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Demographic history of Palestine

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Demographic history of Palestine

The Demographic history of Palestine refers to the study of the historical population of Palestine. This article provides an overview to the different demographic studies related to the demographics of the mandatory Palestine, and the demographics of pre-British Palestine, consisting the southern parts of Ottoman Syria. The studies of current regional demographics also cover the present demography of Palestinian Authority and its people, as well as population figures for the entire area covered by modern day Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Gaza Strip, Jordan, and parts of Syria and Lebanon.

Ancient period demographics

Up until the early Christian era the demographics are reasonably clear, based on the Bible and on recent regional archaeological studies. However, after the Bar Kochba revolt the make-up of the population of Palestine is debated due to data being sparse in the historical record. During the Proto-Canaanite period agricultural communities were established. By the early Bronze Age (3000–2200 BC), independent Canaanite city-states existed on the plains and in coastal regions. During the Iron Age the Philistines, a part of the Sea People probably of Aegean origin, occupied the southern coast of Canaan, and mingled with the local population, absorbing the Canaanite language and losing their separate identity by the 500 BC. At the same time the Israelites emerged from a dramatic social transformation that took place amongst the Canaanite people of the central hill country of Canaan around 1200 BC, with no signs of violent invasion or even of peaceful infiltration of a clearly defined ethnic group from elsewhere. The Israelites were therefore descendants of the original early Iron Age occupants of the uplands of Canaan.[1] Following the withdrawal of the Egyptian Empire around 1150 BC, the Israelites were able to extend their territory by gradually re-integrating with their Canaanite neighbours. This expansion was initially held in check by battles with the Philistines. Eventually, however, towards the end of the tenth century BC, the Israelites established a kingdom with its capital at Samaria. Some time later, in the eighth century BC, as this kingdom weakened under pressure from the advancing Assyrians, a second kingdom of Judah emerged with its capital at Jerusalem.[2]

Modern estimates place the population of ancient Palestine at a maximum of around one million. According to Israeli archeologist Magen Broshi, "... the population of Palestine in antiquity did not exceed a million persons. It can also be shown, moreover, that this was more or less the size of the population in the peak period – the late Byzantine period, around AD 600"[3] Similarly, a study by Yigal Shiloh of The Hebrew University suggests that the population of Palestine in the Iron Age could have never exceeded a million. He writes: "... the population of the country in the Roman-Byzantine period greatly exceeded that in the Iron Age...If we accept Broshi's population estimates, which appear to be confirmed by the results of recent research, it follows that the estimates for the population during the Iron Age must be set at a lower figure."[4]

After the Babylonian conquest in 597 BC the Samaritans emerged as a people in Palestine, and the Phoenicians expanded along the coastal plain. With the successive waves of return of the Israelites from exile in the mid-5th century BC, by the time of Ezra (~458 BC) Palestine consisted of the returnees, the people of Samaria and other Jews who had remained behind, the related Samaritans,[1] and "the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons, so that the holy seed have mingled".[5] From that point on there is no further mention in the Bible of living Canaanites. At the start of the Hellenic period, Jews therefore dominated the population of Palestine, with an ancestry prime of which was Canaanite, plus lesser contributions of Aegean (Philistines), Egyptian, and Syrian and Mesopotamian (Amorites).

Classical period demographics

The Persians were conquered by Alexander the Great in 322 BC. In 160 BC the continuing Hellenisation of Palestine led to the Maccabean revolt. The composition of the population, from the end of the Hasmonaean dynasty had a large preponderance of Jewish elements compared to strictly localized Greek (pagan) centres, together with a dominant Samaritan enclave in Samaria.[6] The Roman conquest of Judea led by Pompey took place in 63 BC. The Roman occupation encompassed the end of Jewish independence in Judea, the last years of the Hasmonean kingdom, the Herodian age and the rise of Christianity, the Jewish war with Rome, and the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the second Temple.[7] The total population of Pharisees, the forerunners of modern Rabbinic Judaism, was around 6,000 ("exakischilioi"), according to Josephus.[8] Local population displacements occurred with the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem[9] – "In the earlier revolt in the previous century, 66–73 CE, Rome destroyed the Temple and forbade Jews to live in the remaining parts of Jerusalem; for this reason, the Rabbis gathered instead on the Mediterranean coast in Yavneh near Jaffa". Dispersal to other parts of the Roman Empire occurred:

"No date or origin can be assigned to the numerous settlements eventually known in the west, and some may have been founded as a result of the dispersal of Palestinian Jews after the revolts of AD 66–70 and 132-5, but it is reasonable to conjecture that many, such as the settlement in Puteoli attested in 4 BC, went back to the late republic or early empire and originated in voluntary emigration and the lure of trade and commerce."[10]

