Palestinian people or Palestinians (الشعب الفلسطيني, ash-sha`b al-filasTīni; الفلسطينيون, al-filasTīnīyyūn), also commonly rendered as Palestinian Arabs (العرب الفلسطينيون, al-`Arab al-filasTīnīyyūn) are terms commonly used to refer to an Arabic-speaking people with family origins in Palestine. Today Palestinians are predominantly Sunni Muslims, though there is a significant Christian minority as well as smaller religious communities. The total Palestinian population worldwide is estimated between 10 and 11 million people, over half of whom are stateless and lacking citizenship in any country.
The first widespread use of "Palestinian" as an endonym to refer to the nationalist concept of a Palestinian people by the local Arabic-speaking population of Palestine began prior to the outbreak of World War I, and the first demand for national independence was issued by the Syrian-Palestinian Congress on 21 September 1921. After the exodus of 1948, and even more so after the exodus of 1967, the term came to signify not only a place of origin, but the sense of a shared past and future in the form of a Palestinian nation-state.
Roughly half of all Palestinians continue to live in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. The other half, many of whom are refugees, live elsewhere around the world and comprise what is known as the Palestinian diaspora.
The Palestinian people as a whole are represented before the international community by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The Palestinian National Authority, officially established as a result of the Oslo Accords, is an interim administrative body nominally responsible for governance in Palestinian population centres in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Greek toponym Palaistinê (Παλαιστίνη), with which the Arabic Filastin (فلسطين) is cognate, first occurs in the work of the Greek historian Herodotus, active in the middle of the 5th century BCE, where it denotes generally the coastal land from Phoenicia down to Egypt. Herodotus also employs the term as an ethnonym, as when he speaks of the 'Syrians of Palestine' or 'Palestinian-Syrians', an ethnically amorphous group he distinguishes from the Phoenicians. The word bears comparison to a congeries of ethnonyms in Semitic languages, Ancient Egyptian Prst, Assyrian Palastu, and the Hebraic Plishtim, the latter term used in the Bible to signify the Philistines.
The Romans popularised the term Palestina after their destruction of the 2nd Jewish Temple in Jerusalem when they uprooted and exiled the majority of Jews from the land, then known as Judea. This was an attempt to revoke the Jewish connection with the land of Israel in both name and substance.
The Arabic word Filastin has been used to refer to the region since the time of the earliest medieval Arab geographers. It appears have been used as an Arabic adjectival noun in the region since as early as the 7th century CE. During the British Mandate of Palestine, the term "Palestinian" was used to refer to all people residing there, regardless of religion or ethnicity, and those granted citizenship by the Mandatory authorities were granted "Palestinian citizenship". To refer to as "Palestinians" both the native Palestinians of all faiths and the non-Palestinian Jewish settlers alike was consistent with an Orientalist view of all Jews as "eastern" people, also indigenous to that area. Thus, figures such as Emmanuel Kant could refer to European Jews as "Palestinians living among us.
Following the 1948 establishment of the State of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, the use and application of the terms "Palestine" and "Palestinian" by and to Palestinian Jews largely dropped from use. For example, the English-language newspaper The Palestine Post, founded by Jews in 1932, changed its name in 1950 to The Jerusalem Post. Jews in Israel and the West Bank today generally identify as Israelis. Arab citizens of Israel identify themselves as Israeli and/or Palestinian and/or Arab.
The Palestinian National Charter, as amended by the PLO's Palestine National Council in July 1968, defined "Palestinians" as "those Arab nationals who, until 1947, normally resided in Palestine regardless of whether they were evicted from it or stayed there. Anyone born, after that date, of a Palestinian father — whether in Palestine or outside it — is also a Palestinian." Note that "Arab nationals" is not religious-specific, and it implicitly includes not only the Muslims of Palestine, but also the Christians and those of other faiths fitting the criteria for inclusion in Palestinian peoplehood, including Jews, although limited only to "the Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion." The Charter also states that "Palestine with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit."
The timing and causes behind the emergence of a distinctively Palestinian national consciousness among the Arabs of Palestine are matters of scholarly disagreement.
In his 1997 book, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness, historian Rashid Khalidi notes that the archaeological strata that denote the history of Palestine — encompassing the Biblical, Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, Fatimid, Crusader, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods — form part of the identity of the modern-day Palestinian people, as they have come to understand it over the last century, but derides the efforts of some Palestinian nationalists to attempt to "anachronistically" read back into history a national identity that is in fact "relatively modern, dating, according to Khalidi, to the early twentieth century. Khalidi stresses that Palestinian identity has never been an exclusive one, with "Arabism, religion, and local loyalties" continuing to play an important role.
Echoing this view, Walid Khalidi writes that Palestinians in Ottoman times were "[a]cutely aware of the distinctiveness of Palestinian history ..." and that "[a]lthough proud of their Arab heritage and ancestry, the Palestinians considered themselves to be descended not only from Arab conquerors of the seventh century but also from indigenous peoples who had lived in the country since time immemorial, including the ancient Hebrews and the Canaanites before them."
Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal consider the 1834 revolt of the Arabs in Palestine as constituting the first formative event of the Palestinian people. Under the Ottomans, Palestine's Arab population mostly saw themselves as Ottoman subjects. In the 1830s however, Palestine was occupied by the Egyptian vassal of the Ottomans, Muhammad Ali and his son Ibrahim Pasha. The revolt was precipitated by popular resistance against heavy demands for conscripts, as peasants were well aware that conscription was little more than a death sentence. Starting in May 1834 the rebels took many cities, among them Jerusalem, Hebron and Nablus. In response, Ibrahim Pasha sent in an army, finally defeating the last rebels on 4 August in Hebron. Nevertheless, Benny Morris argues that the Arabs in Palestine remained part of a larger Pan-Islamist or Pan-Arab national movement.
Rashid Khalidi argues that the modern national identity of Palestinians has its roots in nationalist discourses that emerged among the peoples of the Ottoman empire in the late 19th century, and which sharpened following the demarcation of modern nation-state boundaries in the Middle East after World War I. Khalidi also states that although the challenge posed by Zionism played a role in shaping this identity, that "it is a serious mistake to suggest that Palestinian identity emerged mainly as a response to Zionism."
Historian James L. Gelvin argues that Palestinian nationalism was a direct reaction to Zionism. In his book The Israel-Palestine Conflict: One Hundred Years of War he states that "Palestinian nationalism emerged during the interwar period in response to Zionist immigration and settlement." Gelvin argues that this fact does not make the Palestinian identity any less legitimate:
"The fact that Palestinian nationalism developed later than Zionism and indeed in response to it does not in any way diminish the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism or make it less valid than Zionism. All nationalisms arise in opposition to some "other." Why else would there be the need to specify who you are? And all nationalisms are defined by what they oppose."
Bernard Lewis argues it was not as a Palestinian nation that the Arabs of Ottoman Palestine objected to Zionists, since the very concept of such a nation was unknown to the Arabs of the area at the time and did not come into being until very much later. Even the concept of Arab nationalism in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, "had not reached significant proportions before the outbreak of World War I."
Tamir Sorek, a sociologist, submits that, "Although a distinct Palestinian identity can be traced back at least to the middle of the nineteenth century (Kimmerling and Migdal 1993; Khalidi 1997b), or even to the seventeenth century (Gerber 1998), it was not until after World War I that a broad range of optional political affiliations became relevant for the Arabs of Palestine."
Whatever the differing viewpoints over the timing, causal mechanisms, and orientation of Palestinian nationalism, by the early 20th century strong opposition to Zionism and evidence of a burgeoning nationalistic Palestinian identity is found in the content of Arabic-language newspapers in Palestine, such as Al-Karmil (est. 1908) and Filasteen (est. 1911). Filasteen, published in Jaffa by Issa and Yusef al-Issa, addressed its readers as "Palestinians", first focusing its critique of Zionism around the failure of the Ottoman administration to control Jewish immigration and the large influx of foreigners, later exploring the impact of Zionist land-purchases on Palestinian peasants (فلاحين, fellahin), expressing growing concern over land dispossession and its implications for the society at large.
The first Palestinian nationalist organisations emerged at the end of the World War I. Two political factions emerged. Al-Muntada al-Adabi, dominated by the Nashashibi family, militated for the promotion of the Arabic language and culture, for the defense of Islamic values and for an independent Syria and Palestine. In Damascus, al-Nadi al-Arabi , dominated by the Husayni family, defended the same values.
The historical record continued to reveal an interplay between "Arab" and "Palestinian" identities and nationalisms. The idea of a unique Palestinian state separated out from its Arab neighbors was at first rejected by some Palestinian representatives. The First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations (in Jerusalem, February 1919), which met for the purpose of selecting a Palestinian Arab representative for the Paris Peace Conference, adopted the following resolution: "We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds.
After the Nabi Musa riots, the San Remo conference and the failure of Faisal to establish the Kingdom of Greater Syria, a distinctive form of Palestinian Arab nationalism took root between April and July 1920. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the French conquest of Syria, the formerly pan-Syrianist mayor of Jerusalem, Musa Qasim Pasha al-Husayni, said "Now, after the recent events in Damascus, we have to effect a complete change in our plans here. Southern Syria no longer exists. We must defend Palestine".
Conflict between Palestinian nationalists and various types of pan-Arabists continued during the British Mandate, but the latter became increasingly marginalized. Two prominent leaders of the Palestinian nationalists were Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem,appointed by the British, and Izz ad-Din al-Qassam.
After the British general, Louis Bols, declared the enforcement of the Balfour Declaration in February 1920, some 1,500 Palestinians demonstrated in the streets of Jerusalem. A month later, during the 1920 Palestine riots, the protests against British rule and Zionist immigration became violent and Bols banned all demonstrations. In May 1921 however, further anti-Zionist riots broke out in Jaffa and dozens of Arabs and Jews were killed in the confrontations.
In 1922, the British authorities over Mandate Palestine proposed a draft constitution that would have granted the Palestinian Arabs representation in a Legislative Council. The Palestine Arab delegation rejected the proposal as "wholly unsatisfactory," noting that "the People of Palestine" could not accept the inclusion of the Balfour Declaration in the constitution's preamble as the basis for discussions. They further took issue with the designation of Palestine as a British "colony of the lowest order. The Arabs tried to get the British to offer an Arab legal establishment again roughly ten years later, but to no avail.
