The Fragmentation of Palestinian Society3

One major consequence of the 1948 war was that a whole segment of the rural highlands of Central Palestine (which came to be known as the West Bank) became isolated from its cultivable land, coastal markets and metropolitan centres. Its population became land-locked. Those areas of Palestine that were not incorporated into the state of Israel, were incorporated into new political formations: Jordan and Egypt. That integration continues to affect the administrative apparatus, the educational system, the economy, and the social structure of the two regions - more than a quarter century after Israel took control over the West Bank and Gaza.

In order to place into context the data discussed in this survey it is important to appreciate the differential impact of this historical heritage: while Jordan incorporated the West Bank under its constitutional rule, extending its franchise to its residents and establishing a common civil service to administer the Jordanian and Palestinian regions of the state, Egypt - by contrast - set the Gaza Strip aside as a trusteeship.

But aside from the administrative impact of the Egyptian and Jordanian administration, the two areas exhibit significant topographic and social structural variations. With respect to the latter it should be noted that there are marked differences in the relationship of the refugee population to the resident population, the density of population, its distribution, and its occupational patterns. To appreciate the magnitude of this contrast the salient socio-economic features of each area are summarized in table 1.1.

The West Bank as a region is distinguished from the Gaza Strip by its geographic expanse (5.8 million dunums vs 0.36 million dunums in Gaza), and by the immense variation in its topography - both features that allow for a more balanced social formation and a lower population density.4 The decisive element in this imbalance is the stifling population density in the Gaza Strip, resulting from the mass influx of refugees from the coastal regions south of Jaffa during the l948 war, and their concentration in the city of Gaza, where the bulk of the urban population resides: the rest live in 8 refugee camps and in about a dozen townships and villages (table 1.1).

By contrast the approximately one million people living in the West Bank are distributed over 12 main medium-sized urban centres - ranging from 90,000 to 35,000 inhabitants each - and 430 villages.


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