Three events caused the Jewish population dominance to change after AD 70 (in the Late Roman period). The first was the rise of Christianity. The second involved the Jewish Diasporas resulting from a series of Jewish rebellions against the Roman occupation, starting in AD 66 which resulted in the destruction of the second Temple and of Jerusalem in AD 70 to the subsequent expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem, and followed by the rebellion against Hadrian in AD 132 – the Bar Kokhba revolt[11] – "The Judaean Jewish community never recovered from the Bar Kochba war. In its wake, Jews no longer formed the majority in Palestine, and the Jewish center moved to the Galilee." The third event was the 'ascension' of Constantine the Great in 312 and Christianity becoming the official state religion of Rome in 391.[12] Already by the mid-3rd century the Jewish majority had been reported to have been lost, while others conclude that a Jewish majority lasted much longer – "What does seem clear is a different kind of change – immigration of Christians and the conversion of pagans, Samaritans, and Jews eventually produced a Christian majority".[13] Reliable data on the population of Palestine in the pre-Muslim period, both in absolute terms and for the relative sizes of each community, do not exist. The demographics during that period are therefore based on minimal data. Although many Jews were killed, expelled or sold off into slavery after the AD 66–70 and the 123–125 rebellions, the degree to which these transfers affected the Jewish dominance in Palestine is rarely addressed. What is certain is that Palestina did not lose its Jewish component. Goldblatt[13] concludes that the Jews may have remained a majority into the 3rd century AD and even beyond. He notes that 'Jewish followers of Jesus' (Jewish Christians) would not have taken part in the rebellions'. Non-Christian conversions from Judaism after the Bar Kochba revolt were not given much attention.[14]

"Indeed, many must have reacted to the catastrophe with despair and total abandonment of Judaism. Apostates from Judaism (aside from converts to Christianity) received little notice in antiquity from either Jewish or non-Jewish writers, but ambitious individuals are known to have turned pagan before the war, and it stands to reason that many more did so after its disastrous conclusion. It is impossible to determine the number who joined the budding Christian movement and the number who disappeared into the polytheist majority."

The highest population of the 3rd to 7th centuries probably occurred in the Byzantine period.[13] Most scholars consider that the proportion of Jews decreased during these centuries, a loss of dominance not related to any specific diaspora and at dates not agreed to by historians. For instance, by counting settlements, Avi-Yonah estimated that Jews comprised half the population of the Galilee at the end of the 3rd century, and a quarter in the other parts of the country, but had declined to 10–15% of the total by 614.[13] On the other hand, by counting churches and synagogues, Tsafrir estimated the Jewish fraction at 25% in the Byzantine period.[13] Stemberger, however, considers that Jews were the largest population group at the beginning of the 4th century, closely followed by the pagans.[15] In contrast to Avi-Yonah, Schiffman estimated that Christians only became the majority of the country's population at the beginning of the 5th century,[16] confirmed by DellaPergola who estimates that by the 5th century Christians were in the majority and Jews were a minority.[17]

Middle Ages demographics

The Christian-dominated Palestinian society of the late-Byzantine era, having been formed by conversions plus various migrations, was to undergo yet another upheaval. In 629 Palestine was invaded by Arabs from the Hejaz. By 635 AD, Palestine, Jordan and Southern Syria, with the exception of Jerusalem and Caesarea, were in Muslim hands. Jerusalem capitulated in 636.

Levy-Rubin advocated that conversion was not commonplace during the early-period of the Islamic empire (the Umayyad Caliphate [661 – 750] and the Abbasid Caliphate [750 – 1258]) – "It has been presumed until now that [the presence of Muslims in Samaria] was solely a result of immigration of Arab Muslims into the area. … a small part of this Muslim population originated in Samarian population which converted to Islam during the early Muslim period mainly as a result of difficult economic conditions for non-Muslims. As of now, this is the only evidence we have of mass conversion to Islam in Palestine during the early Muslim period.".[18] Arabization of the Levant involved the realm's new subjects adopting the Arabic language and Islam.[19]

"Very few Arabs were productive settlers of the land, an activity they despised; a few were great landlords who used native tenants to cultivate their estates; but generally they were nomadic tribesmen, soldiers and officials all of whom lived off the jizya (or poll tax) and the kharaj (or land tax) paid by the occupied peoples in return for the protection of their lives and property and for the right to practise their own religion. Because the jizya and the kharaj could be imposed only on non-Muslims, the Arabs had little interest in making converts to Islam, a contributory reason why Syria, Palestine and Egypt would remain overwhelmingly Christian for centuries to come."[20]

According to Atimal and Ellenblum the Islamization of Palestine had its beginnings in the early Islamic period (ca. 640–1099 C.E.), but had halted and apparently even been reversed during the time of Frankish rule (Kingdom of Jerusalem). In the aftermath of the Muslim reconquest, which began in 1187, and the advent of Ayyubid rule (1187–1260) in parts of Palestine and then the Mamluk rule, it appears that the process of religious conversion was accelerated. With the beginning of the Ottoman period in 1516, it is commonly assumed, and may well be that the Muslim majority in the country was more-or-less like that of the mid-19th century.[21]

Ottoman period demographics

In the middle of the first century of the Ottoman rule, i.e., 1550, Bernard Lewis in a study of Ottoman registers of the early Ottoman Rule of Palestine reports:[22]

From the mass of detail in the registers, it is possible to extract something like a general picture of the economic life of the country in that period. Out of a total population of about 300,000 souls, between a fifth and a quarter lived in the six towns of Jerusalem, Gaza, Safed, Nablus, Ramle, and Hebron. The remainder consisted mainly of peasants, living in villages of varying size, and engaged in agriculture. Their main food-crops were wheat and barley in that order, supplemented by leguminous pulses, olives, fruit, and vegetables. In and around most of the towns there was a considerable number of vineyards, orchards, and vegetable gardens.

