Last year Israel celebrated the 40th anniversary of its so-called re-unification of Jerusalem, and this year the celebrations have extended to the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence. The blue logos of "Jerusalem 40" and "Israel 60" decorate the streets of Jerusalem. 1948 and 1967 are two historical moments that symbolize the victory of one nation over another, the national fulfillment for one identity, and the simultaneous disappearance of another. Today, decades after those historical moments, we witness a unilateral control of the city of Jerusalem and a continuously shrinking Palestinian Jerusalemite population. Jerusalem's urban space is being swallowed up by the expanding illegal settlements, and the Palestinian Jerusalemite population continues to struggle to maintain its residency rights in the city.
This article examines the significance of the years 1948 and 1967 as important markers in Palestinian history which prescribed the beginning of a continuous legacy of displacement for the Palestinian Jerusalemite population from their land, property and home. While examining refugee and migration trends in Jerusalem, it is important to consider the new forms of displacement that occur daily - gradually but systematically. It is no longer sufficient to speak about the 1948 and 1967 Palestinian refugees: home demolitions, illegal land appropriations, transfers and de facto exile policies that uproot people have been ongoing throughout the last six decades.

The Jerusalemite Refugee Experience

The onset of the process of Palestinian displacement from Jerusalem dates to the 1948 Nakba and the expulsion of its inhabitants from eight Arab neighborhoods in the western area of Jerusalem, and from 39 other surrounding villages. The Palestinians who fled from their homes during the war were not able to return, due to the partition and the subsequent declaration of the Absentee Property Law.1
The second wave of displacement occurred in 1967 with the relocation of Palestinians from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City to the Shu'fat refugee camp, or to other areas on the northern edges of Jerusalem.2 Having witnessed two overwhelming events of displacement, many Palestinians were largely unaware of the subtle policies employed since 1967 to limit the number of Palestinians living in Jerusalem. Housing and urban policies, the price of land and the processes of land registry played an important role in pushing Palestinians to the surrounding suburbs of Jerusalem.
During the early 1960s, East Jerusalem began to expand further to the north. Internal migration into areas such as Abu Tor and Shu'fat began to occur. The main determinant of migration trends at that time was the price of land. Real estate prices outside the Jerusalem city center were equal to 10% of those in the city center.3

Creating Facts on the Ground

On June 28, 1967, the Israeli Knesset passed a law formally extending Israeli laws, jurisdiction and civil administration over Arab East Jerusalem. The Israeli Ministry of the Interior issued a special decree dissolving the Jordanian municipality council and extending the jurisdiction of the Jewish municipality over the entire annexed area.4 In addition to these formal political-legal acts, Israel also set in motion a series of policies designed to "create facts on the ground." A two-pronged strategy was adopted and implemented with great speed and energy. First, in order to establish a strong Jewish physical presence in East Jerusalem, a massive program of Jewish settlement was carried out beyond the pre-1967 dividing line. Second, the Israeli authorities sought to maintain and, if possible, even enlarge the Jewish demographic majority by encouraging Jews to settle in Jerusalem, while at the same time limiting the migration of Arabs from the West Bank into the newly annexed areas of East Jerusalem.5
Following the geopolitical act of annexing East Jerusalem, the Israeli government confiscated more than 30,000 dunums (34% of East Jerusalem territories) of Palestinian land for the building of new Jewish neighborhoods or settlements. Between 1982 and 1992, only 270,000 of the 5,000,000 square meters built up in Jerusalem were designated for Palestinian use.6 Large tracts of Palestinian land were designated as "green areas" through zoning ordinances. These later became areas on which building and construction was prohibited.7

