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.


Of or related to biometrics, the measurement and statistical analysis of people’s unique physical and behavioral characteristics. A technology often used for surveillance, because it makes possible accurate identification based on a person’s intrinsic physical or behavioral traits. Biometric data are data gathered from the human body (such as fingerprints, eye scans, and facial scans) that uniquely identify a person. 


The largest categorization size in the Israeli land registry, approximately equal to a city block. A registry block is made up of smaller “parcels.” See also sub-parcel.

Buffer zone

The 50- to 75-meter-wide restricted range on both sides of the Separation Wall and of bypass roads, whereby construction and farming are prevented. This restricted range results in house demolitions and restrictions on housing and farming. The buffer zone is accompanied by multiple surveillance technologies, such as HDTV cameras and radars. Note that this is not the same thing as the Seam zone.

Bypass road

Roads built by Israel across the occupied West Bank to link Jewish settlements together while circumventing Palestinian built-up areas. These roads exclusively serve Jewish settlers and are not accessible to cars with Palestinian plates. Built over Palestinian agricultural public lands, bypass roads function alongside the Separation Wall and settlements in restricting the movement of Palestinians, blocking development of residential spaces, and fragmenting the West Bank. In Jerusalem, these roads connect the settlements surrounding the city with the city center and the coastal plain. According to UN-OCHA, as of September 2018, Israel had constructed some 400 kilometers of bypass roads in the West Bank.

Cadastral map

A map of public record, typically generated and maintained by the government, that provides detailed information about real property (i.e., land, attachments to the land, and what lies beneath the land); provides a public record of the property boundaries, subdivision lines, buildings, and related information; used to place a value on land and allocate tax payments. Part of a “cadastre” which is a public record or map of land ownership to determine ownership rights and taxes.

Change and Reform list

The electoral slate of the Hamas movement, which ran in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections and won the majority of seats. See also Hamas.


Access to Jerusalem is controlled by 14 access points, many or most of which actually are located outside the Israeli municipal boundary and inside the occupied West Bank. Palestinians call these military checkpoints. Israelis have come to call these “crossing points” (ma’avar in Hebrew), reflecting a situation where freedom of movement is in place. Palestinians find that this term implies that anyone is allowed to cross and the situation is a normal one of routine passage through a border. Instead, they use the term “checkpoint” (hajiz in Arabic), which reflects their reality of being “screened” and “approved” or “denied” for permission to cross in a situation where freedom of movement is not guaranteed and is in fact often denied.

Civil Administration

The Israeli military unit responsible for implementing Israel’s civilian policy in the occupied West Bank. Formed in 1981 as a division within the COGAT, the unit formerly administered all civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. After the Interim Accord was signed as part of the Oslo Accords, some of the administrative responsibilities of the Civil Administration were transferred to the newly formed Palestinian Authority (for Areas A and B), but the Civil Administration remained in full charge of Area C, which is 60 percent of the West Bank. The Civil Administration is responsible for many administrative issues affecting the settlers and settlements. According to Yesh Din, “Its vast powers touch upon most areas of life . . . : travel and work permits; infrastructure—water, electricity, transportation and communication; agriculture; trade and industry; environmental protection; archaeology and nature reserves.” The Civil Administration has eight divisions and is staffed by hundreds of soldiers and civilians and runs eight District Coordination and Liaison Offices (DCOs or DCLs).

COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories)

Military unit established by Israel in 1967 to administer the security and civilian matters in the occupied West Bank and Gaza that is accountable to the Israeli Ministry of Defense. In 1981, an additional division was established within the COGAT called the Civil Administration. The COGAT wields absolute control over most aspects of Palestinian lives in the territories. For example, it administers and controls the entire permit regime whereby Palestinians have to apply for permits to move from place to place, both within the West Bank and to leave it and enter Israel.

Core Ring

Settlement belt in and around the Old City of Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighborhoods, including Silwan, al-Tur, Sheik Jarrah, and Wadi al-Joz. It is comprised of individual settlements, settlement compounds, and touristic settlements built on or within confiscated Palestinian properties and homes. While relatively small, these settlement compounds form a contiguous ring of settler-controlled areas constructing an interconnected Jewish “bubble” centered in the Jewish Quarter and made possible by a network of pathways through the original Palestinian communities.

Damascus Gate

The English name for one of the seven open gates in the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. See also Bab al-Amud

See The Gates of the Old City for more detailed information.

Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (or DOP)

District Coordination and Liaison Office (DCO or DCL)

Military coordination offices established in the West Bank and Gaza in 1994 that manage the movement of Palestinians, both within the occupied West Bank and into Israel. Palestinians holding Palestinian Authority IDs must apply for permits from the Israeli military to enter Israel or move between Areas A, B, and C of the West Bank. DCOs were established in each district of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the Israeli military office on one side of each DCO compound and the Palestinian security forces on the other. Final approval on all permit decisions lies with the Israel authorities, the Palestinian side is effectively more of an administrative middleman that merely coordinates between the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian residents, on the one hand, and Israeli authorities, on the other. There are eight DCOs (also called DCLs): Abu Dis, al-Ram, Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Jericho.

