A claim is here:

In 1997, the PA published census figures that exaggerated its population figures in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem by nearly 50 percent. The PA double counted Arab Jerusalemites, included hundreds of thousands of emigrants to its population rolls, asserted mass immigration when in fact there has been net emigration from the PA since 1995. It exaggerated fertility rates and understated mortality rates. In all, the PA added approximately 1.4 million people who did not exist to its population rolls.

Is this 50% figure accurate, and is the 1.4 million "non-existent" figure accurate?

  • 1
    Please avoid pseudo answers in comments
    – Sklivvz
    Dec 20, 2013 at 8:35

1 Answer 1


You quote the claim from Caroline Glick's article which, from the context of General Dan Halutz's resignation, was written in 2007. Her claims are similar to those in the 97-page research document “The Million Person Gap” published in 2006 as BESA report No 65.

If you read through BESA, there are essentially three criticisms of the 1997 census figures:

  1. The census numbers included 325,000 individuals who hold Palestinian residency permits, but had been living abroad for more than a year. Personally I would regard this a legitimate criticism of something purporting to be a census

  2. The census numbers included 210,000 Arabs living in Jerusalem. The status of East Jerusalem is incredibly sensitive in Israeli and Palestinian politics, but to me this seems an unreasonable criticism of a Palestinian census, especially when the State of Israel does not regard most of these individuals as its citizens. The BESA 65 authors are on stronger ground in saying that double counting needs to be avoided if adding these numbers to Israeli census numbers which count all residents in Jerusalem.

  3. The BESA 65 report claimed to identify an unexplained 113,000 increase over Israel Central Bureau of Statistics records. They state that voting records in 2005 confirm their analysis. This seems to be the weakest claim: a census is designed to inform administrative estimates rather than the other way round.

In summary, there is a debate over the 1997 Palestinian census figures, but Caroline Glick severely overstated it when she said "In all, the PA added approximately 1.4 million people who did not exist to its population rolls." Even if you add all three points stated in BESA 65, you get less than 0.7 million, and I suspect that a figure half that might be more reasonable.

The rest of Glick's 1.4 million claim depended on other claims in BESA 65 unrelated to the 1997 census, and probably even more debatable. A challenge and rebuttal to this was published in the Israeli magazine Azure in 2007. Much of the debate was political rather than statistical.

For what it is worth, the CIA World Factbook gives population estimates in 2013 of 2,676,740 in the West Bank and 1,763,387 in the Gaza Strip. Allowing for modest natural growth, this looks between the extremes of the positions put forward in 2006/7.

  • Can you include the total population estimates from the PA and from Glick to compare with the CIA numbers?
    – Mark
    Dec 23, 2013 at 0:30
  • On the subject of East Jerusalem: it is a sensitive topic. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, which wasn't internationally recognized. They offered citizenship to the Palestinian residents there, who generally declined, but they can still vote in Jerusalem elections and receive Israeli healthcare. The PA government does not have sovereignty over East Jerusalem. Most peace agreements proposed transfer Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to Palestine.
    – Publius
    Dec 23, 2013 at 0:40
  • Glick's statement was "Rather than 3.8 million Palestinians, the team found there were likely no more, and perhaps less than 2.4 million Palestinians" but it is unclear whether she was stating this as a 1997 number or a later date, or even whether she knew the difference.
    – Henry
    Dec 23, 2013 at 0:48
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    @Avi Israel liberated East Jerusalem from Jordanian occupation in 1967, occupation that wasn't recognised by the UN until it became politically prudent to do so in order to make Israel look like the aggressor in the 1967 war.
    – jwenting
    Dec 23, 2013 at 6:32
  • @jwenting while I'd tend to agree with that interpretation, I didn't feel it necessary to take that potentially controversial stance, as it isn't entirely relevant to the issue of how Palestinians living in East Jerusalem should be counted in a census.
    – Publius
    Dec 23, 2013 at 8:47

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