From a historical point of view the Palestinians are mostly descendants from the ancient Canaanite and Hebraic peoples mixed with descendants from different conquerors settled in the hills and the fertile coastal valley of Palestine. As far as religion is concerned, they first converted to Christianity and later to Islam. Their language evolved from Aramean (tinged with Greek) to Arabic.

From a political point of view and according to international law, the Palestinian people are defined as : “the Arab inhabitants of Palestine under the British Mandate (1922-1948) – italic>today: Israel (Golan Heights excepted), West Bank and Gaza –and their descendants”.

Palestinian nationalism has grown irresistibly since the British Mandate, particularly in the face of the creation of Israel, its expansion (annexation of East Jerusalem, occupation of West Bank and Gaza) and the brutal Israeli repression. Palestinians claim their right to self-determination and the creation of their national State. Less than 50% of the original Arab inhabitants of Palestine (Israel and the Palestinian Territories) currently live in this region. There are over 5 million Palestinians – mostly Sunni Muslims, with a minority of Christians and Druzes – who are distributed roughly as follows:

Occupied Territories: 1,900,000 of whom

1,000,000 live in the West Bank (390,000 are UNRWA refugees)

750,000 in the Gaza Strip (450,000 are UNRWA refugees)

150,000 in East Jerusalem (5,500 are UNRWA refugees).

Israel: 700,000 (who are now Israeli citizens).

Jordan: 1,450,000 (850,000 are UNRWA refugees).

Lebanon: 350,000 (280,000 are UNRWA refugees).

Syria: 300,000 (260,000 are UNRWA refugees).

Gulf Co-operation Council States (GCC): 250,000

Other Arab countries: 150,000

Outside the Middle East: 250,000

It should be noted that the Gulf War, the positions adopted by the PLO during this conflict and decisions by the Kuwaiti government and other GCC states have completely changed the distribution of this nation: over 600,000 Palestinians lived in the Gulf before grouped August 1990 compared to 250,000 maximum in March 1992. Kuwait was home to 7.5% of the Palestinian population against less than 1% today.

In the wake of the Oslo peace process which started in 1993, a few thousand Palestinians – police, administrative officers and high-ranking politicians – went back to the autonomous Palestinian Territories.