Palestine’s Plight: Breakdown Of Terminology Used In The Palestinian Occupation

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In the past two weeks, all eyes have been on Palestine and its people. Whether it’s the mainstream news or social media, everyone has been sharing information and spreading awareness about the realities of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. And with good reason! This global pressure has resulted in a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine and has temporarily delayed the illegal evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. But we know that fully understanding what is happening in Palestine can be complicated and there’s a lot of context needed. So we’ve compiled an A to Z list of all the terminology that’s being used in regards to the occupation in hopes of clarifying some misconceptions and spreading some more awareness! 

Al-Aqsa Mosque

The Al-Aqsa Mosque is located in a compound, also known as the Noble Sanctuary, in the Old City of Jerusalem. This entire compound holds a lot of significance for Muslims, Jews and Christians. In Islam, it is the third-most holiest site for many reasons along with the fact that it was the first qibla for Muslims. In Judaism, it is believed to be the location of Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The compound’s Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall to Jews, is believed to be the last remnant of the Second Wall. In Christianity, according the to the New Testament, the Noble Sanctuary is the site of Herod’s Temple, the site of many significant events in the life of Jesus. The Al-Aqsa Compound is a common point of contention between the Israelis and Palestinians.


Annexation is the forcible acquisition of one state’s territory by another state and is generally held to be illegal. During the 1967 Six Day War, Israel captured East Jerusalem and has occupied it to this day, effectively annexing it. This is illegal under international law.


Anti-Semitism is defined as hostility to, prejudice or discrimination against Jews. The Holocaust, which targeted Jews in Europe, is an example of anti-Semitism. However, there is a misconception that speaking out against Israel is anti-Semitic. There is a clear distinction between speaking out against Israel and its policies versus showing any discrimination towards people of the Jewish faith.


The UN has described the crime of apartheid as inhumane acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systemically oppressing them. The term originated in South Africa and was the official name of the South African system of racial segregation. Several organisations, including the Human Rights Watch, state that Israel is practicing apartheid against Palestinians due to many inhumane acts committed, including the denial of the right to leave the country and return, creation of separate reserves and ghettos and expropriation of landed property.

Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

BDS is a Palestinian-led global movement for freedom, equality and justice for the Palestinians. It promotes boycotts, divestments and economic sanctions against Israel as a way to pressurize the Israeli government to meet their obligations under international law. Some organizations that BDS boycotts include HP, Motorola and CAT as they all directly aid Israel’s occupation of Palestine. 


A ceasefire, also known as a truce, is a temporary stoppage of a war where both sides agree to suspend aggressive actions against each other. The most recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was called on Friday, 21st May 2021, after 11 days of fighting, where most of the casualties were women and children in Gaza. However, a few hours after the ceasefire, Israeli forces were seen attacking worshippers at the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem. 


The occupation of Palestine is often referred to as the Israel-Palestine conflict, with mainstream news outlets reporting the violence as clashes. Conflicts and clashes, however, indicate that there is balance between both sides, which there isn’t in this case. Israel has access to the latest technology and weapons, has a large military force and is a nuclear power. Palestine, on the other hand, has no real state or army. This imbalance indicates that both sides do not have an equal hand in the situation. 


Dispossession is the action of depriving someone of their land, property and other possessions. Since the first occupation in 1967, Palestinians have been continuously facing dispossession at the hand of the Israelis. For over 50 years, Israel has been forcing thousands of Palestinians off their lands, occupying and illegally using it to exclusively house Israeli Jewish settlers. According to Deutsche Welle, the Israeli government even offers Israeli Jews incentives to move to these illegal settlements, where cost of living is considerably lower than Tel Aviv. The latest Palestinian neighborhood to face dispossession is Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.

East Jerusalem

East Jerusalem is the part of Jerusalem that was occupied by Jordan in the 1948 Arab-Israel War. In 1967, Israel gained control over East Jerusalem, effectively annexing it. This annexation, however, is a violation of international law and isn’t recognized by many countries. East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City of Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah, has faced countless illegal settlements from Israeli Jews over the years and is the focal point of the Palestinian occupation. 

