Palestinians say they number 12.1 million worldwide

Report says 2.8 million live in West Bank, 1.8 million in Gaza, 1.5 million in Israel and 6 million abroad

Palestinians wave their national flag as they demonstrate in Gaza City on April 22, 2014. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Palestinians wave their national flag as they demonstrate in Gaza City on April 22, 2014. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday it had recorded a population of 12.1 million people, of whom 4.6 million live in the West Bank and Gaza and the remainder abroad.

The figures show that at the end of 2014, 2.8 million Palestinians lived in the West Bank and 1.8 million in the Gaza Strip.

Of the 4.6 million people in those areas, 43.1 percent are defined as refugees.

The statement from the PCBS tallied 6.1 million Palestinians in historic Palestine between the Jordan River and Mediterranean sea, which would assume 1.5 million Palestinians living in Israel.

The balance of 6 million Palestinians live in exile, the majority in 31 UN-installed refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

UNRWA, the world body’s aid agency for Palestinian refugees, has 5.49 million people registered on its books.

Some of the Palestinian numbers jibe with Israeli figures.

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reported last year 1,719,000 Arab citizens (including some 140,000 Druze, as well as other Arabic-speaking religious groups, who don’t necessarily identify as Palestinians or even Arabs) living in sovereign Israel at the end of 2014.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) — a branch of the Israel Defense Forces that controls the Palestinian population registry — claims that 2.754 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and 1.73 million in the Gaza Strip.

Put together, the total number of Palestinians in the land at approximately 6.2 million, .

However, some Israeli scholars challenge that the numbers are inflated.

The figures were announced ahead of Friday’s 67th anniversary of the “Nakba,” or “catastrophe” in Arabic, the day when Palestinians mourn Israel’s establishment in 1948.

In a statement, the head of the statistics bureau said that in 1948, “1.4 million Palestinians lived in 1,300 towns and localities in historic Palestine.”

After the war that followed Israel’s creation, “Israel took control of 774 towns and villages, destroyed 531 and committed 70 killings and massacres in which 15,000 people died,” she said.

Some 154,000 Palestinians decided to remain on their land after that conflict, and their Arab Israeli descendants now number nearly a million and a half.

Other figures made public by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel NGO show that Palestinians make up 37 percent of the population of Jerusalem.

Of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, 75 percent live below the poverty line and the homes of almost 40 percent are threatened with destruction because they lack building permits from Israeli authorities.

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