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The neutrality of this article is disputed.

Different people use the word Palestinians to mean different things. Prior to WWI, the word was seldom used, though British writers sometimes inaccurately referred to the inhabitants of Palestine as Philistines. During the time of the British Mandate, there was a formal notion of Palestinian citizenship and all inhabitants were called "Palestinians", though the Jews were more willing than the Arabs to adopt this name. Today, however, the overwhelming majority of uses of "Palestinian" are in reference to the Arabs with ties to the region even though other uses are still occasionally encountered in the context of political argument. This article is primarily about the dominant modern meaning.

The Palestinians are a group of Arabs who regard themselves as a distinct branch of the Arab peoples, with family origin in the region called Palestine being the primary defining characteristic. As such, the designation is seen as an ethnic one independent of nationality and religion. The great majority of Palestinians are the descendants of Arabs resident in Palestine during the period before the creation of Israel. They include most of the Arab minority in Israel.

In the absence of actual censuses, counting large populations is very difficult. However, the world-wide distribution of Palestinians in 2001, according to estimates collated by the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, were as follows.

Country or Region Population
West Bank and Gaza Strip 3,299,000
Saudi Arabia287,000
Gulf states152,000
Gulf states152,000
Other Arab states113,000
The Americas216,000
Other countries275,000

Table of contents
1 The origins of Palestinian identity
2 Palestinian refugees
3 Creation of the Palestinian nationality
4 See also

The origins of Palestinian identity

The Palestinians are an exceptional grouping in that the history of their self-identification lies mostly in the past century. Moreover, it is intimately connected with the growth of Zionism.

-- lots more to come

Palestinian refugees

(Arab) Palestinians are often stateless because all Arab states except Jordan refuse to give them citizenship rights. On the other hand many of them also do not want to get Israeli citizenship because they consider Israel as unjust state and as enemy. Because of this situation there are today around 4 million Palestinian refugees (according to U.N. estimates, other groups place this number as lower), one part still living in refugee camps or settlements in West Bank and Gaza, or as stateless Arabs in neighbouring countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, or Kuwait (which even expelled around 500,000 Palestinians in 1991). The rest spread all over the world, living a life of diaspora. Most feel a strong sense of identity with their Palestinian nationality.

The status of Palestinian refugee is unique in the fact that, unlike the traditional term refugee which is applied only to those who have left a country by force or due to persecution, the term is defined by the U.N. as "persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948" and left the area for any reason connected to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, including voluntarily and regardless of their place of residence before June 1946. This differs from the traditional definition of refugee which, according to the 1951 Geneva Convention (Article 1A(2)) is applied to a person who : ?owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his[/her] nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself[/herself] of the protection of his country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his[/her] former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.? Also out of the ordinary involving Palestinian refugees is that the term applies to any offspring of the original refugees, who unlike normal refugees live in camps indefinitely without any attempt by surrounding governments to, as Article IV, Section D of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of Refugees states "to receive refugees in their territories and that they act in concert in a true spirit of international cooperation in order that these refugees may find asylum and the possibility of resettlement." This has created a large-scale humanitarian catastropher within these refugee camps, as the population continues to grow and conditions do not improve.

At one point European writers used the term "Palestinian" when referring to Jews. In the period shortly after the State of Israel came into existence, Arabs generally denied the existence of Palestinians who were distinct from other Arabs of the region. After his annexation of the West Bank, King Abdullah I of Jordan forbade the use of the term Palestine in Jordanian official documents. In Jordan today, there are still no official census data about how many of the inhabitants of Jordan are Palestinians (estimates come to values from 50% to 80%). Some political researchers attribute this to the Jordanian policy of not further widening the gap between the two main population groups in Jordan: its original Bedouin population that holds most of the administrative posts and the Palestinians who are predominant in the economy.

Creation of the Palestinian nationality

Until recently, no Arab nation or group recognized or claimed the existence of an independent Palestinian nationality or ethnicity. Arabs who happened to live in Palestine denied that they had a unique Palestinian identity. The First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations (in Jerusalem, February 1919) met for the purpose of selecting Palestinian Arab representative for the Paris Peace Conference. They adopted the following resolution: "We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds." (Yehoshua Porath, Palestinian Arab National Movement: From Riots to Rebellion: 1929-1939, vol. 2, London: Frank Cass and Co., Ltd., 1977, pp. 81-82.)

According to testimony in British Peel Commission, local Arabs in the 1930s still did not have any sense of Palestinian identity; rather, they saw themselves as Syrians. "There is no such country {as Palestine}! 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria." (comments by Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi to the Peel Commission, Jerusalem Post, November 2, 1991) Over time, however, the creation of a distinct Palestinian nationality was created because of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. The idea of an independent nationality for Palestinian Arabs crystallized after the 1967 Six Day War.

Because of this late creation of an Arab Palestinian identity, many Israelis did not accept the existence of an independent Palestinian people. See Golda Meir's statement: "There are no Palestinians," (see History of Palestine). Today the existence of a unique Palestinian nationality/identity is generally recognized ([1], [1]).

JSource, the Virtual Library defines Palestinians as: "Although anyone with roots in the land that is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza is technically a Palestinian, the term is now more commonly used to refer to Arabs with such roots...Most of the world's Palestinian population is concentrated in Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan, although many Palestinians live in Lebanon, Syria and other Arab countries." This definition is the one most widely used in American and European popular media and newspapers. JSource Virtual Library definition of Palestinian

Palestinians defined as residents in the region

What may seem the simplest or most objective definition of Palestinian is any person currently residing in Palestine, regardless of ethnicity or religion. This works well for geographers and historians, but fails for several political reasons. There have indeed been Jewish residents of Palestine, and some people were even issued passports listing their nationality as Palestinian. However, very few Jews in the region today consider themselves "Palestinians" and most people who use the word "Palestinian" do not intend to include Palestinian Jews. Less objection has been raised to other non-Arab residents of Palestine being called "Palestinians."

Palestinians defined as Arab residents of Cisjordan

Most articles discussing events in the Middle East use Palestinian exclusively for Arabs with some ties with the region formerly known as Cisjordan (=area westerly of Jordan river). Israeli Arabs are also sometimes considered "Palestinians"; their Israeli citizenship refers to political status and not to ethnic origin.

Palestinians and Palestinian Authority

The Arab summit meeting in Algiers in June 1988 stated that the PLO is the "only legitimate representation of the Palestinian people". However Israel and to a lesser extent the United States and parts of Europe preferred to deal with more moderate palestinian groups for a long period of time. Furthermore, numerous more radical terrorist organizations have been claiming to represent the palestinian populace and gaining support amongst them due to corruption amongst the Palestinian Authority.

See also