CAMERA obtained a correction in the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding a Nov. 28, 2004 commentary by Khalid Turaani in which he erroneously asserted that refugee camps in the Gaza Strip are the world’s most densely populated places.
The dubious distinction of being the world’s “most densely populated area” teeters back and forth each year between camps like Rafah and Jabaliya, each with populations of around 80,000 people per square mile. (“Enduring on the other side of the wall”)
The correction ran on Jan. 30, 2005 as follows:
Khalid Turani’s [sic] commentary, “Enduring on the other side of the wall,” in the Nov. 28 Insight section erred in stating that the Rafah and Jabaliya Palestinian refugee camps are the world’s most densely populated places. Hong Kong’s Kowloon district, with its many high-rise apartment buildings, has a higher population density.
It is not uncommon to see variations of this false claim regarding the population density in the Gaza Strip.
In fact, the Gaza Strip as a whole has a population density of about 9,533 people per square mile (based on CIA Factbook figures), in an area of about 139 square miles. (In terms of size and density, this is roughly the same as two Washington, D.C.s side by side.)
By contrast, New York City, which with a land area of 321 square miles is larger than the Gaza Strip, has a population density of 26,517 people per square mile.
In Manhattan, the Upper East Side (109,628/sq. mi.), Lower East Side/Chinatown (93,413/sq. mi.) and West Side/Upper West Side (98,436/sq. mi.) neighborhoods each have population densities higher than the 80,000 people per square miles in Rafah and Jabaliya cited by Turaani.
It should also be recalled that Israel is not responsible for these refugee camps. It is the Palestinian Authority, governors of the Gaza Strip, which prevents the refugees from moving into permanent housing. UNSCO official Salem Ajluni explained to the Jerusalem Report magazine that this is because the PA had taken a “political decision” not to touch the refugee camps (7/6/98, “Barefoot in Gaza”).