After the killing of Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam by the British in 1935, his followers initiated the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, which began with a general strike in Jaffa and attacks on Jewish and British installations in Nablus. The Arab High Committee called for a nationwide general strike, non-payment of taxes, and the closure of municipal governments, and demanded an end to Jewish immigration and a ban of the sale of land to Jews. By the end of 1936, the movement had become a national revolt, and resistance grew during 1937 and 1938. In response, the British declared martial law, dissolved the Arab High Committee and arrested officials from the Supreme Muslim Council who were behind the revolt. By 1939, 5,000 Palestinians had been killed in British attempts to quash the revolt; more than 15,000 were wounded.
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the accompanying Palestinian exodus, known to Palestinians as Al Nakba (the "catastrophe"), there was a hiatus in Palestinian political activity which Khalidi partially attributes to "the fact that Palestinian society had been devastated between November 1947 and mid-May 1948 as a result of a series of overwhelming military defeats of the disorganized Palestinians by the armed forces of the Zionist movement." Those parts of British Mandate Palestine which did not become part of the newly declared Israeli state were occupied by Egypt and Jordan. During what Khalidi terms the "lost years" that followed, Palestinians lacked a center of gravity, divided as they were between these countries and others such as Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.
In the 1950s, a new generation of Palestinian nationalist groups and movements began to organize clandestinely, stepping out onto the public stage in the 1960s. The traditional Palestinian elite who had dominated negotiations with the British and the Zionists in the Mandate, and who were largely held responsible for the loss of Palestine, were replaced by these new movements whose recruits generally came from poor to middle class backgrounds and were often students or recent graduates of universities in Cairo, Beirut and Damascus. The potency of the pan-Arabist ideology put forward by Gamel Abdel Nasser—popular among Palestinian for whom Arabism was already an important component of their identity—tended to obscure the identities of the separate Arab nation-states it subsumed.
Since 1967, pan-Arabism has diminished as an aspect of Palestinian identity. The Israeli capture of the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War prompted fractured Palestinian political and militant groups to give up any remaining hope they had placed in pan-Arabism. Instead, they rallied around the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), founded in 1964, and its nationalistic orientation. Mainstream secular Palestinian nationalism was grouped together under the umbrella of the PLO whose constituent organizations include Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, among others. These groups gave voice to a tradition that emerged in 1960s that argues Palestinian nationalism has deep historical roots, with extreme advocates reading a Palestinian nationalist consciousness and identity back into the history of Palestine over the past few centuries, and even millennia, when such a consciousness is in fact relatively modern.
The Battle of Karameh and the events of Black September in Jordan contributed to growing Palestinian support for these groups, particularly among Palestinians in exile. Concurrently, among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a new ideological theme, known as sumud, represented the Palestinian political strategy popularly adopted from 1967 onward. As a concept closely related to the land, agriculture and indigenousness, the ideal image of the Palestinian put forward at this time was that of the peasant (in Arabic, fellah) who stayed put on his land, refusing to leave. A strategy more passive than that adopted by the Palestinian fedayeen, sumud provided an important subtext to the narrative of the fighters, "in symbolising continuity and connections with the land, with peasantry and a rural way of life."
In 1974, the PLO was recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the Arab states and was granted observer status as a national liberation movement by the United Nations that same year. Israel rejected the resolution, calling it "shameful". In a speech to the Knesset, Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yigal Allon outlined the government's view that: 'No one can expect us to recognize the terrorist organization called the PLO as representing the Palestinians—because it does not. No one can expect us to negotiate with the heads of terror-gangs, who through their ideology and actions, endeavour to liquidate the State of Israel.'
The British historian Eric Hobsbawn allows that an element of justness can be discerned in skeptical outsider views that dismiss the propriety of using the term 'nation' to peoples like the Palestinians: such language arises often as the rhetoric of an evolved minority out of touch with the larger community that lacks this modern sense of national belonging. But at the same time, he argues, this outsider perspective has tended to "overlook the rise of mass national identification when it did occur, as Zionist and Israeli Jews notably did in the case of the Palestinian Arabs."
From 1948 through until the 1980’s, according to Eli Podeh, professor at Hebrew University, the textbooks used in Israeli schools tried to disavow a unique Palestinian identity, referring to 'the Arabs of the land of Israel' instead of 'Palestinians.' Israeli textbooks now widely use the term 'Palestinians.' Podeh believes that Palestinian textbooks of today resemble those from the early years of the Israeli state.
The First Intifada (1987-1993) was the first popular uprising against the Israeli occupation of 1967. Followed by the PLO's 1988 proclamation of a State of Palestine, these developments served to further reinforce the Palestinian national identity. After the signing of the Oslo Accords failed to bring about a Palestinian state, a Second Intifada (2000-) began, more deadly than the first.
Today, most Palestinian organizations conceive of their struggle as either Palestinian-nationalist or Islamic in nature, and these themes predominate even more today. Within Israel itself, there are political movements, such as Abnaa el-Balad that assert their Palestinian identity, to the exclusion of their Israeli one.
