to stay and live as citizens in the Jewish state. Instead, they chose to leave, either because they were unwilling to live with the Jews, or because they expected an Arab military victory which would annihilate the Zionists. They thought they could leave temporarily and return at their leisure. Later, an additional claim was put forth, namely that the Palestinians were ordered to leave, with radio broadcasts instructing them to quit their homes".[21]

The implication of this position is that the Palestinians chose to leave, and thus forfeited their rights to their land, and must accept their own responsibilities for the plight they find themselves in.[21]

According to Benny Morris, between December 1947 and March 1948, around 100,000 Palestine Arabs fled. Among them were many from the higher and middle classes from the cities, who left voluntarily, expecting to return when the Arab states won the war and took control of the country.[22] When the Haganah went on the defensive, between April and July, a further 250,000 to 300,000 Palestinian Arabs left or were expelled, mainly from the towns of Haifa, Tiberias, Beit-Shean, Safed, Jaffa and Acre, which lost more than 90 percent of their Arab inhabitants.[23] Expulsions took place in many towns and villages, particularly along the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem road[24] and in Eastern Galilee.[25] About 50,000-70,000 inhabitants of Lydda and Ramle were expelled towards Ramallah by the Israel Defense Forces during Operation Danny,[26] and most others during operations of the IDF in its rear areas.[27] During Operation Dekel, the Arabs of Nazareth and South Galilee were allowed to remain in their homes.[28] Today they form the core of the Arab Israeli population. From October to November 1948, the IDF launched Operation Yoav to remove Egyptian forces from the Negev and Operation Hiram to remove the Arab Liberation Army from North Galilee during which at least nine events named massacres of Arabs were carried out by IDF soldiers.[29] These events generated an exodus of 200,000 to 220,000 Palestinian Arabs. Here, Arabs fled fearing atrocities or were expelled if they had not fled.[30] After the war, from 1948 to 1950, the IDF resettled around 30,000 to 40,000 Arabs from the borderlands of the new Israeli state.[31]

Arab Palestine refugees from Six-Day War

As a result of the Nakba, around 280,000 to 325,000 Palestinians fled[32] the territories won in the Six-Day War by Israel, including the demolished Palestinian villages of Imwas, Yalo, Bayt Nuba, Surit, Beit Awwa, Beit Mirsem, Shuyukh, Jiftlik, Agarith and Huseirat, and the "emptying" of the refugee camps of ʿAqabat Jabr and ʿEin Sulṭān.[33][34]

Palestinian exodus from Kuwait (Gulf War)

Main article: 1990 Palestinian exodus from Kuwait

The 1990 Palestinian exodus from Kuwait took place during and after the Gulf War. During the Gulf War, more than 200,000 Palestinians voluntarily fled Kuwait during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait due to harassment and intimidation by Iraqi security forces,[35] in addition to getting fired from work by Iraqi authority figures in Kuwait.[35] After the Gulf War, Kuwaiti authorities forcibly pressured nearly 200,000 Palestinians to leave Kuwait in 1991.[35] Kuwait's policy, which led to this exodus, was a response to alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with the dictator Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait.

Kuwait's policy, which led to this exodus, was a response to alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with the dictator Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait.

Prior to the Gulf War, Palestinians numbered 400,0000 (30%) of Kuwait's population of 2.2 million.[36] The Palestinians who fled Kuwait were Jordanian citizens.[37] In 2013, there were 280,000 Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin in Kuwait.[38] In 2012, 80,000 Palestinians (without Jordanian citizenship) lived in Kuwait.[39] In total, there are 360,000 Palestinians in Kuwait as of 2012-2013.

Palestinian refugees as part of the Syrian refugee crisis

Main article: Syrian refugees

A large number of Palestinians were part of the Syrian refugees, who fled Syria as a result of the Syrian civil war. The number of Palestinian Syrians among the Syrian refugees was in tens of thousands out of nearly 1.5 million Syrian refugees, though no exact data is available.

There were reports that Jordan and Lebanon have turned away Palestinian refugees attempting to flee the humanitarian crises in Syria. Jordan has absorbed 126,000 Syrian refugees, but Palestinians fleeing Syria are placed in a separate refugee camp, under stricter conditions and are banned from entering Jordanian cities.[40]

Palestinian refugees from Syria are also immigrating to Europe seeking asylum. Many do so by finding their way to Egypt and making the journey by sea. According to the PFLP-GC, some 23,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria have immigrated to Sweden alone.[41]

Refugee statistics

Further information: Palestinian refugee camps

The number of Palestine refugees varies depending on the source. For 1948-49 refugees, for example, the Israeli government suggests a number as low as 520,000 as opposed to 850,000 by their Palestinian Arab counterparts. As of January 2010, UNRWA cites 1,396,368 registered refugees in camps and 3,370,302 registered refugees not in camps.[42]

