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Arab citizens of Israel or Arab population of Israel are Israeli citizens, whose cultural and linguistic heritage or ethnic identity is Arab. The majority of the Arabs in Israel are Muslim but some are Christian or Druze.  Many identify as Palestinian and commonly self-designate themselves as Palestinian citizens of Israel. The traditional vernacular of most Arab citizens, irrespective of religion, is the Palestinian dialect of Arabic. Most Arab citizens of Israel are functionally bilingual, their second language being Modern Hebrew. By religious affiliation, most are Muslim, particularly of the Sunni branch of Islam. There is a significant Arab Christian minority from various denominations as well as Druze, among other religious communities.

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, the Arab population in 2013 was estimated at 1,658,000, representing 20.7% of the country's population. The majority of these identify themselves as Arab or Palestinian by nationality and Israeli by citizenship. Many have family ties to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as to Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Negev Bedouins and Druze tend to identify more as Israelis than other Arab citizens of Israel.

Most of the Arabs living in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed, were offered Israeli citizenship, but most have refused, not wanting to recognize Israel's claim to sovereignty. They became permanent residents instead. They have the right to apply for citizenship, are entitled to municipal services, and have municipal voting rights.

Jewish Virtual Library,

One of the most prominent examples of governmental activity designed to meet the challenge of closing the gap between the Arab and Jewish sectors is the October 2000 decision of the Government of Israel to designate resources for all areas of socio-economic development in the Arab sector communities of Israel.

The decision states that the Government "regards itself as obligated to act to grant equal and fair conditions to Israeli Arabs in the socio-economic sphere, in particular in the areas of education, housing and employment" and "to reduce the gaps between the Arab and Jewish sectors". The total cost of the multi-year plan is NIS 4 billion (approximately 1 billion US dollars) during the years 2001-2004.

The plan is coordinated by an inter-ministerial team, headed by the Prime Minister's Office, and is based on working jointly with Arab Israeli authorities.


Although implementation of the Government's multi-year plan has only just begun, the plan and its generous budget have the potential for greatly advancing development throughout the Arab sector of Israeli society.

Facts About the Arab-Iisraeli Conflict

Though Israel was envisioned by the founders of Zionism as a home for the Jewish people after two thousand years of statelessness and persecution, that vision also included coexistence with the local non-Jewish populations. Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, specifically called for integration and warned against racism in his vision of the Jewish state. Ze’ev Jabotinsky, leader of the more nationalistic stream of Zionism, also advocated integrating the local Arab population as equals. In the years leading up to the creation of Israel, both Jews and Arabs who lived in the area benefitted greatly from the improving economy, social services and overall quality of life. In fact, many Arabs immigrated from surrounding areas in pursuit of these benefits.

When Israel was founded in 1948, its Declaration of Independence specifically called on its Arab inhabitants to “participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship”, and on the neighboring Arab countries to “establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help… for the advancement of the entire Middle East”.

Today, non-Jewish citizens of Israel constitute about 25% of the population, with 20% being Arabs. Arab Israelis have equal voting rights and their own political parties, serve on the Israeli Knesset, Cabinet, and Supreme Court; hold diplomatic positions; actively participate in the Israeli music and arts scene; and represent Israel on the national soccer team, including winning the Israeli national championship. They are granted all fundamental civil liberties, including freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly, and in fact enjoy more civil rights than Arabs living in any other Middle Eastern country. Israel is also the only country in the Middle East where Arab homosexuals can live without fear of prosecution, which is why many Palestinian gays have fled for Israel. Many Arab Israelis have spoken out in favor of Israel, and against allegations of an Israeli apartheid. Such claims have also been refuted by many others, including by Richard Goldstone, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, who presided over the UN report concerning the 2009 Gaza war.

Arab Israelis are generally not required to serve in the military, though some do volunteer. Members of the Druze and Circassian communities are drafted like Jewish citizens, at the request of their own community leaders.

Discrimination against Arab citizens of  Israel does exist, though on a level comparable to that found in many other Western countries, and certainly far less than the discriminations to which Palestinians living in most Arab countries are subjected. In certain respects, Arab Israelis have more rights than some who live in Europe, such as the rights to wear hijabs.

As a general indicator, a recent Harvard study found that 77% of Arab Israelis would rather live in Israel than in any other country. Many Arabs have also stated that they would much rather live in Israel than under Palestinian rule.

Jerusalem Post, by Abed Kanaaneh, January 7 2016
The author is co-director of the Equality Policy Department at Sikkuy-The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality.

The program attempts for the first time to repair the institutionalized discrimination against Arabs by dealing with the budget allocation system as a whole.

The new economic program for reducing gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens recently authorized by the cabinet is undoubtedly a positive step in the direction of reducing the ongoing discrimination and inequality toward us, the Arabs in Israel.

The program, which was prepared over the past year in the Finance Ministry and the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab Sector, is a first attempt in Israel’s history to promote a serious plan for treating the root problems of economic discrimination against the Arab sector – discrimination that harms the Arabs first and foremost, but not only them.

The economic leadership is well aware of the importance of integrating Arabs into the job market. For example, the fact that 68 percent of Arab women are excluded from the workplace has a damaging effect not only on Arab society but on the entire economy.

Every fifth Israeli citizen is an Arab, and when about half of Arab families are living below the poverty line or are unemployed, the entire economy is stuck – and not only Arab society.

 To fix this situation, Finance Ministry budget director Amir Levy and the head of the Arab economic development authority Aiman Saif have worked to build a program that would make an unprecedented effort to deal with the roots of the “disease” and not only its symptoms.

The program, which passed after a heated debate in the cabinet, attempts for the first time to repair the institutionalized discrimination against Arabs by dealing with the budget allocation system as a whole and not only by “extinguishing fires” in specific cases, in the guise of one-off budgets. Instead of a specific budgetary supplement to solve a specific problem, the program attempts to repair the system that has created the gaps throughout the years and has led to inferior education, employment, industrial and transportation infrastructure in Arab communities. The equal allocation is meant to be permanent, to reduce gaps and to benefit Arab citizens and the economy as a whole.

The program includes a change in about 15 allocation and budgeting mechanisms in various spheres, including public transportation, infrastructure, informal education, development of industrial and employment zones and more, in order to ensure that Arab citizens will be funded based on their percentage of the population.

Changing these mechanisms would transfer about eight billion shekels to the Arab public in the next five years, in addition to the specific grants.

However, the program does not do enough to address discrimination in the education budget, nor does it channel sufficient resources to the local Arab municipalities. As opposed to what is generally believed, the claim that the budgetary distress of the Arab authorities stems from the failure to pay residential arnona (municipal property tax) is false. According to a study we conducted, the differences in income from arnona from commerce, employment and industry, government ministries and infrastructure installations are the main reason for the economic difficulties of many Arab local governments.

In order to complete the process of reducing the gaps, the government must handle this serious problem in future by duplicating the method of changing mechanisms, so that they will be equal for everyone.

Unfortunately, we discovered that the attempt to achieve equality in civil rights is encountering opposition and difficulties even though it is being supported and advanced by the most senior professionals in the government.

Although the plan is appropriate and just, some of the ministers opposed it due to narrow populist motives.

The government should be commended on its decision to approve these significant changes which will benefit Arab community as well as the economy as a whole – a win-win situation. Any other decision would have been a rejection of public responsibility and of the obligation to ensure equality and to reduce the disparities between Jews and Arabs in Israel.


The Palestinian refugee problem originated as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, when five Arab armies invaded the State of Israel just hours after it was established. During the ensuing war, as many as 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled their homes in the newly created state. Many of the Palestinian Arabs who fled did so voluntarily to avoid the ongoing war or at the urging of Arab leaders who promised that all who left would return after a quick Arab victory over the new Jewish state. Other Palestinians were forced to flee by individuals or groups fighting for Israel.

Of the Palestinians who left, one-third went to the West Bank (which was under Jordan’s control), one-third went to the Gaza Strip (under Egypt’s control), and the remainder to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The Arab nations refused to absorb these Palestinians into their population and they were instead settled into refugee camps. Only Jordan’s King Abdullah agreed to confer citizenship on the 200,000 Palestinian living in Jordan and the Jordan-controlled West Bank and East Jerusalem. In 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was created to oversee the economic integration of the refugees into these Arab countries. The Arab governments refused to consider integration, insisting that it would undermine the refugees’ “right” to return to their homes in Palestine. UNRWA continues to operate, providing relief, health care, education and vocational training to the refugee populations in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

(From Atlas of Jewish Civilization by Martin Gilbert p198)

Countries to which refugees went were reluctant to absorb them, encouraged anti-Israel feeling and supported terrorist training aimed against Israel life and property

To Iraq               4,000

To Egypt             7,000

To Syria            50,000

To Lebanon      100,000

To Jordan        100,000

To West Bank   200,000  (from 1948-67 under Jordan)

To Gaza Strip   200,000  (from 1948-67 under Egypt)

During the 1967 Six Day War, another estimated 250,000 Palestinians fled the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the arrival of Israeli forces. Some of these were people who had left their homes in Israel in 1948. These individuals are considered by the international community to be displaced persons, not refugees.