Palestinian ethnic identity is based primarily on two elements: the village of origin and family networks. The village of origin holds a privileged place in Palestinian memory because of its historically important role as a center for religious and political power throughout Palestine's administration by various empires. The village of origin also represents "the very expression of their Arabic Palestinian culture and identity," and is a site central to kinship and familial ties. The progressive deterritorialization experienced by Palestinians has rendered the village of origin a symbol of lost territory, and it forms a central part of a diasporic consciousness among Palestinians.
Palestinians, like most other Arabic-speakers today commonly called Arabs, are said to combine ancestries from those who have come to settle their respective regions throughout history and the pre-existing ancient inhabitants; a matter on which genetic evidence described below has begun to shed some light.
American historian Bernard Lewis writes:
"Clearly, in Palestine as elsewhere in the Middle East, the modern inhabitants include among their ancestors those who lived in the country in antiquity. Equally obviously, the demographic mix was greatly modified over the centuries by migration, deportation, immigration, and settlement. This was particularly true in Palestine..."Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist, explains:
"Throughout history a great diversity of peoples has moved into the region and made Palestine their homeland: Jebusites, Canaanites, Philistines from Crete, Anatolian and Lydian Greeks, Hebrews, Amorites, Edomites, Nabateans, Arameans, Romans, Arabs, and European crusaders, to name a few. Each of them appropriated different regions that overlapped in time and competed for sovereignty and land. Others, such as Ancient Egyptians, Hittites, Persians, Babylonians, and Mongols, were historical 'events' whose successive occupations were as ravaging as the effects of major earthquakes ... Like shooting stars, the various cultures shine for a brief moment before they fade out of official historical and cultural records of Palestine. The people, however, survive. In their customs and manners, fossils of these ancient civilizations survived until modernity—albeit modernity camouflaged under the veneer of Islam and Arabic culture."
Kermit Zarley writes that "the early ancestors of some of today's Palestinians are no doubt the Canaanites, Philistines, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Idumaeans, Nabateans and Samaritans. In later periods, their intermarriage with conquering peoples, such as Greeks, Romans, Arabians and Turks, merely added to the genetic mix in Palestine." Much of the local Palestinian population in Nablus, for example, is believed to be descended from Samaritans who converted to Islam. Even today, certain Nabulsi family names including Muslimani, Yaish, and Shakshir among others, are associated with Samaritan ancestry.
Claims emanating from certain circles within Palestinian society and from supporters of the Palestinian cause, proposing that Palestinians have ancestral connections to the ancient populations that dwelt in the region today known as Palestine/Israel, particularly the Canaanites, has been an issue of contention within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In discussing the root of the controversy to the claim of Canaanite lineage, many renowned scholars have hypothesised on the nature of the controversy itself, although not deliberating on the veracity of the claims, as this is a question that shall ultimately be resolved by geneticists, not by scholars in their capacity as historians.
Historian Bernard Lewis explains that "the rewriting of the past is usually undertaken to achieve specific political aims...In bypassing the biblical Israelites and claiming kinship with the Canaanites, the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine, it is possible to assert a historical claim antedating the biblical promise and possession put forward by the Jews."
Some Palestinian scholars, like Zakariyya Muhammad, have criticized pro-Palestinian arguements based on Canaanite lineage, or what he calls "Canaanite ideology". He states that it is an "intellectual fad, divorced from the concerns of ordinary people." By assigning its pursuit to the desire to predate Jewish national claims, he describes Canaanism as a "losing ideology", whether or not it is factual, "when used to manage our conflict with the Zionist movement" since Canaanism "concedes a priori the central thesis of Zionism. Namely that we have been engaged in a perennial conflict with Zionism—and hence with the Jewish presence in Palestine—since the Kingdom of Solomon and before ... thus in one stroke Canaanism cancels the assumption that Zionism is a European movement, propelled by modern European contingencies..."
Salim Tamari notes the paradoxes produced by the search for "nativist" roots among Zionist figures and the so-called Canaanite (anti-Zionist) followers of Yonatan Ratosh. For example, Ber Borochov claimed that the lack of a crystallized national consciousness among Palestinian Arabs would result in their likely assimilation into the new Hebrew nationalism, basing this on the belief that: "the fellahin are considered in this context as the descendants of the ancient Hebrew and Canaanite residents 'together with a small admixture of Arab blood'". Ahad Ha'am also shared the belief that: "the Moslems [of Palestine] are the ancient residents of the land ... who became Christians on the rise of Christianity and became Moslems on the arrival of Islam." Even David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Ben Zvi tried to establish in a 1918 paper written in Yiddish that Palestinian peasants and their mode of life were living historical testimonies to Israelite practices in the biblical period. Tamari notes that "the ideological implications of this claim became very problematic and were soon withdrawn from circulation."
Following the Muslim conquest of Syria, the local languages of Aramaic and Greek were replaced by Arabic as the area's dominant language. Among the cultural survivals from pre-Islamic times are the significant Palestinian Christian community, and smaller Jewish and Samaritan ones, as well as an Aramaic and possibly Hebrew sub-stratum in the local Palestinian Arabic dialect.
