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The Facts


new internationalist
issue 199 - September 1989

Palestine / Israel - The FACTS

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Photo: Judah Passow


The population of Israel in 1988 was 4.6 million and that of the occupied territories was 1.5 million. Of this total of 6.1 million 38% were Arab and 62% Jewish. But the Palestinian Arab birth rate exceeds the Jewish one and, if the present rates continue, the total population will be 45% Arab and 55% Jewish by the year 2000.

Jews in Israel by continent of origin and / or place of birth in 19873

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[image, unknown] By 1998 the majority of the population in the military service age-range will be Arab.

[image, unknown] Israeli Jews of African, Asian and Arab descent now outnumber those of European origin because of higher levels of immigration and a higher birthrate.4

[image, unknown] Many Jews are now leaving: between 1983 and 1987, 57,000 more Jews left Israel than arrived.4


Israel's Government is a coalition between Likud, the Labour Party, Shas, Mafdal and Agudat Israel.

The 120-member Israeli Parliament is called the Knesset. The largest parties (with the number of Knesset members in brackets) are:

Likud (40) Leader: Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (above) Policy: Totally opposed to a Palestinian State but is debating the tactical desirability of negotiating with the PLO.

Labour (39) Leader: Shimon Peres. Policy: Against negotiations with the PLO and an independent Palestinian State. Ready to talk to representatives from the West Bank and Gaza and possibly to hand back some territories. In favour of holding elections in the territories - proposed by Labour Defence Minister Rabin.

Shas (6) Leaders: Rabbi Yitzhak Parax and Araire Perei. Policy: Ultra-orthodox religious group. Mainly Sephardic Jews (Jews from Mediterranean countries). Favours any initiative except transfer. Doesn't care who is in government so long as Jews can live wherever they want. Supports settlements.

Agudat Israel (5) Leader: Rabbi Moshe Zeevfelman. Policy: Similar to Shas except that the party is mainly comprised of Ashkenazi Jews (Jews from East, Central or Northern Europe).

Mafdal (5) Leader: Professor Avnar Shaki. Policy: Right-wing Zionist group that has recently become religious. Against any territorial compromise. Supports settlements and hard-first policy but doesn't call for transfer.

Ratz (5) Leader: Shulamit Aloni. Policy: Zionist movement which favours self-determination for Palestinians providing Israel's defence remains secure. Holds meetings with PLO outside Israel.


Most of the population of Israel (not including the occupied territories) is Jewish by religion.

The rest are Christians, Moslems, Druze (a breakaway Islamic group) or have other religions. Most non-Jews are Arabs.5

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The 1980s have seen a surge in US financial support to Israel.

Since 1987 Israel has received $3.6 billion a year in direct grants from the US, of which $1.8 billion was military assistance and $1.2 billion was economic aid.17

[image, unknown] The US has given more than $46 billion to Israel in official aid since 1948.18

[image, unknown] In 1986 Israel received more than 25% of the entire US foreign aid budget, while 45 African countries had to share one-fifteenth of the aid package.18

[image, unknown] Israel also receives grants, loans and donations from diaspora Jews (those who live outside Israel). In the US, donations to the united Jewish Israel's infrastructure, are considered charity donations and as such are tax-free.


Three quarters of a million Palestinians fled from the Jews or were driven from their homes between 1947 and 1949.

They were scattered all over the Middle East and many remain in refugee camps where their numbers have increased.6

In camps

Not in camps






West Bank





















The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been occupied by the Israelis since 1967.

Defence Minister Yjtzhak Rabin told the Knesset early in 1985: There will be no development in the territories initiated by the Israeli Government and no permits given for expanding agriculture or industry (there) which may compete with the State of Israel.7

[image, unknown] Around 70% of people living in the occupied territories are under 30 years of age. About half are under 15.8

[image, unknown] There are currently 60,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip compared to one-and-a-half million Palestinians.9 Israel's settlement policy violates International Law. contravening article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: 'The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territories it occupies'.10

[image, unknown] Israel takes one-third of its water from the West Bank: 1.9 billion cubic metres annually. Palestinians in the West Bank have been prohibited from drilling wells without permission while over 17 new wells have been sunk to supply Israeli settlers.11

[image, unknown] At least 1,156 Palestinians were deported from the territories between 1967 and 1978.12


About 18% of the population of Israel (excluding the occupied territories) are Palestinian Arabs.13 They are Israeli citizens and can vote, but religion is recorded on ID cards and non-Jews are discriminated against in many ways.

