Palestinian refugees

Palestinians who were expelled from their country

Palestinian refugees are citizens of Mandatory Palestine, and their descendants, who fled or were expelled from their country over the course of the 1947–1949 Palestine war (1948 Palestinian expulsion and flight) and the Six-Day War (1967 Palestinian exodus). Most Palestinian refugees live in or near 68 Palestinian refugee camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In 2019 more than 5.6 million Palestinian refugees were registered with the United Nations.


  • Palestine continued to live in the collective consciousness of millions of Arabs, and Palestinian refugees now lived among them, in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, mostly in tented settlements and shantytowns. The Palestinians had had enough of these large Arab armies that kept losing precious land. The time had come to intensify guerrilla warfare. The man who had risen to lead them was Yasser Arafat, a Palestinian from Gaza, who had become chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1969. Armed Palestinian factions that had battled the Israelis alone and alongside the Arabs began to consolidate their grip on the refugee population in Jordan and Lebanon, filling their ranks with more fighters and launching attacks into Israel. The king of Jordan would have none of it—his army crushed the PLO ruthlessly in 1970. More Palestinian fighters, and more refugees, headed to Lebanon.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • One microcosm of this can be seen in the Gaza Strip, where over 70 percent of the population are refugees living in one of the most densely packed areas in the world. The first two cases of COVID-19 were identified in Gaza on March 20 (a lack of testing equipment, however, has meant that only 92 people out of the 2-million-strong population have been tested for the virus). Reeling from thirteen years of Israeli siege and the systematic destruction of essential infrastructure, living conditions in the Strip are marked by extreme poverty, poor sanitation, and a chronic lack of drugs and medical equipment (there are, for example, only sixty-two ventilators in Gaza, and just fifteen of these are currently available for use). Under blockade and closure for most of the past decade, Gaza has been shut to the world long before the current pandemic. The region could be the proverbial canary in the COVID-19 coalmine — foreshadowing the future path of the infection among refugee communities across the Middle East and elsewhere.
  • Amid all the din about normalization, I have noticed one startling absence, namely, the current status of the Palestinian refugees living in every major Arab country, whose condition everywhere—there are no exceptions—is unacceptably miserable. Wherever there are Palestinians in the Arab world, there are rules and regulations forbidding them full status as residents, forbidding them work and travel, requiring them to register with the police on a monthly basis, and so on. It’s not only Israel that treats Palestinians badly, it is the Arab countries who do so also. Now see if there is a sustained campaign by Arab intellectuals against this invidious local treatment of the Palestinian refugees: you won’t see or hear one. What excuse is there for the horrible refugee camps in which so many of them live, even in places like Gaza and the West Bank; what right do local mokhabarat forces have to harass them and generally make their lives miserable? And why is there no protracted press campaign to end this appalling state of affairs? Why, because it is much easier (and less risky) to rail against normalization and Hebrew translations than it is to dramatize the unacceptable condition of Palestinian refugees in the Arab world, who are always being told that they cannot be “normalized” because it would implement Israel’s design. What rubbish!
    • Edward Said, "Defiance, Dignity, and the Rule of Dogma" (2001)
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