Results of a DNA study by geneticist Ariella Oppenheim matched historical accounts that Arab Israelis and Palestinians, together as the one same population, represent modern "descendants of a core population that lived in the area since prehistoric times", albeit religiously Christianized and later largely Islamized, then both ultimately becoming culturally Arabized. Referring to those of the Muslim faith more specifically, it reaffirmed that Palestinian "Muslim Arabs are descended from Christians and Jews who lived in the southern Levant, a region that includes Israel and the Sinai." Geneticist Michael Hammer praised "the study for 'focusing in detail on the Jewish and Palestinian populations.'"
While both the Palestinians and the world's distinct Jewish populations have mixed with invading and host populations respectively, Oppenheim's team found "that Jews have mixed more with other populations, which makes sense because they were more likely to leave the Levant.".
In genetic genealogy studies, Palestinians and Negev Bedouins have the highest rates of Haplogroup J1 (Y-DNA) among all populations tested (62.5%). Semitic populations, including Jews, usually possess an excess of J1 Y chromosomes compared to other populations harboring Y-haplogroup J. The haplogroup J1, associated with marker M267, originates south of the Levant and was first disseminated from there into Ethiopia and Europe in Neolithic times. In Jewish populations J1 has a rate of around 15%, with haplogroup J2 (M172) (of eight sub-Haplogroups) being almost twice as common as J1 among Jews (<29%). J1 is most common in the southern Levant, as well as Syria, Iraq, Algeria, and Arabia, and drops sharply at the border of non-semitic areas like Turkey and Iran. A second diffusion of the J1 marker took place in the seventh century CE when Arabians brought it from Arabia to North Africa.
Haplogroup J1 (Y-DNA) includes the modal haplotype of the Galilee Arabs (Nebel et al. 2000) and of Moroccan Arabs (Bosch et al. 2001) and the sister Modal Haplotype of the Cohanim, the "Cohan Modale Haplotype", representing the descendents of the priestly caste Aaron. J2 is known to be related to the ancient Greek movements and is found mainly in Europe and the central Mediterranean (Italy, the Balkans, Greece). According to a 2002 study by Nebel et al., on Genetic evidence for the expansion of Arabian tribes, the highest frequency of Eu10 (i.e. J1) (30%–62.5%) has been observed so far in various Muslim Arab populations in the Middle East. (Semino et al. 2000; Nebel et al. 2001). The most frequent Eu10 microsatellite haplotype in Northwest Africans is identical to a modal haplotype of Muslim Arabs who live in a small area in the north of Israel, the Galilee. (Nebel et al. 2000) termed the modal haplotype of the Galilee (MH Galilee). The term “Arab,” as well as the presence of Arabs in the Syrian desert and the Fertile Crescent, is first seen in the Assyrian sources from the 9th century B.C.E. (Eph'al 1984).
In recent years, many genetic surveys have suggested that, at least paternally, most of the various Jewish ethnic divisions and the Palestinians — and in some cases other Levantines — are genetically closer to each other than the Palestinians or European Jews to non-Jewish Europeans (a European sample from the Welsh). However, Nebel et al. (2001) report that Jews were found to be more closely related to north of the Fertile Crescent (Kurds, Turks, and Armenians) than to their Arab neighbors.The study proposes that
...the Y chromosomes in Palestinian Arabs and Bedouin represent, to a large extent, early lineages derived from the Neolithic inhabitants of the area and additional lineages from more-recent population movements. The early lineages are part of the common chromosome pool shared with Jews. According to our working model, the more-recent migrations were mostly from the Arabian Peninsula, as is seen in the Arab-specific Eu 10 chromosomes that include the modal haplotypes observed in Palestinians and Bedouin... The study demonstrates that the Y chromosome pool of Jews is an integral part of the genetic landscape of the region and, in particular, that Jews exhibit a high degree of genetic affinity to populations living in the north of the Fertile Crescent.
|Country or region||Population|
|West Bank and Gaza Strip||3,760,000|
|Other Gulf states||159,000|
|Other Arab states||153,000|
In the absence of a comprehensive census including all Palestinian diaspora populations, and those that have remained within what was British Mandate Palestine, exact population figures are difficult to determine.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) announced on 20 October 2004 that the number of Palestinians worldwide at the end of 2003 was 9.6 million, an increase of 800,000 since 2001.
In 2005, a critical review of the PCBS figures and methodology was conducted by the American-Israel Demographic Research Group. In their report, they claimed that several errors in the PCBS methodology and assumptions artificially inflated the numbers by a total of 1.3 million. The PCBS numbers were cross-checked against a variety of other sources (e.g., asserted birth rates based on fertility rate assumptions for a given year were checked against Palestinian Ministry of Health figures as well as Ministry of Education school enrollment figures six years later; immigration numbers were checked against numbers collected at border crossings, etc.). The errors claimed in their analysis included: birth rate errors (308,000), immigration & emigration errors (310,000), failure to account for migration to Israel (105,000), double-counting Jerusalem Arabs (210,000), counting former residents now living abroad (325,000) and other discrepancies (82,000). The results of their research was also presented before the United States House of Representatives on 8 March 2006.