In his paper 'Demography in Israel/Palestine: Trends, Prospects and Policy Implications'[23] Sergio DellaPergola, drawing on the work of Bachi (1975), provides rough estimates of the population of Palestine west of the River Jordan by religion groups from the 1st century onwards summarised in the table below.

Year Jews Christians Muslims Total
First half 1st century CE Majority ~2,500
5th century Minority Majority >1st century
End 12th century Minority Minority Majority >225
14th century before Black Death Minority Minority Majority 225
14th century after Black Death Minority Minority Majority 150
1533–1539 5 6 145 157
1690–1691 2 11 219 232
1800 7 22 246 275
1890 43 57 432 532
1914 94 70 525 689
1922 84 71 589 752
1931 175 89 760 1,033
1947 630 143 1,181 1,970
Figures in thousands.

According to Alexander Scholch, Palestine in 1850 had about 350,000 inhabitants, 30% of whom lived in 13 towns; roughly 85% were Muslims, 11% were Christians and 4% Jews[24]

Qazas Number of
Towns and
Number of Households
Muslims Christians Jews Total
1 Jerusalem
Jerusalem 1 1,025 738 630 2,393
Countryside 116 6,118 1,202
2 Hebron
Hebron 1 2,800
200 3,000
Countryside 52 2,820
3 Gaza
Gaza 1 2,690 65
Countryside 55 6,417
3 Jaffa
Jaffa 3 865 266
Ludd . 700 207
Ramla . 675 250
Countryside 61 3,439
4 Nablus
Nablus 1 1,356 108 14 1,478
Countryside 176 13,022 202
5 Jinin
Jinin 1 656 16
Countryside 39 2,120 17
6 Ajlun
Countryside 97 1,599 137
7 Salt
Salt 1 500 250
Countryside 12 685
8 Akka
Akka 1 547 210 6 763
Countryside 34 1,768 1,021
9 Haifa
Haifa 1 224 228 8 460
Countryside 41 2,011 161
10 Nazareth
Nazareth 1 275 1,073
Countryside 38 1,606 544
11 Tiberias
Tiberias 1 159 66 400 625
Countryside 7 507
12 Safad
Safad 1 1,295 3 1,197 2,495
Countryside 38 1,117 616
Figures from Ben-Arieh, in Scholch 1985, p. 388.

According to Ottoman statistics studied by Justin McCarthy,[25] the population of Palestine in the early 19th century was 350,000, in 1860 it was 411,000 and in 1900 about 600,000 of which 94% were Arabs. In 1914 Palestine had a population of 657,000 Muslim Arabs, 81,000 Christian Arabs, and 59,000 Jews.[26] McCarthy estimates the non-Jewish population of Palestine at 452,789 in 1882, 737,389 in 1914, 725,507 in 1922, 880,746 in 1931 and 1,339,763 in 1946.[27]

Travelers' impressions of 19th-century Palestine

In Chapters 46, 39, 52 and 56 of his Innocents Abroad, American author Mark Twain wrote of his visit to Palestine in 1867: "Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. Palestine is desolate and unlovely – Palestine is no more of this workday world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition, it is dreamland."(Chapter 56)[28][29] "There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country". (Chapter 52)[30] "A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely. We never saw a human being on the whole route". (Chapter 49)[31] "There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent – not for thirty miles in either direction. ...One may ride ten miles (16 km) hereabouts and not see ten human beings." ...these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness..."(Chapter 46)[32]

These descriptions of the often quoted non-arable areas few people would inhabit are as Twain says, "by contrast" to occasional scenes of arable land and productive agriculture: "The narrow canon in which Nablous, or Shechem, is situated, is under high cultivation, and the soil is exceedingly black and fertile. It is well watered, and its affluent vegetation gains effect by contrast with the barren hills that tower on either side"..."Sometimes, in the glens, we came upon luxuriant orchards of figs, apricots, pomegranates, and such things, but oftener the scenery was rugged, mountainous, verdureless and forbidding"..."We came finally to the noble grove of orange-trees in which the Oriental city of Jaffa lies buried"..."Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the far-reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side [33]

Bayard Taylor who wrote of the Jezreel Valley in 1852 ".. one of the richest districts in the world"..."The soil is a dark-brown loam, and, without manure, produces annually superb crops of wheat and barley."[34] Laurence Oliphant wrote in 1887, again of the Valley of Jezreel "..a huge green lake of waving wheat, with its village-crowned mounds rising from it like islands ... it presents one of the most striking pictures of luxuriant fertility which it is possible to conceive"[35]

