From Palestinian to Israeli: Jerusalem 1948-1982

VOL. 12


No. 4
P. 57
From Palestinian to Israeli: Jerusalem 1948-1982


Since 1948 the city of Jerusalem has undergone a process of "Israelization" accomplished by the uprooting and dispossession of the Palestinian Christian and Muslim population. This displacement of Palestinians from the Holy City was achieved by two methods. First, the use of a terror campaign in 1948 to evict the Palestinians from their homes and villages in what is now called West Jerusalem. The second method utilized a legal process, developed after 1967, by which privately-owned Palestinian land was confiscated for "public purposes." "Public" refers to the Israeli public, and the "purpose" is the establishment of exclusive Jewish residential fortress colonies being built in East Jerusalem.

The distinction between East and West Jerusalem is a post-1948 phenomenon. Throughout its history, Jerusalem was a united city, and from the seventh century to May 1948, an Arab city governed by a Palestinian Muslim mayor.**

April 1948: Uprooting Palestinians

In 1947-1948, the 60,000 Palestinian residents of West Jerusalem were forcibly driven out by Jewish terror campaigns, led by two Jewish terrorist organizations, the Irgun Zvei Leumi and the Stern Gang. The most infamous of these terrorist attacks was the massacre of civilian men, women and children in the village of Deir Yasin, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem. As a result of this and other acts perpetrated against Palestinian civilians in the Jerusalem area, Palestinians fled from four major villages which are now completely inhabited by Israelis. These are:

1. Lifta and all its surrounding land, north-west of Jerusalem. The Israeli Knesset and the new Hilton Hotel are built on the land of this village, much of which is owned by the Lifta family, who now live in East Jerusalem. After 1967, and for the second time in their lives, they lost more land for the residential colony of French Hill.

2. Deir Yasin. After the village was attacked in April 1948 by the Irgun Zvei Leumi, Red Cross officials who visited this village counted 250 bodies of massacred men, women and children. The land of Deir Yasin is now being used for a number of Israeli industries; the houses of the village are used by a sanitarium.

3. Ein Karim, north-west of Jerusalem, but now included as part of West Jerusalem, as are Lifta and Deir Yasin. In 1948, the predominately Christian Palestinian population of 3,500 fled after the massacre in Deir Yasin, and the village is now totally inhabited by Israelis. The churches that still exist in the village have been turned into museums. Hadassah Hospital is built on the land of Ein Karim. It is one of the major ironies of history that the Yad Vashem, a memorial for the Jewish holocaust, is built on the land of the dispossessed and exiled Palestinians of Ein Karim.

4. El-Maliha. The largest of the four, El-Maliha had a total population of 7,000 and a total area of 30,000 dunums of cultivated land. It is now called Malkha, and is incorporated into West Jerusalem, and inhabited by Israelis.

In addition to these four villages, Palestinians were also evicted from most of the residential districts of West Jerusalem. These suburban areas-the upper and lower Baq'ah, Qatamon, Talbiya, Mamilla, part of Abu Tor, Musrara, and part of Rahava-were inhabited mainly by middleclass Palestinians such as doctors, lawyers and merchants. In 1948, several thousand fully furnished private homes were forcibly taken over by Israelis, although the Palestinian owners still hold the title deeds for all this property. Prior to 1948, Jews owned very little property in East or West Jerusalem, and it was only through military force that they were able to take control of West Jerusalem in 1948.

June 1967: Colonization and Annexation

On June 22, 1967, Israel formally annexed East Jerusalem. Prior to annexation, the East Jerusalem Palestinian municipality that had functioned from 1948 was dissolved and its Mayor Rohi Khatib was summarily deported.

Shortly after the end of the June 1967 war, Israeli bulldozers began work inside the walls of the Old City, systematically destroying over 135 homes in the Islamic Moghrabi quarter to make way for a plaza next to the Wailing Wall. Up to this day, the Israeli policy of evicting Palestinians has forced out an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 Palestinians from the Old City. In their place, the former Jewish quarter of the Old City has been enlarged to four times its size in 1948.

The 1967 annexation, however, was not simply confined to the municipal boundaries of Arab Jerusalem, but included parts of the West Bank, specifically sections of Ramallah to the north and Bethlehem to the south. The first objective of the Israeli planners in drawing these new boundaries was to maximize the land area and minimize the Palestinian population to be included in greater East Jerusalem. By examining the map, one can identify a number of Palestinian villages which have been excluded from the boundaries of greater East Jerusalem but whose lands have been included in these boundaries. For example, in the west, the villages of Beit Iksa and Beit Hanina are considered outside the boundaries while their lands are inside. The same is true of four villages in the east, namely Hizma, Anata, Bethany and Abu Dis. The new boundaries extend like a finger northward, into the Ramallah area, to include the Arab Jerusalem Airport but to exclude some 10,000 Palestinians in the village of Ram and the Kalandia refugee camp. To the south, Israeli policy has extended the borders of greater East Jerusalem by encroaching on the sparsely populated areas within the municipal boundaries of Bethlehem and Beit Sahur.