A Jewish refugee problem was also created with the establishment of the State of Israel. From 1948-1951 as many as 800,000 Jews were expelled from their native Arab nations or forced to flee as a result of state-sponsored anti-Zionist violence. They left behind their property and the lives they had built in these lands over hundreds of years. As many as 500,000 of these refugees fled from Iraq, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Libya and Morocco and were absorbed into the new State of Israel.  Others fled to Europe and North and South America.

Tallying the number of individuals considered Palestinian refugees today is a complex matter of intense debate. UNRWA, which registers Palestinian refugees, claims that refugees and their descendants number five million, including:  those who left Israel in 1948; those who left the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967;  those who were abroad but were subsequently not allowed to return to Israel; and all of their descendants.  UNRWA’s statistics include those residing in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  It should be noted that UNRWA’s policy of including the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who left in 1948 and 1967 into the refugee population for demographic and aid purposes is not done for any other refugee group. Israel believes the UNRWA statistics are grossly exaggerated. Israel also strictly distinguishes “refugees” from “displaced persons” and from “expired permit Palestinians” who were abroad at the time the conflicts ensued and were not allowed to return.

Palestinian insistence that refugees must have a “right of return” to their former homes inside Israel, and that this “right” is founded in international law, is rejected by Israel. Israel denies that there is any foundation in international law for a Palestinian “right of return,” and that the non-binding international resolutions on the issue call not for a “return” to Israel, but for a just resolution of the refugee problem.  Since the start of the Oslo process, refugees is considered one of the “final status” issues, along with borders, security, settlements and Jerusalem, that are to be negotiated as part of a final Israeli-Palestinian agreement.  

Israel also argues that a “return” is not viable for such a small state, given that the influx of millions of Palestinians into Israel would pose a threat to its national security and upset the country’s demographic makeup. In the decades that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) did not recognize Israel’s right to exist and actively sought to bring about Israel’s downfall and replace it with a Palestinian state, the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees was a rallying cry. In 1993, the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist and committed to a negotiating process to establish an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. Given this situation, world leaders, including President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have publicly stated that Palestinian refugees should rightly be resettled in a future Palestinian state.

Israel maintains that it is not responsible for the Palestinian refugee problem since it is the result of a war forced on Israel by invading Arab armies. However, Israel has stated that on humanitarian grounds it would participate in an international effort to resolve the situation. Such an effort would likely involve Palestinian refugees settling in a newly established state of Palestine, an international compensation fund, and individual cases of family reunification.  

Any international effort would also need to consider the situation of the 800,000 Jews who were expelled from their native Arab nations or forced to flee as a result of state-sponsored anti-Jewish violence following the founding of the State of Israel.

Anti Defamation League  

(Editors Note - The UN has two refugee agencies.   The differences between them are shown in the Table below.   and UNWRA which only deals with the Palestinians and UNHCR which has a world-wide role.)

Each has its own definitions of ‘Refugee’ .  The Palestinian problem only exists because of the existence of UNWRA.  If it had not existed the Palestinians would nave been resettled in Arab countries. Approximately 1,600,000 Jews left Arab countries between 1948 and 2012. Of these 856,000 left in 1948.  They have all been resettled. Today there are very few Jews left in Arab countries see Expulsion of Jews From Arab Countries     (This was set up due to pressure from Arab oil producing countries.  If the Arabs had no oil there would have been no UNWRA)      

See     VIDEOS    Jewish vs Palestinian Refugees AND Why Are There Still Palestinians REFUGEES?

One result is that that they have often become political pawns.  An example is Lebanon where 455,000 are registered with UNWRA and live in the country’s 12 refugee camps while at least 1,500,000 Syrian refugees come under UNHCR (see A Tale of Two Organizations UNRWA and UNHCR in Lebanon’ by Lucie Mackova) and Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Live in Fear of Deportation by Olivia Alabaster |

After the 1948 war, around 156,000 Arabs remained in Israel and became full Israeli citizens with representatives in the Israel Knesset (parliament).

The UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine estimated that the number of Palestinian refugees displaced from Israel was 711,000.  The Arab League instructed its members to deny Palestinians citizenship "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right of return to their homeland."

The United Nations established UNRWA as a relief and human development to provide them with humanitarian assistance.

Refugee status was passed on to their descendants, who were largely denied citizenship in Arab states, except in Jordan.  More than 1.4 million Palestinians still live in 58 recognized refugee camps, while more than 5 million Palestinians live outside Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian refugee problem and debate about the Palestinian right of return are  major issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Palestinians and their supporters have staged annual demonstrations and commemorations on 15 May of each year, which is known to them as "Nakba Day".

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, of which an estimated 1.5 million live in UNRWA camps. The number of original refugees "who meet UNRWA’s Palestine Refugee criteria" has declined from 711,000 in 1950 to approximately 30,000 to 50,000 in 2012.


Human Rights Watch Policy on the Right of Return

Initially the response of host Arab states to the incoming Palestinian refugees was to offer them refuge on the assumption that it would be temporary. When it became obvious that the problem would be protracted, the policies of Arab states toward the refugees changed, and the initial sympathy was coupled with an insistence on Israel's ultimate responsibility for them. As a result most Arab governments strongly opposed resettlement and naturalization of the refugees. Instead, they adopted policies and procedures aimed at preserving the Palestinian identity of the individuals and their status as refugees.

Nearly one-third of the registered Palestine refugees, more than 1.5 million individuals, live in 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

A Palestine refugee camp is defined as a plot of land placed at the disposal of UNRWA by the host government to accommodate Palestine refugees and set up facilities to cater to their needs. Areas not designated as such and are not recognized as camps. However, UNRWA also maintains schools, health centres and distribution centres in areas outside the recognized camps where Palestine refugees are concentrated, such as Yarmouk, near Damascus.

The plots of land on which the recognized camps were set up are either state land or, in most cases, land leased by the host government from local landowners. This means that the refugees in camps do not 'own' the land on which their shelters were built, but have the right to 'use' the land for a residence.

Socioeconomic conditions in the camps are generally poor, with high population density, cramped living conditions and inadequate basic infrastructure such as roads and sewers.

The remaining two thirds of registered Palestine refugees live in and around the cities and towns of the host countries, and in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, often in the environs of official camps. While most of UNRWA's installations such as schools and health centres are located in the Palestine refugee camps, a number are outside; all of the Agency’s services are available to all registered Palestine refugees, including those who do not live in the camps.

As shown in the video of the Lebanese camp, movement through the camp is via narrow paths and accommodation is in poor condition.  Residents are not allowed to buy property outside the camp.

IKonrad-Adenauer-Stiftung - Palestinian Territories, lona-Margarita Stettner 2017

.The situation of the Palestinian refugees is one of the most persistent refugee crises in the world which has not seen any progress since its first appearance. Both, the total number of Palestinians worldwide (10,5 million) and the total number of Palestinian refugees (7 million) are only estimates and depend on the source and/or the definition. Not every refugee living in Diaspora is an exile, not every exile is a refugee, not every refugee is registered as such and not every displaced Palestinian is a refugee.

Palestinian refugees do not fall under the legal regime of refugee protection of the 1951 Refugee Convention, its companion instrument the 1967 Refugee Protocol, and the Statute of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which is eligible to all other refugees. For the Palestinian refugees a special legal regime was created. This regime comprises two special UN agencies - the United Nations Conciliation Commission on Palestine (UNCCP) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) as well as certain provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the UNHCR statute. UNRWA was established in December 1948 with the dual mission of providing direct relief and establishing a “works program” for the approximately 700.000 refugees that fled what is now known as Israel in 1948. These services have been provided to those meeting UNRWA’s operational definition of “Palestine refugees”: persons whose normal place of residence was in Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who lost their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. UNRWA’s mandate today includes also provision of basic needs to those refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) that had to flee their homes in the 1967 war as well as the descendants of the original male Palestinian refugees from 1948 and 1967 under the precondition that they live in one of UNRWA’s five fields of operations, whether in a camp or not. Only one third of the registered refugees still live in refugee camps.

UNRWA operates exclusively in the Gaza Strip, West Bank including East Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan with a total of 58 camps. Today, around 5 million Palestinian refugees/IDPs are eligible for UNRWA services, while the estimated number of Palestinian refugees/IDPs worldwide is seven million. Accordingly, not all Palestinians that had to flee their homes in the 1948 or the 1967 war are registered at UNWRA and receive services.

The definition of refugees used by UNRWA is limited to needy persons only. Till today, the beneficiaries that fall under the UNWRA mandate do receive only basic subsistence, like food, clothing and shelter, but are not granted the human rights and fundamental freedoms that are guaranteed by the 1951 Refugee Convention, its accompanying Protocol and the UNHCR statute. These rights and freedoms include freedom of religion (Art.4), rights in property (Art. 13), access to courts (Art. 16) freedom from undue restrictions on employment (Art. 17), primary education (Art. 22) and identity papers (Art. 27) but also the facilitation of a voluntary durable solution, such as repatriation, resettlement and integration. As the legal regime for Palestinian refugees does not give comprehensive protection and not all Palestinian refugees and IDPs are eligible for UNRWA services, it is discussed controversially if, and to which degree the general refugee regulations as guaranteed in the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Statute of the UNHCR can be applied to Palestinian refugees as well.

