A VIEW from a-Tur of Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, with Abu Dis, beyond the security barrier, in the distance..
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
Left-wing leaders on Monday contended that far-right-wing Jerusalem City Councilman Arieh King’s recent claim that there is a “big wave” of Palestinian home owners in east Jerusalem eager to sell their properties to Jewish buyers is a vast overstatement.
King, the director and founder of the Israel Land Fund, which seeks to relocate Jews to Palestinian neighborhoods in the capital, said in a Monday Arutz Sheva website interview that he is traveling to the US and Canada to convince Jewish buyers to purchase the many properties purportedly on the market.
“More and more Arabs are offering properties for sale,” he is quoted as saying in the piece, accompanied by the headline: “Arabs flooding the market with real estate across Israel.”
“Because of that, the cost of properties that Arabs are selling is dropping and we are able to buy in areas that we never thought to buy. So this visit is really to expose the areas that we are already active [in], and to expose the properties to Jewish potential buyers.”
King, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, added that he hopes the timing of his upcoming visit – during Tisha Be’av, the annual Jewish mourning period over the destruction of the Temples, as well as numerous other Jewish tragedies – will rouse potential buyers into taking action.
“The timing is important,” he said.
“It will be during the Nine Days, when we are mourning and remembering that Jerusalem is still a city that needs to be rebuilt, and that we are missing our Temple on Mount Moriya.
“Every person during the Nine Days is thinking about the history of how the city was during the First Temple and the Second Temple. And I’m coming with others to the US and Canada to tell people that we can change it.”
King continued: “We can build Jerusalem, and every Jew can participate today in buying a property. You don’t need to be a billionaire in order to buy.
You can buy for $100,000, $200,000 a property in Jerusalem that will give you a property in the holy city… and it will help us to strengthen the Jewish presence in the strategic and historical neighborhoods that surround the Old City.”
While there are no official figures for the number of Arab east Jerusalem homes for sale, according to Anat Ben Nun, Peace Now’s director of development and external relations, King’s contention is overblown.
“The vast majority of Palestinians will never sell their homes to Jewish Israelis,” said Ben Nun on Monday.
“When homes get sold, it is often done through a ‘straw man,’ who works together with Israeli settler organizations. The few that sell do so for financial reasons, as they are offered very high sums of money for their properties, and face harsh social consequences.”
Former east Jerusalem portfolio head and Meretz City Councilman Meir Margalit echoed Ben Nun’s sentiments, adding that Palestinians who sell homes to Jewish buyers are ostracized by their community for being “collaborators.”
“I know that there are three, four, or five Palestinians who are ready to sell their properties to Jewish people for a lot of money for the opportunity for them to become ‘millionaires,’” said Margalit by phone on Monday.
“In any society you can find collaborators.
Without any doubt, these are collaborators and there’s nothing we can do.”
Margalit emphasized that there are so few such sellers in east Jerusalem that stating they “represent a fraction is giving them too much credit.”
“They are so few, and we know who they are,” he said, adding that the sellers risk being vilified by their neighbors, or worse.
“They are very strongly condemned,” he said. “And once they sell the property, their lives are in danger.
So in many cases, the settlers send them abroad. Otherwise they can be killed.”
Asked if he considers such Palestinians to be immoral, Margalit replied: “I think that history will not forgive them.”