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PCBS | PCBS: Special Statistical Bulletin On the 66th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba

On the 66th Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba


The Nakba: Ethnic cleansing and displacement of the population

Nakba in literary terms means a natural catastrophe such as an earthquake, volcano, or hurricane. However, the Nakba in Palestine describes a process of ethnic cleansing in which an unarmed nation was destroyed and its population displaced to be replaced systematically by another nation. Unlike a natural catastrophe, the Palestinian Nakba was the result of a man-made military plan with the agreement of other states, leading to a major tragedy for the Palestinian people. The subsequent occupation of the remaining land of Palestine in 1967 resulted in additional tragedy.        

In 1948, 1.4 million Palestinians lived in 1,300 Palestinian towns and villages. More than 800,000 of the population were driven out of their homeland to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, neighboring Arab countries, and other countries of the world. Thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes but stayed within the Israeli-controlled 1948 territory. According to documentary evidence, the Israelis controlled 774 towns and villages and destroyed 531 Palestinian towns and villages during the Nakba. The atrocities of Israeli forces also included more than 70 massacres in which 15,000 Palestinians were killed.

The Demographic Reality: Palestinian population has increased 8-fold since the Nakba

The Palestinian population was 1.4 million in 1948 but by the end of 2013, the estimated world population of Palestinians totaled 11.8 million. This indicates that the number of Palestinians worldwide has multiplied more than eight-fold in the 66 years since the Nakba. According to statistics, the total number of Palestinians living in historic Palestine (between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean) by the end of 2013 was 5.9 million and this number is expected to rise to 7.2 million by the end of 2020 based on current growth rates.

Statistical data also show that refugees constitute 44.2% of the total Palestinian population in Palestine. UNRWA records showed that there were 5.35 million Palestinian refugees registered in mid-2013.   Around 29.0% of Palestinian registered refugees live in 58 refugee camps, of which 10 are in Jordan, 9 in Syria, 12 in Lebanon, 19 in the West Bank, and 8 in Gaza Strip. 

These estimates represent the minimum number of Palestinian refugees, given the presence of non- registered refugees. These estimates also do not include Palestinians who were displaced between 1949 and the 1967 war, according to the UNRWA definition, and do not include the non-refugees who left or were forced to leave as a result of the war in 1967. The number of Palestinians who remained in their homeland in the 1948 territory after the Nakba was estimated at 154 thousand persons, now in 2013 estimated to be 1.43 million on the 66th anniversary of the Nakba.  In the 1948 territories, the sex ratio is 102.2 males per 100 females, while 36.1% of the population are below 15 years of age and 4.1% are aged 65 years and over, based on available statistics relating to Palestinians living in Israel in 2012. This illustrates that the composition of the Palestinian population in the 1948 territory is young, as it is in Palestinian society as a whole.

The number of Palestinians in Palestine was estimated at 4.5 million at the end of 2013: 2.8 million in the West Bank and 1.7 million in Gaza Strip. The number of Palestinians in Jerusalem governorate at the end of 2013 was around 408 thousand, of whom 62.1% live in the areas of Jerusalem annexed by force by Israel in 1967 (J1).  The fertility rate in Palestine is high compared to other countries. The total fertility rate in the period 2008-2009 was 4.4 births (4.0 births in the West Bank and 5.2 births in Gaza Strip).

Population Density: Gaza Strip the most crowded place in the world

The population density in Palestine at the end of 2013 was 745 individuals per square kilometer (km2): 487 individuals/km2 in the West Bank and 4,742 individuals/km2 in Gaza Strip. In Israel, the population density of Arabs and Jews in 2013 was 376 individuals/km2.

Settlements: Most settlers in Jerusalem as part of Israeli campaign of Judaization  

There were 482 Israeli settlements and military bases in the West Bank at the end of 2013 and the number settlers was around 563,546 at the end of 2012.  Most settlements are located in Jerusalem governorate. According to data, about (49.2%) of settlers live in Jerusalem governorate, of whom 203,176 live in Jerusalem (J1). The ratio of settlers to Palestinians in the West Bank is 21 settlers per 100 Palestinians compared to 69 settlers per 100 Palestinians in Jerusalem governorate. 

Israeli settlers steal 50 million m3 of water from Palestinians to cultivate land seized by the Israeli occupation.