Article 1D of the 1951 Refugee Convention states: “This Convention shall not apply to persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations other that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance. When such protection or assistance has ceased for any reason, without the position of such persons being definitively settled in accordance with the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, these persons shall ipso facto be entitled to the benefits of this convention.”

Paragraph 1 of Article 1D is an exclusion clause, while paragraph 2 of Article 1D includes those Palestinian refugees again that have ceased to receive protection or assistance from UNRWA for any reason.

Today it is generally believed that Palestinians which are refugees according to the definition of Art 1A.2 of the Refugee Convention and that are outside of UNRWA’s area of operation are entitled to the benefits of the 1951 Convention, given that the perspective state is signatory to the Convention. Regarding those Palestinian refugees that live within the area of UNRWA’s operation, it is discussed between legal scholars if the “protection gaps” within the Palestinians legal regime might fall within the scope of “ceased protection or assistance” of Article 1D paragraph 2 of the Refugee Convention, and therefore make it applicable. In most of their host states (with the exception of Jordan to some degree), Palestinian refugees are not granted those rights, as many Middle Eastern and Arab States and all of the UNRWA states did not sign the Refugee Convention and Protocol and the vast majority of Palestinian refugees live in Middle Eastern and Arab States. Accordingly Palestinian refugees have a precarious existence in these states regarding their legal position and the safeguarding of human and civil rights, which remain subject to political and security considerations of the perspective government. Unlike most other refugees and IDP, who usually seek protection against refoulement (forcible return), Palestinian refugees are denied their right of reparations, including the return to their homes of origin by Israel. Although those rights are enshrined in international law and particularly in UN resolution 194 (1948) and 237 (1967), they are not been enforced. Palestinian refugees do not have access to courts that could provide effective remedies and reparations and no international agency is facilitating a comprehensive durable solution, including reparations.

Gatestone Institute, International Policy Council - click on link to go to full article

If the entire Palestinian Authority leadership lives off an international welfare check that arrives only because the conflict still exists, there isn't much incentive for ending the conflict.

The Palestinian people, according to a recent study by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, have received per capita, adjusted for inflation, 25 times more aid than did Europeans to rebuild war-torn Western Europe under the Marshall plan after the Second World War

Most of these funds, according to the study, reached the Palestinian people through The United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

UNRWA is the only UN refugee agency dedicated to a single group of people, and the only agency that designates individuals as original refugees if they have lived in areas effected by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, for a minimum of only two years, before being displaced. UNRWA is also the only UN agency that designates the descendants of the original refugees as refugees as well – even though 90% of UNRWA-designated refugees have never actually been displaced

UNRWA, furthermore, violates the UNHCR Refugee Convention by insisting that two million peopht of return.

Although, since World War II, fifty million people have been displaced by armed conflict, the Palestinian people are the only ones in history to receive this special treatment

Before describing why UNRWA is a body that drastically reduces any chance of a lasting peace, let's take a look at which citizens are funding UNWRA. After all: "There is no such thing as public money, there is only taxpayers' money.

The total 2012 UNRWA budget was $907,907,371. Although the permanent supportive rhetoric for the "Palestinian case" from the Muslim world might lead one to expect that UNWRA is funded mainly by Muslim countries, in fact UNRWA is almost entirely funded by Western taxpayers: The USA, EU, UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands and Japan pay $644,701,999, or 71% of the annual UNRWA budget. The funds from the second largest donor, the EU, are of course already composed of EU taxes from its member statesle (40% of UNWRA's beneficiaries) who have been given full citizenship in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, are nevertheless still classified as refugees, and by encouraging them to act on a "rig.

UNHCR was launched on a shoestring annual budget of US$ 300,000 in 1950. But as our work and size have grown, so too have the costs. Our annual budget rose to more than US$ 1 billion in the early 1990s and reached a new annual high of US$ 7.5 billion in 2016. For up to date information about UNHCR’s financial needs visit our Global Focus website.     We work in 128 countries

(Many of the 5,000,000 + UNWRA refugees are children, grandchildren etc of the original refugee.  So succeeding generations will become ‘refugees’ as they inherit)


Black September (Arabic: أيلول الأسود‎‎; aylūl al-aswad) refers to the conflict that was fought between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, and the Jordanian Armed Forces, under the leadership of King Hussein primarily between 16 and 27 September 1970, with certain actions continuing until July 1971.[5]

The civil war determined if Jordan would be ruled by the Palestine Liberation Organisation or the Hashemite monarchy.[6] The war resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, the vast majority Palestinian.[3] Armed conflict ended with the expulsion of the PLO leadership and thousands of Palestinian fighters to Lebanon.


Ian J. Bickerton, PhD, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and United States History at the University of New South Wales-Australia, and Carla L. Klausner, PhD, Professor of Modern Middle East, Medieval Europe and Judaic Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, in their 2002 book A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, wrote:

"In Jordan, the PLO became a serious threat to political stability. It prevented King Hussein from considering any negotiated settlement with Israel that did not include the PLO; it invited Israeli retaliation for its activities; and both indirectly and directly it undermined the monarchy through the PLO covenant's avowed intention to liberate all of mandatory Palestine [which originally included Jordan] and the leftists' death threats against the U.S. supported king. Palestinian anger intensified when Hussein seemed receptive to a plan of U.S. Secretary of State William Rogers in June 1970 [during the war of Attrition] that called for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories in return for recognition of the Jewish state.

The PLO became so much like a state within a state in Jordan that eventually there was a showdown with [King] Hussein [of Jordan]. This occurred after Palestinians hijacked three airplanes to Amman (Jordan's capital) in September 1970 and subsequently blew them up on the ground, making the king appear impotent. After bloody confrontations between the Jordanian army and Palestinian commandos, in which around 3,000 Palestinian fedayeen [guerrilla fighters] were killed, and the Jordanians turned back Syrian tanks, Hussein reasserted his control. He could not have succeeded, however, without the support of Israel, which, at the request of the United States, had threatened to intervene to prevent Syrian success. At that time, the Syrian Air Force commander was Hafez al-Assad, later Syria's president, who was afraid of Israeli-U.S. intervention and refused to provide air cover for the Syrian tanks. By July 1971, Hussein had expelled PLO terrorists and fighters from Jordanian territory...

Following the showdown with Jordan's King Hussein in 1970 and 1971, and their expulsion from Jordan, the PLO leaders and many PLO fighters, eventually numbering 15,000, moved to Lebanon, joining the by now 200,000 or more Palestinian refugees already there living in camps. The PLO established bases and began to organize the refugees in the camps. They also began to dominate the Shiite areas of southern Lebanon. Israeli retaliatory strikes against refugee camps and into southern Lebanon began to affect the Shiites in the south, who also came to resent the Palestinian presence. Many of them began to migrate to the north, where they would eventually organize politically and become a significant new political factor in Lebanese politics.

With Lebanon being drawn increasingly into the Palestinian-Israeli situation, tension grew between those attempting to maintain Lebanese 'sovereignty' and those, especially among the Muslims, who supported the Arab and Palestinian cause against Israel and supported the activities of the PLO. Thus, the Palestinian issue exacerbated already tense economic and political differences. These differences exploded again into civil war in 1975."


You might think Palestinian refugees would be welcomed by their Arab neighbours, yet they are denied basic rights and citizenship

The Independent, a special report by Judith Miller and David Samuels
Wednesday 21 October 2009

It is a cynical but time-honoured practice in Middle Eastern politics: the statesmen who decry the political and humanitarian crisis of the approximately 3.9 million Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Gaza ignore the plight of an estimated 4.6 million Palestinians who live in Arab countries. For decades, Arab governments have justified their decision to maintain millions of stateless Palestinians as refugees in squalid camps as a means of applying pressure to Israel. The refugee problem will be solved, they say, when Israel agrees to let the Palestinians have their own state.

Yet in the two decades since the end of the Cold War, after two Gulf wars, and the rise and fall of the Oslo peace process, not a single Palestinian refugee has returned to Israel – and only a handful of ageing political functionaries have returned from neighbouring Arab countries to the West Bank and Gaza. Instead, failed peace plans and shifting political priorities have resulted in a second Palestinian "Nakba", or catastrophe – this one at hands of the Arab governments. "Marginalised, deprived of basic political and economic rights, trapped in the camps, bereft of realistic prospects, heavily armed and standing atop multiple fault lines," a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) in Lebanon recently observed, "the refugee population constitutes a time bomb."

The fact that the divided Palestinian political leadership is silent about the mistreatment of the refugees by Arab states does not make such behaviour any less reprehensible – or less dangerous. Some 250,000 Palestinians were chased out of Kuwait and other Gulf States to punish the Palestinian political leadership for supporting Saddam Hussein. Tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of Iraq were similarly dispossessed after the second Gulf war.

In 2001, Palestinians in Lebanon were stripped of the right to own property, or to pass on the property that they already owned to their children – and banned from working as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists or in 20 other professions. Even the Palestinian refugee community in Jordan, historically the most welcoming Arab state, has reason to feel insecure in the face of official threats to revoke their citizenship. The systematic refusal of Arab governments to grant basic human rights to Palestinians who are born and die in their countries – combined with periodic mass expulsions of entire Palestinian communities – recalls the treatment of Jews in medieval Europe. Along with dispossession and marginalisation has come a new and frightening turn away from the traditional forms of nationalism that once dominated the refugee camps towards the radical pan-Islamic ideology of al-Qa'ida.

