Terminology in the Jerusalem context can be complex and also controversial. Words and their meanings shape narratives. Our Lexicon goes beyond standard definitions and also offers, where applicable, nuanced shades of meanings that matter to Palestinian Jerusalemites.

Palestine Arab Women’s Congress

A group of 300 or so women representing various parts of Palestine, whose first meeting was held in Jerusalem on October 26, 1929. This was the first nationwide women’s political meeting. The organizers were wives of prominent figures and included Wahida al-Khalidi (wife of Hussein al-Khalidi) and Amina al-Husseini (wife of Jamal al-Husseini), and the congress was led by Salma al-Husseini (wife of Musa Kazim al-Husseini). It adopted resolutions consistent with Palestinian national demands: repealing the Balfour Declaration, ending Jewish immigration, annulling the Collecting Punishment Ordinance, and ending the mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners and demonstrators. The congress established a 14-member Executive Committee and called for the establishment of women’s societies in Palestinian cities. The first congress is generally regarded as marking the beginning of the modern Palestinian women’s movement—although it was not a feminist movement per se—protesting Jewish immigration and economic conditions with a gender consciousness.

Similar societies, some called Arab Women’s Committees, were founded in most cities. They were active during the general strike and revolt of 1936 to 1939. These committees also made sure to attend trials of rebels to show the authorities that the prisoners had mass support and to raise the rebels’ morale.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)

An umbrella political entity founded in 1964 to liberate Palestine, implement the Palestinians’ right of return, and achieve national self-determination. Founded on June 2, 1964 in Jerusalem at the behest of the Arab League, the PLO was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” in 1974. The PLO became a nonmember state, Palestine, in 2012 and is signatory to the Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestinians. The PLO’s legislature, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), includes more than 700 Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT) and in the diaspora. It elects the PLO’s Central Council of 124 people. The PNC or the Central Council can elect the 18-member Executive Committee, which in turn elects the PLO chairman. Yasser Arafat served as PLO chairman from 1964 until his death in 2004, when he was succeeded by the current chairman, Mahmoud Abbas.

After the PLO signed the Oslo Accords that created the Palestinian Authority, an interim government in the oPT, much of the PLO leadership moved from its base in Tunis to the West Bank and Gaza. Arafat’s faction Fatah had always dominated the PLO, but smaller factions that rejected the unfolding agreements with Israel remained in exile and were marginalized. Instead of being a ragtag group in exile seeking international legitimacy, the PLO and its role was largely subsumed by the offices of the Palestinian Authority, which was funded by the international donor community and took center stage. Within the oPT, however, non-PLO member Hamas became stronger, leading the opposition to the two-state solution and finally rivaling Fatah by defeating it in 2006 Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections. Reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas center upon the Islamist movement’s demand to join the PLO and share leadership, which Fatah has rejected to date, and Hamas’ repudiation of the Oslo process, including an end to armed resistance.

Palestinian Authority

Interim administrative and political entity, established in 1994. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was established as an interim administrative body by the Gaza-Jericho Agreement that detailed the Declaration of Principles (DOP, or Oslo I Accord) signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel in September 1993. The DOP stipulated  that a “Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority” would last for no longer than five years, during which there would be final status negotiations between the parties leading to a permanent settlement based upon United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. The negotiations broke down and the five-year interim period has long expired, but the PA continues to exist, albeit with limited power.

The PA administers the affairs of the Palestinians residing in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), looking after the interests of the Palestinians who live within the confines of areas A, B, and C, according to the limits permitted by Israel’s ongoing occupation. The PA also has a police force and several security branches and is mandated to coordinate its security with Israel.

The PA also refers to itself as the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the State of Palestine (since 2013). But it has no jurisdiction over Jewish or Palestinian citizens of Israel, even if they are within areas under its control. As an administrative body, it also cannot address issues of national concern to the Palestinian people as a whole, such as refugees, the future political horizon, or Palestinian citizens of other countries—these issues are the responsibility of the PLO. The Israeli shekel is the official currency, and the PA does not control its own borders, airspace, immigration, or customs regime.

