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pic2Jerusalem – the Western Wall


The following table of population statistics in Palestine between 1800 and 2012 is given to provide some idea of how population has increased. Figures prior to 1880 are estimates arrived at by demographers in various ways. The situation improves from the late nineteenth century because Ottoman census figures are available, but these are still unreliable because people avoided providing data to a census for a variety of reasons. The first really reliable census is generally agreed to be the British census of 1931 under its mandate for Palestine. (Figures are given to the nearest 1000.)

Year     Jews    Arabs
1800     7,000    268,000
1880   24,000    470,000
1914   60,000    738,000)*
    85,000    604,000)
1922   84,000    670,000  1st British Census
1931 175,000    880,000  2nd British Census
1936 370,000 1,003,000
1940 467,000 1,113,000
1948 650,000 1,319,000

The term Arabs includes Muslims, Christians and minority groups like the Druze

*The two sets of figures for 1914 reveal the problem with earlier population data. These figures were arrived at by two demographers, the lower figure for the Jews being given by Justin McCarthy an expert on Ottoman demography, while the higher figure was arrived at by Arthur Ruppin, who was in charge of the Zionist office at Jaffa. To add to the confusion McCarthy’s figure for the Arab population ranges from 683,000 to 738,000 depending on who is quoting it!

Population figures have been important in the debate between protagonists on the two sides. However, I am arguing that what really matters is that there was room for both Jews and Arabs in Palestine and that the more reliable figures from 1931 prove this.

After the War of Independence (1948/49):

Israel (within the Green Line) West Bank and Gaza


Year Jews    Arabs
1949 1,013,000    159,000
1967 2,383,000    393,000
1983 3,412,000    706,000
1995 4,522,000 1,005,000
2006 5,138,000 1,440,000
           2012 (April) 5,931,000 1,623,000
   Arabs    Jewish Settlers
1,045,000 (1970)  
1,576,000 (1985)  
4,173,000 (2010) 350,000 (West Bank)**

** Figures for July 2012. This figure does not include the approximately 300,000 Jews who have settled in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights have now been annexed by Israel, though this is not recognised by the international community.  








(This includes 1,984,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants of whom 341,000 still live in camps.)

Although much more accurate from 1931, population statistics for the region need to come with a note of caution! It is well nigh impossible to obtain a clear and comprehensive set of figures from any one source. Sources quote different dates, so that no one presentation gives complete figures. I have used the following sources to give an as accurate a picture as possible. The Wikipedia websites quote recognised surveys and data sources.

Wikipedia, History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Section: Demographic History
Demographics of Palestine
Demographics of Israel
Demographics of the Palestinian Territories
Palestinian Refugees. Section: Refugee Statistics
1922 Census of Palestine
1931 Census of Palestine Israel Central Bureau of Statistics:
Index Mundi: Index Mundi: www.indexmundi.com/jordan/population
Stewart Mills: Historic Population of Israel/Palestine