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The Palestinians ( Arabic فلسطينيون, DMG Filasṭīnīyūn , from Modern Greek Παλαιστίνη Palaistínē , Arabic فلسطين, DMG Falasṭīn [falasˈtˁiːn] or Filasṭīn [filasˈtˁiːn] ) are an Arab people .

As Palestinians, all residents in the entire League of Nations Mandate were originally considered to be Palestine . Today this term is mainly used for the Arabic- speaking residents in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as for relatives living in other countries. For Palestinian Arabs in Jordan and Jewish residents of Israel , this term is no longer in use, even if it is “ Saber ” (Jews born in Palestine) from the mandate period . Arabs with Israeli civil rights are often referred to as Israeli Palestinians or Arab Israelis . Officially, the second term is preferred in Israel and Palestinians are used primarily for the citizens of the autonomous areas. Druze, as well as parts of the Bedouins from the Palestine region , who today mostly live in Israel, do not count themselves among the Palestinians or are not counted among the Israeli state. To date, defined UNRWA much of the Palestinian people as refugees , because the status of "Palestine refugee" ( "palestine refugee" ) is inherited paternal line, now about 3.7 million of the more than 9.0 million Palestinians worldwide.

Most of the Arab Palestinians in the Palestinian Territories are Muslim ( Shafiite ). After above-average emigration and expulsions since the middle of the 20th century, the minority of Christians has shrunk from around 15% to 1.5%. Within the borders of Israel (including parts of Jerusalem which Israel has occupied since 1967), the proportion of Christians in the Arab population (including Druze) was 8% in 2008, compared with 21% in 1950. Palestinian Christians are predominantly members of the Orthodox Church ( Patriarchate of Jerusalem ).

Concept history

The term "Palestine" comes from the Roman province of Palestine ( Hebrew פלשת, Pleshet down) and was used by the British as a term for their mandated territory seized after the end of World War II. The first attempts at national independence for the region, which was then under Ottoman rule, began on the Jewish side at the end of the 19th century and on the Arab side at the beginning of the 20th century. In the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement of 1919, these efforts were formulated by mutual agreement.

The term "Palestinians" in its present meaning only existed since the Charter of the PLO in 1964. In UN resolutions was of "Palestine refugees" is mentioned, which also included Jews. But the relevant provisions of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA) influenced the subsequent redefinition of the term “Palestinians”. "Palestinians" did not appear in official documents of the Federal Republic of Germany at that time.

First approaches to state formation in the mandate area

The Mandate Territory of Palestine in the borders from 1920 to 1923 (including Cis and Transjordans )

On March 25, 1923, Transjordan (78% of the entire mandate area) became semi-autonomous and therefore inaccessible to Jewish settlements. On March 22, 1946, Transjordan gained independence from Great Britain and in 1950 was named the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan . In the wake of the escalating Middle East conflict , several different partition proposals were made into an Arab and a Jewish state, which then resulted in the UN partition plan in 1947 . After the end of the British mandate in May 1948, was carried founding of Israel by residents and immigrant Jews , while the Arab side rejected the United Nations partition plan, claimed the entire area and the Palestine war began. Jordan subsequently annexed the West Bank and the eastern part of Jerusalem with the Old City; the Gaza Strip fell under Egyptian occupation. Since the Six Day War of 1967, the West Bank has been under Israeli control with limited Arab-Palestinian autonomy. Under the Sharon Plan , Gaza was evacuated by Israel in 2005 and is currently controlled by the Islamist Hamas ; today there is no longer a Jewish population in the Gaza Strip.

Relationship to Pan-Arabism

The pan-Arabism was at the beginning of the 20th century in response to the Ottoman imperialism and initially found among the Palestinian Arabs in the sense of connection of Palestine to its neighbors some encouragement, however, the decreased more and more in the course of the century. After the establishment of Israel, the Syrian-controlled as-Sa'iqa under Zuheir Mohsen tried to join the Palestinian territories to the Syrian state, which also failed. Today many Palestinians see themselves as belonging to a Palestinian nation. The flag of the Palestinian Authority, the Arab revolutionary flag of 1916, is often a sign of this identity.

In exile, in Jordan and in the Gulf States, according to Christopher Hitchens , the Palestinians initially played a positive role. With the exception of Jordan, they never had full civil rights, but they were well educated, secularly oriented and cared little about regulations on alcohol consumption, music, culture and restrictions on freedom of expression. According to Hitchen, it has become fashionable for some Arab reporters to describe the Palestinians in the diaspora positively as Jews of the Middle East . This ended abruptly with the expulsion of the Palestinians from Kuwait in 1991 .

Role of Yasser Arafat

The building contractor and politician Yasser Arafat (1929-2004) played a key role in creating broad Palestinian national consciousness .

Under his leadership, the United Nations declared the Palestinians a subject of international law. In addition, Arafat's PLO achieved the establishment of the Palestinian Authority , which today has observer status within the UN, but is not actually a state.

Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait sparked the displacement of the Palestinians from Kuwait in 1991 . Immediately after the Second Gulf War , the 450,000 or so Palestinians living in Kuwait were almost completely expelled , and other Palestinians in the Gulf States were also excluded and discriminated against. Loss of assets running into billions and the collapse of support for the PLO in the Gulf States were the result. The resulting loss of power of the PLO and its strongest political faction, Fatah , strengthened the Islamist Hamas, which emerged from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood . This movement is in conflict with the goals of Fatah, which continue to be the establishment of a secular state of Palestine that is independent of the neighboring Arab states. The 1988 Hamas charter denies Israel's right to exist and calls for “to raise the flag of Allah over every inch of Palestine ”; Israel is claimed as an "Islamic homeland" ( Waqf ).

