From 1947 to 1949, over 726,000 Palestinian Christians and Muslims (amounting to 82% of the Arab population of what became Israel) became refugees when they were expelled or fled from the fighting prior to and following the declaration of the State of Israel. Like all refugees, they left their homes out of fear for their safety due to the military conflict. Many fled due to direct military assaults on their towns and villages; others were forcibly expelled by Jewish militias; and others left out of fear of assault.
During the 1967 war, over 200,000 additional Palestinians fled their homes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Subsequent to the war, Palestinians have continued to be displaced from the oPt. Neither the 1948 refugees nor the 1967 displaced persons have been allowed by Israel to return to their homes in what are now Israel and the oPt. The Palestinians who were expelled or fled violence around 1948 were effectively denationalised by the Israeli parliament in 1952. Their property was seized and ultimately transferred to the State of Israel for the nearly exclusive benefit of the Jewish people. Now, around 70% of all Palestinians worldwide are refugees.
These refugees constitute the world’s largest refugee population; one out of three refugees around the world is Palestinian. Around half of all Palestinian refugees and displaced persons are stateless. For decades, Israel has denied these refugees their basic right to choose to return to their homeland. Palestinian refugees suffer from a lack of basic human rights, inadequate international protection and assistance, and the ongoing conflict with Israel. Hundreds have been displaced more than once, especially in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and most recently in Iraq and Syria.
Of the 7 million Palestinian refugees, most live within 100 km (approximately 62 miles) of Israel’s border. Approximately 1.3 million Palestinian refugees live in nearly 60 United Nations (UN) administered refugee camps in the oPt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon (“the host countries”). The largest Palestinian refugee camp population resides in the Gaza Strip. Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees living in camps out of the total refugee population in a host country.
The Israeli Law of Return allows any Jew living anywhere in the world to live in Israel and the oPt, irrespective of direct lineage in the country, while Palestinians with keys to their home are denied from even visiting their families and lands.