E1 Development Plan

A major Israeli settlement plan proposed for development east of Jerusalem that would block Palestinian development east of Jerusalem and close off the last remaining corridor between the city and West Bank Palestinian communities. Since the 1990s, the Israeli government has set out to develop this 12 sq km zone of unsettled lands originally belonging to Palestinian villages into a large industrial and commercial area, including the Israeli settlement Mevasseret Adumim, an airport, hotels, tourist attractions, and major roads. The plan, pursued by different Israeli administrations, has only been partially approved and completed due to international pressure. Mainly, an Israeli district police station was established in 2008.

The plan functions as part of the vision for “Greater Jerusalem,” which creates demographic, territorial, and transportational contiguity between Jewish settlements inside and outside the Israeli municipal boundary, while separating and suffocating Palestinian localities. The plan would solidify Israeli control over the corridor, linking the Ma‘ale Adumim settlement bloc to Israeli Jerusalem and the coastal city of Tel Aviv, while surrounding and isolating Palestinian villages in the eastern suburbs to whom the lands originally belong: a-Za‘ayim, al-‘Izariyya, Abu Dis, ‘Arab al-Jahalin, and ‘Anata. With Ma‘ale Adumim to their east and the Separation Wall to their west, these Palestinian localities are thus unable to grow. In addition, completion of the E1 plan would essentially break the occupied West Bank into two parts by blocking access between its southern and northern parts, as Jerusalem is mostly inaccessible to Palestinians with Palestinian Authority (PA) identity cards.

East Jerusalem

Refers to the region encompassing the Old City of Jerusalem and its eastern suburbs and hinterlands. The term was used to distinguish between this part of the city, which Israel occupied in June of 1967, and the western part, which Israel occupied and emptied of its Palestinian inhabitants in 1948. Shortly after occupation, Israel unilaterally expanded the borders of East Jerusalem, tripling it in size and adding 28 Palestinian villages, and then unilaterally extended its law, jurisdiction, and administration to the newly expanded area. International law and most countries of the world do not recognize this unilateral act as legal and consider that East Jerusalem remains under military occupation. Palestinians also consider that Israel is not the rightful sovereign over East Jerusalem and consider it as the capital for a future Palestinian state. The reality today, however, is that both West and East Jerusalem are controlled by the Israeli government and are mostly under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Jerusalem municipality. Since 1967, the government has also invested considerable effort and resources into changing the demographic makeup of East Jerusalem by funding and facilitating Jewish settlement there.

Facts on the ground

Creating “facts on the ground” is a geopolitical term that refers to the process through which Israel imposed de facto control over territories occupied in 1967 despite international pressure against Israeli colonial expansionism by means of introducing new and seemingly unalterable demographic, territorial, and cultural realities.

Family unification

“Family unification” (sometimes called lem shaml in Arabic) refers to the process that Palestinians who have legal status in Israel, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), or the Gaza Strip undergo to apply for legal status for immediate family members who do not have this status. Once obtained, that status then allows the spouse or child to live legally within the Israeli municipal borders of Jerusalem with the other family member or members who hold legal status.

“Family reunification” or “family reunion” are terms used by international bodies and organizations. These terms are defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the “process of bringing together family members, particularly children, spouses and elderly dependents.” In the Israeli system, while family reunification was the original term used, this has more commonly come to be referred to as family unification today.


A Palestinian political faction formed in 1959 that, one decade later, became the most important faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the representative body of the Palestinian people. (The word “fatah,” which means to conquer, is the reverse acronym of harakat al-tahrir al-filastiniyya, Palestinian Liberation Movement.) Fatah was the first national group to be started by Palestinians after the Nakba in 1948, when many were made refugees. It grew out of a clandestine student organization that included Yasser Arafat and Khalil al-Wazir, among others, and advocated armed struggle to liberate all of Palestine, and independence from Arab governments. It claimed that the liberation of Palestine was the road to Arab unity. Initially, Fatah advocated a three-phase strategy that was inspired by the Algerian, Cuban, and other revolutionary models: small-scale guerrilla activity followed by all-out guerrilla warfare, and then a people’s war. In the early 1960s, it carried out paramilitary operations against Israel.

By 1969, under Arafat’s leadership, Fatah had taken control of the PLO. After the 1973 War, it shifted toward a phased approach, and by 1988, the Fatah leadership was instrumental in persuading the PLO’s parliament, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), to adopt a “peace initiative” based on a Declaration of Independence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, leading to US-led talks. The Fatah-led PLO found itself in a very weakened position after the first Gulf War in 1991; because it had not condemned Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait, it suffered profound political and financial consequences. In this weakened state, the PLO accepted US and Israeli conditions for the Madrid Conference and the Oslo Accords, the latter of which led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1994. Based now in the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT), the Fatah movement has lost ground, in part because voters associate Fatah with PA inefficiency and corruption. Hamas soundly defeated Fatah in the 2006 legislative elections. Since then, the two factions have been at loggerheads, unable to work together effectively. The result has been the establishment of separate authorities in the West Bank (headquartered in Ramallah and controlled by Fatah) and the Gaza Strip (controlled by Hamas).


Arabic word for peasants or agricultural laborers in an Arab country (singular: fellah)