The occupied Gaza Strip also falls under PA administration. However, after Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections in 2006, the resulting political enmity and clashes culminated in Hamas taking over control of Gaza’s security and administrative offices in 2007, creating a deep fissure in Palestinian politics. The PA continues to pay some functionaries in the Gaza Strip.

The PA is headed by an elected president. However, Palestinian elections for president have not been held since January 2005. The work of the PLC has been frozen since the 2006 vote, after which many newly elected Hamas members were detained by Israel and internal political dissension took hold.

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

A campaign “initiated in 2004 to contribute to the struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality,” according to its website. Emulating the 1980s campaign against South African apartheid, PACBI advocates for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions in response to Israel’s flouting of international law and denial of Palestinian basic rights. It is a founding member of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) National Committee (BNC), a coalition group that promotes BDS. Israel has attacked the BDS movement and its proponents throughout the world, using a variety of tactics and accusing them of anti-Semitism. 

Palestinian Legislative Council

The legislative branch of the Palestinian Authority (PA) created by the Oslo Accords to represent Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The 132-member council approves the PA’s budget as well as the prime minister and his government. Members are elected to serve four-year terms. However, the last elections, which Hamas won, were held in 2006. In 2007, President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the government and declared an emergency, and thereafter ruled by decree.

Palestinian National Council (PNC)

The “supreme legislative representative body for all the Palestinian people inside Palestine and in the Diaspora,” according to its website. Established in 1964, the role of the PNC is to establish Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) policies and plans. It has 747 members, representing Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT) and the Diaspora. While the PNC originally represented most Palestinian factions, after the signing of the Oslo Accords, important members such as Edward Said resigned from the PNC in protest. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which became prominent during the Oslo process, have asked to be incorporated into the PNC in reconciliation negotiations with the PLO’s main faction Fatah. (This conflict broke out into the open after Hamas won elections for the Palestinian Authority parliamentary in 2006, and took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. The split rendered the PNC largely inoperative.)

According to PLO laws and PNC bylaws, PNC members serve three-year terms and must be chosen through direct election by all of the Palestinian people. With the challenges of holding elections among Palestinians in the diaspora and the oPT, PNC members had been appointed by a quota system where Fatah is most dominant, followed by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PNC has not held a regular full session since 1996; limited meetings have been held in controversy. In April-May 2018, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also PLO head, called a quorum of the PNC in Ramallah to elect a new PLO Central Council and Executive Committee. This was the first meeting of the PNC in 22 years. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP boycotted the meeting.

Palestinian National Initiative (al-Mudabara)

Al-Mubadara (“Initiative” in English) is a political movement. On June 17, 2002, Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) cofounders Haider Abdel Shafi in Gaza City, Mustafa Barghouti in Ramallah, and Ibrahim Dakkak in Jerusalem announced the start of the movement from their respective cities. PNI was established as a secular opposition to the Oslo Accords. It has consultative party status in The Socialist International and is a founding member of the Progressive Alliance. It aims to advance the Palestinian people toward freedom and independence, justice, integrity, and decent living. The initiative’s program has focused on fighting for the release of Palestinian political prisoners and detainees from Israeli prisons; engaging Palestinians in the diaspora; strengthening local civil society; and encouraging international solidarity. PNI seeks to achieve the Palestinian dream of establishing a free and independent Palestinian state.


Were established in 1941 as elite mobile strike brigades within the Haganah. (Palmach is variously translated as “Strike Companies,” “Assault,” or “Shock Forces.”) Palmach volunteers helped the British fend off Vichy control of Lebanon and Syria; in the spring and summer of 1942, they were trained by the British to defend the country against a possible German invasion. Their training included sabotage, patrolling, marksmanship, face-to-face combat, field training, and squad commander training. Among the units established by the Palmach was the Arab Unit, consisting of fighters dressed as Arabs. As the German threat to Palestine receded, cooperation between the Palmach and the British army dwindled—although the brigades’ ranks swelled with young men and women volunteers. It developed into an organized fighting force with commanders and limited weapons, using offensive assault and subterfuge, night operations, and underground warfare. Between 1945 and 1947, the Palmach fought the British for attempting to limit Jewish immigration to Palestine. The brigades were integrated into the Israel Defense Forces after the war of 1948. Some of the commanders of the Palmach became prominent military and political leaders of Israel; examples include Yigal Allon, Moshe Dayan, and Yitzhak Rabin.


