2 J. Refugee Stud. 20 (1989)
A Profile of the Population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip

handle is hein.journals/jrefst2 and id is 32 raw text is: Journal of Refugee Studies Vol. 2 No. 1 1989

A Profile of the Population of the
West Bank and Gaza Strip
Mr McDowall is a writer on Middle Eastern affairs. His publications include Minority
Rights Group Reports on Lebanon (1983), The Kurds (1985), Palestinians (1987), and
Palestine and Israel: The Uprising and Beyond (1989).
I want, primarily to consider some of the demographic implications of the cur-
rent and future populations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Today the
population of the West Bank is 860,000 (excluding 130,000 residents of East
Jerusalem) and that of the Gaza Strip is officially around 560,000.' Roughly
three-quarters of this population live outside the towns of the two areas, either
in villages or, especially in the Gaza Strip, in refugee camps. Over 70 per cent
of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are refugees, and over half of them live in
these camps.2 To describe this refugee camp population as rural is misleading,
for most camp refugees live in what, in reality, are townships - highly and
densely populated areas like towns, but lacking in the other attributes of civic
life, such as infrastructure, civic services, and employment opportunities.
They are places where people exist rather than live. In the West Bank there are
four camps in this category, holding populations of over 8,000 persons (Askar,
Balata, Tulkarim, and Jenin). In Gaza the township phenomenon is far more
acute. All eight Gaza camps contain more than 10,000 persons each. Two of
them, Jabaliya and Rafah, are now townships of over 50,000 each. However,
these townships are not alone in the absence of infrastructure. In which towns
can one find public lending libraries, or the other community facilities which
enrich community life? It is hardly surprising that the mosque is the focal
point of much community action. The fact is that the Occupied Territories
lack civic amenities, employment opportunities, adequate housing, or the ser-
vices normally expected of central and local government. Even at the crudest
level of law and order, services are so impoverished that most Palestinians
(though admittedly not Israeli Jews) felt safer once Palestinian policemen
resigned recently and were no longer on the streets, because as policemen, they
were accessories to the Israeli military system of control of the Palestinian
But what I particularly want to look at briefly in this paper is the state of
things today in the context of its demographic implications for the future.
Today's population has increased by roughly 40 per cent since 1967. Accord-
ing to Israeli government estimates, the populations of the two areas by 2002

© Oxford University Press 1989

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