Kathleen Christison, an American author who spent sixteen years as an analyst for the CIA, was critical of attempts to use Twain's humorous writing as a literal description of Palestine at that time. She writes that "Twain's descriptions are high in Israeli government press handouts that present a case for Israel's redemption of a land that had previously been empty and barren. His gross characterizations of the land and the people in the time before mass Jewish immigration are also often used by US propagandists for Israel."[36] For example she noted that Twain described the Samaritans of Nablus at length without mentioning the much larger Arab population at all.[37] The Arab population of Nablus at the time was about 20,000.[38]

During the 19th century, many residents and visitors attempted to estimate the population without recourse to official data, and came up with a large number of different values. Estimates that are reasonably reliable are only available for the final third of the century, from which period Ottoman population and taxation registers have been preserved.[39]

After a visit to Palestine in 1891, Ahad Ha'am wrote:

From abroad, we are accustomed to believe that Eretz Israel is presently almost totally desolate, an uncultivated desert, and that anyone wishing to buy land there can come and buy all he wants. But in truth it is not so. In the entire land, it is hard to find tillable land that is not already tilled; only sandy fields or stony hills, suitable at best for planting trees or vines and, even that after considerable work and expense in clearing and preparing them- only these remain unworked. ... Many of our people who came to buy land have been in Eretz Israel for months, and have toured its length and width, without finding what they seek.[40]

In 1852 the American writer Bayard Taylor traveled across the Jezreel Valley, which he described in his 1854 book The Lands of the Saracen; or, Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily and Spain as: "one of the richest districts in the world.",[41] while Lawrence Oliphant, who visited Palestine in 1887, wrote that Palestine's Valley of Esdraelon was "a huge green lake of waving wheat, with its village-crowned mounds rising from it like islands; and it presents one of the most striking pictures of luxuriant fertility which it is possible to conceive."[42]

According to Paul Masson, a French economic historian, "wheat shipments from the Palestinian port of Acre had helped to save southern France from famine on numerous occasions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."[43]

In 1856 H.B. Tristram said of Palestine "A few years ago the whole Ghor (Jordan Valley) was in the hands of the fellaheen, and much of it cultivated for corn. Now the whole of it is in the hands of the Bedouin, who eschew all agriculture…The same thing is now going on over the plain of Sharon where….land is going out of cultivation and whole villages rapidly disappeared….Since the year 1838, no less than twenty villages there have thus erased from the map, and the stationary population extirpated."[44]

British mandate demographics

Official reports

In 1920, the League of Nations' Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine stated that there were hardly 700,000 people living in Palestine:

There are now in the whole of Palestine hardly 700,000 people, a population much less than that of the province of Gallilee alone in the time of Christ. Of these 235,000 live in the larger towns, 465,000 in the smaller towns and villages. Four-fifths of the whole population are Moslems. A small proportion of these are Bedouin Arabs; the remainder, although they speak Arabic and are termed Arabs, are largely of mixed race. Some 77,000 of the population are Christians, in large majority belonging to the Orthodox Church, and speaking Arabic. The minority are members of the Latin or of the Uniate Greek Catholic Church, or—a small number—are Protestants. The Jewish element of the population numbers 76,000. Almost all have entered Palestine during the last 40 years. Prior to 1850 there were in the country only a handful of Jews. In the following 30 years a few hundreds came to Palestine. Most of them were animated by religious motives; they came to pray and to die in the Holy Land, and to be buried in its soil. After the persecutions in Russia forty years ago, the movement of the Jews to Palestine assumed larger proportions. Jewish agricultural colonies were founded. They developed the culture of oranges and gave importance to the Jaffa orange trade. They cultivated the vine, and manufactured and exported wine. They drained swamps. They planted eucalyptus trees. They practised, with modern methods, all the processes of agriculture. There are at the present time 64 of these settlements, large and small, with a population of some 15,000.[45]

By 1948, the population had risen to 1,900,000, of whom 68% were Arabs, and 32% were Jews (UNSCOP report, including bedouin).

Report and general abstract of the Jewish agriculture was taken by the Palestine Zionist Executive in April 1927.

Object of the Census: (p 85) Demography: to enumerate all Jewish inhabitants living in the agricultural and semi-agricultural communities. (p 86) Number of Settlements: 130 places have been enumerated. If we consider the large settlements and the adjacent territories as one geographical unit, then we may group these places into 101 agricultural settlements, 3 semi-agricultural places (Affule, Shekhunath Borukhov and Neve Yaaqov) and 12 farms scattered throughout the country. In addition, there were a few places which, owing to technical difficulties, were not enumerated in the month of April. (Peqiin, Meiron, Mizpa and Zikhron David, numbering in the aggregate 100 persons). Of these agricultural settlements, 32 are located in Judea, 12 in the Plain of Sharon, 32 are located in the Plain of Jesreel, 16 in Lower Galilee, and 9 in Upper Galilee. Most of them have a very small population - about one half being inhabited by less than 100 persons each. In 42 settlements there are from 100 to 500 persons, and in only five does the population exceed 1.000. viz.
Settlements Persons
Pethah Tiqva 6,631
Rishon le-Ziyon 2,143
Rehovoth 1,689
Hadera 1,378
Zihron Yaaqov 1,260

(p 86) Number of Inhabitants: The aggregate population living in the agricultural and semi-agricultural places were 30.500.