[image, unknown] All Jews regardless of where they come from can become Israeli citizens - this is guaranteed by the Law of Return. Those of other religions do not share this right, so Arabs forced to flee in 1948 cannot return as Israeli citizens.14

[image, unknown] Israeli Arabs are excluded by law from owning land designated for the use of Jews only - this amounts to 92.6% of the territory.15

[image, unknown] Israeli Arab-controlled local authorities have 12% of the population but receive just 2.3% of the total municipal budget. People in Arab areas get $60 per capita annually from their municipal councils compared to $240 per capita in Jewish areas.15

[image, unknown] In 1983 Israeli Arabs made up over 50% of Israel's poor.16

[image, unknown] Around 62% of Israeli Arab workers are in manual labour compared with 19% of Jewish workers. Israel's overall unemployment rate is 8.3% but is 20% for Arabs.15

[image, unknown] Because Israeli Palestinians are not usually called upon to serve in the army, they are denied access to many benefits: 40% higher family allowance, subsidized mortgages and immediate unemployment benefits. Many job adverts specify completed army service.15


In 1988 Israel registered its lowest economic growth since 1982, largely due to the intifada.

It had a 3% fall in industrial output, an 8% fall in agriculture and a 3% fall in the construction sector. Exports to the occupied territories fell by one third.19 Direct losses for 1988 reached $758 million.20

Percentage annual charge

Economic Indicators


Est. to


Gross domestic product




Private consumption




Gross purchasing power




Civilian imports








Military imports





More than 318 Palestinians have been killed and 4,974 wounded since the beginning of the intifada in December 1987.

[image, unknown] Over half the injured have been children.21

[image, unknown] Only three soldiers have been convicted of fatal shootings, with the heaviest sentence being 18 months imprisonment for manslaughter.22

[image, unknown] Over 5,000 people have been held in administrative detention since December 1987.23 Hundreds of children have been detained.

[image, unknown] By the end of 1988 there had been 23, 092 demonstrations in the territories.24

[image, unknown] In 1988 the numbers of tourists visiting Israel dropped by 15%. Between 1985 and 1988 there was a fall in tourists of 8% from all countries, but from the US it was 32%.25

[image, unknown] In the first half of 1989, the intifada cost the building sector $11 million a month - three-quarters through absenteeism: 40% of the workforce has been on strike.26

1 Jerusalem Post 5 December, 1989
2 Europa Year Book, The Middle East and North Africa, 1988.
3 Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel, 1987.
4 Computed from the Central Bureau of Statistics, Op.Cit.
5 OpOit.
7 Jerusalem Post 5 February, 1985.
8 Third World Quarterly, 'The intifada continues: legacy, dynamics and challenges', Yezid Sayigh, July 1989.
9 Israeli Embassy, UK
10 Planning: in whose interest?, Law in the Service of Man, Paper No 4, AI-Haq.
11 Ha'aretz, 25 April, 1989.
12 20 Years of Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, Briefing paper No 1, AI-Haq.
13 The Palestinians, Minority Rights Group Report No 24, David McDowell, 1987.
14 Nazareth Human Rights Association.
15 Israel: An Apartheid State, Un Davis. Zed Books,1987.
16 The Condition and Status of the Arabs in Israel,International Centre for Peace in the Middle East, 1988.
17 USGovernment figures.
18 The Link, Vol 22, No 2, May-June 1989.
19 Jerusalem Post 30 December, 1988
Finance Minister DanMeridor, quoted by Yezid Sayigh Op.Cit.
21 Jerusalem Post 1February, 1989.
Children as Targets, A report on MilitaryViolence Against Children in the Occupied Territories in 1988,Radda Barnen, Sweden.
23 Israel and the Occupied Territories,Amnesty International, 1988.
24 International Herald Tribune 1September, 1989.
25 Jerusalem Post 27 January, 1989 26Jerusalem Post 1 February, 1989.

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