Daniel C Kurtzer, who has served as US ambassador to both Israel and Egypt and now advises the Obama administration, says that all American governments have resisted dealing with what he calls the most sensitive issue in the conflict – the normalisation of the status of the Palestinians – through a right of return to Palestine, or citizenship in other countries. "The refugees hold the key to this conflict's settlement," he says, "and nobody knows what to do with them."

In the unlikely event that President Obama's vision of a swift and final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict materialises, millions of Palestinians would still live in decaying refugee camps whose inhabitants are forbidden from owning land or participating in normal economic life. The only governing authority that Palestinians living in the camps have ever known is UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Established by the UN on 8 December 1949 to assist 650,000 impoverished Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war, UNRWA has been battling budget cuts and strikes among its employees as it struggles to provide subsidies and services to Palestinian refugees, who are defined as "persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948".

The inclusion of the descendants of Palestinian refugees as refugees in UNRWA's mandate has no parallel in international humanitarian law and is responsible for the growth of the official numbers of Palestinian refugees in foreign countries from 711,000 to 4.6 million during decades when the number of ageing refugees from the 1948 Israeli war of independence in was in fact declining. UNRWA's grant of refugee status to the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original Palestinian refugees according to the principle of patrilineal descent, with no limit on the generations that can obtain refugee status, has made it easy for host countries to flout their obligations under international law. According to Article 34 of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, "The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalisation of refugees," and must "make every effort to expedite naturalisation proceedings" – the opposite of what happened to the Palestinians in every Arab country in which they settled, save Jordan. For all the easy criticism that can be levelled at UNRWA, it is hard to see how many Palestinian refugees would have survived without the agency's help.

The responsibility for the legal dimensions of their fate lies elsewhere, as UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd made clear at UNRWA's anniversary ceremony in New York on 24 September, before an audience that included Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Queen Rania of Jordan – herself a Palestinian. "The protracted exile of Palestine refugees and the dire conditions they endure, particularly in the occupied Palestinian territory, cannot be reconciled with state obligations under the UN Charter," AbuZayd said. The result for the refugees, AbuZayd said at a forum the previous afternoon at the Princeton Club, is a "suspended state of existence" for which no one seems willing to accept political responsibility. The rest of the discussion, moderated by Ambassador Kurtner, made clear that anticipated solutions to the Palestinian refugee problem had failed to emerge – leaving a community in crisis.

"You can't ignore an entire people because it's awkward or inconvenient," says Dr Karma Nabulsi, a lecturer at Oxford and a former Palestinian representative at the UN. In the period immediately after Oslo, she added, Palestinian refugees in Arab countries hoped to be repatriated to areas governed by the Palestinian Authority. Today, despair has replaced that initial optimism. "What young Palestinian would want to resettle in Gaza or in the West Bank?" she asks.

Sharing a panel with Dr Nabulsi, the doveish former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami, who negotiated directly with Yasser Arafat at the failed Camp David meetings in 2000, asserted that Israel has suppressed narratives that would make clear its responsibility for the Palestinian refugee crisis of 1948. Indifference to the refugees' plight, he added, was shared by Israel's negotiating partner in the Oslo years – Yasser Arafat. "He was not a refugee man," Ben Ami said flatly. "He was much more centred on the question of Jerusalem. I heard him say to [Mahmood Abbas] in my presence, 'leave me alone with your refugees'."

It is no secret that certain Arab regimes saw the Palestinians under Arafat's leadership as an unwelcome occupation that stripped Jordan bare and destroyed Lebanon. Similarly, Arafat often used the threat of destabilisation and assassination to get Arab regimes to fund the Palestinian cause. Still, the record of Arafat's Palestinian Authority in its territories during the 1990s attests to the truth of Ben Ami's observation, which applies both to Arafat's Fatah and to Hamas. Despite $10bn in foreign aid, not one refugee camp in the West Bank or Gaza has been replaced by modern housing. On the West Bank, chances for normal Palestinian communal life have been shattered by Israeli settlements, arrests, checkpoints and roadblocks, and by 15 years of abuses by Fatah. Even under the best of circumstances, an influx of refugees would further destabilise a Palestinian economy that is kept afloat by the world's highest per capita receipts of foreign aid.

Daniel Kurtzer agrees no one is likely to make a deal that includes a substantial return of the Palestinian diaspora. "Most Palestinian refugees know it, as do the settlers," he says. So rather than wait for American mediators or Arab states to impose solutions on them, the Palestinians themselves should begin to tackle the diabolically difficult issues inherent in the resolution of their political and economic future. "What we need is a refugee summit," he says. "I'm looking for a real conversation that must start internally and soon."

After 60 years of failed wars, and failed peace, it is time to put politics aside and to insist that the basic rights of the Palestinian refugees in Arab countries be respected – whether or not their children's children return to Haifa anytime soon. While Saudi Arabia may not wish to host Israeli tourists, it can easily afford to integrate the estimated 240,000 Palestinian refugees who already live in the kingdom – just as Egypt, which has received close to $60bn in US aid, and has a population of 81 million, can grant legal rights to an estimated 70,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants. One can only imagine the outrage that the world community would rightly visit upon Israel if Israeli Arabs were subject to the vile discriminatory laws applied to Palestinians living in Arab countries. Surely, Palestinian Arabs can keep their own national dream alive in the countries where they were born, while also enjoying the freedom to work, vote and own property?

A practical solution to the crisis of the Palestinian refugees in Arab countries will focus on Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, which together play host to approximately 3 million of the estimated 4.6 million Palestinian refugees living outside the West Bank and Gaza. While each of these countries has chosen different legal and political approaches to the 1948 refugees and their descendants, they share a political desire to sublimate the rights of Palestinian residents, treating them as unwanted guests or as tools to be used in pursuing wider political interests – but rarely as fully-fledged members of society. Lebanon, where Palestinians led by Yasser Arafat are widely blamed for having sparked the 1975 civil war, is the worst offender against international norms. Yet even in Jordan, which is in many ways a model for the humane treatment of a large refugee population, Palestinians today feel markedly less secure than they did two decades ago, or even five years ago.

Outside of Iraq, whose Palestinian population fled en masse after the fall of Saddam, nowhere has the situation of the Palestinian refugees worsened so dramatically as in Lebanon. Since the early Sixties, Palestinians there have been barred from working in medicine, dentistry and the law. In 2001, the Lebanese parliament adopted an amendment to the country's property laws that prohibited the acquisition of real estate by "any person not a citizen of a recognised state" – meaning the estimated 250,000 to 400,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon. Palestinians who had acquired real estate prior to 2001 were barred from bequeathing property to their children.

Right-wing Christians and Shi'ite radicals alike support discriminatory legislation that further impoverishes Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, with the stated goal of preventing them from beginning the process of naturalisation, known as tawtin. In his inaugural speech in May, 2008, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, a Christian and former head of the country's armed forces, reaffirmed "Lebanon's categorical refusal of naturalisation", a statement echoed by the former Lebanese ambassador to the US, Nassib Lahoud, who told us recently in Beirut: "The confessional balance does not allow these things to happen ... at the moment the Palestinians are citizens of a state that does not exist." His sentiments were echoed by Hizbollah's spokesman on the Palestinian question, Hassan Hodroj. "The threat of tawtin is genuine," Hodroj explained. "It is one of the ways in which Israel, backed by the US, is endangering the region."

The fact that the living standard of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon has been deemed "catastrophic" by both UNRWA and by the Lebanese government can therefore be understood as a deliberate result of official state policy that is supported by all parties across Lebanon's divided confessional spectrum. As a member of the Lebanese parliament, Ghassan Moukheiber, explained in an interview with the ICG, "our official policy is to maintain Palestinians in a vulnerable, precarious situation to diminish prospects for their naturalisation or permanent settlement".

Yet the results of this horrifying policy may not be confined to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. In his book Everyday Jihad, about the experience of refugees in the Ain al-Hilweh camp, home to an estimated 70,000 Palestinians, the French scholar Bernard Rougier describes the results of decades of exclusion and marginalisation which have severed the refugees from any connection to a lost homeland – or the country in which they were born. As a result, he says, many Palestinians have abandoned a failed nationalism for the radical millenarian ideas associated with al-Qa'ida. "Palestinian salafist militants have devoted themselves to defending the imaginary borders of identity," Rougier writes, "declaring themselves the protectors and guardians of the cause of Sunni Islam worldwide."

Visitors to the Ain al-Hilweh camp are immediately made aware that they have entered another world. While Lebanese army checkpoints ring the camp, the Lebanese state has no presence inside. Food, water and other basic services are provided by UNRWA, while armed factions openly display weapons in muddy alleyways and recruit generations to serve under their banners. It is easy to see why the secular promise of Palestinian nationalism has faded and why the promise of a Muslim paradise without borders might take its place. One of the 9/11 hijackers dedicated a poem to Ain al-Hilweh's most prominent jihadist in his videotaped will, and dozens of Palestinian fighters from the camp joined al-Qa'ida in Iraq.

