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Palestinian Americans

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Palestinian Americans
فلسطينيو أمريكا (Arabic)
State of Palestine United States
Total population
(2020 American Community Survey; 0.05% of U.S.'s population)[1]
Regions with significant populations
New York City and Northern New JerseyChicagoPhiladelphiaHoustonDetroitNew OrleansLos Angeles Metropolitan areaSan Francisco Bay Area
English, Arabic
Islam, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Other Arab Americans

Palestinian Americans (Arabic: فلسطينيو أمريكا, romanizedFilasṭīnīyū Amrīkā) are Americans who are of full or partial Palestinian descent. It is unclear when the first Palestinian immigrants arrived in the United States, but it is believed that they arrived during the early 1900s.

Numbering 170,000 individuals, the Palestinian community in the United States is small, making up around 0.05% of the U.S. population. However, this number could be underestimated as Palestinian Americans may consider themselves as just Arab (600,000 people identify themselves as "Arab" or "Other Arab" on the Census), or some Palestinian immigrants with less immersion in the English language may not be able to fill out the Census form with accurate information. There is not an Arab or Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) category on the Census, though this notion has been considered.

The Palestinian community is concentrated in the Chicago, New York City,[2] Philadelphia, Houston, and Detroit metropolitan areas, with other populations in the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas. Some Palestinians have emigrated to smaller metropolitan or micropolitan/rural areas such as Gallup, New Mexico, in the late 20th and 21st century.


The Chicago metropolitan area is home to the largest Palestinian population in the United States.[3][4]

Early immigration


The first Palestinians who immigrated to the United States arrived after 1908, when the Ottoman Empire passed a new conscription law mandating all Ottoman citizens into the military.[5] These Palestinians were overwhelmingly Christian, and only a minority of them were Muslims. The 1922 census of Palestine lists 1,778 Palestinians living abroad in the United States (1,352 Christian, 426 Muslim, along with 19 Druze), the second highest number behind the group listing of South and Central American republics.[6] Palestinian immigration began to decline after 1924, with a new law limiting the number of immigrants, as well as the Great Depression, which heavily reduced immigration.

Palestinian exodus


The population in the United States began to increase after World War II. During the 1950s, many Christians from Ramallah started immigrating to the states, then followed by Muslims from nearby towns. The establishment of the state of Israel led to many Palestinian Jews becoming Israeli citizens, and those that remained Palestinian were principally Arab, many of which were then displaced in the Nakba due to the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. However, the greatest wave of Palestinian immigration began in 1967 after the Six-Day War, or as Middle Easterners and North Africans call it, the June War. This wave of immigrants reached its peak in the 1980s.[7]

Modern history


After the Immigration and Nationality act of 1965 was enacted, many Palestinians started immigrating again into the United States. Most Palestinians that immigrated to the United States in this period were more educated than the Palestinians that arrived before 1967, due to the schools sponsored by the United Nations and the increasing number of universities in the Middle East.[8]



U.S. cities


A large number of Palestinians settled in the areas surrounding Paterson,[9][10] and Bay Ridge,[11] which together make up the New York Metropolitan Area. Many other Palestinians settled in the Chicago metropolitan area, while some others settled in the Houston metropolitan area, Los Angeles metro area, Metro Detroit, Greater Cleveland, Metro New Orleans, Metro Jacksonville, and Metro Miami. Paterson, New Jersey, has its southern half of the city nicknamed Little Ramallah, with an Arab American population estimated as high as 20,000 in 2015.[12] It is one of the most concentrated areas of Palestinian Americans in the entire United States.[13] It is also called Little Istanbul, since it also has a growing Turkish American community.

Bay Ridge's Arab community in Brooklyn, New York, is also a significant neighborhood home to an estimated population of 35,000,[14] of which its largest Arab ethnic groups are Palestinians and Yemenis.[11][15] However, it is also home to many other Arab ethnic groups, making Bay Ridge's Arab community also a strongly diverse population.

Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, New York City; also has a strongly diverse Arab community, in which its largest Arab groups are Palestinians and Yemenis. Its strong presence is noticeable from Arab shops to Babel Barber Shop, shown above during the January 2016 snow storm.