Male Female
1 day - 10 years 3,298 3,188
11 years - 20 years 3,059 2,597
21 years - 30 years 5,743 4,100
31 years - 40 years 1,821 1,411
41 years - 50 years 1,011 0,922
Over 50 years and unknown 1,763 1,587
Total 16,695 13,805

Length of Recidence in Palestine

(p 87 & p 98)The pre-war population accounts for 9,473 persons, which is slightly less than one-third of the present population, whereas the rest are post-war immigrants. Some 10.000 persons settled since 1924, since the so called middle-class immigration.

Length of residence in Years Men Women Children Total %
- 1 1504 1118 1746 4368 14,2
2 2406 2020 1575 6001 19,6
3 1311 913 1133 3357 11,5
4 695 556 720 1971 6,4
5 682 454 513 1649 5,4
6 856 403 390 1649 5,4
7 682 277 379 1358 4,3
8 139 45 261 445 1,5
9 39 10 200 249 0,8
10-13 237 218 893 1348 4,4
14-20 1882 1630 216 3728 12,1
21-29 864 800 - 1664 5,4
Over 30 836 930 - 1766 5,8
Unspecified 336 281 350 967 3,2
Total 12469 9655 8376 30500 100 %


The question of late Arab immigration to Palestine

Whether there was significant Arab immigration into Palestine after the beginning of Jewish settlement there in the late 19th century has become a matter of some controversy. It is known that the Arab population of Palestine doubled during the British Mandate era, from 670,000 in 1922 to over 1.2 million in 1948, and there has been considerable debate over the subject on how much of this growth was due to natural increase, as opposed to immigration. Estimates on the scope of Arab immigration to Palestine during this period vary.

Demographer Uziel Schmelz, in his analysis of Ottoman registration data for 1905 populations of Jerusalem and Hebron kazas, found that most Ottoman citizens living in these areas, comprising about one quarter of the population of Palestine, were living at the place where they were born. Specifically, of Muslims, 93.1% were born in their current locality of residence, 5.2% were born elsewhere in Palestine, and 1.6% were born outside Palestine. Of Christians, 93.4% were born in their current locality, 3.0% were born elsewhere in Palestine, and 3.6% were born outside Palestine. Of Jews (excluding the large fraction who were not Ottoman citizens), 59.0% were born in their current locality, 1.9% were born elsewhere in Palestine, and 39.0% were born outside Palestine.[47]

Martin Gilbert estimated that 50,000 Arabs immigrated to Mandatory Palestine from neighboring lands between 1919 and 1939 "attracted by the improving agricultural conditions and growing job opportunities, most of them created by the Jews".[48] According to Itzhak Galnoor, although most of Arab population increase was the result of natural increase, Arab immigration to Palestine was significant. Based on his estimates, approximately 100,000 Arabs immigrated to Palestine between 1922 and 1948.[49]

The overall assessment of several British reports was that the increase in the Arab population was primarily due to natural increase.[50][51] These included the Hope Simpson Enquiry (1930),[52] the Passfield White Paper (1930),[53] the Peel Commission report (1937),[54] and the Survey of Palestine (1945).[55] However, the Hope Simpson Enquiry did note that there was significant illegal immigration from the surrounding Arab territories,[52] while the Peel Commission and Survey of Palestine claimed that immigration played only a minor role in the growth of the Arab population. The 1931 census of Palestine considered the question of illegal immigration since the previous census in 1922.[56] It estimated that unrecorded immigration during that period may have amounted to 9,000 Jews and 4,000 Arabs.[56] It also gave the proportion of persons living in Palestine in 1931 who were born outside Palestine: Muslims, 2%; Christians, 20%; Jews, 58%.[56]

In a 1974 study, Roberto Bachi estimated that about 900 Muslims per year were detected as illegal immigrants but not deported.[57] He noted the impossibility of estimating illegal immigration that was undetected, or the fraction of those persons who eventually departed.[57] He suggested, though qualifying it as a "mere guess", that the unexplained increase in the Muslim population between 1922 and 1931 was due to a combination of unrecorded immigration (using the 1931 census report estimate) and undercounting in the 1922 census.[57]

While noting the uncertainty of earlier data, Bachi also observed that the Muslim population growth in the 19th century appeared to be high by world standards:

"[B]etween 1800 and 1914, the Muslim population had a yearly average increase of an order of magnitude of roughly 6–7 per thousand. This can be compared to the very crude estimate of about 4 per thousand for the "less developed countries" of the world (in Asia, Africa, and Latin America) between 1800 and 1910. It is possible that some part of the growth of the Muslim population was due to immigration. However, it seems likely that the dominant determinant of this modest growth was the beginning of some natural increase."[58]

McCarthy explains, "... evidence for Muslim immigration into Palestine is minimal. Because no Ottoman records of that immigration have yet been discovered, one is thrown back on demographic analysis to evaluate Muslim migration."[59][60] McCarthy argues that there is no significant Arab immigration into mandatory Palestine:

From analyses of rates of increase of the Muslim population of the three Palestinian sanjaks, one can say with certainty that Muslim immigration after the 1870s was small. Had there been a large group of Muslim immigrants their numbers would have caused an unusual increase in the population and this would have appeared in the calculated rate of increase from one registration list to another... Such an increase would have been easily noticed; it was not there.[60]
The argument that Arab immigration somehow made up a large part of the Palestinian Arab population is thus statistically untenable. The vast majority of the Palestinian Arabs resident in 1947 were the sons and daughters of Arabs who were living in Palestine before modern Jewish immigration began. There is no reason to believe that they were not the sons and daughters of Arabs who had been in Palestine for many centuries.[61]

McCarthy also concludes that there was no significant internal migration to Jewish areas attributable to better economic conditions:

Some areas of Palestine did experience greater population growth than others, but the explanation for this is simple. Radical economic change was occurring all over the Mediterranean Basin at the time. Improved transportation, greater mercantile activity, and greater industry had increased the chances for employment in cities, especially coastal cities... Differential population increase was occurring all over the Eastern Mediterranean, not just in Palestine... The increase in Muslim population had little or nothing to do with Jewish immigration. In fact the province that experienced the greatest Jewish population growth (by .035 annually), Jerusalem Sanjak, was the province with the lowest rate of growth of Muslim population (.009).[62]

Gad Gilbar has also concluded that the prosperity of Palestine in the 45–50 years before World War I was a result of the modernization and growth of the economy owing to its integration with the world economy and especially with the economies of Europe. Although the reasons for growth were exogenous to Palestine the bearers were not waves of Jewish immigration, foreign intervention nor Ottoman reforms but "primarily local Arab Muslims and Christians."[63]

It has been suggested that the British disproportionately focused on illegal immigration of Jews and did not pay much attention to that of Arabs. In particular, Freddy Liebreich claimed that significant undocumented Arab immigration, much of it from the Hauran region of Syria, did take place during the Mandate era, and claimed that the British authorities largely ignored it. According to Liebreich: "Jewish illegal immigration was minutely detailed and meticulously recorded but all references to Arab illegal immigration were, perhaps deliberately, obscured." He claimed that one major example took place in 1934, when, according to him, approximately 35,000 Arabs illegally immigrated to Palestine from the Hauran, basing this estimate on a claim made by the Governor of the Hauran at the time, who estimated that 30,000-36,000 people from the Hauran had left to settle in Palestine in recent months. By contrast, the British estimated the number of illegal immigrants to Palestine in 1934, both Arab and non-Arab, at 3,000. Liebreich also wrote that many British documents from the beginning of the Mandate to the 1940s contain references to Syrians from the Hauran being freely admitted into Palestine without a passport or visa, and noted a debate on illegal immigration from the Hauran that took place in Parliament a year before the end of British rule in Palestine.[64]

Yehoshua Porath believes that the notion of "large-scale immigration of Arabs from the neighboring countries" is a myth "proposed by Zionist writers". He writes:

As all the research by historian Fares Abdul Rahim and geographers of modern Palestine shows, the Arab population began to grow again in the middle of the nineteenth century. That growth resulted from a new factor: the demographic revolution. Until the 1850s there was no "natural" increase of the population, but this began to change when modern medical treatment was introduced and modern hospitals were established, both by the Ottoman authorities and by the foreign Christian missionaries. The number of births remained steady but infant mortality decreased. This was the main reason for Arab population growth. ... No one would doubt that some migrant workers came to Palestine from Syria and Trans-Jordan and remained there. But one has to add to this that there were migrations in the opposite direction as well. For example, a tradition developed in Hebron to go to study and work in Cairo, with the result that a permanent community of Hebronites had been living in Cairo since the fifteenth century. Trans-Jordan exported unskilled casual labor to Palestine; but before 1948 its civil service attracted a good many educated Palestinian Arabs who did not find work in Palestine itself. Demographically speaking, however, neither movement of population was significant in comparison to the decisive factor of natural increase.[65]
Daniel Pipes responded to Porath by granting that From Time Immemorial quoted carelessly, used statistics sloppily, and ignored inconvenient facts. Nonetheless, he explained that:
Miss Peters's central thesis is that a substantial immigration of Arabs to Palestine took place during the first half of the twentieth century. She supports this argument with an array of demographic statistics and contemporary accounts, the bulk of which have not been questioned by any reviewer, including Porath.
Porath replied with an array of demographic data to support his position. He also wrote that Peters's demographic statistics were inexplicable:
...nowhere in her main text or in the methodological appendices (V and VI) did Mrs. Peters bother to explain to her readers how she managed to break down the Ottoman or Cuinet's figures into smaller units than subdistricts. As far as I know no figures for the units smaller than subdistricts (Nahia; the parallel of the French commune), covering the area of Ottoman Palestine, were ever published. Therefore I can't avoid the conclusion that Mrs. Peters's figures were, at best, based on guesswork and an extremely tendentious guesswork at that.[66]

Modern period demographics

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, as of May 2006, of Israel's 7 million people, 77% were Jews, 18.5% Arabs, and 4.3% "others".[67] Among Jews, 68% were Sabras (Israeli-born), mostly second- or third-generation Israelis, and the rest are olim – 22% from Europe and the Americas, and 10% from Asia and Africa, including the Arab countries.[68]

According to Palestinian evaluations, The West Bank is inhabited by approximately 2.4 million Palestinians and the Gaza Strip by another 1.4 million. According to a study presented at The Sixth Herzliya Conference on The Balance of Israel's National Security[69] there are 1.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank. This study was criticised by demographer Sergio DellaPergola, who estimated 3.33 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip combined at the end of 2005.[70] The Israeli Civil Administration put the number of Palestinians in the West Bank at 2,657,029 as of May 2012.[71][72]

According to these Israeli and Palestinian estimates, the population in Israel and the Palestinian Territories stands at 9.8–10.8 million.