The study was criticised by Sergio DellaPergola, a demographer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. DellaPergola accused the authors of misunderstanding basic principles of demography on account of their lack of expertise in the subject. He also accused them of selective use of data and multiple systematic errors in their analysis. For example, DellaPergola claimed that the authors assumed the Palestinian Electoral registry to be complete even though registration is voluntary and good evidence exists of incomplete registration, and similarly that they used an unrealistically low Total Fertility Ratio (a statistical abstraction of births per woman) incorrectly derived from data and then used to reanalyse that data in a "typical circular mistake".
DellaPergola himself estimated the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza at the end of 2005 as 3.33 million, or 3.57 million if East Jerusalem is included. These figures are only slightly lower than the official Palestinian figures.
In Jordan today, there is no official census data that outlines how many of the inhabitants of Jordan are Palestinians, but estimates by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics cite a population range of 50% to 55%.
Many Arab Palestinians have settled in the United States, particularly in the Chicago area.
In total, an estimated 600,000 Palestinians are thought to reside in the Americas. Arab Palestinian emigration to South America began for economic reasons that pre-dated the Arab-Israeli conflict, but continued to grow thereafter. Many emigrants were from the Bethlehem area. Those emigrating to Latin America were mainly Christian. Half of those of Palestinian origin in Latin America live in Chile. El Salvador and Honduras also have substantial Arab Palestinian populations. These two countries have had presidents of Palestinian ancestry (in El Salvador Antonio Saca, currently serving; in Honduras Carlos Roberto Flores Facusse). Belize, which has a smaller Palestinian population, has a Palestinian minister — Said Musa. Schafik Jorge Handal, Salvadoran politician and former guerrilla leader, was the son of Palestinian immigrants.
There are 4,255,120 Palestinians registered as refugees with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). This number includes the descendants of refugees who fled or where expelled during the 1948 war, but excludes those who have since then emigrated to areas outside of UNRWA's remit. Based on these figures, almost half of all Palestinians are registered refugees. The 993,818 Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and 705,207 Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, who hail from towns and villages that are now located within the borders of Israel, are included in these UNRWA figures.
Virtually every Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the West Bank is organized according to a refugee family's village or place of origin. Among the first things that children born in the camps learn is the name of their village of origin. David McDowall writes that, "[...] a yearning for Palestine permeates the whole refugee community and is most ardently espoused by the younger refugees, for whom home exists only in the imagination."
Palestinians can be adherents of any religious tradition, although today they are predominantly Muslims, particularly of the Sunni branch of Islam. Palestinian Christians represent a significant minority, followed by much smaller religious communities, including Druze and Samaritans. Palestinian Jews — although defined and considered Palestinians by the Palestinian National Charter adopted by the PLO, and defined as those "Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion" — today identify as "Israelis" (with the exception of a very few individuals). Palestinian Jews almost universally abandoned any such identity as Palestinians following the establishment of Israel, and their incorporation into the Israeli Jewish population forged along with the mass influx of Jewish immigrants from across the world during the decades prior to the establishment of the state, immediately following it, and since that time. For a history of Judaism in Palestine, please see History of the Jews in the Land of Israel.
Until the end of the nineteenth century, most Palestinian Muslim villagers in the countryside did not have local mosques. Cross-cultural syncretism between Christian and Islamic symbols and figures in religious practice was common. Popular feast days, like Thursday of the Dead, were celebrated by both Muslims and Christians and shared prophets and saints include Jonah, who is worshipped in Halhul as both a Biblical and Islamic prophet, and St. George, who is known in Arabic as el Khader. Villagers would pay tribute to local patron saints at a maqam — a domed single room often placed in the shadow of an ancient carob or oak tree. Saints, taboo by the standards of orthodox Islam, mediated between man and Allah, and shrines to saints and holy men dotted the Palestinian landscape. Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist, states that this built evidence constitutes "an architectural testimony to Christian/Moslem Palestinian religious sensibility and its roots in ancient Semitic religions."
Religion as constitutive of individual identity was accorded a minor role within Palestinian tribal social structure until the latter half of the 19th century. Jean Moretain, a priest writing in 1848, wrote that a Christian in Palestine was "distinguished only by the fact that he belonged to a particular clan. If a certain tribe was Christian, then an individual would be Christian, but without knowledge of what distinguished his faith from that of a Muslim."
The concessions granted to France and other Western powers by the Ottoman Sultanate in the aftermath of the Crimean War had a significant impact on contemporary Palestinian religious cultural identity. Religion was transformed into an element "constituting the individual/collective identity in conformity with orthodox precepts", and formed a major building block in the political development of Palestinian nationalism.
The British census of 1922 registered 752,048 inhabitants in Palestine, consisting of 589,177 Palestinian Muslims, 83,790 Palestinian Jews, 71,464 Palestinian Christians (including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and others) and 7,617 persons belonging to other groups. The corresponding percentage breakdown is 78% Muslim, 11% Jewish, and 9% Christian. Palestinian Bedouin were not counted in the census, but a 1930 British study estimated their number at 70,860.