The Oslo peace process , which was started in 1993 by Fatah leader Arafat and the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin , ended with Israel accepting the PLO as the official representative of the Palestinians and the PLO undertaking to remove all passages from its Palestinian National Charter name the destruction of Israel as a goal, to delete. Arafat was allowed to return to the Palestinian Territories with Fatah . As a result, Rabin and Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize .


It is difficult to determine reliable population figures for the Palestinians, since although the highest population density is now found in the Palestinian territories, the majority of the Palestinians live as emigrants elsewhere. The following estimates come from the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) from 2001 and describe the situation after the Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait in 1991 .

Country / Region population
West Bank and Gaza Strip 3,700,000
Israel 1,213,000
Jordan 2,598,000
Lebanon 388,000
Syria 395,000
Saudi Arabia 287,000
Gulf States 152,000
Egypt 58,000
Other arab states 113,000
United States of America 216,000
Other countries 275,000
total 9,395,000
  1. The 200,000 Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem are in the above. Population census may be duplicated as it is also counted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip region .

According to UNRWA , 3.7 million Palestinians are recognized as refugees. These are people who have been displaced or fled from their traditional areas, as well as their descendants.

However, the Jordanian authorities do not publish any official statistics on how many residents are of Palestinian descent. Estimates are between 50% and 80%.

On October 20, 2004, the Palestinian Statistical Office announced the official worldwide number of Palestinians as 9.6 million; in 2001 it was 8.8 million according to statistics.

According to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, there were more than 13 million Palestinians worldwide in 2018. The majority of 5.85 million live in Arab states. In the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the authority puts a figure of 4.91 million people, in Israel over 1.5 million Palestinians.

Palestinian national symbols

Handala on a wall in Bil'in
  • The black and white keffiyeh , the Palestinian kerchief made famous by Yasser Arafat.
  • The olive tree is the main source of income in agriculture.
  • The flag that was banned by Israel for a long time.
  • The key is the symbol for the Arab refugees who still have the keys of the houses from which they once fled in the war .
  • Handala , a character by cartoonist Naji al-Ali who portrays the little Palestinian boy.

Palestinian personalities


Stage and film


Visual arts







Various activists





Other personalities

See also

Solidarity with the Palestinian people: GDR postage stamp from 1982


  • Édouard Atiyah, Henry Cattan: Palestine. Promises and disappointments. Rastatt 1970.
  • Johannes Gerloff: The Palestinians. People in the focus of history. Scm Hänssler 2012, ISBN 978-3-7751-5337-9 .
  • Gerrit Hoekmann: Between olive branch and Kalashnikov. History and Politics of the Palestinian Left. ISBN 3-928300-88-1 .
  • Dar al Janub (Ed.): ... and where is Palestine? A trip to the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Vienna 2006. ISBN 3-9502184-0-8 .
  • Walid Khalidi: The Palestine Problem. Causes and Development 1897–1948. Rastatt 1970.
  • Irit Neidhardt (Ed.): Live with the conflict !? Reports and analyzes from leftists in Israel and Palestine. ISBN 3-89771-010-2 .
  • Fabio Maniscalco: Protection, conservation and valorization of Palestinian Cultural Patrimony. Monographic collection Mediterraneum, n.5. Massa Publisher 2005.
  • Marlène Schnieper: Nakba - the open wound. The displacement of the Palestinians in 1948 and the consequences. Rotpunktverlag, Zurich 2012 ISBN 978-3-85869-444-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Palestinians  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Palestinians  album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. On the importance of Christians in Israel. (PDF), elaboration of the Scientific Services of the German Bundestag from 2009, accessed on October 11, 2018
  2. ^ Palestinian territories on the website of the German Society for International Cooperation
  3. ^ The Arab Population in Israel. (PDF) Website of the Israel Statistics Agency, accessed on October 11, 2018 (English)
  4. STATEMENT OF PROCLAMATION OF THE ORGANIZATION ( Memento from May 20, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Ulrich W. Sahm after E. Hausen: Journalist Sahm: “Israelis have no problem with us” ( Memento from January 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive ),, news from January 16, 2009.
  6. a b Palestine. Encyclopædia Britannica, accessed January 29, 2011 .
  7. a b c Arafat’s Squalid End How he wasted his last 30 years . Slate , Christopher Hitchens , November 17, 2004
  8. ^ Arafat biography. Retrieved November 9, 2019 .
  9. Yasser Arafat biography. Retrieved November 9, 2019 .
  10. Yasser Arafat biography. Retrieved November 9, 2019 .
  11. ^ A b Angry welcome for Palestinian in Kuwait. on, May 30, 2001.
  12. Palestinians - Stepped in the Sand. In: Der Spiegel . June 8, 1992, Retrieved June 22, 2019 .
  14. a b English translation of the Hamas Founding Charter , The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
  15. Hamas Charter (1988) ( memento of November 11, 2010 in the Internet Archive ), without comment, documented by
  16. Fatah has never recognized Israel and will never do so In: Jerusalem Post. January 6, 2011.
  17. From the Israeli Foreign Ministry's online archive
  18. ( Memento from August 10, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  19. More than 13 million Palestinians worldwide. In: Israelnetz .de. January 2, 2019, accessed January 18, 2019 .