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Section: Population Figures and Profile
Sub-section: Global figures

About 150,000-300,000 internally displaced persons in 2005

  • According to various sources, between 46,000 and 48,000 Arabs became displaced within what became Israel in 1949
  • Over fifty years later, this group (including the children of the displaced) represents about 150,000 to 200,000 persons
  • Organizations defending the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel also include the Bedouins who were ordered in 1949 to move into a close area under military rule in the Negev and now for the most part live in "unrecognized villages", and estimate the number of displaced at 250,000-300,000
As there have been no recent estimates of the total number of IDPs in Israel, the Global IDP Project relies on various estimates from 2002.
46,000-48,000 IDPs in 1949
"According to the Hebrew University's Hillel Cohen, the author of a study on displaced persons in Israel, refugees from 64 out of 162 villages abandoned in the north in 1948 remained in Israel." (Nir 8 January 2001, in Ha'aretz)

"The vast majority of the internal refugees were villagers who originated in about 370 villages destroyed during the 1948 war […]" (Al-Haj September 1986, p.657)

"Of the estimated 150,000 Palestinians who remained within Israel proper when the last armistice agreement was signed in 1949, some 46,000 were internally displaced, as per UNRWA's 1950 registry record." (The National Committee for the Rights of the Internally Displaced in Israel February 2000)

"Most figures given for the number of Arab refugees in the Middle East at the end of the war are estimates, which put the number of refugees between the general range of 600,000 to 760,000. In contrast, the number of the Arab citizens living on the results of the first Israeli census, held on 8 November 1948. This census had a clear purpose: to determine to what extent the Arabs living in Israel, the refugees included, threatened Israel's national security. Thus, bearing in mind the method and the purpose it is logical to assume that much effort was invested in trying to reach an accurate calculation. […] It is clear that the number used by the Israeli Government for internal calculations, as well as for diplomatic approaches, did in fact stand at 48,000 [mid-1952]. […] [T]he number of Arabs living in Israel as of 31 December 1950 stood at 170,000, comprising less than 50,000 refugees [i.e. internally displaced persons]." (Bligh January 1998, p.124-125)

150,000 -200,000 IDPs in 2000

"The estimation of the internal, as well as the external refugees, is controversial. After the Arab-Israel war in 1948, the estimation of the internal refugees ranged between 31,000-50,000 […]. At present, roughly one out of four Arabs in Israel is an internal refugee or originated from a refugee family […]. This would include a population sized of about 150,000. The vast majority of the internal refugees are Moslems (about 90 percent) and a tiny minority are Christians (about 10 percent). No Druze are represented among the internal refugee. Since no Druze village was destroyed as a result of the 1948 war and no Druze left their settlements permanently." (Al-Haj September 1986, p.654)

"The displaced Israeli citizens number 150,000-200,000 are a mere fraction of the world's Palestinian refugees. But with regard to the Israeli Arab population of about 1.08 million [that includes Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouin], they are a significant sector. In some Galilee communities they are a majority. About half of Nazareth's Arab residents are internal refugees and their descendants and more than half of Umm al Fahm's residents belong to this group." (Nir 8 January 2001, in Ha'aretz)

According to Hillel Cohen, a researcher at Hebrew University (Jerusalem), who wrote his master thesis on the internally displaced in Israel, there are 150,000 internally displaced persons in Israel today, not including the Bedouin community (Cohen 20 July 2001, e-mail)

Organizations defending the rights of the internally displaced say that 250,000 to 260,000 are now displaced

"Today, the internally displaced and their descendents number about 250,000 persons." (The National Committee for the Rights of the Internally Displaced in Israel, February 2000)

While about 180,000 internally displaced Palestinians currently live in and around 80 villages and towns, the remaining 70,000 (mostly Bedouins from the northern Galilee region) live in unrecognized villages. (BADIL 23 April 2001, p.27)

"Estimates of the total IDP population inside Israel and in the 1967 occupied territories therefore vary according to source, available data, and applicable definition of internally displaced persons. There are approximately 260,000 1948 internally displaced Palestinians who comprise around one-quarter of the total Palestinian population inside Israel." (BADIL Nov 02, p6)

“There are no official estimates for the total number of internally displaced Palestinians inside Israel. UNRWA, which operated inside Israel between 1948 and 1952, and the Red Cross estimated that there were approximately 30-40,000 internally displaced Palestinians in 1948. Using this data, and the average natural growth rate of Palestinians inside Israel, the number of internally displaced Palestinians in Israel today is estimated to be around 263,000 persons. This estimate, however, does not include Bedouin displaced after 1948 in the Naqab, the urban internally displaced (e.g., from Haifa and Akko/Acre) who were permitted to return to their cities of origin but denied the right to repossess their homes and properties, Palestinians who were transferred after 1949 from outlying village settlements (khirba) to the village proper in the A’ra valley, and Palestinians who remained in their village but lost their lands. If all these categories of displaced persons are included, the total number of internally displaced Palestinians inside Israel today exceeds 300,000 person.” (BADIL 6 Nov 02, overview)

In the Negev Desert, "There are 45 such villages with 68,000 citizens, living in what is known as an 'unrecognized village.'" (Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev 2001)

"According to a Ministry of Interior survey [Government of Israel], it is estimated that there are over 100 illegal settlements, many consisting only of a small cluster of structures, spread over the Negev area alone, involving 108 tribes, over 9,000 housing units, and roughly 50,000 inhabitants, or slightly less than 1 per cent of the national population. Another 3,000 Bedouins live in illegal settlements in the Galilee region." (UN Human Rights Committee 9 April 1998, para.853)
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Information displayed on this page consists of excerpts of external reports and thus does not necessarily reflect the views of the IDMC. All excerpts are sourced. Links to online versions of the original documents are provided where available. The headline and bullet point summary at the top of the page are added by the IDMC. Other text added by the IDMC is in bold italics.