All of the Druze living in what was then British Mandate Palestine became Israeli citizens, though some individuals identify themselves as "Palestinian Druze". According to Salih al-Shaykh, most Druze do not consider themselves to be Palestinian: "their Arab identity emanates in the main from the common language and their socio-cultural background, but is detached from any national political conception. It is not directed at Arab countries or Arab nationality or the Palestinian people, and does not express sharing any fate with them. From this point of view, their identity is Israel, and this identity is stronger than their Arab identity".
There are also about 350 Samaritans who carry Palestinian identity cards and live in the West Bank while a roughly equal number live in Holon and carry Israeli citizenship. Those who live in the West Bank also are represented in the legislature for the Palestinian National Authority. They are commonly referred to among Palestinians as the "Jews of Palestine."
Jews who identify as Palestinian Jews are few, but include Israeli Jews who are part of the Neturei Karta group, and Uri Davis, an Israeli citizen and self-described Palestinian Jew who serves as an observer member in the Palestine National Council.
Palestinian Arabic is a spoken Arabic dialect that is specific to Palestinians and is a subgroup of the broader Levantine Arabic dialect. It has three primary sub-variations with the pronunciation of the qāf serving as a shibboleth to distinguish between the three main Palestinian sub-dialects: In most cities, it is a glottal stop; in smaller villages and the countryside, it is a pharyngealized k (a characteristic unique to Palestinian Arabic); and in the far south, it is a g, as among Bedouin speakers. In a number of villages in the Galilee (e.g. Maghār), and particularly, though not exclusively among the Druze, the qāf is actually pronounced qāf as in Classical Arabic.
Barbara McKean Parmenter has noted that the Arabs of Palestine have been credited with the preservation of the indigenous Semitic place names for many sites mentioned in the Bible which were documented by the American archaeologist Edward Robinson in the early 20th century.
"Implicit in their scholarship (and made explicit by Canaan himself) was another theme, namely that the peasants of Palestine represent—through their folk norms ... the living heritage of all the accumulated ancient cultures that had appeared in Palestine (principally the Canaanite, Philistine, Hebraic, Nabatean, Syrio-Aramaic and Arab)."
Palestinian culture is most closely related to those of the nearby Levantine countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and those of the Arab World. Cultural contributions to the fields of art, literature, music, costume and cuisine express the distinctiveness of the Palestinian experience, and survive and flourish, despite the geographical separation between those in the Palestinian territories, Israel and the Diaspora.
Similar to the structure of Palestinian society, the Palestinian field of arts extends over four main geographic centers: 1) the West Bank and Gaza Strip 2) Mainland Israel 3) the Palestinian diaspora in the Arab world, and 4) the Palestinian diaspora in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.
Contemporary Palestinian art finds its roots in folk art and traditional Christian and Islamic painting popular in Palestine over the ages. After the 1948 Palestinian exodus, nationalistic themes have predominated as Palestinian artists use diverse media to express and explore their connection to identity and land.
Palestine's history of rule by many different empires is reflected in Palestininan cuisine, which has benefited from various cultural contributions and exchanges. Generally-speaking, modern Syrian-Palestinian dishes have been influenced by the rule of three major Islamic groups: the Arabs, the Persian-influenced Arabs and the Turks. The Arabs that conquered Syria and Palestine had simple culinary traditions primarily based on the use of rice, lamb and yogurt, as well as dates. The already simple cuisine did not advance for centuries due to Islam's strict rules of parsimony and restraint, until the rise of the Abbasids, who established Baghdad as their capital. Baghdad was historically located on Persian soil and henceforth, Persian culture was integrated into Arab culture during the 800-1000s and spread throughout central areas of the empire.
The cuisine of the Ottoman Empire — which incorporated Palestine as one of its provinces in 1512-14 — was partially made up of what had become, by then a "rich" Arab cuisine. After the Crimean War, in 1855, many other communities including Bosnians, Greeks, French and Italians began settling in the area especially in urban centers such as Jerusalem, Jaffa and Bethlehem. The cuisine of these communities, particularly those of the Balkans, contributed to the character of Palestinian cuisine. Nonetheless, until around the 1950s-60s, the staple diet for many rural Palestinian families revolved around olive oil, oregano (za'atar) and bread, baked in a simple oven called a taboon.
Palestinian cuisine is divided into three regional groups: the Galilee, the West Bank and the Gaza area. Cuisine in the Galilee region shares much in common with Lebanese cuisine, due to extensive communication between the two regions before the establishment of Israel. Galilee inhabitants specialize in producing a number of meals based on the combination of bulgur, spices and meat, known as kibbee by Arabs. Kibbee has several variations including it being served raw, fried or baked. Musakhan is a common main dish that originated in the Jenin and Tulkarm area in the northern West Bank. It consists of a roasted chicken over a taboon bread that has been topped with pieces of fried sweet onions, sumac, allspice and pine nuts. Other meals common to the area are maqluba and mansaf, the latter originating from the Bedouin population of Jordan.
