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Disputed Territories: The Census of 1967

In Gaza, the Egyptian data from 1965 had about 100,000 additional people, or 25% more than the Israelis counted.
Israeli forces in Omar Mukhtar Street in central Gaza, June, 1967.

Israeli forces in Omar Mukhtar Street in central Gaza, June, 1967.

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After the Six-Day War, Israel counted the populace of the territories it had taken over in the recent war. On October 3rd 1967 the Central Bureau of Statistics  (CBS) published its initial findings – so the document we’re presenting today was actually never classified at all. We’re posting it here not because it’s been secret all these years, but simply because we’re not aware that it’s online. So now it is.

The document starts out by explaining its methodology: a one-day curfew was placed on each of the various areas, and hundreds of Arabic-speaking census-takers tried to reach every single home (except what they called the ‘wanderers’, presumably the tent-living Bedouin). Every family filled out a form and received a form of confirmation; 20% were asked to fill out comprehensive questionnaires. Since the populace expected potential benefits to accrue from being counted, the CBS reported that compliance had been very high.

The census was taken in August (beginning on the Golan Heights) and September.

On the Golan 6,400 people were enumerated, 2,900 of them in Magdel Shams.

In northern Sinai 33,000 people were counted, 30,000 of them in El-Arish; the Bedouin of the vast Sinai desert were not counted.

In Gaza the census found 356,000 people, about half (175,000) in refugee camps.

On the “West Bank” there were about 600,000, not including East Jerusalem.

(The population of East Jerusalem has been counted, since the Six Day War, in the column of Arabs in Israel, not in the occupied territories. This creates some amusing results, most noticeably when western media outlets who would never accept Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem routinely count its Palestinian population as part of the 20% of today’s Israeli population who are Arab; present-day demographic statistics routinely double-count the 300-plus Arabs of East Jerusalem as being both part of Israel’s Arab population and the population of the West Bank.)

Beyond the simple numbers, the editors of the report point at a number of possible explanations for the numbers. In Gaza, the Egyptian data from 1965 had about 100,000 additional people, or 25% more than the Israelis counted. Since only a few thousands left as a consequence of the war, and many of them were Egyptians from Sinai and not Gazans, the report assumed someone had been inflating numbers, perhaps by failing to register deaths.

The Jordanian numbers from 1961 were also larger than those identified here, and the editors felt this probably expressed a significant phenomenon of migration during the Jordanian period and after the Six Day War.

The populace of all the territories was very young, children between 0-14 making up the largest group in all areas. the editors were struck, however, by the imbalance between young men and young women; their conjecture being that the relative lack of young men reflected large-scale emigration of laborers.

Visit Israel’s Documented Story.

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About the Author: Yaacov Lozowick is the Israel State Archivist and edits and writes for Israel's Documented Story, the English-language blog of the Israel State Archives (ISA).


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Israeli forces in Omar Mukhtar Street in central Gaza, June, 1967.

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