Ethnic Cleansing

Ethnic cleansing is the forced removal of a racial, ethnic or religious group from a given area, often with the intention of making that region ethnically homogenous. This is what has been happening in Palestine for many years and continues to happen, especially in East Jerusalem, where countless Palestinians are forced out of their ancestral homes and neighborhoods. 

Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip is a self-governing Palestinian territory on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. However, Israel maintains direct external control over Gaza and indirect control over life within Gaza. It controls Gaza’s air and maritime space and reserves the right to enter Gaza at will. Palestinian living in Gaza, and the West Bank, have constantly been denied basic rights by the Israelis. Movement is heavily restricted; to the point that aid cannot enter Gaza unless Israel authorises it. 


Genocide is the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the intent of destroying that nation or group. The violence and crimes committed by the Israelis towards the Palstinians are often described as state-sanctioned genocide. In the past 11 days of violence in Gaza, 230 Palestinians were killed by Israel.

Green Colonialism

Also known as climate colonialism, this is when the colonisation of a land negatively effects the environment and natural resources of the country. Palestine was once home to an abundant variety of trees and agricultural crops, such as oaks, olives and figs. However, once Israel was declared a state, they uprooted these crops and trees for European pine trees, which reduced biodiversity and harmed the local environment. 

Hague Convention

The Hague Conventions, along with the Geneva Conventions, were the first formal statements on the laws of war and war crimes in international law. These conventions establish the laws and customs of war, which everyone has to follow. Under international law, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian Territories is a violation and breach of the Hague Conventions. Moreover, Israel has violated 28 resolutions that the UN Security Council has passed to date. 


Hamas is a Palestinian nationalist, fundamentalist and militant organization, founded in 1987, that aims to free Palestine from Israeli Occupation and make it an Islamic State. While many countries have called Hamas a terrorist organization, the UN General Assembly rejected a 2018 US resolution condemning Hamas as a terrorist organization. Many people hold the belief that the military wing of Hamas is the only defense force Palestine has while others believe that Hamas is not a true representation of the Palestinian people.


IDF stands for the Israeli Defense Forces, comprising Israel’s army, navy and air force. There is a lot of criticism of the IDF for the brutal force they use on Palestinians while favoring Israeli Jews. Human rights organizations have gone on to say that the IDF should also be considered a terrorist organization. Breaking The Silence is an organization made up of veterans from the IDF who have taken it upon themselves to expose the realities of the force to the Israeli public. 

Illegal Settlements

Illegal settlements are areas where groups of housing units have been constructed on land that the occupants have no legal claim to. Over the past 50 years, Israelis have been forcing Palestinians off their lands and out of their homes and illegally creating exclusively Israeli Jewish settlements, in direct violation of international law. According to Amnesty International, over 100,000 hectares of land has been appropriated by Israel from Palestine since 1967. Over 600,000 Jewish Israeli settlers are living on Palestinian land. 


An intifada, which means tremor in Arabic, is a rebellion, uprising or resistance movement against oppression. The First Intifada in Palestine was a series of protests against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It began in December 1987 and lasted for five years, until the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993. The Intifiada is recognized as an occasion where Palestinians united and acted cohesively, without any assistance from other Arab countries. 


Al Nakba, which translates to ‘The Catastrophe,’ refers to the mass exodus of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948. Many consider this day to be when the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and destruction of Palestinian society began. According to Al Jazeera, Zionist forces destroyed 530 villages and cities and killed around 15,000 Palestinians in a series of mass atrocities, including more than 70 massacres. 

Occupied Palestinian Territories

The Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) comprises of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, which have been occupied by Israel since 1967. The term has been in usage, officially by the International Court of Justice and the UN, since 1999. The term has a lot of importance as it puts certain obligations on the occupying power, Israel in this case, under international law. However, Israeli officials disagree with the term and continue to disregard it, in another attempt to erase Palestine from the world.

