Gaza Arabs at Rafiah crossing
Gaza Arabs at Rafiah crossing Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority's Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) has released a report on migration to and from PA-controlled areas in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The report was the first of its kind.

A total of 32,000 PA Arabs left PA areas between 2005 and 2009, the PA said. During much of that time Gaza Arabs were unable to emigrate, as Israel and Egypt closed their borders to human traffic due to terrorism concerns.

Most PA Arabs who leave are young men aged 15-29, the report found. Emigrants were more educated than the average PA Arab: more than 99% had finished high school, and more than one-third held advanced degrees. In the general PA population, less than 25% have any type of higher education.

Many PA Arabs return as well, according to the report; however, the number of returnees has declined over the years. Many returned prior to 1991, and there was another surge in returning PA Arabs in 1995-1999 during the Oslo Accords process. Since 2000, the number has declined.

Jordan was the most common destination, drawing 24% of emigrants. Other popular destinations were Arab Gulf nations, which together drew 20% of emigrants, and the United States (22%).

Most of those who returned to PA controlled areas were coming back from Jordan and the Gulf.

The most commonly cited reason for leaving was “improving living conditions,” which was listed separately from employment opportunities. Thirty-nine percent left to seek a higher quality of life, while 15% sought employment and 19%, education.

Fear of violence was relatively low on the list, with only 6% of emigrants from Judea and Samaria and 14% of those from Gaza saying they left due to safety concerns.

The primary motivation for PA Arabs to return was to reunify with family, which 33.2% said was their reason for returning.

Studies not conducted by the PA have found that PA Christians are particularly likely to emigrate, a fact that some have chalked up to Muslim persecution. Christians now make up an estimated 2.3% of the total PA Arab population.

Data presented by the PCBS has frequently been called into question by American and Israeli demographers, who say the PA body distorts data in order to exaggerate the number of Arabs living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Its goal may be to influence Israeli policy toward withdrawal by suggesting the existence of a demographic threat to Israel as a Jewish state, despite studies showing that the demographic trend is in Israel's favor.

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