We have shown above that, according to UNRWA records, the place of origin of the refugees is not only the official localities as per the administrative division of the British Mandate government in 1944, but their origin is in many ‘extra’ localities, such as border villages, Jewish areas or satellite locations. While the number of the official depopulated localities is 531 (not 400 as frequently quoted), the number of extra localities is 662, making a total of 1,193 localities. The number of the refugees from the extra localities is 16% of the main localities, or 14% of the total. The total number of registered refugees from all localities is 3,602,000 as on 31 December 1998.

Now, this number does not represent all the refugees. As indicated under Col. 24, upgrading to 1998 the population from Village Statistics of 1945, prepared by the Mandate government, the total refugee population is 4,940,000. This leads to an important fact, often neglected, that is, there are some 1,300,000 unregistered refugees. The explanation is indicated under Col. 23, 24.

All this analysis hinges on the number of refugees in 1948. Estimates vary a great deal and are loaded with political motives.

In this study, we have estimated the population of each depopulated village in 1948 based on British records and subtracted the number of those remaining in Israel. The net refugee population from the official (main) list is 804,465. This excludes the extra villages indicated in the above four groups under Col. 20, 21, 22. Using UNRWA records as a guide, the refugees from ‘extra’ villages is 16% or 130,806, giving a total of 935,000 for the 1948 refugees.

To test the accuracy of this figure, let us compare the result with studies by J. Abu-Lughod. She made a careful analysis of British figures and concluded that the refugee population is in the range of 770,000 and 780,000. But her figures include the 1931 figure of 66,000 for Beer Sheba. Curiously this figure has remained static at 66,000 for most studies. If we use the corrected figure of 90,507 in this list as the net refugee population for Beer Sheba, we get 804,000 which is close to our figure. Adding ‘extra’ villages, we get 935,000.

Let us now compare this result with other estimates, quoted by Morris, p. 297. The Israeli estimate is 520,000, which is incredibly low and cannot be substantiated. It is given in order to avoid “hordes of claimants” as “(We) are eventually obliged to accept the return of the refugees”. According to Morris, the Israeli Foreign Ministry admitted that “the real number was close to 800,000”.

The Conciliation Commission on Palestine estimated the number to be 766,000 and the British Foreign Office between 600,000-760,000. A figure which is still widely quoted is 750,000. This figure is an approximation of the figure of 726,000, often found in documents. This figure is patently incorrect. It is based on UN Conciliation Commission document (A/AC.25/Com.Tech/7/Add.1) of 1 April 1949, entitled: Appendix B: “Non-Jewish (sic) Population within the Boundaries held by IDF”. This document gives the figure of 726,800, but it suffers from two basic defects: (1) it quotes the official Village Statistics of April 1945, i.e. it is 4 years behind, and (2) it quotes for Beer Sheba the ever-decreasing number of 53,550. It has therefore to be adjusted for these defects. When so adjusted, it will come to 875,000 and, with the ‘extra’ villages, to about one million.

According to Morris, Arab spokesmen at the time spoke of 900,000 to one million refugees, which was considered by the Israelis as a wild exaggeration. Although the Arab figure does not appear to be based on a rigorous analysis, it turns out to be, after all, not off the mark.

Further analysis of UNRWA records reveal very interesting results about the dispersion of the refugees upon their expulsion. The village population moved en masse to their place of refuge. They first hovered around their village, then moved to the next safe village. Finally they settled in one of the five UNRWA areas. Tracing the movement of the refugees, it was found that fully 72% of all refugees moved to one UNRWA area, and only 20% moved to two areas. Just 8% are dispersed in more than 2 areas. This indicates the monolithic structure of the Palestinian society based on the village unit. This phenomenon is also remarkable given the wars of 1967, 1970 and 1982. As to be expected, refugee movement was largely confined to a particular area grouping as follows: (West Bank and Jordan), (West Bank and Gaza) and (Syria and Lebanon). More than two thirds of the refugees can be found in one of these groups.

Thus in spite of ravages of war and interminable suffering, the Palestinian refugees remain monolithic and traceable to a large degree.

Table-7: The Distribution of Palestinians in 1998 (minimum estimate)

Place of Refuge Population 1998(min) % Original Refugees NonRegistRef RegistRef(RR) RR in Camps RR not in Camps % not in Camps
Palestine 1948 (Israel)   953,497   12% 953,497 (250,000) internal          
Gaza strip 1,004,498       238,374 766,124 31 766,093 421,067 345,027 45.04%
West Bank 1,596,554       943,699 652,855 65,401 587,454 146,914 440,540 74.99%
Truncated Palestine   2,601,052   33% 1,182,073 1,418,979 65,432 1,353,547 567,981 785,567 58.04%
Total Palestine     3,554,550 46% 2,135,570 1,418,979 65,432 1,353,547 567,981 785,567 58.04%
Jordan 2,328,308       586,512 1,741,796 269,216 1,472,580 279,496 1,193,084 81.02%
Lebanon 430,183       22,174 408,008 14,984 393,024 205,757 187,267 47.65%
Syria 465,662       20,741 444,921 61,951 382,969 105,180 277,790 72.54%
Egypt 48,784       8,315 40,468 40,468        
Border Countries   3,272,935   42% 637,742 2,635,193 386,619 2,248,574 590,432 1,658,141 73.74%
Saudi Arabia 274,762         274,762 274,762        
Kuwait 37,696       3,326 34,370 34,370        
Other Gulf 105,578         105,578 105,578        
Total Gulf   418,037   5% 3,326 414,710 414,710        
Iraq, Libya   74,284   1.0%   74,284 74,284        
Other Arab Countries   5,544   0.1%   5,544 5,544        
Total Arab Countries     3,770,799 48% 641,068 3,129,731 881,157 2,248,574 590,432 1,658,141 73.74%
USA   203,588   3% 30,538 173,050 173,050        
Other Countries   259,248   3% 38,887 220,361 220,361        
Total Non Arab Countries     462,836 6% 71,277 391,559 391,559        
Grand Total     7,788,185 100% 2,846,064 4,940,269 1,337,382 3,602,121 1,158,413 2,443,708 67.84%
      100%   36.54% 63.46% 17.21% 46.25% 14.87% 31.38%