Throughout the OPT Israel follows a policy of not granting Palestinians building permits. How is this done in a country that claims to be a democracy? Discrimination against Palestinians (and this is true for the Palestinian citizens of Israel as well) is embedded in the dry technicalities of planning, zoning, and administration. Almost the entire West Bank has been declared by Israel “agricultural land,” so that when Palestinians request permission to build on their own properties they are refused. Virtually all of East Jerusalem has been zoned as “open green space,” meaning a Palestinian can own land but cannot build upon it, the land being “reserved” for future urban development (read: Israeli settlements and roads).
In Jerusalem, moreover, the official policy of the Israeli government is to maintain a 72%-28% majority of Jews over Arabs in the city (the actual ratio today is about 64%-36%). All urban policies related to housing and residence – permits for Palestinians to live in the city (they only have permanent residency that can be revoked, not Israeli citizenship), land expropriation and zoning restrictions, house demolitions, settlement expansion into Palestinian neighborhoods, the isolation of East Jerusalem from the rest of Palestinian society and its subsequent impoverishment, routes of highways through Palestinian communities or, conversely, neglect of Palestinian infrastructure – are tied to what in Israel is called the “Quiet Transfer,”: reducing, fragmenting and isolating as much as possible the Palestinian presence in order to “judaize” Jerusalem (an official term actually used by the Israeli government in planning).