"The situation is the camp is deteriorating," Rougier told us, when we asked about whether things were getting better or worse for the Palestinians of Lebanon. Bound by their absolute opposition to tawtin, he says, Lebanese leaders are creating a radicalised Palestinian population that will eventually have to be absorbed into Lebanon, despite having little or no allegiance to the state.

Sahar Atrache, lead author of the ICG report on the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, agrees. "Palestinians refugees in Lebanon lack means of socio-economic advancement and are bereft of hope," he says. "They are vulnerable on all counts – politically, legally and above all physically. The status quo is good neither for the refugees nor for Lebanon itself."

While Palestinian refugees and their descendants inside Syria are not allowed to vote or hold Syrian passports, they are free from the overt discrimination that has turned Lebanon into a recruiting ground for al-Qa'ida. The legal status of Palestinians inside Syria is defined by a 1956 law that states that grants them "the right to employment, commerce, and national service, while preserving their original nationality". More than 100,000 of the estimated 450,000 Palestinians in Syria live in or around the Yarmouk refugee camp, which long ago became a neighbourhood of Damascus.

While Palestinians are reasonably well integrated into the Syrian socio-economic structure, according to the scholar Laurie Brand they do not have the right to vote, nor can they stand for parliament or other political offices. Palestinians are barred from buying farmland and prohibited from owning more than one house. The female descendant of a Palestinian refugee can become a Syrian citizen by marrying a Syrian man. The male descendants of Palestinian men and their children are barred from acquiring Syrian citizenship, even if they marry Syrian women.

The major focus of Syrian interest in the Palestinian refugees has long been as an extension of the Assad regime's policy towards its neighbours – Israel and Lebanon. Damascus has long hosted a variety of Palestinian terror groups that rejected the Oslo process, including Ahmad Jibril's Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). More significantly, Damascus is also the political and logistical centre for Hamas. "Syria's support for armed Palestinian groups is key to pressuring Damascus' neighbours, most notably Israel and Lebanon," says Andrew Tabler, author of the Syria-watching blog Eighth Gate.

Syria increases its leverage inside Israel by weakening Fatah and strengthening Hamas. In Lebanon, Syrian military and political interference has turned the refugee camps into "security-free islands" (juzur amniya) where bombers can be recruited, bombs manufactured, and plots can be directed beyond the reach of the Lebanese army and police. "Life for the Palestinians was deliberately frozen for political manipulation," concludes Lebanese analyst Tony Badran. "Syria has no interest in normalising that situation."

While Syria imposes a measure of security on its Palestinian neighbourhoods, it foments insecurity and violence in Lebanon and Gaza, splitting the Palestinian polity and fuelling the misery of Palestinians throughout the region.

Jordan is the only Arab nation that has integrated large numbers of Palestinians as full-fledged citizens. This is due not only to the unification of the East Bank and West Bank of the Jordan River valley under Hashemite rule between the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 until Israel's occupation of West Bank in 1967, but also to the luck of having had an enlightened monarch committed to the compassionate treatment of the estimated 100,000 refugees who crossed the Jordan River during the nakba in 1948. Israel's occupation of the West Bank following the 1967 war triggered a second exodus of 140,000 refugees into Jordan.

Today, almost 2 million of Jordan's 6 million people are registered Palestinian refugees, the largest concentration of current and former refugees in the Palestinian diaspora – and increasingly, tensions have deepened between the Palestinians and the "East Bank" establishment. This summer in Amman, ambiguous declarations by the recently appointed minister of the interior, Nayef al-Kadi, who is widely perceived to be anti-Palestinian, led many Jordanians of Palestinian origin to fear they would be stripped of Jordanian identity numbers. Speaking to the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al Hayat, al-Kadi confirmed that some Palestinians would be stripped of citizenship, ostensibly to counter Israeli plans to turn Jordan into Palestine. "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." Panic about their status spread quickly among the Palestinian community.

In interviews this month, senior Jordanian officials sought to quell such fears, while also suggesting there was at least some substance to al-Kadi's explosive suggestion. Faisal Bakr Qadi, the director of the Interior Ministry's office of Inspections, said Palestinians in Jordan were not being systematically stripped of citizenship. Rather, he explained that the government's current review of Palestinian national status dated back to 1988, when King Hussein, in response to demands by Palestinian and Arab leaders, disengaged administratively from the West Bank. Palestinian refugees, he said, meaning those who came to Jordan in the 1948 exodus, were to remain "full Jordanian citizens". "Displaced" Palestinians, or those who had come in 1967 and afterwards, would be able to maintain their yellow identity cards and numbers and de facto citizenship, provided they returned to the West Bank to renew the Israeli passes that permit them to go back and forth between Jordan and the West Bank.

Since 1983, he said, Jordan had given the coveted yellow cards – which enable Palestinians to work without special permits, pay local tuition rates in school, and enjoy full government services – to 280,000 Palestinians, whereas it had "frozen" the cards – or downgraded their status – of only 15,856 people. So far this year, he said, 9,956 cards were upgraded, 291 downgraded.

While many diplomats doubt these numbers, Jordanians insist there is no plot or plan to expel or deny citizenship to Palestinians who have lived virtually their entire lives in Jordan. "We want to ensure that when and if the peace process succeeds in establishing an independent Palestinian state, Palestinians living in Jordan will be in a position to choose their citizenship by having their status in order in both Jordan and Palestine," said an official close to King Abdullah.

Yet the distinctions that seem meaningful in Amman are not clear to some of the almost 94,000 Palestinian residents of Baqa'a, the largest of the 10 official refugee camps run by the UN. Some Palestinians in Baqa'a complain about the "new regulations" and the lack of identity cards that enable them to work without special permits and educate their children in public schools. Anxiety about the future pervades this ramshackle suburb at the northern edge of Amman, which began as an emergency relief centre after the 1967 war and is now a sprawling mini-city with its own basic shops, shawarma (sandwich) stands, and services. Many of the people we spoke to claimed that they knew someone, or had a relative, neighbour and friend whose identity card had been revoked, or whose status had inexplicably been changed.

For many of these refugees at the bottom of Jordan's social and economic pecking order, life without papers means hiding from the police who constantly patrol their camp's streets, being too poor to send any of your eight to 10 children to college, a lifetime of menial labour, and only a threadbare dream of returning to a homeland that most of them have never seen. There is strong suspicion of the state, but also of their neighbours, who are divided into "'48 people" and "'67 people". "Some of the newcomers would give away Al Aqsa for a Jordanian identity card," says Heba, a mother of eight, mentioning Islam's celebrated mosque in Jerusalem, one of its holiest shrines

"We're Jordanians," says her son, Mustapha, a slender, 20-year-old in a bright orange T-shirt emblazoned with meaningless words in unknown languages. "This is the best place in the world," he says, pointing around the bare living room whose worn rugs and threadbare pillows cover the floor on which he and all his siblings sleep. "We would never leave here. But I'm loyal to my country, and I would like to visit it one day.

He seems perplexed when asked which is his country – Jordan or Palestine. "We have no security here, but we are Jordanians," replies Mustapha, who lounges on a mattress in a two-storey cement house down the road while one of his five daughters offers tiny glasses of steaming herbal tea and cardamom-scented coffee. "Everything I have is here. This house. My car. My job. What would I have in Nablus or Be'ersheba?" he declares. "My children know nothing but Jordan. And we will stay here."

That determination, echoed repeatedly through the dilapidated cement homes that line Baqa'a's gravelly streets and dust-filled shops, is precisely what terrifies Jordan's East Bank establishment. Jordanians have reason to fear their Palestinian guests. Many Jordanians have not forgotten "Black September", the civil war launched by Arafat's Fatah organisation in 1970 which nearly toppled King Hussein's kingdom.

Moreover, having grown accustomed to their near monopoly on jobs provided by the government, Jordan's largest employer, Jordanians fear demands for political equality from Palestinians, most of whom would probably choose to remain in Jordan, relinquishing their "right of return' in favour of compensation. An end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would surely threaten Jordan's informal division of power: East Bankers dominate the army, the security services and most civil-service posts, while Palestinians are disproportionately represented in business. Palestinians may advise the king in the royal court, but there has been only one Palestinian prime minister, who served for eight months. Palestinians now comprise only 23 of Jordan's 110 MPs.

"The closer we get to a solution," says Adnan Abu Odeh, a Palestinian who was one of King Hussein's royal court chiefs and also held other important government posts, "the more anxious society becomes. We are approaching a moment of truth."


Forcing Palestinian Exiles Back Into Syria
The Daily Beast Nina Strochlic  08.26.15

Before its civil war, Syria was home to a large community of Palestinian refugees. Now, as they flee their adopted home, many Arab countries are forcibly deporting them back into hell.

Ahmad is invisible. He uses a fake name, rarely ventures outside, and moves his family between apartments in Jordan’s capital of Amman frequently, sometimes at a moment’s notice if he thinks his cover has been blown.

Ahmad is a refugee twice over. His family fled land that now belongs to Israel for refuge in Syria, where he grew up. Now, he’s hiding from his foster country’s civil war in Jordan. Meanwhile, residents of his former neighborhood in Damascus who couldn’t escape survive by eating grass.