Chicago, Illinois, is home to a significant population of Palestinians. There is an estimated population of 85,000 Palestinians in greater Chicagoland, and Palestinians form 60% of the Arab community in the area.[16][17] Bridgeview, Illinois and neighboring suburbs also have a significant population of Palestinian Americans, alongside a large Jordanian American community.[18]

There are nearly 3,000 Palestinians in San Mateo County, accounting nearly half of one percentage of its population; while still small on a large scale, it is ten times higher than the national rate of Palestinians Americans.[19] The San Francisco Bay Area, including San Francisco proper, has had a history of Palestinian population since the early 20th century.

According to the 2000 United States Census, there were 72,112 people of Palestinian ancestry living in the United States, increasing to 171,969 by the 2022 American Community Survey[20]. It is difficult to count the numbers of Palestinian Americans, since the United States does not recognize the State of Palestine, and only recognizes "Palestinian" as a nationality.

Top 10 Cities with the Largest Palestinian Community in the United States are, according to Zip Atlas:[21]

Rank City No. of Palestinians
1 New York, NY 4,376
2 Chicago, IL 2,554
3 Houston, TX 2,134
4 Philadelphia, PA 1,971
5 Orland Park, IL 1,876
6 Los Angeles, CA 1,861
7 Tinley Park, IL 1,381
8 Cleveland, OH 1,285
9 Columbus, OH 1,211
10 Alafaya, FL 1,170

Also according to Zip Atlas,[22] the top 10 Cities with the Highest Percentage of Palestinian Population in the United States are:

Rank City Percent of Population as Palestinian
1 Junction, IL 16.07%
2 Orland Hills, IL 13.51%
3 Apple Mountain Lake, VA 9.20%
4 Chicago Ridge, IL 7.87%
5 Clarkson, NY 7.62%
6 Willards, MD 6.52%
7 Hickory Hills, IL 6.10%
8 Spring Valley Village, TX 5.57%
9 Bridgeview, IL 5.28%
10 Roseland, IN 4.99%



Palestinian Muslim Americans practice the Sunni sect of Islam, in the Hanafi and Shafi'i madhab.[23]

A large part of Palestinian Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, with a significant presence of the Latin and Melkite church followers. Smaller minorities adhere to various sects of Protestantism.[24]



Besides English, many Palestinian Americans speak Palestinian Arabic. Palestinians who once lived or worked in Israel or the Palestinian territories may have spoken Modern Hebrew as a second language.[23][25] Many Palestinians are fluent in other languages.



In the United States approximately 46% of Palestinians have obtained at least a college degree, compared to 18% of the American population.[26][failed verification] The study of culture and the Arabic language is increasingly important among Palestinians, especially in college and graduate school. Thus, some Palestinian or Arab organizations are working to monitor and improve the teaching of Arab history and culture in the American schools.[8] Palestinians, along with Jordanians, have one of the highest education rates among the arab countries.[27]



Among the 90 percent of Palestinian American men and 40 percent of women who are in the labor force, 40 percent and 31 percent, have either professional, technical, or managerial positions. There are also large numbers in sales: 26 percent of men, and 23 percent of women. The self-employment rate for men is a significant 36 percent (only 13 percent for women), compared to 11 percent for non-immigrant men. Of the self-employed, 64 percent are in retail trade, with half owning grocery stores. In terms of income, the mean for Palestinian families in 1979 was $25,400,(adjusted for inflation 109,728$) with 24 percent earning over $35,000 and 20 percent earning less than $10,000.[23]



Palestinian culture is a blend of Eastern Mediterranean influences. Palestinians share commonalities with nearby peoples of the Levant, including Lebanese, Syrians, and Jordanians.

Kanafeh is a popular Palestinian dessert which originated from Nablus. Kanafeh is becoming very popular in the United States, including New York City.