According to Israeli statistics, the total cultivated area in Israeli settlements in the West Bank during 2012 was 86 km2. The majority of land is irrigated with around 50 million m3 of water stolen from Palestinians per year. Irrigated areas cultivated by Palestinians are about 78 km2 and consume only around 30 million m3 of water per year due to Israeli restrictions. The areas cultivated and water consumed by settlers would provide 100 thousand job opportunities for Palestinians in the West Bank if they were able to take advantage of them. This would contribute to GDP and the share of agriculture to the economy. It would also reduce the unemployment rate. In addition, a large agricultural area is located at the borders of the eastern Gaza Strip, but cannot be utilized by Palestinians because of Israeli measures. 

Historical Palestine: Israel controls more than 85% of its land

The area of the historical land of Palestine totals about 27,000 km2. Jews utilize more than 85% of the total area of land. Arabs comprise 48% of the total population and utilize less than 15% of the land. A Palestinian therefore has less than one fifth of the area available to an Israeli.

Water: Realities and challenges

The water sector is unique among states due to the presence of the occupation, which controls most of the water resources and operates a monopoly. Palestinians are forced to buy water from the Israeli water company, Mekorot:  56.6 MCM were purchased in 2012 constituting 28% of the water supplied to domestic consumers. In addition, pumping from the coastal aquifer in Gaza Strip totaled 130 MCM.

The daily allocation per capita of consumed water for domestic use was 76.4 l/c/d in the West Bank and 89.5 l/c/d in Gaza Strip in 2012. However, 95% of drinking water in Gaza Strip does not meet WHO standards and is also less than the minimum quantities recommended by WHO (100 l/c/d). The amount of water obtained from ground water aquifers is estimated to be only 15%, while 85% is drawn by Israel. Palestinians have also been deprived of their rights to the Jordan River since 1967.

Martyrs: Continuous efforts to build a state

The number of martyrs killed in the al Aqsa Intifada between September 29th, 2000 and December 31st, 2013 was 7,822, up from 7,235 at the end of 2009. Of these, 2,183 were from the West Bank (2,059 males and 124 females) and 5,015 were from Gaza Strip (4,601 males and 414 females).  The remaining martyrs were from the 1948 territories and outside Palestine. The bloodiest year was 2009 with 1,219 Palestinian martyrs, followed by 2002 with 1,192 martyrs. In addition, 306 martyrs, were killed during 2012, 15 of them from the West Bank, and 291 from Gaza Strip; 189 of them were killed during the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip in November 2012, and 56 martyrs, were killed during 2013, 42 of them from the West Bank, and 14 from Gaza Strip.


Data from the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees and Ex-detainees show that Israel has arrested more than 805 thousand Palestinians since 1967: more than 82 thousand were arrested since the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Since October 18, 2011 (the day of the Shalit prisoner of war exchange) 10 thousand Palestinians have been detained. The data also show that 30 of the current detainees were arrested prior to the Oslo Agreement and have been in Israeli jails since that time. They were due for release in the fourth prisoner release phase on 29 March 2014.

There are around 5,000 Palestinians in detention. Of these, 19 detainees are female, 200 are children and 11 are members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (parliament). More than 185 Palestinians are held under administrative detention (without trial) and 476 detainees are serving life sentences. Israel arrested 3,874 detainees during 2013: 75 detainees are female and 931 are children. Israel has arrested nearly one thousand detainees since the beginning of the current year, 2014.


Statistics for 2012 showed that the number of physicians per 1,000 population registered in the Physicians Union in the West Bank was 1.3 and 2.2 in Gaza Strip. In addition, there were 2.0 nurses per 1,000 population in the West Bank and 4.1 nurses per 1000 population in Gaza Strip in 2011. There were 79 hospitals in Palestine in 2012: 49 hospitals in the West Bank and 30 in Gaza Strip.  These were distributed as 25 governmental hospitals, 33 non-governmental, 17 private, 3 hospitals run by military institutions, and one run by UNRWA. There were 5,487 hospital beds: 1.3 beds per 1,000 population and allocated as 3,163 beds in the West Bank and 2,324 in Gaza Strip. There were 603 primary health care centers in the West Bank in 2012 and 147 centers in Gaza Strip.

Housing: 46% of Palestinian housing units are at risk of demolition

The Israeli occupation authorities demolish Palestinian houses and impose obstacles and constraints on building licenses for Palestinians. According to the Al-Maqdisi Institute, during 2000 - 2013 the Israeli authorities demolished 1,230 buildings in East Jerusalem (the areas annexed by Israel in 1967). This resulted in the displacement of 5,419 people, including 2,832 children and 1,423 women.