The number of UNRWA registered Palestine refugees by country or territory in January 2010 were as follows:


1,951,603 Palestine refugees are located in Jordan, of whom 338,000 are still living in refugee camps.[44] Following Jordan's annexation and occupation of the West Bank, most Palestine refugees were granted Jordanian citizenship. The percentage of Palestinian refugees living in refugee camps to those who settled outside the camps is the lowest of all UNRWA fields of operations. Palestine refugees are allowed access to public services and healthcare, as a result, refugee camps are becoming more of poor city suburbs than refugee camps. Most Palestine refugees moved out of the camps to other parts of the country reducing the number of refugees in need of UNRWA services to only 338,000. This caused UNRWA to reduce the budget allocated to Palestine refugee camps in Jordan. Former UNRWA chief-attorney James G. Lindsay says: "In Jordan, where 2 million Palestinian refugees live, all but 167,000 have citizenship, and are fully eligible for government services including education and health care." Lindsay suggests that eliminating services to refugees whose needs are subsidized by Jordan "would reduce the refugee list by 40%", leaving 3,000,000 UNRWA Palestine refugees.[45][46]

Arab Palestinians who moved from the West Bank (whether refugees or not) to Jordan, are issued yellow ID cards to distinguish them from the Palestinians of the "official 10 refugee camps" in Jordan. Since 1988, thousands of those yellow-ID card Palestinians had their Jordanian citizenship revoked as Jordan wishes to decrease its Palestinian majority and prevent the eventual majority takeover of the British imposed, Hejazi ruled Kingdom. Jordan's Interior Minister Nayef al-Kadi said

"Our goal is to prevent Israel from emptying the Palestinian territories of their original inhabitants," the minister explained, confirming that the kingdom had begun revoking the citizenship of Palestinians.

"We should be thanked for taking this measure," he said. "We are fulfilling our national duty because Israel wants to expel the Palestinians from their homeland."[47][48]

Human Rights Watch estimated that about 2,700 Palestinians were stripped of Jordanian nationality between 2004 and 2008.[49] It is estimated that over 40,000 Palestinians were affected.[50]

In 2012, Jordan reportedly stopped revoking the citizenship of Palestinians, and decided to restore citizenship to 4,500 Palestinians who had previously lost their citizenship.[51]


95px 95px
Lebanese and Egyptian travel documents for Palestine refugees

Over 400,000 Palestine refugees live in Lebanon, who are deprived of certain basic rights. Violating Human rights, Lebanon barred Palestine refugees from 73 job categories including professions such as medicine, law and engineering. They are not allowed to own property, and even need a special permit to leave their refugee camps. Unlike other foreigners in Lebanon, they are denied access to the Lebanese health care system. The Lebanese government refused to grant them work permits or permission to own land. The number of restrictions has been mounting since 1990.[52] In June 2005, however, the government of Lebanon removed some work restrictions for a few Lebanese-born Palestinians, enabling them to apply for work permits and work in the private sector.[53] In a 2007 study, Amnesty International denounced the "appalling social and economic condition" of Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon.[54]

Lebanon gave citizenship to about 50,000 Christian Palestine refugees during the 1950s and 1960s. In the mid-1990s, about 60,000 refugees who were Shiite Muslim majority were granted citizenship. This caused a protest from Maronite authorities, leading to citizenship being given to all the Palestine Christian refugees who were not already citizens.[55] There are about 350,000 non-citizen Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

The Lebanese Parliament is divided on granting Palestinian Arabs rights. While many Lebanese parties call for improving the civil rights of Palestinian refugees, others raise concerns of naturalizing the mainly Muslim population and the disruption this might cause to Lebanon’s fragile sectarian balance.[56]

According to writer and researcher Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, the media chose to deliberately ignore the conditions of the Palestinians living in Lebanese refugee camps, and that the "tendency to blame Israel for everything" has provided Arab leaders an excuse to deliberately ignore the human rights of the Palestinian in their countries.[48]


The first group of Palestine refugees from Iraq arrived in India in March 2006. Generally, they were unable to find work in India as they spoke only Arabic though some found employment with UNHCR's non-governmental partners. All of them were provided with free access to governmental hospitals. Of the 165 Palestinian refugees from Iraq in India, 137 of them found clearance for resettlement in Sweden.[57]

Positions on the Right of Return

On 11 December 1948 the General Assembly discussed Bernadotte's report and placed a non-binding resolve: "that refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbour should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.[58]" This non-binding United Nations General Assembly article 11 of Resolution 194 has been annually re-affirmed but Israel refused the application of that resolution.[59]

