As the title indicates, this is a report of a survey of living
conditions in Gaza, the West Bank and Arab Jerusalem undertaken on
a representative sample of 2,500 households in the summer months of
1992. The study, FALCOT, was initiated by the Norwegian Trade Union
Federation, FAFO, and implemented throughout with the active
participation and involvement of a Norwegian-Palestinian team. Over
100 Palestinian interviewers, male and female, were trained to
collect the data in the three geographic areas.
The introduction specifies how the study developed and the
practical phases and steps of implementation. Each of the ten
chapters of the report focuses on a specific subject covered by the
survey. With the exception of the first chapter which deals, in an
analytical manner, with socio-economic and legal transformations
since 1967, for the most part the remaining chapters restrict their
focus to providing statistical data and information as gathered in
the survey. Subjects covered include population, housing, health,
education, employment, income and consumption, women, social
classes and attitudes.
The basic premise of the survey is that economic indicators, such
as GNP per capita, are not accurate measures of living conditions
since they do not measure degree of equality in various areas of
life or equal opportunities available to individuals and groups to
advance in society. The survey team, therefore, decided that a
better measure of living conditions would be the ability of the
individual to affect the course of his life rather than goods,
possessions or other economic indicators. But the team was aware
that such a measure of living conditions may be problematic in a
society which has experienced prolonged military occupation. In
addition, Palestinian society exhibits unique features: a refugee
society with 40% of the population registered as such, the
Intifada, and the cultural links which tie Palestinians to the
wider Middle East. As the team considered all these factors, the
objectives of the study became even more focused and centered
around the compilation of necessary, reliable and comprehensive
statistics on Palestinian society; helping foreign governments and
international organizations to determine appropriate development
and programs of humanitarian help in the areas; and helping
Palestinians to plan and measure their own socio-economic
Judging from the wealth of data found in this report, one can
conclude that the survey team has succeeded in laying the
foundations for the accomplishment of its objectives.
Unfortunately, however, the report, with the exception of one or
two chapters, lacks in-depth analytical discussion of the various
subjects covered by the survey. Perhaps this is excusable as one of
the primary objectives was the compilation of data and statistics.
No wonder, then, that the report looks something like a statistical
abstract. To the sociologist or anthropologist, the emphasis on
statistics may make one lose the pulse of society or its folkloric
richness and variety. But this was not the purpose of the survey,
as the objectives made clear. The report, by its mere publication,
points to the restrictions and limitations which Palestinians had
to endure under Israeli occupation since 1967 and which did not
allow them to develop their know-how and administrative
capabilities so as to conduct such a survey by themselves.
Cooperation with the Norwegians, could thus herald the first stages
for Palestinians to take things into their own hands and to develop
their own system of data gathering, which promises to be of high
quality and of practical applications in planning and resource
Attention should be drawn to some of the findings of the report
which merit a closer look and reflection:
? In examining social change in Palestinian society, it was found
that a high level of social integration exists together with a low
level of social advancement. As a result, education and emigration
have become venues for many in the society to compensate for the
lack of advancement.
? The economic disadvantages of prolonged occupation with
restrictions on movement and unexpected curfews and closures have
created an environment of uncertainty and an inability to plan
ahead of time for individual, family and group activities. High
birth rates are prevalent with the General Fertility Rate standing
at the rate of 6.2 children per woman.
? High rate of dependency with close to 50% of the population 14
years of age and below. This translates into valuable resources
being spent on clothing, food and other immediate needs rather than
on long range planning and structural development.
? The Palestinian population, given the actual birth and death
rates with no emigration, would reach 4.5 million in 20 years. With
emigration, the population is expected to increase to 3.5 million
for the same period.
? The urban areas enjoy better housing conditions in contrast to
The worst housing conditions are in the refugee camps, particularly
in the Gaza strip.
? Only 20% of the respondents did not report any symptoms of
psychological stress, 50% reported 1 to 3 symptoms and 30% reported
4 to 7 symptoms which indicate a high level of stress.
? Refugees in camps spend more time in schooling than non-refugees.
This is reflected in the educational achievement of refugee camp
children whose level is equal to that of children in Arab
? On economic resources available to households, Gaza strip fares
worst of all three areas and the residents of refugee camps fare
worse than non-refugees in Gaza, West Bank and Arab
? Only 15% of income comes from agriculture and fishing (Gaza
The share of the Gaza strip of income from employment is lowest in
all three areas. One way to alleviate the depressed economic
conditions would be to create employment opportunities.
? Women do not have the same independent economic resources as
Often, women's economic empowerment comes through marriage.
? When discussing social classes, Gaza strip fits more the pattern
found in underdeveloped societies. East Jerusalem scored highest on
indicators of social class with the West Bank in between Gaza and
? There are two contradictory tendencies or attitudinal
orientations in the society: Liberalism which believes in women's
rights, secularism and democracy and Conservatism which stresses
traditions, patriarchal structure, religious inclinations and
rejection of pluralism.
? East Jerusalem is more aware of contradictions in society while
the Gaza strip is least aware of these contradictions.
? Women in East Jerusalem are most aware of contradictions based on
sex while women in Gaza strip are least aware of these
? Refugee camps in Gaza strip and East Jerusalem are more secular
in their attitudes than other areas.
? The most pessimistic groups in the society are the most
In a variety of ways, these findings indicate that the report has
succeeded in pinpointing some of the tendencies and trends in the
society. But because of the preponderance of statistics and data,
the report cannot be read as a regular narrative book or monograph.
Academics, officials and others with particular interests or areas
of expertise on Palestinian society can use it to serve their
specific interests whether in the classroom, on the planning board
or in discussions on needs and possible trends in the
But as the editors of the report point out, the reader should use
the report with care since its findings are based on a sample and
not on the whole population. Therefore, when comparisons are made
and conclusions drawn, this fact should be kept in mind and general
statements should be avoided. The need to be careful could be
illustrated by the following items drawn from the report:
The report mentions that, according to the sample, Christians in
Arab Jerusalem make up 15% of the population. Church sources place
the percentage of Christians in Jerusalem at 7% while Israeli
sources, including the Jerusalem Statistical Yearbook place them at
With respect to vital statistics, i.e., birth and death rates and
migration, there is doubt that the report fills the void on quality
and reliability of data in this area. This is because the survey
did not include measures of migration trends. Therefore, projection
of population growth, based on data provided in this report, should
be addressed cautiously.
The definitions of "urban" and "rural" as found in the report
should be further sharpened in order to take into consideration the
actual transformations which have occurred in Palestinian society
since 1967. The majority of the Palestinian population in the West
Bank can no longer be characterized as rural. Even those
Palestinians living in villages have lost the rural status since
their villages have increasingly gained the characteristics of
urban localities, not simply in terms of size, but also of
employment and other economic and social indicators.
But after all is said and done, this report is a testimony of the
dedication and hard work of the Norwegian-Palestinian team. While
FAFO is in the process of preparing a short summary in Arabic of
the study and its main findings, there must be serious
consideration of the feasibility and utility of translating all or
parts of the report to Arabic. Besides, FAFO, which has so
willingly initiated and supported this study must take its support
one step further by helping to train Palestinians to do the kind of
work done in this survey in a systematic manner, periodically. Once
the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics is functional, the
work done by the Norwegian-Palestinian team in the FALCOT study
could provide the model to be emulated and the basis for continued
cooperation between the two sides in this, as well as other areas
of mutual interests.