Redrawing the Boundaries of East Jerusalem

These regulations caused many Jerusalemites to migrate from the city center to the suburbs and to the West Bank areas. After the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 and the expansion of the municipal boundaries, the suburbs of Jerusalem began to expand further. Scott Bollens rightly asserts that one of the effects of boundary-drawing post-1967 was an "exclusionary one, where it was possible to exclude the Arab population from the greatly expanded new "Jerusalem." He refers to the new map that was redrawn, clarifying further that the "new border was intentionally drawn to exclude several Arab nodes of population well within the urban sphere.8 The combination of demographic-political planning, combined with an ethnic definition of citizenship, has had a critical effect on the long- term devolution of the relationship of Palestinians to their city. In particular, it has restricted population growth through migration to the city and encouraged residents to relocate outside the city.
A clear decision was made by the Knesset in 1980 to allow the boundaries of Jerusalem permanent flexibility. This unilateral law deleted an item from the Basic Law that stated that the "the integrity and unity of Greater Jerusalem and its boundaries after the Six Day War shall not be violated."9 The omission of this law meant that the Knesset can draw as many arbitrary, unilaterally established, dynamic lines and divisions as is desired, and that no law deters it from doing so. Since this decision, many Jewish settlements have been declared extensions of Jerusalem, thus expanding the reach of this octopus. New areas were added to the municipal borders of the city, while other neighborhoods were excluded.10 Later maps of metropolitan and Greater Jerusalem designed by the Israeli municipality marked a dramatic increase in settlement expansion. The settlements that were established post-1967 in East Jerusalem have swallowed the possibility of Palestinian neighborhoods expanding.11
Among these communities excluded from Jerusalem with the redrawing of maps is A-Ram in the north, and Azariyya and Abu Dis to the east.12 Israeli fears that the Jerusalemite Palestinian population will outnumber the Jewish population has created a system of demographic and territorial control through the various municipal policies implemented in the Palestinian neighborhoods. The process of emptying the Jewish Quarter in East Jerusalem of its Palestinian Arab residents began a few years before the 1967 war. Many were transferred to the Shu'fat refugee camp, which was established on land that was offered by the Jordanians and later was under the care of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Some other Palestinian residents of the Jewish Quarter moved to the northern Jerusalem suburbs such as A-Ram. Other major changes were taking place in and around the Jewish Quarter, heralded in 1968 by the wholesale destruction of the Moroccan Quarter - to allow for the building of the Western Wall Plaza.13

"The Center of Life"

The Oslo Accords in the early 1990s imposed the beginning of a well- planned strategy to isolate Jerusalem from its West Bank hinterland. Military roadblocks and checkpoints were used to implement this isolation policy. Unfortunately, although the Jerusalemites had hoped that the Oslo Accords would create some kind of improvement in the general situation, Jerusalem was uniquely denied the benefits of Oslo. Many shop owners moved their businesses to Ramallah, and non-governmental organizations and international organizations were mostly established in the West Bank. As Jerusalem was losing its economic livelihood, Ramallah was flourishing as the main Palestinian center. Many businessmen moved their work to Ramallah, and many residents of Jerusalem relocated to Ramallah.14 A-Ram checkpoint in the north and the Bethlehem checkpoint in the south were the first of the checkpoints that were established around Jerusalem.
Until 1993, the Palestinian Jerusalemites were largely unaware of the implications of the Israeli policies implemented in the areas of East Jerusalem. With the closure policies in the West Bank and Gaza in 1993, and the Israeli "Center of Life Policy" in 1996, they began to recognize the imminent threat of losing their Jerusalem IDs.15 Earlier on, Jerusalemites had envisioned the boundaries of Jerusalem quite differently. The metropolitan vision of Jerusalem had included the towns of Ramallah in the north and Bethlehem in the south. Having had no previous physical border separating areas of Jerusalem from the West Bank, the Palestinians did not envision the possibility of ever being barred from entering Jerusalem. Sadly, the boundaries of Jerusalem were continuously shrinking in the Palestinian areas, while Israeli Jerusalem was expanding with the extensive construction of settlements.
A return migration flow back to Jerusalem occurred in 1996 with the introduction of the Center of Life Policy, whereby Palestinians needed to prove that their center of life, work, education and place of residence was in Jerusalem. This policy resulted in the confiscation of Jerusalem IDs and the inability of many Jerusalemites to return to Jerusalem. People who could afford to keep a second address in Jerusalem did so in order to prove their right to reside in and enter the city. During the years 1996-1997, for example, a net positive relocation by Palestinian identification card holders from suburban communities to the city was recorded in response to the threat of losing their IDs. For the first time in more than a decade, the number of Arabs exceeded that of Jews in the eastern part of the city.
With the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada in 2000, Israel increased its military checkpoints around the city, and the plan to erect the separation wall began to be implemented. Today's separation wall, which is close to completion, has created an envelope around Jerusalem, separating Palestinian neighborhoods from other Palestinian neighborhoods, completely and physically barring West Bank inhabitants from Jerusalem.16 Furthermore, the separation wall has excluded areas of Jerusalem that were pushed out of the municipal borders in 1967. Most of the residents living in these areas possess a Jerusalem ID, and are dependent on Jerusalem for their livelihoods. The second intifada did attract many businesses back into Jerusalem; however, the total closure of the West Bank from Jerusalem and the beginning of the construction of the separation wall killed the life of the city that used to attract thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.