Oslo Accords

The Oslo Accords are a pair of agreements between the government of Israel and the Palestinians Liberation Organization, signed in Washington DC in 1993 with the aim of achieving a peace treaty between the two. The agreements were met with a lot of opposition from the Palestinians as they did not make a Palestinian state. In January 2018, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of Palestine and chairman of PLO, called to revise the agreement, stating that Israel ended the agreement. 

Roof Knocking

Roof knocking is a term used by the IDF to describe their practice of dropping non-explosive or low-yield devices on the roofs of civilian homes in Palestinian territories. They serve as a prior warning to the inhabitants of an imminent bombing, giving them time to flee. However, in reality, civilians are given less than adequate time to flee. 

Settler Colonialism

Settler colonialism is a form of colonialism that seeks to replace the original population of the colonized territory with an entirely new society of settlers. While there have been debates on whether Israel is a settler colony, many academics and scholars around the world agree that it is the product of a national settler-colonial project. Through forceful removal of Palestinians from their native lands and ancestral homes, amongst other things, it is clear that the Zionist movement wants to establish a Greater Israel and is not interested in seeing a separate Palestinian state established along the borders decided in 1967. 

Sheikh Jarrah

Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, is the latest victim of forced evictions and dispossession by Israel. Although the neighborhood has been seeing Jewish Israeli settlers for many years now, earlier in the year the Israeli Central Court approved the forceful eviction of four families in the neighborhood in favor of right-wing Israeli settlers. The increased protests against this ruling, which sparked the recent bout of violence between Israel and Palestine, managed to delay the Supreme Court’s ruling. However, the neighborhood has now become a full-fledged military zone, with blockades preventing Palestinians from leaving or entering the neighborhood. Jewish settlers have no restriction of movement and are often seen openly carrying firearms as well. Most recently, the Sheikh Jarrah location tag on Instagram removed Palestine in the name, replacing it with Israel. It was one of the few location tags that still mentioned Palestine.

Social Media Censorship

Social media has been at the crux of the recent violence between Israel and Palestine. Many Palestinian activists, including Mohammad El-Kurd of Sheikh Jarrah, have been using social media, especially Instagram, to inform the public of the realities Palestinians face at the hands of the IDF. As more and more people started spreading awareness of these events on a global level, a lot of people started experiencing social media censorship. Many influencers, even in Pakistan, have noticed a decrease in views and engagement, criticising Instagram and Facebook for showing a bias in their algorithm. To bypass this censorship, however, social media users have found alternative methods of sharing content and spreading awareness. 


A supremacist is someone who believes that a particular group of people, especially determined by a race, religion or sex, is superior to others and should, therefore, dominate society. We have seen this many times before; from Nazis to Ku Klux Klan, supremacists have always existed. Within Israel and Palestine, there are many Jewish supremacists, often known as Zionists, who believe in a Greater Israel and have been seen chanting ‘Death To Arabs’ at countless occasions. 

War Crimes

A war crime is an act that violates the laws of war and gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. These crimes include intentionally killing civilians, destroying cities and villages and attacking journalists. Over the past several years, Israel has committed several war crimes, including recently targeting the building that housed the Al Jazeera and AP News offices in Gaza. In the recent attacks on Gaza, 230 civilians were killed, including doctors, women and children. However, Israel argues that they were targeting Hamas militants and the casualties were voluntary human shields. 


Zionism is a nationalist movement and ideology that believes Judaism is a nationality as well as a religion and that all Jewish people should have their own state, Israel. Zionism is at the heart of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and Palestinians, and many others around the world, strongly oppose Zionism as it gives Jews around the world superiority over others. According to Vox, any Jew around the world can become an Israeli citizen, a right that isn’t extended to anyone else. However, it is very important to remember that Zionism and its ideologies are very different from Judaism and what the religion preaches. In fact, there are many Jews around the world that vehemently denounce Zionism and support Palestine in their fight for freedom.

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