This policy of maximizing the annexation of Palestinian land within greater East Jerusalem had another convenient objective: the land was confiscated in accordance with the Israeli law for "public purposes" rather than on "security" grounds, as is the policy in the West Bank, which can be challenged in Israeli courts. Since 1967, the Palestinians have witnessed three waves of land confiscation for "public purposes."


jerusalem map.png



The first wave. In January 1968, 1,000 acres of privately-owned Palestinian land, most of it expensive real estate in the area of Sheikh Jarrah and French Hill, was confiscated for the construction of the first two residential colonies to be established in the annexed areas of Jerusalem. In these two settlements, French Hill and Ramot Eshkol, there are over 6,000 apartments exclusively for Israelis, with some 20,000 residents at present. In addition to these two residential colonies, an industrial park, open exclusively to Israeli businesses, was established in the Kalandia area during this first wave of land confiscation.

The second wave. This wave of land confiscation, the largest, occurred in August 1970. 3,500 acres of privately-owned, titled Palestinian land was confiscated, again for "public purposes." On this land, four residential colonies were built and some are still in the process of expansion: Ramot in the northwest with 10,000 apartments, East Talpiot in the southeast with 4,000 apartments, Gilo in the south with 10,000 apartments and more under construction, and Neve Yaacov to the northeast with 4,000 apartments.

The third wave. In March 1980, 1,100 acres of privately-owned Palestinian land was confiscated for the construction of another exclusively Jewish colony, called South Neve Yaacov (also known as the North Jerusalem settlement), where some 10,000 apartments are being built.

With the completion of South Neve Yaacov, the Israelis will completely encircle the 110,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. At the same time, this Israeli policy effectively limits the growth of the Palestinian population within the annexed areas, since all the potential land available for construction is now confiscated for the exclusive use of the Jewish population.

Palestinian Villages and Urban Residential Areas in West Jerusalem Taken Over in 1948 and Still Occupied by Israelis

1. Lifta-Khallat el-Tarha villages

2. Deir Yasin village

3. Ein Kerem village

4. El-Maliha village

5. Talbiya Quarter

6. El-Qatamon-el-Baq'ah Quarter

7. Mamilla Quarter

8. Abu-Tor, Musrara Quarter

Palestinian Villages Whose Lands Were Incorporated into Greater Jerusalem

9. Beit Iksa

10. Beit Hanina

11. Hizmeh

12. Anata

13. Bethany

14. Abu Dis

15. Ram

 Jewish Losses in 1948 East Jerusalem, Recovered in 1967

A. Neve Yaacov kibbutz

B. Mt. Scopus

C. Jewish Quarter and Western Wall

Post 1967 Israeli Settlements in East Jerusalem and Vicinity

First Wave

B. Mount Scopus (Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University expanded from pre-1967 enclave)

C. Jewish and Moghrabi Quarters (expanded to twice 1948 size, 1,300 Israeli population in June 1982)

D. Atarot Industrial Park (400 acre tract for Israeli industries)

E. French Hill, Ramot Eshkol, Sanhadria Extension (first Israeli housing projects in East Jerusalem, population of 18,700 in June 1982)

Second Wave

A. Neve Yaacov (Israeli population of 10,800 in June 1982)

F. Ramot (most developed of existing colonies, with only 5,000 of 12,000 planned units, and population of 17,200 in June 1982)

G. East Talpiot (5,000 apartments on private Palestinian land and in former UN zone, 6,400 residents in June 1982)

H. Gilo (6,000 units completed, another 6,000 planned, June 1982 population of 12,000)

Third Wave

I. Neve Yaacov South (10,000 apartments planned, 1,100 acres confiscated in 1980)

1982: The Israeli Metropolitan Plan

Having Israelized all the area which they call Jerusalem (meaning both East and West), the Israeli government is now implementing a project called Metropolitan Jerusalem. This plan is designed to bring more areas of the West Bank under Israeli control, extending from Bethlehem in the south to Ramallah and El Bireh in the north.

Within this new Metropolitan Jerusalem very few areas have been left for Palestinian construction, and even where land is available, it is virtually impossible for a Palestinian to obtain a permit to build on his own land. A large portion of land in Metropolitan Jerusalem has been earmarked for the establishment of more Israeli settlements, including three satellite towns being built on privately-owned Palestinian land seized in 1979 and 1980. These satellite towns are Efrat, south of Bethlehem, with 5,000 apartments; Maaleh Adumin, east of Jerusalem on the road to Jericho, with 7,000 apartments; and Zeev Givon, south of Ramallah, with 5,000 apartments. This last settlement is named after Zeev Jabotinsky, the Revisionist Zionist and mentor of Menahem Begin, who called for the expulsion of the Palestinians by force of arms.


The Israelis declare that their conquest of both East and West Jerusalem and the subsequent expulsion of both Muslim and Christian Palestinians from these areas is an accomplished fact: Jerusalem is now proclaimed to be the eternal capital of Israel. The Palestinians, who have been living there for centuries, find themselves in exile or under permanent Israeli subjugation, with Israelis, mostly foreign immigrants, living in their homes or on their land.

Israeli pressure on the Palestinians who remain is steadily increasing. The exclusively Jewish colonies, built in the annexed areas of Jerusalem, are intended to encircle and eventually suffocate the Palestinians. Indeed, the present Jewish population in the annexed part of Jerusalem is already close to 70,000. With the completion of apartment buildings under construction, the Israeli government plans to have over 100,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem and the surrounding annexed areas of the West Bank by 1985. The ultimate objective of this process of colonization is to render those Palestinians who remain a minority, even in East Jerusalem.



Ibrahim Mattar is a Palestinian economist who was formerly head of the Department of Business and Economics at Bethlehem University.

**For a discussion of Jerusalem's international legal status, see Henry Cattan's recentbook,Jerusalem, reviewed on p. 71-Ed. 


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