Ahmad is one of the estimated 70,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria living undercover in Syria’s neighboring countries, all but one of which explicitly turn away Palestinians at the border. In Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, hundreds of people like Ahmad have been caught and deported back into Syria.

A mutual acquaintance took me to meet Ahmad on a Friday. The narrow streets of his neighborhood in eastern Amman were empty—I later learned our visit had been timed to coincide with Friday’s prayers, when a foreign visitor attracts less notice. We parked down the block and walked to his apartment, which was completely obscured behind a tall gate.

Tracking down this hidden demographic feels like making contact with a sleeper cell: phone calls come in from unknown numbers; fake names are used; middle men choose anonymous meeting spots. These people have everything to lose if they’re discovered, so they remain undercover, trusting their existence to only a few outsiders.

Palestinians refugees from Syria—known as PRS—are the shadow refugees of a four-year crisis with no end in sight. They are flat-out barred from entering any of Syria’s neighbors other than Turkey. If they do find a way in, they’re rejected by humanitarian organizations, banned from refugee camps, and face deportation back into Syria’s nightmare.

“Legally there’s nowhere for this besieged population to go. There’s a sense that they’ll try anything to get somewhere,” says Adam Coogle, the Human Rights Watch researcher in Jordan. “The only thing they can do is try to stay off the radar, wait for the conflict in Syria to end and go back, or try to make a very, very dangerous journey.”

The trip to more welcoming countries can have deadly consequences. Turkey is the only country neighboring Syria that still allows in Palestinians fleeing the civil war, but getting there is perilous, expensive, and likely requires a trip through ISIS territory. Last week, a boat filled with Palestinians from Yarmouk Camp in Damascus capsized on its way from Lebanon to Turkey, killing nine.

As early as 2012, Jordan stopped allowing Palestinians from Syria into the country, and the policy was formalized the following year. “They should stay in Syria until the end of the crisis,” Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour announced at the time. Lebanon followed suit in 2014, and has also stopped renewing visas for Palestinians already inside. Egypt and Iraq have similar restrictions.

Despite this, thousands have managed to sneak across Syria’s borders. There are 15,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria in Jordan and 45,000 in Lebanon registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is the only international humanitarian organization allowed to provide them with assistance.

“Syrians have gone through hell. But the Palestinians—they’re not even in their own country, so life is even worse,” says UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness. “If you can imagine that.”

The political motives that shape these exclusionary policies remain opaque, but most of the host countries have historical issues with Palestinian refugee populations—along with concerns that offering permanent resettlement outside Palestine would negate the right of return Arab countries have been fighting for since Israel’s creation.

“I think Syria’s neighbors worry that another mass influx of Palestinian refugees would be difficult to absorb and possibly lead to the same instability Jordan and Lebanon witnessed after ’48 and ’67,” says Coogle, referring to the first and third Arab-Israeli wars. “Leaders often talk about protecting the right of return, but fear of the destabilizing effects of absorbing another few hundred thousand Palestinians is the real culprit.”

In his small, three-room apartment, Ahmad sat on the couch in a green sweatshirt and sweatpants. A long beard hung below his quick smile. In the adjoining room, his pregnant wife, daughter, sister-in-law, and nephew watched children’s cartoons on TV. The 33-year-old is paralyzed from the legs down, but this didn’t subdue his hospitality. He poured small cups of thick Turkish-style coffee, proffered a plate of sticky dates, and explained how he transformed from a political activist in Syria to a housebound refugee hiding in Amman.

Ahmad is from Yarmouk Camp, an unofficial refugee camp in Damascus that has functioned as the center of Palestinian life in Syria for half a century. At the end of 2012, a Syrian army bombing campaign turned the camp into a battlefield. Yarmouk became, and remains, one of the most desperate humanitarian situations in the world. Its border is sealed by the Syrian government, blocking food, water, and medicine from entering. Snipers encircle the perimeter, targeting anyone who dares to venture outside. Reports say its remaining residents—the population has plummeted from 200,000 to an estimated 8,000—survive on stray animals, grass, and dirt. In April, the camp was violently seized by the so-called Islamic State, widely known as ISIS.

Two weeks after the 2012 siege began, Ahmad smuggled himself and his family out with fake papers procured by a cleaner in the school where he’d worked. They made their way to Daraa, a city in southern Syria, where he began documenting the killings, arrests, and disappearances of Palestinians. One day, he was leaving the mosque when a double car-bombing exploded next to him. He thought he was dead, but woke up in a field hospital with a hole blasted through his spine.

This near-fatal accident proved his ticket out of the war-torn city. Ahmad was transferred to a hospital in Jordan in 2013. The doctors swapped his Palestinian name for a Syrian one when transferring him to Jordanian authorities.

During his four months in the hospital, he agonized over whether his true identity would be found out. “I even tried not to fall asleep so as to guess what they were saying about me in the ICU,” he says. “The government hospitals ask many questions.” He claimed they often try to suss out illegal refugees by interviewing them in the post-surgery drug haze.

Now Ahmad receives treatment under a false name from a private hospital, which is expensive but less risky. His wife, who gave birth shortly after we met, was also taken to a private hospital and they registered the child under a fake name.

Ahmad and his family have no official papers. “I can’t talk to anyone,” he says. Our mutual connection, a close friend of his from Yarmouk who works for an NGO, didn’t know he was in Jordan for the first two years. Ahmad hasn’t stopped moving: this is his fifth apartment in Amman. “If there is a regular visit from neighbors and they start asking questions; if I saw a car come and stop; if I had any doubts at all, I’ll move [out] directly,” he says.

Ahmad has seen what happens to the Palestinians from Syria who are discovered. His brother, a surgeon who also came to Jordan under fake papers, was deported back to Syria just before his wife gave birth. Now, she’s raising their five-month-old in the small, shared apartment.

According to UNRWA’s annual report (PDF), 117 Palestinian refugees were sent back to Syria in 2014. So far this year, there have already been around 50 forcible deportations. “It’s not in accordance with international law,” says Gunness, the organization’s spokesman. “We’ve made our objections perfectly clear, but the policies continue.” Last May, Human Rights Watch documented three dozen Palestinians from Syria returned from Lebanon into the war zone in one day. Egypt has been criticized for detaining hundreds for months at a time and forcing hundreds more to return to Syria.

Ahmad holds his brother's son, who was born shortly after his brother was deported back to Syria from Jordan.

Ahmad’s family survives on cash assistance from UNRWA that amounts to the equivalent of $30 per person every month. UNRWA is notoriously underfunded—this year, its Syria program only has one-third of what it needs—and it doesn’t provide resettlement services. But it’s the only humanitarian organization that gives any assistance to Palestinian refugees from Syria in Jordan. Because they aren’t given government refugee documents, they’re ineligible for other aid. This also bars them from refugee camps, where food and shelter is provided. In conversations with The Daily Beast, multiple humanitarian workers expressed a desire to provide for the underserved population, but said it would jeopardize their organization’s relationship with the Jordanian government.

“Even if you argue the only response is, ‘These are the rules. You’re Palestinian and this is enough for you,’” says Maysaa, a 35-year-old mother of three from Yarmouk Camp in Damascus. Her family also gets a small stipend from UNRWA, but when she tried to apply for assistance from other NGOs they turned her down. “Before the war we were all one: Palestinian, Syrian, it didn’t matter. Now we hear, ‘This is Syrian, this is Palestinian.’”

I met Maysaa at a community center in a Palestinian refugee camp about an hour outside Amman. The camp had been around for so long that it looked more like a small, shabby city. But it’s more hospitable than Yarmouk after the siege, when “sometimes we couldn’t even find grass to eat,” she recalled. When the barrel bombs intensified in 2013, she fled to Jordan with nothing, not even her family photos.

Maysaa is one of the lucky ones. Because her husband also has Jordanian citizenship, the family was able to gain legal residency status, but that isn’t always the case. Human Rights Watch has documented multiple cases of Jordanian citizenship being revoked from Palestinians coming from Syria at the border or not renewed after arrival. Some have had their documents confiscated and been returned to Syria, leaving them unable to move through checkpoints and stuck in limbo at the border.

“I guess that’s our fate as Palestinians, to be displaced and living in humiliation for the rest of our lives,” she says. “Now it’s obvious that it’s wanted for all Palestinians to die. That’s what the world wants.”

And many have, as the desperate conditions inside Syria and its inhospitable neighbors make a daring escape to Turkey or Europe the only option.

Mohammad Ghannam drove out of Damascus heading for Lebanon in 2013, shortly after getting released on parole after a year in prison for activism. In Beirut, he went to UNHCR—an organization that employed him in Damascus—to ask for resettlement. He was told that as a Palestinian refugee they could not help him. Shortly thereafter, Lebanon stopped renewing visas for Palestinians from Syria, and informed Ghannam that the freelance work he was doing for The New York Times was barred under the dozens of professions Palestinians can’t practice in the country.

“What should I do, throw myself in the sea?” Ghannam says. He asked for a Turkish visa and was also refused. Someone offered to smuggle him on a ship to Turkey. “Sometimes they suffocate,” he says of the journey. “It’s like $500, and maybe you’ll get killed.”

