11/17/2018, 12.00
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Jerusalem, Jewish real estate 'colonisation' ousting Palestinians (and Christians)

The sale of the family home of the Muslim holder of the key to the Holy Sepulcher confirms a growing trend. For a Palestinian, to give up property to a Jew is considered a disgrace and a betrayal. For Jewish intermediaries, it is a "peaceful" and "fantastic" way to carry on the territorial conflict. The issue also worries Christian religious leaders. Greek Orthodox bishop slams the trend, saying that it is aimed at marginalising the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The odd and mysterious sale of the home of the Muslim man who holds the key to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, recently bought by an Israeli Jew, has reawakened the pain caused by the issue of property and real estate in the holy city.

Adeeb Joudeh, whose family has held the key to the most cherished site in all of Christianity since the Crusades, has seen Israeli Jews enter the house. To those who asked him for explanations, he said he sold the property in 2016 to a Palestinian businessman, not "the enemy".

The “real estate” war is but one of the many fault-lines pitting communities in Jerusalem, the centre of Christianity and an equally sacred place for Jews and Muslims, contested capital between Israel and the future Palestinian state.

For a Palestinian to sell his house, real estate property or place of business to the Jewish "enemy" is deemed "treason".

Yet, some settler organisations involved in real estate swear that they are "overwhelmed" by the number of requests from Palestinians who want to sell and go abroad.

With respect to this case, the news of the house sale spread across the city causing scandal and sparking outrage, reopening old wounds over what is an absolute taboo.

"We are Palestinians who live under occupation,” Adeeb Joudeh is quoted as saying in L'Orient-Le Jour. “Selling my house to Jews is a disgrace, not only for my family but for all Palestinians."

Whilst how the change of ownership was done remains a mystery, the real estate war in Jerusalem and across Palestine is crystal clear. Every single sale of an asset outside the community is felt as an injury because – according to the shared view of Palestinians – keeping the property is a "sacred duty, at a political and religious level".

Under Palestinian law, the sale of land or real estate to Israelis is a crime punishable by death. However, President Mahmoud Abbas has never authorised any executions since he came to power in 2004.

Still, in light of the huge amounts of money offered in many cases by Jews to Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority has had to use an iron fist to try to crack down on a dangerous market and reassert once again – together with Muslim religious leaders – the absolute ban on sales.

If "real estate colonisation" worries the Palestinians, for Israeli Jews it represents a "peaceful" way of pursuing the ongoing territorial conflict. Even in the face of a "slow" process, it will bear fruit in the long run".

The confirmation of this comes from Arieh King, director of an agency specialised in the purchase of Palestinian Muslim assets, which are then sold to "new Jewish settlers".

"It's just a question of money," says the real estate agent, who sometimes uses Arab intermediaries to facilitate buying and selling. As an Orthodox Jew, he says that he sometimes delays the formal purchase to allow the Palestinian family that sells to flee abroad to avoid retaliation.

“Together with the sale, we give them a hand with the exit papers", thus killing two birds with one stone: we buy houses and make sure that Arabs leave Israel. It’s fantastic."

The issue of ownership also worries Christian leaders, as evinced by the recent statement made by Mgr Atallah Hanna, the Archbishop of Sebastia of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

Slamming all those who agree to sell (or sell off) Christian and Muslim property in Palestine, he reiterated that assets are under attack with the aim of "marginalising" the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

"Those who sold off their properties and target our endowments are seeking to depreciate our historical presence in this holy land,” bemoaned the prelate.

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