Restricted by Zoning

Another factor that pushed Jerusalemites out of the city was the restriction on building permits for Palestinian Jerusalemites and excessive taxation policies imposed by the Israeli municipality. Municipal officials continuously withheld building permits and demolished many Palestinian homes which were claimed to have been built illegally. These illegal building activities were carried out in response to the strict Israeli municipal system which followed a system of zoning and unofficial government quotas. This system defined the spaces where Palestinians could or could not build. According to Sarah Kaminker, an urban planner and a former member of the Jerusalem City Council, Palestinians are prevented from using 87% of the land area in Arab Jerusalem to expand their residential needs. This restricted land has been zoned either for public utilities and green areas, or was expropriated for the exclusive use of Jewish residents.17
The municipal tax, or arnona, is another aspect viewed as threatening to every Jerusalemite.18 Arnona is defined as "the municipal tax which is levied on buildings by the Israeli municipality in which the property is located."19 Any resident of Jerusalem who lives within the municipal boundaries of the city and owns a house or any other building property is required to pay this tax. Rates of arnona vary between the different neighborhoods in the municipality or area of local authority. These rates are calculated in accordance with the size of the property.20
Palestinian Jerusalemites have avoided paying the arnona tax over the years, mostly through building or living outside of the Jerusalem municipal boundaries. Reasons for escaping these taxes vary, and may be related to an individual's inability to pay, or as an attempt to avoid strict property surveillance. Certain sites, like A- Ram and Shu'fat refugee camp, have partially exempted residents or made it easier for them to avoid paying this tax. These sites lack the strict surveillance that other areas in Jerusalem are under, and therefore allow for more informal construction and economic activities. However, failing to pay the arnona tax has recently resulted in consequences. Since the 1996 Center of Life Policy was implemented, making the arnona an important factor in retaining one's Jerusalem ID, many Jerusalem ID holders have lost their IDs as a result of not paying the tax.
The numbers of settlers and settlements have been increasing drastically in the Old City, as well as in areas that are referred to as the Holy Basin, which include Silwan, Abu Dis, Ras al-Amud, Jabal al-Mukkaber, Walajeh, Beit Safafa, and also in Jerusalem's immediate environs, such as Sheikh Jarrah and Wadi el-Joz. The continuously expanding settlements of Har Homa and Ma'ale Adumim have not stopped despite the current peace negotiations and international pressures.

In Permanent Refugee Mode

Sixty years ago, the appropriation of Palestinian lands and homes in Jerusalem occurred in a moment of organized and declared warfare and, since 1967, the unconventional methods of warfare through municipal policies and continued settlement-building have aimed at limiting the number of Palestinians in Jerusalem. The building of the separation wall was a unilateral action by the Israeli government that has excluded a large number of Palestinian Jerusalemites from the city. Today, Jerusalemite Palestinian identity is barely surviving the harsh municipal policies, the building regulations and the high taxations.
Jerusalemites fear the threat of losing their Jerusalem IDs, which means being denied free access to the city where their relatives reside and where they have their property and businesses. This fear has rendered them passive and acquiescent to the status quo. With the death of Palestinian PLO representative in Jerusalem Faisal al-Husseini and the closing down of Orient House, Palestinian Jerusalemite political life was completely frozen. A continuation of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior's current policies of ethnic cleansing through the cancellation of Jerusalem IDs according to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, and the municipal policies of restricting Arab building licenses in the city, and demolishing Arab houses, Israel has revoked the Jerusalemites' residency rights, and created a new category of Palestinian refugees in their own country
The Palestinian Jerusalemites today live in an ever-changing environment that necessitates a constant revision of upcoming threats. For many Jerusalemites, a daily exercise of "redefining home," "flight from danger," and "fear of displacement," "fear of losing their IDs" govern their thinking. Unlike the 1948 and 1967 Palestinian experiences, which occurred more or less in a moment of declared war and, simultaneously, created populations that fit the legal definitions of refugees, the current political situation and the slower process of displacement has created a permanent refugee mode of behavior. It is one that contains all the psychological components of refugee behavior and is much more internalized, yet does not figure in the legal definition of refugees.