Jordan has a population of around 6 million (2007 estimate).[73][74] Palestinians constitute approximately half of this number.[75]

See also



  1. ^ a b Finkelstein and Silberman (2001) The Bible Unearthed. Free Press, New York, 2001, p. 107, ISBN 0-684-86912-8
  2. ^ The British Museum. Israelites
  3. ^ Magen Broshi, The Population of Western Palestine in the Roman-Byzantine Period, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 236, p.7, 1979.
  4. ^ Yigal Shiloh, The Population of Iron Age Palestine in the Light of a Sample Analysis of Urban Plans, Areas, and Population Density, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 239, p.33, 1980.
  5. ^ Holy Bible. King James version. Ezra, chapter 9, verses 1 and 2
  6. ^ Emilio Gabba (2008). The social, economic and political history of Palestine – 63 BC to AD 70. In: The Cambridge History of Judaism Volume 3. Editors: Horbury, Davies and Sturdy. Map B and p. 113
  7. ^ Horbury and Davies (2008) Preface. In: The Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume 3, The Early Roman Period. p. xi
  8. ^ Antiquities of the Jews, 17.42
  9. ^ James A. Sanders (2008) The canonical process In: The Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume 4, p. 235
  10. ^ E. Mary Smallwood (2008)The Diaspora in the Roman period before CE 70. In: The Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume 3. Editors Davis and Finkelstein.
  11. ^ Hanan Eschel (2008) The Bar Kochba Revolt. In: The Cambridge History of Judaism Volume 4. Editor: S. T. Katz. pp 105 – 127
  12. ^ Steven T.Katz (2008)Introduction. In: The Cambridge History of Judaism, Volume 4. Editor: Steven T. Katz.
  13. ^ a b c d e David Goodblatt (2006). "The political and social history of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel, c. 235–638". In Steven Katz. The Cambridge History of Judaism IV. pp. 404–430.  
  14. ^ Robert Goldenberg (2008)The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple: its meaning and its consequences. In: The Cambridge History of Judaism Volume 4. Editor: S. T. Katz. p.162
  15. ^ Günter Stemberger (2000). Jews and Christians in the Holy Land: Palestine in the Fourth Century. T&T Clark Int'l. p. 20.  
  16. ^ Lawrence H. Schiffman (August 2003). Understanding Second Temple and rabbinic Judaism. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. p. 336.  
  17. ^ Sergio DellaPergola (2001) Demography in Israel/Palestine: Trends, Prospects, Policy Implications. IUSSP XXIV General Population Conference Salvador de Bahia, August 2001. [1]
  18. ^ Milka Levy-Rubin (2000) Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient Vol. 43, No. 3 (2000), pp. 257–276 – "[2]
  19. ^ The Umayyad Caliphate
  20. ^ Michael Haag (2012) The Tragedy of the Templars: The Rise and Fall of the Crusader States. Profile Books Ltd. ISBN 978 1 84668 450 0 [3]
  21. ^ Reuven Atimal and Ronnie Ellenblum. The Demographic Transformation in Palestine in the Post-Crusading Period (1187–1516 C.E.) [4]
  22. ^ Bernard Lewis, Studies in the Ottoman Archives—I, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 469–501, 1954
  23. ^ .DellaPergola, IUSSP XXIVth General Population Conference in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, 18–24 August 2001, PDF
  24. ^ Scholch, Alexander (November 1985). "The Demographic Development of Palestine, 1850–1882". International Journal of Middle East Studies 17 (4): 485–505.  
  25. ^ McCarthy, 1990, p.26.
  26. ^ McCarthy, 1990.
  27. ^ McCarthy, 1990, pp. 37–38.
  28. ^ Chapter 56.
  29. ^  
  30. ^ Chapter 52.
  31. ^ Chapter 49.
  32. ^ Chapter 46.
  33. ^ Mark Twain – Travellers abroad"The narrow canon in which Nablous, or Shechem, is situated, is under high cultivation, and the soil is exceedingly black and fertile. It is well watered, and its affluent vegetation gains effect by contrast with the barren hills that tower on either side"..."Sometimes, in the glens, we came upon luxuriant orchards of figs, apricots, pomegranates, and such things, but oftener the scenery was rugged, mountainous, verdureless and forbidding" "We came finally to the noble grove of orange-trees in which the Oriental city of Jaffa lies buried" "Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the far-reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side"
  34. ^ The Lands of the Saracen By Bayard Taylor – Page 32"We rode for miles through a sea of wheat, waving far and wide over the swells of land. The tobacco in the fields about Ramleh was the most luxuriant I ever saw, and the olive and fig attain a size and lust}' strength wholly unknown in Italy, Judea cursed of God! what a misconception, not only of God's mercy and beneficence, but of the actual fact!"