Israeli views

The Jewish Agency promised to the UN before 1948 that Palestinian Arabs would become full citizens of the State of Israel,[60] and the Israeli declaration of independence invited the Arab inhabitants of Israel to "full and equal citizenship".[61] In practice, Israel does not grant citizenship to the refugees, as it does to those Arabs who continue to reside in its borders. The 1947 Partition Plan determined citizenship based on residency, such that Arabs and Jews residing in Palestine but not in Jerusalem would obtain citizenship in the state in which they are resident. Professor of Law at Boston University Susan Akram, Omar Barghouti and Ilan Pappé have argued that Palestinian refugees from the envisioned Jewish State were entitled to normal Israeli citizenship based on laws of state succession.[62]

Arab states

The Arab League has instructed its members to deny citizenship to original Palestine Arab refugees (or their descendants) "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland".[63]

Tashbih Sayyed, a fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, criticized Arab nations of violating human rights and making the children and grandchildren of Palestinian refugees second class citizens in Lebanon, Syria, or the Gulf States, and said that the UNRWA Palestine refugees "cling to the illusion that defeating the Jews will restore their dignity".[64]

Palestinian Arab views

Palestine refugees claim a Palestinian right of return. In lack of an own country, their claim is based on Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which declares that "Everyone has the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country", although it has been argued that the term only applies to citizens or nationals of that country. Although all Arab League members at the time- Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen- voted against the resolution,[65] they also cite the non-binding article 11 of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, which "Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return [...]."[59] However Resolution 194 is a nonbinding assembly resolution, and it is currently a matter of dispute whether the resolution referred only to the estimated 50,000 remaining Palestine refugees from the 1948 Palestine War, or additionally to their UNRWA registered 4,950,000 descendants. The Palestinian National Authority supports this claim, and has been prepared to negotiate its implementation at the various peace talks. Both Fatah and Hamas hold a strong position for a claimed right of return, with Fatah being prepared to give ground on the issue while Hamas is not.[66] However, a report in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper in which Abdullah Muhammad Ibrahim Abdullah, the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon and the chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council's Political and Parliamentary Affairs committees,[67] said the proposed future Palestinian state would not be issuing Palestinian passports to UNRWA Palestine refugees – even refugees living in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Oslo Accords

Upon signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, Israel, the EU and the US recognized Fatah as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian Arabs. In return, Yasser Arafat recognized the State of Israel and renounced terrorism. At the time, the accords were celebrated as a historic breakthrough. In accordance with these agreements, the Palestinian Arab refugees began to be governed by an autonomous Palestinian Authority, and the parties agreed to negotiate the permanent status of the refugees, as early as 1996. However, events have halted the phasing process and made the likelihood of a future sovereign Palestinian state uncertain.[68] In another development, a rift developed between Fatah in the West-Bank and Hamas in Gaza after Hamas won the 2006 elections. Among other differences, Fatah officially recognizes the Oslo Accords with Israel, whereas Hamas does not.

United States

The United States considers the original refugees and their descendants to be refugees.[2] In May 2012, the United States Senate Appropriations Committee approved a definition of a Palestine refugee to include only those original Palestine refugees who were actually displaced between June 1946 and May 1948, resulting in an estimated number of 30,000.[3]

See also

Further reading

File:TWIP - 2010-10-31 Interview on Palestinian Refugees.vorb.oga

  • Bowker, Robert P. G. (2003). Palestinian Refugees: Mythology, Identity, and the Search for Peace. Lynne Rienner Publishers. ISBN 1-58826-202-2
  • Esber, Rosemarie M. (2008) Under the Cover of War: the Zionist Expulsion of the Palestinians. Arabicus Books & Media ISBN 978-0-9815131-7-1
  • Gelber, Yoav (2006). Palestine 1948. Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 1-84519-075-0.
  • Gerson, Allan (1978). Israel, the West Bank and International Law. Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-3091-8
  • McDowall, David (1989). Palestine and Israel: The Uprising and Beyond. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 1-85043-289-9.
  • Morris, Benny (2003). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00967-7
  • Morris, Benny, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War, (2009) Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-15112-1
  • Reiter, Yitzhak, National Minority, Regional Majority: Palestinian Arabs Versus Jews in Israel (Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution), (2009) Syracuse Univ Press (Sd). ISBN 978-0-8156-3230-6
  • Pappe, Ilan (2006). The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, London and New York: Oneworld, 2006. ISBN 1-85168-467-0
  • Segev, Tom (2007) 1967 Israel, The War and the Year that Transformed the Middle East Little Brown ISBN 978-0-316-72478-4
  • Seliktar, Ofira (2002). Divided We Stand: American Jews, Israel, and the Peace Process. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-97408-1


Esber, Rosemarie M. (2008). Under the Cover of War. The Zionist Expulsion of the Palestinians, Arabicus Books & Media ISBN 978-0-9815131-7-1

External links

  • UNRWA Palestinian refugee statistics
  • Google map of 58 UNRWA camps with descriptions and photos
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.