About Places - All That Remains

Refugee figures represent Palestinians displaced from their homes in the course of the 1948 war. The great majority of these came from areas incorporated into Israel; most fled or were expelled from the newly-created state, although a small number of those expelled from their homes remained as "internal refugees." More important, some 156,000 of the original inhabitants of the territory that became Israel remained in their towns and villages [Bachi (1976): 262, 462-63]. One might also note that some 13,000 (mainly civilian) Palestinians were killed by Zionist/lsraeli forces during the 1948 war [see al-'Arif (1959) V:1047-53].


Rural Refugees

Figures for the rural population of Palestine before the exodus were obtained from the Mandate Government's A Survey of Palestine, Supplement (pp. 12-13) which gave aggregate village statistics by district by religion as of 31 December 1946. In order to update the rural population figures to mid-1948 (even though the displacement actually began before this date), we followed Abu Lughod [1971:155] in applying three different growth rates (3.8 percent, 2.42 percent, and 3.0 percent) determined in the late Mandate respectively for Muslims, Christians, and "Other" — mainly Druze.

To obtain the number of rural Palestinians displaced from their homes during the 1948 war, we first added the population figures for the 418 depopulated villages documented in our text. These figures, taken from Hadawi's Village Statistics 1945, reflect the village populations as of 31 December 1944. Since these statistics were not differentiated by religion, we applied the 3.8-percent growth rate across the board in updating them to mid-1948, not only because the overwhelming majority of the non-Jewish rural population was Muslim [94.61%, Survey of Palestine, Supplement, p. 12], but because a proportionally far greater percentage of Christians and Druze remained in their villages and did not become refugees. The sum of the updated figures of the 418 depopulated villages was 383,150.

But above and beyond the populations of the destroyed villages, thousands of inhabitants of neighboring villages that were relatively spared also fled in the generalized atmosphere of fear and chaos surrounding the military operations. We have assumed this figure at anywhere from 5 to 10 percent, and for the purposes of our calculations have used the midway figure 7.5 percent. In estimating the number of refugees from surviving villages, we limited ourselves to the nine districts that were wholly incorporated into Israel and where the military and psychological pressures were most intense — Acre, Baysan, Beersheba, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth, al-Ramla, Safad, and Tiberias, whose combined pre-exodus rural population (updated to mid-1948 using the three different growth rates, as described above) was 345,027. Taking 7.5 percent of the difference between this figure and the populations of the depopulated villages for all these nine districts (251,768), we obtained a total of 6,994 (7.5 percent of 93,259). Adding this figure to the combined population of the depopulated villages, we got a rural refugee total of 390,144.

In calculating the above figure, we did not take into consideration the small number of villagers who remained in the State of Israel as "internal refugees" (e.g., inhabitants of Iqrit in Acre, and Kafr Birim and Qadditha in Safad). Even so, the rural refugee total is most probably an undercount. For instance, we did not make allowance for the villagers who fled in the general chaos from spared villages in the districts only partially incorporated into Israel (Gaza, Hebron, Jerusalem, Jinin, Tulkarm). Likewise, the total did not take into account any rural displacement in Nablus or Ramallah districts which remained entirely outside Israel, but where there was as well a certain amount of depopulation.


Urban Refugees

The pre-exodus Arab populations of the district centers and towns incorporated into Israel and which were totally or substantially depopulated — Acre, Baysan, Beersheba, Haifa, Jaffa, al-Ramla, Safad, Tiberias, Lydda, and Majdal — were taken from A Survey of Palestine, Supplement (pp. 12-13) as of 31 December 1946. Again applying the different annual growth rates to Muslims, Christians, and "Others," these figures were updated to mid-1948 and combined to obtain 241,016. Although the towns of Nazareth and Shafa Amr were incorporated into Israel, they have been excluded from our calculations because their populations are assumed to have remained in situ.

As a result of the fighting, the towns of Safad, Tiberias, Baysan, and Beersheba were entirely emptied of their Arab inhabitants. While the last Arabs were not expelled from Majdal until 1950, we likewise considered this town to be without Arabs. Residual Arab communities remained in what had been the wholly Arab towns of Lydda and Ramla, and in the previously mixed towns of Acre, Haifa, and Jaffa. These remaining populations were estimated by Ian Lustick (1980: 49) at 2,000 for Lydda and Ramla combined, 3,500 for Acre, 2,900 for Haifa, and 3,600 for Jaffa, to reach a total of 12,000. The urban refugee total was obtained by subtracting this figure from the combined total of the ten towns listed above, to reach 230,218, to which we added an estimated 25,000 Palestinians forced out of their homes in West Jerusalem. The total urban refugee population was therefore estimated at 254,016.

Once again, this figure is probably an undercount. It can safely be assumed that there was a not insignificant depopulation from the towns which ultimately remained outside the 1948-borders of the Israeli state. Jinin, for example, had come under direct attack by Israeli forces, Tulkarm was very near the frontline, Qalqilya was attacked and temporarily evacuated in May 1948, East Jerusalem formed part of the battle zone between Arab and Jewish forces, and Gaza was severely disrupted by the overwhelming influx of some 200,000 refugees from other parts of Palestine. It can likewise be assumed that there was a certain amount of displacement from the towns of Nazareth and Shafr Amr. Nonetheless, our figures do not take any of these displacements into account, nor do they consider any departures from those towns and district centers less directly touched by the war — Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Bayt Jala, and Khan Yunis.


