East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Police and Border Police officers escorted several Jewish families past Arab protesters and into their newly acquired homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Tuesday, police said.
The seven residences, adjacent to the capital’s Old City, were purchased by Elad, a rightwing organization that uses funds from Jewish supporters in the United States and elsewhere to buy properties in Arab districts.
According to police, during a brief confrontation, one officer was lightly wounded by a rock that a protester threw.
“In terms of the police perspective, the homes were legally sold to the Jewish families, who were escorted by officers to prevent incidents from local Arab residents,” a police spokesman said, adding that there had been no arrests.
Tuesday’s move was the largest Jewish purchase of homes in Silwan since the process began in the neighborhood in 1986, raising the number of Jewish-owned properties to 26, local officials said. Around 90 Jewish families, totaling 500 people, live in Silwan among an estimated 50,000 Arabs.
“This is a government by the settlers, for the settlers,” declared Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief peace negotiator, who called the move an attempt to erase Palestinian identity. “It serves the objective of altering the character of Jerusalem through isolating, containing and confining Palestinian existence, allowing for more Israeli land-grabs.”
Residents of Silwan – a tightly packed neighborhood of winding streets on the side of a hill – acknowledged on Tuesday that there was little they could do to stop Jewish buyers from moving in.
In the latest case, Elad purchased all of the homes legally via intermediaries, typically Palestinian brokers who bought the properties from local families at inflated prices.
However, a number of local residents remained upset about the transactions.
At one house, Khaled Karaeen, a 62-year-old father of six, sat with his head in his hands in the courtyard of his home, edgily flicking worry beads.
Relatives said one of Karaeen’s sons had sold a dwelling inside the grounds of the family home to a Palestinian broker about a year ago for NIS 1.2 million, around twice as much as the property was probably worth.
The broker then sold the apartment to Elad, which in turn rented it out to the Jewish occupants.
“They want to make a joke of us,” said Fadi Maragha, a local Fatah representative who said he had come to offer support to Karaeen’s family. As he spoke, a muezzin issued the call to prayer from a nearby mosque.
“They think they can drive us out. But we are the landowners. We were here, and we will be here until we have all of Palestine without any Jewish people in it,” he said.
In the past, Palestinians found to have sold their homes to Jewish organizations have been killed.
Asked what would happen to the son and the broker to whom he had sold the property, Maragha said he felt they should die, but he did not expect that to happen.
“We know who the broker is. He’s living in a town south of Jerusalem,” he said. “But he’s rich and he’s protected, including by the Israelis.”