Urban-Rural DisparitiesThe social structure of the population in the occupied territories exhibits considerable differentiation between the urban and rural sections, as well as within village and urban societies. Rural differentiation is high in Gaza where large citrus plantations (now in decline) used to employ the bulk of the agricultural labour force as wage workers.5 The West Bank, by comparison, is, as a rural society, dominated by a smallholding peasant population and very few big landholdings (concentrated mostly in the Jordan Valley). Average landholdings per rural household is less than 50 dunums (this category includes 84% of all landholders, and covers 34% of all possessed land).6 On the other extreme we observe that less than 1% of holders possess 38% of the land, with holdings in excess of 100 dunums each.
Note: The reader will notice some discrepancy between some of the data above and those in the survey. Those discrepancies are primarily due to conceptual differences in the definition of social categories (e.g. what is urban and rural) by the several authors listed above.
When examining sources of income in this survey the reader should note that, for dry farming land, any cultivated area under 100 dunums would be used for subsistence and marginal farming. Hence the extent of agricultural disparities is less than would seem to be indicated by the figures. Ownership of irrigated land, on the other hand (which constitutes less than 5% of total arable land), would indicate greater disparities.
There is considerable urbanization among Palestinians by the standards of developing countries. Our survey suggests that 60% of the Palestinians in the three regions under study live in urban areas (see also chapter 2 on Population). But there are significant contrasts within the three regions. For the West Bank, 1987 Israeli data suggests that 47% of the population live in urban areas, distributed in 11 townships, the average size of which is 43,000 inhabitants.7 The household survey identifies 62% of West Bankers as 'rural' (living in over 400 villages and rural refugee camps). However, there is an uneven dispersal of the urban population, with fully 75% of those concentrated in 3 major conurbations: Nablus, Hebron, and the greater Jerusalem area (including Bethlehem and Ramallah-Bireh). Almost all West Bank towns act as centres of services and retail trade for their rural hinterlands, and are noted for their small, and weak, manufacturing sector (with the average employment per establishment amounting to 4.28 persons).8 Over the last few decades there has been a steady and even growth in the size of rural and urban localities due to the proximity of district centres to satellite villages.9 The main social divide within the townships continues to be the one found between refugee camp dwellers and residents outside these camps.
By contrast Gaza is overwhelmingly urban, with 75-80% of the population living in the Gaza-Khan Yunis-Rafah conurbations. Gaza is also distinguished by the preponderance of its refugee population, constituting 2/3 of the total, of which about 1/3 are camp dwellers. Within all of the Palestinian regions only 18% of the population live in refugee camps.