The dispossessed population is compiled from the official Village Statistics of 1944/1945, upgraded to 1948/1949 by taking, as per Khalidi (1992, p.581), the net natural increase of 3.8% per year for 4 years. The population of villages which remained in Israel, and listed in the compilation list for noted reasons, is deducted from the total sum, or reduced by the number who stayed behind where applicable.

In previous studies, the population of Beer Sheba Bedouin has been generally neglected or underestimated. In the Mandate statistics, they have been listed as a separate group, curiously neither as Moslems or Christians, with the number 66,000 fixed for many years. In this study, the Bedouin population is estimated from Al-Arif (1933), corrected to account for traditional reduction of female count, and upgraded from his 1931 figures. This compared favorably with the last field survey undertaken by S. W. Dajani in 1946 (Dajani 1947). The sum of refugees thus calculated is shown to be 804,767. This is higher than figures previously quoted, mainly due to the omission of Beer Sheba. The figure of 804,767 does not include:

  • "Internal Refugees", i.e. those who stayed in Israel but were relocated by Israel and hence also lost their land, now estimated at 250,000 in 1998.
  • Those who lost their livelihood because their village land was located in Israeli-occupied territory, while the village houses remained in Arab territory, estimated at 16% of the primary list. (For an elaboration of these figures, see "The Palestinian Nakba 1948, the Register of ethnically cleansed Villages".)

The published estimates of the total number of all Palestinians vary because they are dispersed in a number of countries and there has never been a formal comprehensive census for them. The opportunity to inflate or reduce their number, depending on political inclination, therefore, existed.

A good starting point is the British Mandate figures. Janet Abu-Lughod (1971) made a careful analysis of these figures and arrived at a figure of 1,398,000 for the (non-Jewish) Palestinians in all of Palestine, projected to December 1948. This included the ever-fixed number of 66,000 for Beer Sheba Bedouins. Allowing for the new estimate made in this study, the final figure will be 1,441,177.

Abu-Lughod split her figure into two parts: one, in the range of 890,200 to 904,200 for the territory that came under Israel's control in 1948, including the Palestinians who remained there, and the other, in the range of 493,000 to 507,900 for the rest of Palestine that remained Arab.

The figures for the net annual natural growth are extracted from Mandate figures: 3.8% for Moslems, 2.42% for Christians, 3.0% for others (Druze etc.). Noting that the number of births per woman ranged from 8.5 (1967) to 7.0 (1987), and the life expectancy increased from 53 to 63 years in the same period, (UN-ESCWA figures quoted by Peretz, p.18); that the majority of refugees were Moslems and that a greater ratio of Moslems than Christians became refugees, we take 3.8% as the overall annual natural increase for the refugees. This figure is considered conservative, as both the increase in the annual UNRWA figures and the estimates of the Palestinian National Authority suggest higher net natural increase. This figure is also supported by the analysis of the variation of the annual net natural increase in the five areas of UNRWA operations over a period of five decades.

With more education and affluence, however, the number of children per family decreased. We take therefore 3.63% as the net annual natural increase for the Palestinians as a whole.

Therefore the following estimates are made:

Year 1948 1995 1998
All Palestinians 1,441,177 7,689,621 7,788,185
1948 Refugees 804,069 4,645,248 4,942,121

Peretz (p.16) gives the number of Palestinians as 6,192,153 (1995), based on U.S. Bureau of the Census estimate. This is an underestimate. It does not include Palestinians outside Arab countries and it assumes smaller growth rates which steadily decrease from 3.3% to 2.5%.

Brand (1988), in a careful study collected from several sources, gives the total as 4,739,158 (1982). He also gives the geographical distribution of the Palestinians. The above-mentioned Brand figure has been adjusted to our total figure given above. McDowall (1994) estimates the number of Palestinians to be 6,882,000 (1995), with a slight underestimation of the Palestinians in Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and a lower natural growth rate. Adjustments are made to Brand's population geographical distribution due to movements which occurred since then, notably the exodus from Kuwait (1990), but not from Libya (1995).

