Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the status of Jerusalem under international law?

Following the 1948 war and the establishment of the state of Israel, the U.N. General Assembly’s Resolution 194 called for the demilitarization and internationalization of Jerusalem. In this period, West Jerusalem came under the de facto control of the new Israeli state while Jordan retained control over East Jerusalem. In June 1967, Israel annexed East Jerusalem into its territory, in contravention of principles of international humanitarian law and international law. Today, East Jerusalem remains occupied territory under international law. Any measures aimed at altering the status of the city have no validity based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 252.

2. Who lives in Jerusalem?

The total population in Jerusalem was 882,652 in 2016, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Israeli Jews made up 60 percent of the city’s population with Palestinians forming a substantial minority, at 38 percent of the population.
Although East Jerusalem is Occupied Palestinian Territory, approximately 212,000 Israeli settlers now live in Jewish-only settlements in East Jerusalem which are considered illegal under international law.

The majority of Palestinian in Jerusalem hold permanent resident status, a tenuous and revocable status. Between 1967 and 2017, Israel revoked the Jerusalem permanent residency status of more than 14,500 Palestinians, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

Also within the bounds of Jerusalem are Shu’fat refugee camp and part of Qalandia refugee camp, established in 1965 and 1949 respectively. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)reported that 12,000 registered Palestine refugees live in Shu’fat. Another 12,500 registered Palestine refugees who live in Qalandia refugee camp are now cut off from Jerusalem by the separation barrier.

3. What is the separation barrier?

Israel began constructing the separation barrier in 2002 during a period of hightened tensions, citing security, not a political border, as the main goal of the barrier. The separation barrier’s projected length is over 712 kilometers (442 miles) and does not follow the Green Line, with approximately 85 percent of its route in the West Bank. In its advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) considered Israel’s separation barrier a violation of Israel’s obligations under international law. ICJ also stated that Israel must cease construction of the barrier and compensate those who suffered property losses as a result.

Composed of concrete walls, electronic fences, ditches and other barriers, the separation barrier cuts Palestinians off from the city. Palestinians living in the Jerusalem municipal borders but beyond the separation barrier also suffer significant service gaps.

4. Are there Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem?

According to a 2017 report by OCHA, there are approximately 212,000 Israeli settlers residing in East Jerusalem and 35 percent of East Jerusalem has been expropriated and allocated for settlements. A further 180 Palestinian households are at risk of eviction and displacement, according to the same report. The establishment of settlements and the transfer of the Occupying Power's civilian population into the territory it occupies is prohibited by international humanitarian law.

5. Do Palestinians residing in East Jerusalem receive municipal services?

While Palestinian and Jewish residents of Jerusalem are taxed comparably by the Jerusalem Municipality, Palestinian neighborhoods do not receive the same quality and distribution of municipal services. A European Parliament policy briefing found that in 2012, 36 percent of the municipality's total fiscal revenues derived from Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, but only 10 percent of the annual budget went to this population. For Palestinian neighborhoods that are in the Jerusalem governorate but now fall outside the separation barrier, the quality and quantity of municipal services is especially low.

6. What are Israel’s housing policies in East Jerusalem?

Israel uses discriminatory planning and zoning laws to limit Palestinian urban growth and development in East Jerusalem. Only 13 percent of land in East Jerusalem, approximately nine square kilometers, is zoned for Palestinian construction, OCHA reported. About half of the land is allocated for green space, public infrastructure or is unplanned. The remaining 35 percent has been allocated for Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

Even in areas zoned for Palestinian construction, Palestinians must first obtain an Israeli-issued permit to build or add onto structures. Discriminatory city planning combined with obstacles to acquiring these permits have led to many Palestinians building without permits. OCHA estimates that approximately 33 percent Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack building permits. Israel often enforces these laws by demolishing unpermitted homes, resulting in current risk of displacement to over 100,000 Palestinian Jerusalem residents.

7. What is the rights situation of Palestinian children from in East Jerusalem during Israeli detention?

Since Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Palestinians from East Jerusalem are subject to Israeli civilian law, unlike Palestinians in the rest of the West Bank, who are subject to Israeli military law.

For minors, the Israeli Youth Law theoretically applies equally to Palestinian and Israeli children in Jerusalem. The Israeli Youth Law provides special safeguards and protections to children in conflict with the law, including: the use of arrest as a last resort, advance notice before questioning takes place, minimal use of restraints, and the presence of a legal guardian or adult family member during questioning.

However in practice, Israeli authorities implement the law in a discriminatory manner, often by the overuse of exception clauses, denying Palestinian children in East Jerusalem the full range or protections offered by law.

8. Are Palestinian children accessing their right to education in East Jerusalem?

Palestinian students in East Jerusalem suffer from overcrowding, poor facilities, and classroom shortages, impacting their ability to properly access their right to an education. In 2017, OCHA reported a “chronic” shortage of classrooms, with an immediate need for the creation of 2,600 new classrooms and improvements needed to many others.

Just over 40 percent of school-aged Palestinian children attended public schools that were registered and fully funded by the Jerusalem Municipality in 2017, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) reported. The rest attended partially funded or private schools due to the Municipality’s failure to resolve longstanding classroom and staffing shortages.

Despite this large shortages, in 2017, Israeli rights group Ir Amin found that the Jerusalem Municipality allocated only 16 percent of funding intended for classroom construction to East Jerusalem schools, despite East Jerusalem holding 55 percent of the city’s missing classrooms.

While most Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem follow a Palestinian curriculum, Israel began offering financial incentives to schools that adopt the Israeli curriculum in 2016. These funds go to extra instructional minutes, arts and music classes, counselling and teacher training, local media reported. In 2017, Israel’s cabinet approved a five year plan to expand the number of schools using Israel’s elementary and high school curriculum. The plan drew criticism from Palestinian parents and teachers, who viewed it as a form of censoring Palestinian history and believed it would harm the development of children’s cultural identity.

9. Are Palestinians allowed to take part in civic and cultural activities in Jerusalem?

The majority of Palestinians in East Jerusalem have permanent resident status, not Israeli citizenship, the same status granted to foreign nationals seeking long-term residence in Jerusalem. As permanent residents, Palestinians cannot vote or run in Israeli national elections but they can cast ballots in municipal elections. Palestinian Jerusalemites have boycotted municipal elections, however, with less than 1 percent voting in the 2013 municipal elections.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a state party, protects the right of free expression. However, rights groups have heighlighted many instances where Israeli authorities shut down Palestinian cultural performances and other forms of public expression.

10. Are Palestinians able to practice their right to worship in holy sites in Jerusalem?

Israel has barred some 4.5 million Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory from entering Jerusalem unless they have an Israeli permit. These permits are difficult to obtain, with changing rules and conditions, which at times preclude broad segments of the population from permit eligibility based on age or gender. As a result, Palestinian Muslims and Christians outside of the separation barrier have severely limited access to religious sites in Jerusalem.

Within and beyond the Old City’s walls are sites sacred to all three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Even when Palestinians are granted a permit to reach Jerusalem, conditions at checkpoints can create further barriers to vulnerable travelers, such as children, elderly, and individuals with disabilities.

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has expressed concerns over Israeli actions to limit Palestinian access to Jerusalem and Israeli excavations around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City.


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