The estimated losses to Palestinians of the demolition of buildings in Jerusalem total around USD 3.5 million. (This does not include the large fines imposed on so-called construction violations.) Data indicate an increase in cases where residents have to demolish their own houses: 320 people have been forced to demolish their own homes since 2000. The highest rate of self-demolition was recorded in 2010 with 70 demolitions compared to 49 in 2009.


Data indicate that the total area of residential houses demolished in Jerusalem during 2013 increased in comparison with 2012. A total area of 6,196 m2​ was affected during 2013: the area of non-residential establishments demolished totaled 1,150 m2.


Data from Israeli human rights organizations indicate that more than 25 thousand houses have been demolished in Palestine since 1967.


 Labor Market 2013

The labor force participation rate in Palestine in 2013 was 43.6%: 42.8% among refugees and 44.2% among non-refugees. The participation rate in the West Bank was 45.0% (45.4% among refugees and 44.8% among non-refugees) compared with 41.2% in Gaza Strip (41.0% among refugees and 41.4% among non-refugees). The unemployment rate in Palestine was 23.4% (28.3% among refugees and 20.1% among non-refugees). The unemployment rate in the West Bank was 18.6% (21.2% among refugees and 17.7% among non-refugees) compared with 32.6% in Gaza Strip (33.7% among refugees and 30.4% among non-refugees).


According to the results of the Education data for the 2013/2014 scholastic year, there were 2,784 schools in Palestine: 2,094 in the West Bank and 690 in Gaza Strip. These were distributed by supervisory authority as follows: 2,063 governmental schools, 342 UNRWA schools and 379 private schools.  The total number of students in these schools exceeded 1.15 million, of whom 572 thousand were male and 580 thousand female. There were 764 thousand students enrolled in governmental schools, 283 thousand enrolled in UNRWA schools, and 104 thousand enrolled in private schools. 

The illiteracy rate among Palestinians aged 15 years and above was 3.7% in 2013, distributed as 1.6% of males and 5.9% of females. It was 3.3% among refugees and 4.0% among non-refugees.  In the field of higher education, there are 14 universities: five universities in Gaza Strip and nine universities in the West Bank, in addition to 18 colleges that grant bachelor's degrees: 6 in Gaza Strip, and 12 in the West Bank. There are 20 community colleges: 13 in the West Bank and 7 in Gaza Strip.

Macroeconomics: Consumer Price Index during 2013

The Palestinian Consumer Price Index increased by 1.72% in 2013 compared with 2012: by 3.10% in the West Bank, 1.81% in Jerusalem (J1), and decreased by 0.76% in Gaza Strip. In comparison with the base year of 2004, the Consumer Price Index in Palestine increased by 38.75%: by 40.74% in the West Bank, 40.90% in Jerusalem (J1), and 32.17% in Gaza Strip.

Trade: Limited Palestinian exports

Both imports and exports of goods increased in 2012 over 2011. In 2012, the value of imported goods totaled USD 4.7 billion, an increase of 7.4% compared with 2011. The total value of exports was USD 782 million, and increased by 4.9% compared with 2011. As a result, the net trade balance in goods recorded a deficit of USD 3.9 billion in 2012, an increase of 7.9% over 2011.                    

The results indicate that 83.1% of exports were exported to Israel, while only 16.9% of total exports were exported to other countries excluding Israel. The limited value of exports to other countries was due to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian exports, especially from Gaza Strip.

Information Society

There were 402 thousand fixed telephone lines in Palestine in 2013 and 3.3 million mobile phone users. The total number of dial-up Internet connections was 203,682 in 2013 and it is currently estimated that there are around half a million computers in Palestine. 

The percentage of households with a computer in Palestine in 2012 was 51.4%: 55.2% in the West Bank and 44.2% in Gaza Strip.  An Internet connection was available in 32.1% of households in Palestine in 2012: 34.3% in the West Bank and 27.9% in Gaza Strip.


Tourism in Palestine is the sector most affected by the Israeli occupation since Israeli companies and tourist offices exert a blanket monopoly over groups and Christian pilgrims to the Church of the Nativity and other historical and religious sites. 

According to data from the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism, the number of Christian pilgrims in 2013 to the Church of the Nativity alone in Bethlehem totaled 1.16 million. These visitors came through crossings and the Israeli border and were accompanied by Israeli companies and tourism services, thus depriving the Palestinian economy of returns in providing services for these tourists. Data from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism show that there were around 3.54 million visitors to Israel at the end of 2013, worth more than USD 11.4 billion to the Israeli economy.