Table-2 shows these results. The split between refugees and original citizens is reasonable for the West Bank, Gaza, East Bank, Lebanon and Syria and tentative for the others. Of the refugees figure (4,942,121), only 3,602,121 (73%) are registered with UNRWA (1998 figures), about 1 million of these live in camps, the remainder outside. The rest are self-supporting refugees, non-eligible or could not register for some reason.

In summary, 3.6 million (46%) Palestinians now live within Mandate Palestine boundaries (i.e. Israel, West Bank and Gaza), 3.3 million (42%) live in border Arab Countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria), and about a million (12%) live in other Arab and foreign countries.

Thus, 88% of the Palestinians live in or adjacent to Palestine. Those whose lives are somewhat affected by the limited autonomy of the Oslo Agreement are the original citizens of Gaza and West Bank, or about one million (13%).

2.2 The Dispossession: The Land

The total Arab land occupied by Israel is calculated from the sum of net Arab village lands, taken from Village Statistics.

The accumulated Palestinian land of ethnically cleansed villages as per this study is 17,166,831 d. 85%
Add: Jewish land (including Public), from Hadawi (1988) 1,682,000 d. 08%
Add: Arab land (including Public) of villages remaining in Israel (Hadawi) 1,474,169 d. 07%
Total area of Israel 20,323,000 d. 100%

of which, 18,641,000 d. (92%) is Palestinian.


The Palestine Conciliation Commission's expert, Mr. Jarvis, estimated Arab losses to be a mere 5,194,091 d. Jarvis, however, omitted Beer Sheba, which is curious and inexplicable. Jarvis listed only "settled" land, which means reconciliation made between title deed and survey maps. There are other deficiencies in Jarvis' figures. Allowing for the omission of Beer Sheba, the equivalent figures are: 6,469,012 (Hadawi) and 6,131,758 (this study), both are larger than Jarvis' figures. If we add Beer Sheba (12,577,000), Jarvis' figure would add up to 17,771,091 d., Palestinian land.

Table-3 summarizes the ethnic cleansing figures by District. The largest ethnic cleansing occurred in districts of Jaffa, Haifa, and Jerusalem, which had a high Jewish concentration. The highest number of ethnically cleansed localities is in predominantly Arab areas: Beer Sheba, al-Ramla and Safad. The largest land occupied is in Beer Sheba, followed by Gaza, Haifa, al-Ramla and Safad. The largest percentage of the refugees cam from

Region Percentage
central 42%
north 34%
south 24%

2.3 How It Happened:

A new insight is gained by examining the list of ethnically cleansed localities in chronological order. Table-4 gives a list and function of the various Israeli operations. Table-5 gives the number of ethnically cleansed localities and the refugees in each phase of the conflict.

It is shown that 213 localities (43% of localities and 54% of the refugees with known ethnically cleansing dates) were run over by the Zionists (not yet Israelis), while Palestine was under the protection of the British Mandate Government. The expulsion of the population was largely due to Plan Dalet, The Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine. (Khalidi 1988, Pappe, p.94).

It may be reasonably assumed that the fighting during the first 27 days, between the end of the British Mandate on 15 May 1948 and 11 June 1948, the so called First Round, in which Arab regular troops, unprepared and unfamiliar with the country, entered Palestine, is merely a continuation, by the Zionists, of Plan Dalet. Then by the time the First Truce was announced on 11 June, fully 291 (59%) localities were ethnically cleansed. Thus, about two thirds of the refugees (65%) became homeless before Arab regular troops, who came to their rescue, could save them.




As Pappe explained (p.55), Plan Dalet was intended not only to grab land and expel as many Palestinians as possible, but also to seize government institutions and public services as well. It was "total war" waged against the Palestinians (Falah, 1996).

When war was resumed in the Ten Days of 9-18 July 1948, i.e. the Second Round, a further 82 (17%) localities were ethnically cleansed. In the Third Round, from 15 October 1948 to 6 January 1949, another 98 (20%) localities were ethnically cleansed. The remainder, 60 localities, were ethnically cleansed thereafter, or their ethnic cleansing dates cannot be determined.

