Who is "Palestinian"?

Who is "Palestinian"? How, and by what criteria, can such an identity be established? The identity issue is central to any discussion of the status and circumstances of the population in the occupied territories. The current survey, which is based on quantitative measurements, has by no means been designed to disentangle or resolve the many difficult and interwoven matters related to the question of national loyalties and affinities in the area. Indeed, such efforts might prove futile even if predominantly qualitative methods were applied. There is, simply put, no consensus on the fundamental issues at hand.

Yet the identity issue cannot be ignored. In order to structure the investigation of living conditions in the occupied territories, it has been necessary to make certain assumptions about identity. These assumptions have been translated into crude operational definitions, using United Nations terms and concepts as reference to the extent possible. First, it has been assumed that although a separate Palestinian state does not exist, thus making it impossible to delineate a Palestinian nationality using citizenship and other formal criteria, a Palestinian national identity nevertheless does exist. Second, it has been thought that while that identity rests on an emotional, political and historical foundation, other and supplementary factors must be utilized when defining the term "Palestinian" for the purposes of the present survey. Hence, to bypass the uncertainties and complexities of the intervening years, the survey has taken residence in the former British Mandate of Palestine as its point of departure. "Palestinians" will be understood as patrilineal descendants of Moslems, Christians, Druse and other "non-Jewish" citizens who were residents in this area prior to 1947/48.

The assumptions and definitions referred to above are, of course, open to question. Their use in this report do not imply that the authors would rule out other interpretations. As indicated, the present assumptions and definitions serve the purpose of structuring and lending consistency to the ensuing discussion.


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