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Glossary for "Monitoring Israeli Colonization Activities" Project


The "Monitoring Israeli Colonizing Activities" project entails reporting and analyzing events concerning the Palestinian question. And since the issue is a contentious one, certain terms acquired different meanings (and at times contradicting meanings) depending on the party using them; hence the importance of defining those key terms. Moreover, some of these terms carry political messages with them. Thus the following definitions where adopted by the project's team to clarify what the terms stand for in this project while at the same time elaborating on the implications of using alternative expressions.

Originally, and according to the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Jerusalem was supposed to be internationalized as a Corpus Seperatum; that means, a political entity under the UN's trusteeship and separate from both the proposed Arab and Jewish states. However, as a consequence of the 1948 war, West Jerusalem came under the control of Jewish forces and East Jerusalem ended up part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

On 28 th of June 1967 Israel unilaterally expanded the borders of East Jerusalem from 6.5 km² (the boundaries as designated by Jordan) to 70.5 km² to include lands from many West Bank villages while avoiding populated Palestinian areas. Today when people talk of East Jerusalem they sometimes mean that part of the city that was under Jordanian jurisdiction (6.5 km²) and at other times they mean that part of the expanded Jerusalem that lies inside the occupied West Bank (70.5 km²).

Any Palestinian born, living, or is a descendant of a Palestinian born or living in Jerusalem is considered a Jerusalemite. Despite the fact that Israel formally annexed the expanded part of Jerusalem in 1980, the Arab residents of the city are treated as Jordanian residents in Israel and are issued special ID cards different from those given to residents of the West Bank. Moreover, those residents suffer from inadequate infrastructure and poor services despite the fact that they pay the same taxes as their Jewish counterparts.

After the cessation of hostilities between the Arab countries and Israel in 1948, an Armistice agreement was signed in 1949. The agreement delineated the borders of each party and designated the "No Man's" land between them according to the location of their respective armies. This line demarcated the borders between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip as recognized by the international community. It is worth mentioning here that Israel does not specify the boundaries of its state. Although the line became known later as the "Green line", its proper name is the "1949 Armistice Line".

Any property or asset in the West Bank and Gaza (including East Jerusalem) that came under Israeli control after the 1967 war is considered "seized." The words "expropriation" and "confiscation" are also used interchangeably with it. These words sometimes have a positive connotation as when a government legitimately expropriates or seizes an asset for the benefit of the community. However, it is important to note that when Israeli authorities expropriate assets in the occupied territories these activities are illegal even if the Israelis designate them "for public use". Israel is not the legitimate authority in the occupied territories and thus has no right to change their status in any way no matter what the ostensible reason maybe.

It has been common practice to refer to Israeli built up areas in the West Bank and Gaza as "settlements", yet this label is misleading. When people move to live in a particular part of their country, they are "settling" and that's legal. However when they move to live in the land of other people, they are "colonizing" and that's obviously illegal . According to international law, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are "occupied territories" since Israel took them through military force in the aftermath of the 1967 War. Thus it is very important to stress that Israeli activities in the West Bank and Gaza are "colonizing" activities, what they are building are "colonies", and the people living in them are "colonists". Furthermore, the Israeli Supreme Court describes them as "Jewish" settlements since only Jews live in them. Hence the correct name for those illegal settlements is "Jewish Colonies".

An Israeli structure (civilian or military) beyond the 1949 Armistice Line that did not get official recognition by the Israeli government. More often than not, these outposts have the tacit approval of the Israeli government and are the precursors to new colonies. Israeli governments usually delay their recognition of those outposts for political considerations.

That is an areas zoned by municipal authorities for open space in which no construction is allowed. The ostensible reason for such designation is to maintain a minimum of greenery within a congested city, however in the case of East Jerusalem the real reason was to keep these areas clear of any Palestinian development. Not only that, but in two case (Abu Ghneim and Rekhes Shuafat), areas that were previously marked as "green areas" got transformed into Jewish neighborhoods.

Redeployment refers to the pull back of Israeli troops from areas in the West Bank and Gaza. Redeployment is significantly different from withdrawal since it implies that the troops merely relocated their positions and may move back at any time. That is, Israel is retaining its sovereignty over the entire occupied territories. The Palestinians on the other hand prefer to call them withdrawals to indicate a transfer in sovereignty.

This designation came with the advent of the Oslo Accords and was not present before. It refers to those roads used by the Israelis to link colonies with each other and with Israel. In the agreements they are called "Lateral Roads" but people usually call them "bypass" roads because they are meant to circumvent (i.e. bypass) Palestinian built up areas. These roads are of course under Israeli control and entail a 50 to 75 meter buffer zone on each side of the road in which no construction is allowed. In effect these roads carve up the Palestinian areas into isolated ghettos and often deprive Palestinians of vital agricultural land.

A road constructed around a colony by Israeli military forces or by colonists ostensibly to be used for patrols. However, these roads end up being precursors for the expansion of the colony.

Over the years, and depending on one's political affiliations, the word "Palestine" has acquired various meanings. Generally, "Palestine" refers to that political unit designated by the British Mandate that took possession of the region from the vanquished Ottoman Empire in the first World War. That 27,090 km2 area lying between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea is what the word "Palestine" mostly refers to. However, after the 1948 war, Jewish forces took control of 20,700 km2 and established the State of Israel on that area. Then in 1967, Israel occupied the remainder of the 27,090 km2 plus the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. Thus all of "Mandate Palestine" came under Israeli control. In 1988, the Palestinian National Assembly (Parliament in exile) adopted the two-state solution as a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to establish the State of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (the two areas occupied by Israel after the 1967 war). Hence, "Palestine" started to refer to the West Bank and Gaza, albeit very few endorsed this definition. With the advent of the Oslo agreements, a new term was added to the conflict's lexicon: "Palestinian Territories". This term came to mean the areas in which the Palestinian National Authority has jurisdiction; that is area "A" and area "B" according to the Oslo Accords. In sum, "MandaPalestine" refers to the 27,090 km2 area, the "Palestinian State" refers to the West Bank and Gaza areas as they were before the 1967 war, and the "Palestinian Territories" refer to those areas over which the Palestinian National Authority exercises some level of self-rule.

Israel calls its army the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). This designation is misleading and is intended to portray Israel as a peace-loving country that uses its military forces only in defense. Historical facts attest the contrary; in three of Israel's five wars (1956, 1967, 1982) it was the Israeli forces that attacked and occupied Arab lands. Even in 1948 it was the Jewish militias that commenced hostilities before the full-scale war broke out. Hence, the correct nomenclature is "Israeli Military Forces" or the "Israeli Authorities" if they were civil institutions.

The media, as well as official circles, often talk about "illegal" settlements when they refer to those constructed without the official approval of the Israeli government. This is another misleading concept since all Israeli building activities in the West Bank and Gaza (whether official or non-official) are illegal. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention specifically states that "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." Since the international community recognizes the West Bank and Gaza (including East Jerusalem) as "Occupied Territories", then all activities undertaken by Israeli governments to transfer its population to those areas are illegal. Having said that, the correct label for those activities that did not get official Israeli approval is "unauthorized" activities, and not "illegal" activities.




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