The striking feature is that practically all exodus was related to Israeli military assaults. No villagers left their homes during the cessation of hostilities, however short. During the First Truce, one village is reported to have been abandoned, while in the longer Second Truce, five villages were ethnically cleansed, due to the Israeli operation Shoter (Hebrew for Policeman) and Nikayon (Hebrew for Cleansing). This is remarkable indeed, since it may be assumed that during the truce the actual or potential threat to the citizens' safety was still present. The lull in the fighting would have been an ideal opportunity for the villagers to leave. The fact is: they did not.

The exodus was always associated with the various Israeli operations, which resulted in outright expulsion or military assault on the villages. Names such as "Cleansing" and "Broom", which occur no less than 4 times, indicate clearly the nature of these operations.

It is significant to note that each phase of the Israeli assaults was opened by a massacre, followed by others during the same phase.

During operation Dalet, while Palestine was still under British protection, the Dayr Yassin massacre was committed, followed by 16 others. The success achieved by driving the citizens out of their homes was not lost on the Zionist leaders, especially in the absence of any British action to stop the massacres or protect the population.

The second phase of the fighting, (the Ten Days between 9-18 July 1948), was opened by the massacre in Lydda, when 60,000 inhabitants of Lydda and Ramla were ethnically cleansed on the express orders of Yizhak Rabin. This was followed by massacres in al-Tira, Tantoura and Ijzim (Haifa), which, until that time, remained the only unoccupied Arab region south of Haifa.

During Yo'av operation in the south and Hiram in the north in October, 13 massacres were committed, mostly in the north with its high density of Palestinian Arabs.

No doubt the success of the massacres during Israeli assaults on the villages in driving the citizens out of their homes was confirmed by its frequent use as a regular war weapon.

2.4 Massacres

The "massacre" is defined here as'' the killing of a group of civilians with intent". Many atrocities had been committed which could have been defined as massacres, but sufficient evidence to-date is incomplete.

Table-6 lists 34 reported massacres. This list excludes the following:

  • Murder of individuals, although widespread.
  • Mass killing of civilians during air-raids especially in the period.
  • October-December 1948.
  • Killing of Prisoners of War.
  • Unrecorded massacres.
  • Massacres committed immediately after signing the Armistice Agreements in 1949.

The most well-known massacre is Dayr Yassin, which was publicized by the Arabs to demonstrate the savagery of the Zionists, and by the Zionists, frequently by loudspeakers touring the villages, to drive the Arabs out of their homes, "or meet the fate of Dayr Yassin".

Dayr Yassin was an Arab village on the outskirts of west Jerusalem not very far from the highway which connects Jerusalem with the Mediterranean Sea coast of Palestine. It was one of 531 Palestinian localities which were ethnically cleansed by the Zionist invaders in 1948.

On Friday 9 April 1948 Dayr Yassin was the scene of an unprovoked and premeditated massacre which has since symbolized the inhumanity and savagery of political Zionism.

Armed with explosives and machine guns provided by the terrorist Stern and Irgun Gangs, a combined force of over 120 men attacked the sleeping village at 4.30 in the morning in what was then code-named "Operation Unity." It was so called to demonstrate the unity between the official Zionist leadership on the one hand and the two terrorist groups on the other. Within a matter of hours, the Zionist terrorists murdered 254 Palestinians. They blew up more than fifteen houses with explosives, their favourite weapon. Many other acts of terrible savagery were also committed on this fateful day.


One eyewitness, Muhammad Aref Sammour, testified before the British investigating officers that the Jewish gangs: "ripped open the bellies of all the women they found straight away with bayonets".

They also took jewelry from their victims and if those items did not come off easily: "they would cut off the arm to take the bracelet or cut the finger to get the ring".

