Photo Album

1948 and Beyond: The Ongoing Palestinian Displacement

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A convoy of trucks carries Palestinian refugees who were expelled from Palestine during the 1948 War, known as the Nakba.


© 1948 UN Archive (photographer unknown)

Haganah troops patrol the streets of the ethnically cleansed Jerusalem neighborhood of Qatamon in 1948, captured after a three-day battle. The original caption for the photo, written at the time, notes that “all the former residents have departed.”


Jim Pringle, Associated Press

Palestinian villagers driven from Qaluniya (Colonia), a village 6 km from Jerusalem on the Jaffa–Jerusalem highway. Qaluniya was one of the main targets of Operation Nachshon. Palmach units attacked the village on April 11, 1948, just two days after the massacre at Deir Yasin. They blew up all the houses and left the village on fire. This photo was taken on April 18, 1948.


Bettman/Contributor/Getty Images

The unofficial Mu‘askar camp in the Old City of Jerusalem with its maze of winding alleys and ancient stone buildings. The camp was established during the early 1950s in empty buildings in East Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter. In 1956, many of its Palestinian refugees either moved or were relocated by Jordan to Shu‘fat refugee camp just outside Jerusalem at that time (now within the city’s Israeli-expanded municipal boundaries).


© 1953 UNRWA. Photo Myrtle Winter Chaumeny

Young Palestinian refugee boys pose in front of the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.


Pictorial Parade/Staff via Getty Images

Palestinians of different generations are forcibly displaced to Jordan in the wake of the 1967 War and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel.


© 1967 UNRWA. Photo George Nehmeh

Palestinian refugees struggle to cross the destroyed Allenby Bridge, or King Hussein Bridge, during the 1967 War, or Naksa.


© 1967 UNRWA Archive. Photographer unknown

A young boy tried to carry an infant on his back while crossing King Hussein Bridge with other newly homeless Palestinian refugees, 1967.


1967 UNRWA Archive. Photographer unknown.

A young Palestinian girl refugee with a baby in her arms arrives in Jordan, 1968. Behind them, a road sign indicates the distance to Jericho and Jerusalem, two cities to which these refugees will never be allowed to return.


© 1968 UNRWA. Photo George Nehmeh

Israeli bulldozers destroy the ancient Moroccan Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem in June 1967, making 650 residents homeless.


David Rubinger/Contributor (Corbis) via Getty Images

Palestinian refugees roam the streets of East Jerusalem in 1975.


© 1975 UNRWA Archive (photographer unknown)

A view of the poor conditions of Palestinian refugees’ homes in Jerusalem, with zinc roofs reinforced with stones, in 1975


© 1975 UNRWA Archive (photographer unknown)

A Palestinian refugee family living in Jerusalem in 1979. According to the sign on the wall, the homeowners are ‘Umar and Khawla.


© 1979 UNRWA Archive (photographer unknown)

Palestinians in Gaza flee indiscriminate Israeli bombing that flattens neighborhoods, October 2023.


APA Images


Palestinians flee to southern Gaza on foot and in donkey-drawn carts, amid fears of further and permanent expulsion, October 2023.


APA images

Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, Gaza Strip.


Salam Yasser/apaimages

UNRWA schools in Gaza offer shelter to thousands of Gazans, many of whom have been made homeless. Conditions in these overcrowded facilities, which lack water, food, and hygiene services, are dire.


An UNRWA camp built in a parking lot in the Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis in October 2023. Among the 2.3 million inhabitants of Gaza, 1.8 million are now displaced according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. With nowhere to go, many of them resorted to tents, bringing back bitter memories of their ancestors’ expulsion from other Palestinian territories to the Gaza Strip in 1948 and 1967.


For decades, Palestinian history has been marked by ongoing Zionist militia and Israeli state violence and periodic episodes of expulsion and forcible displacement, both collective and individual. Whether in the diaspora or within historic Palestine, Palestinians have been living in a perpetual state of turmoil, dictated not only by warfare and settler violence, but also by subtler forms of violence: segregation, cultural erasure, systemic discrimination, and de-development.

In 1948, the first major wave of expulsion and displacement in Palestine, known as the Nakba, took place. With the establishment of Israel, about 750,000 Palestinians1 were forced to flee their homes, resulting in a mass exodus and the depopulation of 418 Palestinian towns and villages.2

One outcome of the 1948 War was the division of Jerusalem into an “East” and “West.” Before the war, Jerusalem’s Palestinians built and developed the New City (what is now Jewish West Jerusalem) and lived side by side with Jews and others. During the Nakba, around 45,000 Jerusalemites were forced to leave the western part of the city or left (temporarily, they thought) when the violence made their neighborhoods unsafe;3 that part of the city eventually fell under Israeli rule.

This fate was not limited to city dwellers: Around 28,000 inhabitants were expelled from more than 40 villages around Jerusalem, especially to its west, including ‘Ayn Karim, Beit Mahsir, Deir Aban, and Lifta.4 More than half of the depopulated villages (55 percent) were completely destroyed, while in the remaining villages, the homes and structures were used to resettle Jewish migrants.5 Many ended up in Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem, in the Old City and elsewhere, crammed into relatives’ homes and any space they could find.

Israel quickly set up legal mechanisms to prevent the return and strip them of their citizenship, rendering them stateless refugees.

Subsequent waves of displacement occurred during the 1967 War—the Naksa—when Israel captured the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip, and the Syrian Golan Heights. More than 300,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes, some for a second time, and forced to live as refugees once again.

When Israel gained control of East Jerusalem, it developed policies to Judaize the city and to erase evidence of its (non-Jewish) history. It began by demolishing and ethnically cleansing the Moroccan Quarter (Haret al-Maghariba), which had been home to a population of multi-confessional Maghrebis, both Jewish and Muslim, since the 12th century, leaving the neighborhood’s 650 residents homeless. In two days, eight centuries of Jerusalem’s history had been reduced to dust.

In the years that followed, Israel moved to expropriate privately owned land within the newly expanded municipal boundaries of Jerusalem and reduced the Palestinian presence by transferring properties to settler organizations (mainly through the Absentees’ Property Law).

In recent years, Israel has made continuous attempts to empty East Jerusalem of its Palestinian residents, in violation of international law. In May 2021, a Supreme Court ruling on the forcible expulsion of several Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah sparked a wave of protests and confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli forces that spread across the rest of the West Bank and Gaza. The targeted families had been living in the Jerusalem suburb since 1956 following their forcible displacement from their homes in 1948.

This cycle of repeated forcible displacement perpetuated by Israel is still unfolding in real time. Palestinians across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, face accelerated ethnic cleansing through legal maneuvers and policy schemes, not to mention unchecked state-backed settler violence and military aggression. Most recently, during Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, which even Israelis describe as a “second Nakba,” about 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians have been newly displaced.6 The vast majority were already refugees at least once—from 19487—if not multiple times, from the previous Gaza wars of 2005–6, 2008–9, 2012, 2014, and 2021.



Nur Masalha, A Land without a People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians 1949–96 (London: Faber and Faber, 1997), xi.


Walid Khalidi, ed., All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 (Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992), xx.


Jerusalem Story, “The West Side Story.”


Jerusalem Story, “The West Side Story.” 


Jerusalem Story, “The West Side Story.” 


Anushka Patil and Thomas Fuller, “Displaced Gazans in the South Facing Dangers They Had Sought to Escape,” New York Times, December 29, 2023.


Kyle Rempfer, “Israeli Operations Uprooted Palestinians in 1948. Many Fear a Repeat,” Washington Post, November 3, 2023.

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