The second-largest categorization size in the Israeli land registry. Approximately the size of an apartment building. A parcel is made up of sub-parcels. See also Block.

Peel Commission

A British commission of inquiry, formally known as the Palestine Royal Commission, chaired by British parliamentarian Lord William Peel. The commission was sent to Palestine in 1936 to investigate the causes of unrest across the country, which had escalated following a Palestinian general strike that started in April of that year. On July 7, 1936, the commission published a report of its findings, arguing that the Colonial British Mandate had become unworkable and recommending partition. Both Palestinians and Zionists rejected the partition plan, with the latter more amenable to discussing terms of partition if they were in favor of the proposed Jewish state.

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Plan Dalet (Tokhnit Dalet)

A Zionist military strategy, created by the Haganah and operationalized in April and May 1948 with several precursors in the previous decade (Plans Aleph, Bet, and Gimmel, the latter also known as the “May Plan”). Plan Dalet (or Plan D) was designed to secure control of the areas allocated to the Jewish state under the United Nations Partition Plan (1947) as well as areas outside it that were occupied by Jews (such as Jerusalem, which at the time was designated by the UN as having a special international status that would not be part of either the Jewish or the Arab state). Plan Dalet laid out 13 military operations which, had they all succeeded, would have left the entire country under Zionist control, including Jerusalem and areas allocated to the Arab state by the UN partition plan. In the end, not all of the operations were successful and the country, including Jerusalem, was subsequently divided.

See The West Side Story.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

The third strongest Palestinian political faction. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was formed in the aftermath of the Arab defeat by Israel in June 1967, which resulted in the entirety of historic Palestine falling under colonial rule. In December 1967, several military groups that had formed under the umbrella of the Arab National Movement united to become the PFLP. The PFLP is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

In its December 11, 1967, founding statement, the PFLP characterized the June defeat as a new stage in the struggle, a turning point toward mass participation of the working class and wage laborers in the struggle against imperialism and Zionism, in which “revolutionary violence” would be unleashed to bring about national liberation. It drew inspiration from Communist leaders in China, Vietnam and Cuba. Its goal was the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state on all of historic Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital and it affirmed its commitment “to the popular armed struggle.”

Beginning in 1968, the PFLP conducted several hijackings of international commercial airlines to call attention to the question of Palestine; that tactic was abandoned in the early 1970s. As political settlement plans were floated, the PFLP joined with other groups to form the Palestinian Rejectionist Front against Surrender Solutions in 1974. By 1981, it had embraced the PLO’s “phasic approach”: the acceptance of statehood on any liberated Palestinian territory. After the PLO was expelled from Lebanon in 1982, the PFLP established its headquarters in Damascus. It prioritized work within the occupied Palestinian territories with women, student, and worker groups, and was part of the Intifada leadership. When the Oslo Accords were announced, the PFLP opposed the deal and the PLO’s strategy, albeit rejecting any alternative to the PLO. In its 2013 conference, it called for the establishment of a Palestinian state on all of historic Palestine and the “unity” of the Palestinian people, a reference to ongoing infighting between Hamas and Fatah, the two largest political factions.

George Habash, the PFLP’s founding leader, resigned in 2000. The PFLP elected Abu Ali Mustafa; Israel assassinated him in his home in al-Bireh in 2001. Ahmad Saadat succeeded Mustafa but was arrested in 2002 by the Palestinian Authority after the PFLP assassinated the Israeli tourism minister. In March 2006, Saadat’s Jericho prison was surrounded by Israeli forces and he and five prisoners were abducted after a deadly standoff. He is serving a 30-year term in an Israeli prison.

Population Registry

A centralized national database of personal identity information about all residents of Israel. According to Population Registry Law 5725–1965, all residents other than visitors must give specific particulars to the state within 30 days of entry; for minors, their parent or guardian must do so until they are entitled to acquire their own IDs at age 16. Births, deaths, adoptions, marriages, etc. must all be reported to the registry within 30 days. A parallel registry is maintained by the Palestinian Authority for Palestinians living in the occupied Territories, but its actual control and oversight lie with Israel.