Following a visit to Silwan, the village where many survivors sought refuge, the British interrogating officer, Assistant Inspector-General Richard Catling confirmed that: "Many young school girls were raped and later slaughtered... Many infants were also butchered and killed." After the massacre, Menachem Begin sent an order of the day to the attackers of Deir Yassin. He wrote: "Accept congratulations on this splendid act of conquest. Tell the soldiers you have made history in Israel."

That what happened at Deir Yassin was part of the official Zionist strategy cannot be contested. Yosef Weitz, the Jewish administrator responsible for Jewish colonization and member of the Jewish Agency's first Transfer Committee declared as early as 1940 that:

"Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal of being an independent people with the Arabs in this small country. The only solution is a Palestine, at least Western Palestine (west of the Jordan river) without Arabs And there is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, to transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe, should be left Only after this transfer will the country be able to absorb the millions of our own brethren. There is no other way out."

The biggest and least publicized massacre is that of al-Dawayima village in Hebron District (population 4,300). On the afternoon of Friday, 29 October 1948, 3 units of the 89th Battalion (8th Brigade) entered the village from 3 directions, leaving the east open, and occupied it "without a fight". "The first wave of conquerors killed about 80 to l00 Arabs, women and children. They killed the children by breaking their heads with sticks. There was not a house without dead. One woman, with a new-born baby in her arms was employed to clean the courtyard (they) shot her and the baby This was not in the heat of battle but a system of expulsion and destruction". (soldier's testimony cited by Morris 1987, p 222).

Over fifty villagers took refuge in the local mosque. The soldiers entered and killed them. Others fled to nearby caves (Tor al Zagh) and huddled against the walls. The soldiers ordered them to lineup in two lines, men and women, and led them to a well. The soldiers suddenly opened fire. Bodies fell in heaps. Some survived the ordeal (survivor's testimony, Hudaib, 1985).

Two weeks later, the Israeli authorities allowed a team of UN observers to visit the site, after 3 previous requests were denied, probably to remove the traces of the massacre. The observers noted that many houses were still smoking, with "a peculiar smell as if bones were burning". The Israelis refused to allow them to visit the mosque, because it was "not correct". When they got a brief look, they saw quite a few Jewish soldiers inside. (UNA 13/3.3.1, box 11, Atrocities, cited by Palumbo, 1987 p. xiii).

Many years later, the correspondent of the Israeli newspaper Hadashot accompanied the village Mukhtar (head) to the scene of killing. According to the newspaper report of 24 August 1984, they dug where the Mukhtar pointed. Several skulls, including that of a child, were found.

The Mukhtar handed a list of 580 killed to the Jordanian Governor of Hebron at the time. The Hadashot correspondent 'estimated' 332 people killed. Ben Gurion briefly noted in his diary: "a rumor about 70-80 persons slaughtered" (Ben Gurion War Diary, p.613).

That was the pattern: to surround the village from three sides, leaving the fourth open for escape, to kill as many as possible, especially those who are determined to stay, and leave some survivors to spread the news in the next village. If villagers returned, they would be massacred. The village of Sa'sa has suffered two massacres, the first on 15 February, the second on 30 October 1948 in the aftermath of operation Hiram and after the return of some of the village inhabitants.

The massacres were always part of the military campaign. There were 17 massacres in April and May during the British Mandate, and 17 thereafter. Three massacres took place during Yiftach operation in April, seven during Hiram operation in October, both to occupy Arab Galilee. In terms of geographical distribution, 24 were in the north, five in the central sector and five in the south.

Killing of civilians continued by other means. Any villager who returned to retrieve some of his belonging, was shot on the spot as an infiltrator. The Israelis introduced the use of bacteriological warfare by poisoning the wells in the villages and towns. They infected the drinking water with malaria, typhus and dysentery. In his war diary, p.365, Ben Gurion mentioned the capture of incriminated agents in Gaza. Uri Mileshtin, an official historian of Israeli Defense Forces, said that bacteria was used to poison the wells of every village emptied of its Arab inhabitants (Interview by Sarah Laybobis-Dar, Hadashot daily, 13 August 1993).