Palestinian Americans (Arabic: فلسطينيو أمريكا), are Americans who are of full or partial Palestinian descent. It is unclear when the first Palestinian immigrants arrived into the United States. Later immigrants came to the country fleeing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
(2009–13 American Community Survey)
|Regions with significant populations|
|North Jersey and Brooklyn; Chicago and Bridgeview, Anaheim and Los Angeles, Jacksonville; and Dearborn, Michigan and Metro Detroit.|
|Majority Islam (Sunni)|
(Greek Orthodox), (Catholicism), (Protestantism)
|Related ethnic groups|
|Jordanian Americans, Syrian Americans, Lebanese Americans, Egyptian Americans, Iraqi Americans and other Arab Americans|
The first Palestinians who immigrated to the United States arrived after 1908, when the Ottoman Empire passed a new conscription law mandating Palestinians into the military. These Palestinians were overwhelmingly Christians, and only a minority of them were Muslims. Palestinian immigration began to decline after 1924, with a new law limiting the number of immigrants, as well as the Great Depression, which deeply worsened immigration.
The population in the United States began to increase after World War II. The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the Nakba, and the independence of the state of Israel in 1948 caused many Palestinians to immigrate, most as refugees. 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.
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, to the schools sponsored by the United Nations and the increasing number of universities in the Middle East.
Most Palestinians settled in the areas surrounding Paterson, and Bay Ridge, which together make up the New York Metropolitan Area. Many other Palestinians settled in Chicago metropolitan area, while some others settled in the Los Angeles metro area, Metro Detroit, and Jacksonville metro; alongside other Mediterranean communities, including the Lebanese, Syrians, Greeks, Italians, Egyptians, Jordanians and Turks.
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. It has the most concentrated area of Palestinian Americans in the entire United States. 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, in which its largest Arab ethnic groups are Palestinians and Yemenis. However, it is also home to many other Arab ethnic groups, making Bay Ridge's Arab community also a strongly diverse population.
Chicago, Illinois is also home to a significant population of Palestinians. There is an estimated population of 85,000 Palestinians in Chicago, and Palestinians form 60% of the Arab community in the area. Bridgeview, Illinois, also has a significant population of Palestinians Americans.
According to the 2000 United States Census, there were 72,112 people of Palestinian ancestry living in the United States, increasing to 85,186 by the 2009-2013 American Community Survey. 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.
Despite the fact that many Arabs who immigrated to the United States from the late 19th century being Christians , the majority of Palestinian Americans practice the Sunni sect of Islam, in the Hanafi and Shafi'i madhab. Palestinian Christians mostly belong to the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, with a significant minority in the Latin and Melkite churches. Smaller minorities adhere to various sects of Protestantism.
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. 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.[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. Palestinians, along with Jordanians, have one of the highest education rates in the Middle East.
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, with 24 percent earning over $35,000 and 20 percent earning less than $10,000.
Palestinians cook many foods native to Palestine, or a broader definition, 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, mostly in New York City.
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.
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 mosques, churches and local associations, than in political ones, though the former have strong political implications. In the absence of a Palestinian state, the unity and preservation of communities in the diaspora serve to maintain Palestinian identity.
Only several Americans of Palestinian ancestry served as congresspeople. 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. Justin Amash, is a Independent congressman of Palestinian ancestry, serving in the U.S House of Representatives representing Michigan's 3rd District.
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