At the French embassy he was approved for political asylum and he arrived in Paris in March. But back in Damascus, his elderly parents have nowhere to go. His cousin is still in Yarmouk Camp, where he’s heard that a two-pound bag of rice can sell for $200 and a one-bedroom apartment rents for $1,800. For the right price, smugglers can help civilians escape the camp, but they’re still stuck in Syria.

“During war and revolution, these [bordering] countries played a role for me and other Palestinians who lived in Syria, to remind us again that you are Palestinian, not Syrian,” says Ghannam, who was born and raised in Syria. “From day one when you leave the country, Lebanon tells you, ‘You are Palestinian.’ Jordan tells you, ‘You are Palestinian, not Syrian.’ I know they’re not treating Syrians very well, but the Palestinians are [treated] way worse.”

“Give them the opportunity to have a life,” he says. “Not decent life, just a life.”


ThIs report describes the current situation for each area.  As an example their report for Gaza is reproduced below.

The Gaza Strip is home to a population of approximately 1.9 million people, including 1.3 million Palestine refugees.

For the last decade, the socioeconomic situation in Gaza has been in steady decline. The blockade on land, air and sea imposed by Israel following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, entered its 10th year in June 2016 and continues to have a devastating effect as access to markets and people’s movement to and from the Gaza Strip remain severely restricted.

Years of conflict and blockade have left 80 per cent of the population dependent on international assistance. The economy and its capacity to create jobs have been devastated, resulting in the impoverishment and de-development of a highly skilled and well-educated society. The average unemployment rate is well over 41 per cent – one of the highest in the world, according to the World Bank. The number of Palestine refugees relying on UNRWA for food aid has increased from fewer than 80,000 in 2000 to almost one million today.

Over half a million Palestine refugees in Gaza live in the eight recognized Palestine refugee camps, which have one of the highest population densities in the world.

Operating through approximately 12,500 staff in over 300 installations across the Gaza Strip, UNRWA delivers education, health and mental health care, relief and social services, microcredit and emergency assistance to registered Palestine refugees.

On 7 July 2014, a humanitarian emergency was declared by UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, following a severe escalation in hostilities, involving intense Israeli aerial and navy bombardment and Palestinian rocket fire. Hostilities de-escalated following an open-ended ceasefire which entered into force on 26 August 2014. The scale of human loss, destruction, devastation and displacement caused by this third conflict within seven years was catastrophic, unprecedented and unparalleled in Gaza.

UNRWA mounted an extraordinary response during the 50 days of hostilities which highlighted its unique position as the largest UN organization in the Gaza Strip and the only UN Agency that undertakes direct implementation.

The human, social and economic costs of the last hostilities are sit against a backdrop of a society already torn by wide-spread poverty, frustration and anger, heightening vulnerability and political instability. The compounded effects of the blockade and repeated armed conflicts and violence have also had a less visible, but quite profound, psychological impact on the people of Gaza. Among Palestine refugee children, UNRWA estimates that a minimum of 30 per cent require some form of structured psychosocial intervention. Their most common symptoms are: nightmares, eating disorders, intense fear, bed wetting.

In recent years, UNRWA has made significant improvements to its services in Gaza, such as its schools of excellence and excellent health services initiatives. It also better targets its assistance to the poorest of the poor through the implementation of a proxy-means tested poverty survey. UNRWA continues to:

Improve the academic achievement, behaviour and values of school students

Construct desperately needed infrastructure, including schools and shelters

Improve the quality and targeting of its food and cash assistance to the poorest of the poor

Promote gender equality and human rights for all

Nurture entrepreneurship by supporting the private sector

Facts & Figures

1.3 million registered refugees out of 1.9 million total population
(approximately 70 per cent)

8 refugee camps

Almost 12,500 staff

267 schools for over 262,000 students

21 health centres

16 relief and social services offices

3 micro-finance offices

12 food distribution centres for almost one million beneficiaries


Hamas could easily solve it, but prefers to finance tunnels and rockets. The latest power crisis typifies the bleak reality of a decade’s rule by the Islamist terror group

Times of Israel  Avi Issacharoff  June 14, 2017

Editor’s Note  

The Gaza Strip is home to a population of approximately 1.9 million people, including 1.3 million Palestine refugees.  (UNWRA).  

This article tells you something about their living  conditions.

The word from Gaza on Tuesday was that residents had power for only three hours.

That latest decline sparked rumors in the Strip that Israel had already started to reduce the electricity supply, as requested by the Palestinian Authority, which is no longer ready to pay the bills for the Hamas-run Strip. In fact, however, the cause was one of the frequent technical problems in the power supply from Egypt, which also provides electricity to Gaza.

This typifies the daily reality for the nearly two million Palestinians of Gaza this past decade. Ten years have passed since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in a violent and swift coup during which 160 members of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah party were wiped out. Within three and a half days, the Hamas military wing defeated the military units of the Fatah-dominated PA, even though Abbas’s loyalists were four times more numerous. (The most powerful PA figure in Gaza at the time was Mohammad Dahlan, but he happened to be in Germany for physiotherapy treatment on his back.)

Unemployment at the end of the Hamas decade is around 40%. Poverty is widespread. Two-thirds of the population in Gaza needs help from international aid organizations. The water isn’t fit to drink. And now the power is dwindling.

If anyone hopes that Hamas might reconsider its policies, and start to invest in the citizens of the Strip instead of its military infrastructure, they should forget it. Hamas remains the same cynical organization that exploits the distress of Gaza’s residents for political gain, both locally and internationally. Sometimes against Israel, sometimes against the Palestinian Authority.

The current electricity crisis is just another example. Hamas could, if it wanted to, pay for enough electricity to significantly improve power supplies. But it prefers to spend tens of millions of shekels a month digging attack tunnels into Israel and manufacturing rockets.

According to various estimates by the PA and Israel, Hamas raises NIS 100 million ($28 million) every month in taxes from the residents of Gaza. A significant part of that amount covers the wages of its members. But a large portion is diverted for military purposes. Estimates say Hamas is spending some $130 million a year on its military wing and preparations for war.

Hamas could easily step in to pay for the electricity from Israel that Abbas is no longer willing to cover. But it adamantly refuses to do so. It stubbornly insists that the PA should pay the entire bill, without clarifying why.

Ten years after the revolt that drove it out of Gaza, the PA has decided to sever economic ties with the coastal enclave. It is doing so in stages, but that’s where it is heading: economic separation. Or, in other words, making Hamas pay for its coup.

This process raises the possibility of another war between Israel and Hamas. Some see the Israeli cabinet’s agreement to the PA’s request to reduce electricity supplies as a step that could pave the way for another round of violence.

But Israel didn’t have too many options. It can’t decide of its own accord to deduct Gaza’s electricity costs from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA. And Israeli funding for electricity in Gaza is also not a realistic option.

Meantime, everyone is blaming everybody else. Hamas is trying to put the blame for the power crisis on the PA (and Israel); the PA is putting the blame on Hamas; and in the middle of it all, up pops Dahlan.

In the past few days, those close to Dahlan have leaked details of meetings he recently held in Cairo with a Hamas delegation led by the terror group’s new Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar. Dahlan’s camp is trying to sell a story that he reached an understanding with Egypt and Hamas on a formula to resolve the crisis — without restoring PA rule in Gaza.

Egyptian sources adamantly deny this, but it seems that Dahlan and Hamas are doing everything they can to give Gazans the feeling that all their woes are caused by Abbas. According to his people, Dahlan, a sworn opponent of the PA president, could solve the crisis, while Abbas, professing to seek Palestinian unity, is seeking to abuse the Gaza population by exacerbating it.

Make no mistake, both the PA and Hamas are manoeuvring at the expense of the Gaza population — which amounts to real collective punishment. And still, the bottom line is clear: Those who took control of Gaza in a military coup and since then invested more than $1 billion in their military infrastructure, could have easily directed their resources to resolve Gaza’s problems. But what is the value of another few hours of electricity for the people of Gaza, compared to another few tunnels or rockets?

The absurdity continues

Some more food for thought about the Palestinian Authority, this time regarding its activities in the West Bank.

The Palestinian security services are making an ongoing, serious effort to prevent terror attacks against Israeli targets.

The security cooperation with Israel is excellent, perhaps unprecedentedly so, partly because it is out of sight of the general Israeli and Palestinian public.

Hundreds of members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Islamic State and other groups have been arrested by the Palestinian security services to prevent terror attacks on Israelis.

The absurdity is, if a member of one of those terror groups manages to slip under the radar of the PA security apparatus or the Israeli security services, and carries out an attack, then the Palestinian Authority will pay a monthly allowance to the assailant and to his family members if they are arrested by Israel — defying the US, Israel, and much of the international community.


Population transfer is the resettlement of a large group of people from one region to another, their place being taken by anther group.

One  example was the Holocaust with the forcible movement of Jews from one location to another and  their place taken by another group.  Another example was India when it was split into two in 1948.  Population moved to the largely Hindu /Sikh area of India while Muslims moved to the split part of the ‘old India’ which was the Muslim area called Pakistan.