Bedouin Refugees

Figures for Bedouin are not included in the above totals, though directions of Bedouin departure from Beersheba District are indicated on the map. There are significant problems trying to calculate the number of Bedouin refugees created in 1948. However, based on the following calculations, a reasonable estimate would stand in the region of 70-100,000.

The pre-'48 Bedouin population of Palestine was concentrated in three areas: the southern region of the Negev (Beersheba District); central Palestine, especially the coastal plain; and the Galilee region in the north. However, sources on Bedouin in pre-'48 Palestine do not always include all these groupings in their accounts.

Arif al-'Arif [(1959) V:1056-65] lists by name the tribes resident in areas from which Bedouin were expelled in 1948. He mentions 24 sub-tribes ('asha'ir) in Galilee and northern Palestine (Haifa, Acre, Nazareth, Safad) and 77 sub-tribes in Beersheba District, but ignores the Bedouin of central Palestine.

Various population estimates are available for the main Bedouin groupings. The 11 November 1947 report of the UNSCOP subcommittee [cited in Khalidi 1971:698-99] estimates the total Palestinian Bedouin population in 1946 at 127,300: 92,000 in Beersheba plus 1,000 in Gaza District, and more than 34,500 in the central portion of the country (Nablus, Hebron, Jerusalem, al-Ramla, Jaffa, and Tulkarm districts). In this source the Bedouin of the Galilee region are not ennumerated. Ghazi Falah [1985:37] gives a total of 95,566 Bedouin in the Negev in 1947, plus 17,000 in Galilee in 1945 (excluding Baysan District), but fails to mention the Bedouin of central Palestine. Emanuel Marx [1967:11] calculates a pre-'48 total of 65,750 in the Negev. H. V. Muhsam [1966:24] estimates the probable population of Negev Bedouin in 1946 as 65-90,000 (probably at the lower end of that scale).

n the basis of these figures the Palestinian Bedouin population of Palestine prior to 1948 can be estimated at around 116-141,000, of whom 65-90,000 were in Beersheba and Gaza districts, about 34,000 in central Palestine, and 17,000 in Galilee.

Concerning the number of Bedouin whose tribal lands fell inside the State of Israel, the lands of the Beersheba and Galilee Bedouin were wholly incorporated into Israel in 1948. With regard to the rest of the Bedouin population, located primarily in central Palestine, only the area inhabited by the 7,000 + Bedouin of al-Ramla District [UNSCOP subcommittee cited in Khalidi 1971: 698-99] can definitely be assumed to have become part of Israel. It is unclear how much of the areas inhabited by the Bedouin of Gaza, Hebron, Jerusalem, and Tulkarm districts was also incorporated into the Jewish state, given that parts of these districts remained in Palestinian hands. Since many of the central Palestinian Bedouin lived on the coastal plain, the proportion of their lands falling within Israeli borders is probably sizeable. Even assuming, however, that none of the Bedouin lands of Gaza, Hebron, Jerusalem, or Tulkarm districts were incorporated into Israel, a total Bedouin population of around 89-114,000 can be estimated to have lived in the area incorporated into Israel in 1948; 65-90,000 were in Beersheba District, 7,000 in al-Ramla District, and 17,000 in Galilee.

Estimates of the number of Bedouin left within Israel after 1948 generally range from 16,000 [Falah 1985:37] to 18,000 [Peretz 1958:95]. Falah's figures include 11,000 Bedouin left in Beersheba and 5,000 in the Galilee. According to Encylopedia Judaica [Vol. 12:930], 15,000 Bedouin remained in the Negev after 1948. 'Arif al-'Arif's survey of tribes expelled indicates that almost all of the Bedouin of northern Palestine were driven out, while the majority of the Beersheba Bedouin fled to Transjordan or the Palestinian areas of the West Bank.

If the Bedouin population remaining in post-'48 Israel is subtracted from the number resident in the area prior to 1948, the figure for Bedouin refugees driven from the newly established state of Israel can be estimated. Based on a high estimate of 20,000 Bedouin remaining in Israel after 1948 (15,000 in Beersheba and 5,000 in Galilee) and the lowest figure given above for the total pre-'48 Bedouin population (89,000), the lowest figure for Bedouin refugees would stand at around 69,000 (50,000 from Beersheba District, 7,000 from al-Ramla District and 12,000 from Galilee). Based on the lowest figure of 16,000 for remaining Bedouin, and the highest estimate of 114,000 for the pre-'48 Bedouin population, a figure of 98,000 Bedouin refugees is achieved (79,000 from Beersheba District, 7,000 from al-Ramla District and 12,000 from Galilee).

An alternative account is given by Emanuel Marx [1967:12] who suggests that relatively few Negev Bedouin (under 10,000) actually left the state of Israel in 1948, while the rest took refuge in hilly parts of the Negev. According to Marx, some tribes later filtered back into their old areas. However, many thousands of others were expelled from the country or moved to other areas during the next few years, leaving a population of just 11,000 in the Negev by 1953.


Total Refugee Figures

Based on the above calculations, the total refugee figure for 1948 is conservatively estimated at 714,150 to 744,150, the range deriving from the various estimates of the Bedouin exodus (see above). These figures are lower than those of certain other sources, notably Janet Abu Lughod [1971:155-61] who puts the number of Palestinians displaced at around 770-780,000. Her higher figures can be explained principally by the fact that she uses a set of British government figures, General Monthly Bulletin XII (December 1947), which gives a higher pre-exodus Palestinian propulation than that provided by the sources used above. In addition, Abu Lughod projects these figures to the end of 1948, as opposed to mid-1948; had our figures been brought to year end 1948, our range would have been 727,700 to 758,300.