1. The Absentee Property Law of 1950 formally denied refugees and internal refugees any right to their property in the newly established state of Israel (see Bishara below).
2. Bishara, Amal. "House and Homeland: Examining Sentiments about Claims to Jerusalem and Its Houses." Social Text 75, Vol.21, No.2, 2003, p. 144.
3. Zilberman, Ifrah. "Migration from Hebron: Development in the Area of Jerusalem" (unpublished article in Arabic).
4. Benvenisti, Meron. The Peace of Jerusalem. Tel Aviv: HaKibbutz HaMeuchad (Hebrew),1981. Nasrallah, Rami. Rassem Khamaisi, and Michael Younan. Jerusalem on the Map. Jerusalem: Jerusalem International Peace and Cooperation Center, 2003.
5. Romann, Michael. and Alex Weingrod. Living Together Separately: Arabs and Jews in Contemporary Jerusalem. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. Nasrallah, Rami, et. al.
6. Amirav, Moshe. Israel's Policy in Jerusalem since 1967. Working Paper Series, No.102. Palo Alto: Stanford Center on Conflict and Negotiation, 1992.
7. Nasrallah, Rami." Jerusalem between the Utopia of an Open City and the Reality of Separation," in Friedman, Abraham and Rami Nasrallah, eds. Divided Cities in Transition. Jerusalem: Jerusalem International Peace and Cooperation Center, 2003.
8. Bollens, Scott A. On Narrow Ground: Urban Policy and Ethnic Conflict in Jerusalem and Belfast. New York: State University of New York, 2000, p. 72
9. Lustick, Ian S. "Yerushalyim and al-Quds: Political Catechism and Political Realities." Journal of Palestine Studies 30.1: 5-21, 2000.
10. Tamari, Salim. "A Contested City in a Sacred Geography," in Friedman and Nasrallah, eds. Divided Cities in Transition, p.120. This is an expanded version of an earlier article that appeared in Shami, Seteney, ed. Capital Cities and Globalization in the Middle East. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.
11. de Jong, Jan. "Israel's Greater Jerusalem Engulfs the West Bank's Core." Jerusalem Quarterly File, Issue 10, 2000.
12. Bollens, p. 60.
13. Rashid Khalidi. Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997, p. 8.
14. Nasrallah et al., p. 228.
15. Center of Life Policy: Under this policy Palestinian Jerusalemites can have their Jerusalem residency rights revoked if they cannot prove that municipal Jerusalem is their center of life. They must prove that they work and live within the municipal boundaries and send their children to schools in Jerusalem. Since 1996, this policy has been applied not only to those who live abroad for more than seven years, but also to those who live in the suburbs of Jerusalem within the West Bank. In Nasrallah et al., pp.15, 34-35.
16. Nasrallah, Rami. Environmental Policies as a Double-Standard Planning Method: The Case of Jerusalem. 2005. A paper presented at the Middle East Environment Futures Project Conference.
17. Kaminker, Sarah. "East Jerusalem: A Case Study in Political Planning." Palestine-Israel Journal Vol. 2, No. 2, 1995, pp. 59-66.
18. Khamaisi, Rassem and Rami Nasrallah. The Jerusalem Urban Fabric: Demography, Infrastructure, and Institutions. Jerusalem: Jerusalem International Peace and Cooperation Center, 2003.
19. Capital Property Consultants. "Taxation."
20. Khamaisi and Nasrallah, p. 35.