Palestinians cook many similar foods to the Levant. Examples are kanafeh, hummus, falafel, musakhan, waraq al-'inib, and other Palestinian dishes. These foods, such as Kanafeh, have been very popular in the United States, such as in New York City.[28]



Palestinian Americans have owned Middle Eastern groceries, shops and restaurants ever since their immigration to the United States. Most of these businesses are in large cities such as New York City and Chicago.[29]

Notable figures

Yousef Saleh Erakat, better known as FouseyTube, is a successful Palestinian American YouTuber and online streamer

Edward Said was a U.S. naturalized Palestinian professor at Columbia University, and widely known as the "Father of Orientalism". He was also a strong voice and advocate for the American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC) and studied the breaches of civil liberties of Arabs and Muslims in the United States during the 1990s and later after hijacking on September 11th 2001.[30]

Huwaida Arraf is a Palestinian activist, author and lawyer based in the city of Ramallah who founded an organization called the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) which seeks to help the Palestinian side of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict through non-violent protests.[31] She was also a part of a peace initiative called Seeds of Peace which sought to create communication between Palestinian and Jewish youth.[32]

Khaled Mohamed Khaled, better known by his stage name DJ Khaled, is an American hip hop artist and record producer of Palestinian descent who rose to fame in the 2000s with the debut of his first album Listennn... the Album which reached the 12th spot on the US Billboard 200 chart.[33]

Gigi Hadid and Bella Hadid, two sisters who are both models, are of Palestinian descent through their father Mohamed. Both sisters have expressed their public support for the Palestinian cause.[34][35]



Domestic politics

Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress.

A poll in October 2016 found that 60% of Arab-American (including Palestinian-Americans) voters voted for Hillary Clinton (with 26% voting for Donald Trump). The survey found evidence of continued movement by Arab-American voters away from the Republican Party, and that 52% of voters identified as Democrats with only 26% calling themselves Republicans.[36]

2016 Election


Arab Americans who supported Hillary Clinton believed that addressing gun violence, health care, and Social Security were important to electing the President, however those who supported Donald Trump saw combatting terrorism, further regulating government spending, and creating stricter immigration policies as of chief importance after "Jobs and the economy".[36] Both groups believed Hillary Clinton to be a stronger choice when it came to improving education and resolving racial tensions.[36]

2020 Election


Despite 26% of Arab-Americans voting for Trump in 2016, the President's Pro-Israel policies such as the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital by moving of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have considerably lessened his support from Arab-Americans and Palestinian-Americans in particular.[37] Initiatives such as "Yalla Vote" have formed to encourage Arab voters to register and participate in the 2020 Election and boost the number of Arab-American votes.

Foreign politics


While Palestinian Americans are typically not more politically active than the population at large they are very politically aware of their history and the issues facing their homeland. They are more active in social organizations such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), through mosques, churches and local organizations, than in larger political ones, though the former tend to have strong political implications. In the absence of a unified Palestinian state, the unity and preservation of communities in the diaspora serve to maintain Palestinian identity.[citation needed]



Ammar Campa-Najjar is a Democratic candidate of Palestinian and Mexican Heritage from East County who ran for Congress to represent California's 50th congressional district in 2020.[38] Ammar worked as a campaign official in San Diego raising awareness and helping to get President Barack Obama reelected in 2012.[39] His opponent in the 2020 electoral season is Darrell Issa (another Arab-American of Lebanese, German and Bohemian (Czech) ancestry).

Only a couple Americans of Palestinian ancestry have served or are currently serving as members of Congress. Rashida Tlaib, an American born to Palestinian parents, is a Democratic congresswoman of the Michigan House of Representatives, who ran for U.S. House of Representatives seat from Michigan's 13th congressional district. She became one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress (along with Somali-American Ilhan Omar of Minnesota), and the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress.[40][41] Justin Amash, was a Republican-turned Independent Congressman of Palestinian ancestry, serving in the U.S House of Representatives representing Michigan's 3rd District.

At the State level, Athena Salman of the Arizona House of Representatives is of Palestinian Ancestry. Palestinian-American Iman Jodeh was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in the 2020 United States elections.[42] Fady Qaddoura, born on the West Bank was elected to the Indiana Senate in 2020.[43]