This happened when Arabs living in ‘Jewish areas’ went, on a ‘temporary’ basis, to the Muslim country of Jordan and return with the Jews expelled.  Unfortunately for them the Jews were victorious and refused to allow them to return. They  were then called ‘Palestinian refugees’.

As  shown above approximately 1,600,000 Jews were displaced from Arab countries between 1948 and 2012.  These settled where they went and were never supported by a United Nations organisation.

This movement of Arabs and Jews is an example of ‘population transfer’.

Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS)   20/06/2016
On The Occasion Of the International Day of Refugees (20/06/2016).

66% of Palestinians who were living in Historic Palestine (British-Mandated Palestine) in 1948 were Expelled and Displaced

The  human plight and tragedy that has befallen on the Palestinian people in 1948, a devastating tragedy was expelled and displaced from land seized by Israel as about 957 thousand Palestinian Arabs, representing 66.0% of the total Palestinians who were living in historic Palestine on the eve of the war of 1948, according to estimates in 1950.

Number of Official Palestinian Camps as Recognized by UNRWA by the Residential Country

Source : According to the data of  UNRWA on the  Palestinian Refugees.

.Several official estimates on the number of Palestinian refugees on the eve of the 1948 war  was released from various sources.  However, United Nations  released two estimates: the first referred to the number of Palestinian refugees that amounted to about 726 thousand refugees  as  based on the estimates of the United Nations in 1949.  And the second  that amounted to 957 thousand refugees as based on estimates of 1950.

5.6 million Registered Refugees in UNRWA

UNRWA Records indicated that the number of registered Palestinian refugees on the first of January 2015 amounted up to  about 5.6 million and these figures represented the minimum number of Palestinian refugees. Palestinian refugees in the West Bank who are registered with UNRWA  as in  the first of 2015 accounted up to 16.9% of the total refugees registered with UNRWA against 24.1% in Gaza Strip. At the level of the Arab countries, the percentage of Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in Jordan, amounted up to 39.6% of the total Palestinian refugees while the percentage of Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA  in Lebanon and  Syria reached  8.8%  and 10.6% respectively

Percentage Distribution of Palestinian Refugees  by the Residential Country  as in 1/1/2015,

 (According to the data of UNRWA on the Palestinian Refugees )

Source : According to the data of  UNRWA on the  Palestinian Refugees.

42% of the total Population in State of Palestine are Refugees

Data refer  that  the percentage of the population of refugees in State of Palestine  in 2015 is estimated  at 41.6% of the total Palestinian population living in State of Palestine, and  data indicated that 26.3% of the population in the West Bank are refugees, while the percentage  of refugees in Gaza Strip is 67.7%.

Percentage of Refugees in State of Palestine by Region, 2015

Source: Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics 2016. Database of the Labor Force Survey, the fourth quarter 2015. Ramallah -Palestine

Palestinian Refugees  are Characterized as  a Youngsters Community

The percentage of persons aged less than 15 years in State of Palestine reached 39.3%  (as of 39.6% for refugees and 39.1% for non- refugees) in 2015, while the percentage of elderly aged 60 years and over among refugee reached 4.1% of the total refugees while for  non- refugees reached 4.8%.

Palestinian Refugee Women living in State of Palestine are the most Fertility

The total fertility rate for the period (2008-2009) in State of Palestine amounted to 4.4 births, and the mean number of the  children ever born amounted to 4.3 births for 2010. When compared to those rates by refugee status, it is clear to us that there are light differences between total fertility rates and the mean number of children ever born as  the total fertility rate and the mean number of children  among  refugee reached 4.4 births and 4.3 births respectively, while these rates  among non-refugee  reached 4.3 and 4.2 births respectively .

Fertility Rates in State of Palestine by refugee Status (2008 -2009)

Source: Palestinian  Central Bureau of Statistics, 2016. Palestinian family Survey Database, 2010.  Ramallah –Palestine

Participation rate in labor force is low for both refugees and non-refugees

The results of the Labor Force Survey in 2015 showed that the participation rate in labor force among refugees aged 15 years and over whom residing in State of Palestine were 46.1% against 45.6% for non- refugees.

Unemployment rate is high for refugees

Data indicated that there is a clear difference on the level of unemployment rate among refugees and non-refugees, as unemployment rate among refugees reached up to 32.3% compared to 21.4% among non-refugees.

One-third of the Refugees are working as Specialists and Technicians

In 2015, the profession of "technicians, specialists, assistant, and clerks" considered as the most accommodating profession among refugees and non- refugees in State of Palestine alike as refugees amounted to 34.0% while the non-refugees reached 22.5%. Also, legislators and senior management staff  represented  the lowest percentage for both of refugees and non-refugees with a variation by 2.8%  for refugees and 3.5%  for non-refugees.

An Increase in Percentages of Educational Attainment among Refugees

The percentage of illiteracy among Palestinian refugees in 2015 for individuals aged 15 years and over  reached 2.9%, while among non-refugee reached 3.6%. As a percentage of Palestinian refugees aged 15 years and over who obtained a bachelor's degree or higher reached 14.3 % of the total refugees aged 15 years and over against 12.1%  for  non-refugees

About 60% of the Refugee Households live in an Apartment

Data of 2015 indicated that 44.6% of the households of State of Palestine live in an  independent house, the percentage among  non-refugee was 49.2% against  38.0% for refugees, and the percentage of household  living in an apartment  reached 53.7% (49.2%  non-refugee against 60.2% for refugee). The percentage of refugee households  living in a rented accommodation reached 8.8% of the total refugee households and 78.5% for refugee households are  living in owned housing unit.

The Situation of Palestinians Refugees in the Diaspora:

Palestinians refugees in Jordan

The socio-economic conditions of the Jordan's Palestinian camp refugees study 2011, which prepared by FAFO shows that 39.9% of persons in the Palestinian camps refugees in Jordan aged under 15 year old , while the percentage of elderly (65 years and over) was 4.3%, and the average of household size was 5.1 persons.  The data also indicated that the percentage of illiteracy rate among the Palestinian camps refugees in Jordan aged 15 and over was 8.6%.

Palestinians refugees in Lebanon

Data available on Palestinians living in Lebanon in 2011 showed that 31.1% of the population were below the age of 15, 6.1% were aged 65 years and over.  The sex ratio was 98.2 males per hundred females in 2011.  Data available for 2011 indicated that the average Palestinian household size was 4.4 persons, the total fertility rate was 2.8 births per woman, the infant mortality rate was 15.0 per thousand live births and the mortality rate for children below the age of five was 17.0 per thousand live births in the same year.

Palestinians in the Arab World: Why the Silence?   
by Khaled Abu Toameh,  July 20, 2010 at 5:00 am

Refugee: Palestinians in Arab countries have it bad, too

The Washington Post, By Olga Khazan November 30, 2012

Palestinian Refugees: Facts and Figures
Palestinian Return Centre, 2004

Based on “The Refugees”  UNWRA and UNHCR The Tale of Two Organisations .
A Powerpoint presentation by Dr Martin Sherman, 2008


UNRWA (United Nations
Relief and Works Agency),

dedicated to
Palestinian refugees

UNHCR (United Nations
High Commissioner Refugee),

dedicated to aiding
all other world refugees

Primary Purpose

"Every Arab who left Palestine - the Land of Israel in 1948, and who had lived there previously for two years, will be considered a refugee, he and his descendants".

(Until 1948, only the Jews who lived in Palestine-the Land of Israel, were known as Palestinians)

To safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees.

It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.


any person whose "normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict."

Palestine refugees are persons who fulfil the above definition and descendants of fathers fulfilling the definition.

Frequently Asked Questions

someone who:

"owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

Description and guidance

Main Goal

To execute the "Right of Return" to Palestine - the Land of Israel. In order to achieve this goal, all means are valid.  To preserve the refugees’ refugee status even though some of them receive citizenship in other countries.

An autonomous authority, to preserve its main programs, as they have been for over 3 decades: education, health, relief and social services, and microfinance and micro-enterprise.

To safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees.

It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.

Provides basic material help and passes to the shelter countries all the other needs of the refugee.

How long can a person be considered a refugee?

Creates total dependence on its support system for the refugees and their descendants, with no limit of time.

Within a period of a few months, and no more than one year, all the refugees acclimatize to their new home and begin to build their new lives. UNHCR considers  "Family planning" as a very important issue for adapting to their new countries.

What would have happened if UNHCR took care of the Palestinian refugees?

1. According to the UNHCR, only 30,000 - 60,000 conform with the definition of a refugee. All others Arabs who left Palestine-the Land of Israel in 1948 had families and homes in the Arab countries where they came from.

2. These 30,000 - 60,000 real refugees would have acclimatized in those countries, where they would have settled a long time ago.

3. From these two points, you can imagine how many lives could have been saved.

Potentially, the conflict between Israel and the Arab nations would now be history!

The day after Israel  was created In 1948,
it was invaded by surrounding Arab countries,
who wanted to destroy the only ‘non-Muslim’ country in the Middle East).

 The Jews would have been expelled had they won

This is called Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day) in Israel






Co-existence of Jews
and Arabs

Palestinian and





The Legal Situation of Palestinian Refugees



The Tragedy of the Palestinian Diaspora

A Palestinian's Life


Annual Report

Gaza’s  Electricity


Additional Palestinian