The cuisine of the Gaza Strip is influenced both by neighboring Egypt and its location on the Mediterranean coast. The staple food for the majority of the inhabitants in the area is fish. Gaza has a major fishing industry and fish is often served either grilled or fried after being stuffed with cilantro, garlic, red peppers and cumin and marinated in a mix of coriander, red peppers, cumin, and chopped lemons. The Egyptian culinary influence is also seen by the frequent use of hot peppers, garlic and chard to flavor many of Gaza's meals. A dish native to the Gaza area is Sumaghiyyeh, which consists of water-soaked ground sumac mixed with tahina and then, added to sliced chard and pieces of stewed beef and garbanzo beans.
There are several foods native to Palestine that are well-known in the Arab world, such as, kinafe Nabulsi, Nabulsi cheese (cheese of Nablus), Ackawi cheese (cheese of Acre) and musakhan. Kinafe originated in the city of Nablus, as well as the sweetened Nabulsi cheese that's used to fill it. Baqlawa, a pastry introduced at the time of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, is also an integral part of Palestinian cuisine.
Chick-pea based falafel, which subsistuted the fava beans used in the original Egyptian recipe and added Indian peppers introduced after the Mongol invasions opened new trade routes, are a favorite staple in Palestinian cuisine, since adopted as part of Israeli cuisine.
Mezze describes an assortment of dishes laid out on the table for a meal that takes place over several hours, a characteristic common to Mediterranean cultures. Some common mezze dishes are hummus, tabouleh, baba ghanoush, labaneh, and zate 'u zaatar, which is the pita bread dipping of olive oil and ground thyme and sesame seeds.
Entrées that are eaten throughout Palestine, include waraq al-'inib — boiled grape leaves wrapped around cooked rice and ground lamb. Mahashi is an assortment of stuffed vegetables such as, zucchinis, potatoes, cabbage and in Gaza, chard.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Palestinian intellectuals were integral parts of wider Arab intellectual circles, as represented by individuals such as May Ziade and Khalil Beidas. Educational levels among Palestinians have traditionally been high. In the 1960s the West Bank had a higher percentage of its adolescent population enrolled in high school education than did Lebanon. Claude Cheysson, France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs under the first Mitterand Presidency, held in the mid eighties that, ‘even thirty years ago, (Palestinians) probably already had the largest educated elite of all the Arab peoples.’
Diaspora figures like Edward Said and Ghada Karmi, Arab citizens of Israel like Emile Habibi, refugee camp residents like Ibrahim Nasrallah have made contributions to a number of fields, exemplifying the diversity of experience and thought among Palestinians.
After the 1948 Palestinian exodus, poetry was transformed into a vehicle for political activism. From among those Palestinians who became Arab citizens of Israel after the passage of the Citizenship Law in 1952, a school of resistance poetry was born that included poets like Mahmoud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim, and Tawfiq Zayyad.
The work of these poets was largely unknown to the wider Arab world for years because of the lack of diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab governments. The situation changed after Ghassan Kanafani, another Palestinian writer in exile in Lebanon, published an anthology of their work in 1966.
Palestinian poets often write about the common theme of a strong affection and sense of loss and longing for a lost homeland.
The folklorist revival among Palestinian intellectuals such as Nimr Sirhan, Musa Allush, Salim Mubayyid, and the Palestinian Folklore Society of the 1970s, emphasized pre-Islamic (and pre-Hebraic) cultural roots, re-constructing Palestinian identity with a focus on Canaanite and Jebusite cultures. Such efforts seem to have borne fruit as evidenced in the organization of celebrations like the Qabatiya Canaanite festival and the annual Music Festival of Yabus by the Palestinian Ministry of Culture.
Foreign travelers to Palestine in late 19th and early 20th centuries often commented on the rich variety of costumes among the Palestinian people, and particularly among the fellaheen or village women.
Until the 1940s, a woman's economic status, whether married or single, and the town or area they were from could be deciphered by most Palestinian women by the type of cloth, colors, cut, and embroidery motifs, or lack thereof, used for the dress.
Though such local and regional variations largely disappeared after the 1948 Palestinian exodus, Palestinian embroidery and costume continue to be produced in new forms and worn alongside Islamic and Western fashions.
Villagers have danced the Dabke since ancient Canaanite and Phoenician times in celebration of feast days. The Dabke dance is marked by synchronized jumping, stamping, and movement, similar to tap dancing. One version is performed by men, another by women.
Traditional storytelling among Palestinians is prefaced with an invitation to the listeners to give blessings to God and the Prophet Mohammed or the Virgin Mary as the case may be, and includes the traditional opening: "There was, or there was not, in the oldness of time ..."
Formulaic elements of the stories share much in common with the wider Arab world, though the rhyming scheme is distinct. There are a cast of supernatural characters: djinns who can cross the Seven Seas in an instant, giants, and ghouls with eyes of ember and teeth of brass. Stories invariably have a happy ending, and the storyteller will usually finish off with a rhyme like: "The bird has taken flight, God bless you tonight," or "Tutu, tutu, finished is my haduttu (story)."
The Ataaba is a form of folk singing that spread outwards from Palestine. It consists of 4 verses, following a specific form and meter. The main aspect of the ataaba is that the first three verses must end with the same word meaning three different things, and the fourth verse comes as a conclusion to the whole thing. It is usually followed by a dalouna.