  35. ^ Fifty years in Palestine – Frances Emily Newton – Page 96
  36. ^ K. Christison, Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy, Univ. of California Press, 1999; p16.
  37. ^ K. Christison, Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on US Middle East Policy, Univ. of California Press, 1999; p. 20.
  38. ^ B. B. Doumani, The political economy of population counts in Ottoman Palestine: Nablus, Circa 1950, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol 26 (1994) 1–17.
  39. ^ J. McCarthy, The population of Ottoman Syria and Iraq, 1878–1914, Asian and African Studies, vol. 15 (1981) pp. 3–44. K. H. Karpat, Ottoman population 1830–1914 (Univ. Wisconsin Press, 1985).
  40. ^ Alan Dowty, Much Ado about Little: Ahad Ha'am's "Truth from Eretz Yisrael", Zionism, and the Arabs, Israel Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall 2000) 154–181.
  41. ^ "The Lands of the Saracen, by Bayard Taylor". 1 February 2004. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  42. ^ Abu-Lughod, 1971, p. 126.
  43. ^ Marwan R. Beheiry, "The Agricultural Exports of Southern Palestine, 1885-1 9 14", Journal of Palestine Studies, volume 10, No. 4, 198 1, p. 67.
  44. ^ H.B. Tristram, The Land of Israel: A Journal of Travels Through Palestine, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1865, p. 490
  45. ^ Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine
  46. ^ Palestine & Near East Economic Magazine. Third Year. Vol. III, no 5-6 15th March, 1928.
  47. ^ U. Schmelz (1990). "Population characteristics of Jerusalem and Hebron regions according to Ottoman census of 1905". In G. Gilbar. Ottoman Palestine 1800–1914. Bill Leiden. pp. 5–67. 
  48. ^ Gilbert, 2005, p. 16.
  49. ^ The Partition of Palestine: Decision Crossroads in the Zionist Movement By Itzhak Galnoor P 167
  50. ^ Paul Blair (18 April 2002). "Special Report: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine". Capitalism Magazine. 
  51. ^ Anglo-American Commission report, Section 4.4. "Of this Moslem growth by 472,000, only 19,000 was accounted for by immigration."
  52. ^ a b Hope Simpson Report
  53. ^ Passfield White Paper, para 17. "the Arab population, while lacking the advantages enjoyed by the Jewish settlers, has, by the excess of births over deaths, increased with great rapidity"
  54. ^ the Peel Commission report, pp. 125,282. "unlike the Jewish, the rise has been due in only a slight degree to immigration."
  55. ^ Survey of Palestine, p140. "the expansion of the Moslem and Christian populations is due mainly to natural increase, while that of the Jews is due mainly to immigration."
  56. ^ a b c Government of Palestine (1933). E. Mills, ed. Census of Palestine 1931. I. Palestine Part I, Report. Alexandria. pp. 59, 61–65. 
  57. ^ a b c Roberto Bachi (1974). The Population of Israel. Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. pp. 133, 390–394. 
  58. ^ Roberto Bachi (1974). The Population of Israel. Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. pp. 34–35. 
  59. ^ McCarthy, 1990, p. 33.
  60. ^ a b McCarthy, 1990, p. 16.
  61. ^ McCarthy, 1990, p. 38.
  62. ^ McCarthy, 1990, pp. 16–17.
  63. ^ Gilbar, 1986, p. 188.
  64. ^ Liebreich, Freddy: Britain's Naval and Political Reaction to the Illegal Immigration of Jews to Palestine, 1945-1949, pgs. 27-28
  65. ^ Porath, Y. (1986). Mrs. Peters's Palestine. New York Review of Books. 16 January, 32 (21 & 22).
  66. ^ Mrs. Peters's Palestine: An Exchange, The New York Review of Books, Volume 33, Number 5, March 27, 1986.
  67. ^ Central Bureau of Statistics, Government of Israel. "Population, by religion and population group" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-04-08. 
  68. ^ Central Bureau of Statistics, Government of Israel. "Jews and others, by origin, continent of birth and period of immigration" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-04-08. 
  69. ^ Bennett Zimmerman & Roberta Seid (23 January 2006). "Arab Population in the West Bank & Gaza: The Million Person Gap". American-Israel Demographic Research Group. Retrieved 2006-09-27. 
  70. ^ Sergio DellaPergola (Winter 2007, No. 27). "Letter to the Editor". Azure. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  71. ^ Wrong Number
  72. ^ How many Palestinians actually live in the West Bank?
  73. ^ Jordan: Facts & Figures, accessed 22 May 2007. Archived 2009-10-31.
  74. ^ CIA World Factbook, accessed 22 May 2007.
  75. ^ Assessment for Palestinians in Jordan, Minorities at Risk, accessed 22 May 2007.
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