See also



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  2. ^ "Largest Palestinian Community in the United States by City | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved May 24, 2024.
  3. ^ "More Palestinians live in Cook County than any other county in the nation". WBEZ. November 16, 2023. Retrieved July 10, 2024.
  4. ^ "1982 Versus 2024: A Tale of Three Cities". Arab American Institute. February 19, 2024. Retrieved July 10, 2024.
  5. ^ "Palestinian Americans facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about Palestinian Americans". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  6. ^ Palestine Census ( 1922).
  7. ^ "Palestinian Americans | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Kurson, Ken. "Palestinian Americans". everyculture.com. Retrieved July 21, 2017.
  9. ^ Adely, Hannan (July 19, 2014). "Hundreds of Palestinians rally in Paterson in protest of Israeli military campaign". North Jersey Media Group. Archived from the original on July 24, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2014.
  10. ^ Cowen, Richard (May 18, 2014). "Paterson's Palestinians celebrate annual flag-raising at City Hall". North Jersey Media Group. Archived from the original on October 10, 2014. Retrieved July 19, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Hedges, Chris (October 4, 1990). "Palestinians Struggling To Rebuild Their Lives". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  12. ^ Yellin, Deena (May 3, 2015). "Palestinian flag-raising is highlight of heritage week in Paterson". North Jersey Media Group. Archived from the original on May 5, 2015. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  13. ^ Yoked, Tzach (December 20, 2017). "New Nablus Welcome to Little Palestine, New Jersey". Haaretz. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  14. ^ "The Jew Who Helps Run an Important Arab-American Organization in Brooklyn". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  15. ^ Robbins, Liz (2017). "Worry and Disbelief in Yemeni-American Community in Brooklyn". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  16. ^ "Illinois Arab American Community". Arab America. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  17. ^ "Palestinians". www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  18. ^ Abowd, Mary. "Arab Community has Deep Roots in Chicago". The Chicago Reporter. Retrieved July 10, 2024.
  19. ^ "Total Population Detailed Demographic and Housing Characteristics". U.S. Census.
  20. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved July 10, 2024.
  21. ^ "Largest Palestinian Community in the United States by City | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved October 20, 2023.
  22. ^ "Percentage of Palestinian Population in the United States by City | 2023 | Zip Atlas". zipatlas.com. Retrieved October 20, 2023.
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  24. ^ citation needed
  25. ^ "The latest hot language among Palestinians in Gaza? Hebrew". Christian Science Monitor. March 18, 2013. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  26. ^ "Educational Attainment in the United States: 2012 - Detailed Tables". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 4, 2013. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
  27. ^ "Arab Countries Ranked by Literacy Rate". Arab America. September 8, 2018. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  28. ^ "'Bearded Bakers' Bring Epic Dessert Party to NYC". NBC New York. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  29. ^ Sifton, Sam (February 23, 2010). "Tanoreen Restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  30. ^ "Edward Said: American intellectual, Palestinian patriot, breaker of dogmas | Opinion". Newsweek. September 25, 2020. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  31. ^ "Huwaida Arraf". American Friends Service Committee. March 30, 2010. Archived from the original on November 16, 2017. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  32. ^ "Home". Seeds of Peace. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  33. ^ Archive-Chris-Harris. "AFI Score First Billboard #1; Ice Cube And Yung Joc Open Big". MTV News. Archived from the original on December 6, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  34. ^ Petrarca, Emilia (May 16, 2018). "Gigi Hadid Weighs in on Israel–Palestine Conflict". The Cut.
  35. ^ "Bella Hadid says 'proud to be Palestinian' after Instagram deletes story showing her father's birthplace". Middle East Monitor. July 8, 2020.
  36. ^ a b c Zogby, James; ContributorPresident; Author, Arab American Institute; Voices", "Arab (October 29, 2016). "Arab American Voters: Clinton 60 Percent, Trump 26 Percent". HuffPost. Retrieved October 21, 2020. {{cite web}}: |last2= has generic name (help)
  37. ^ "Arab American voters could play important role in key swing states". ABC News. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  38. ^ "Home | Ammar Campa-Najjar for Congress | CA 50". www.campacampaign.com. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  39. ^ "About Ammar Campa-Najjar". www.campacampaign.com. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  40. ^ Herndon, Astead W. (August 8, 2018). "Rashida Tlaib, With Primary Win, Is Poised to Become First Muslim Woman in Congress". The New York Times. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  41. ^ "With Primary Win, Rashida Tlaib Set to Become First Palestinian-American Congresswoman". Haaretz. August 8, 2018. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  42. ^ "New State House representatives include Colorado's 1st Muslim legislator, military veteran". KMGH. November 5, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  43. ^ Sikich, Chris. "Qaddoura becomes first Muslim elected to Indiana Statehouse as Dems pick up one Senate seat". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved November 9, 2020.