They Say/We Say: "Israelis and Palestinians can buy property in East Jerusalem. Why is that a problem?"

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

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They Say, We Say: What About Jerusalem and Hebron?

They Say:

Israelis and Palestinians can buy property in East Jerusalem. Why is that a problem – unless you are in favor of discrimination against Jews?

We Say:The fact is that to the extent that a real estate market exists in East Jerusalem, it exists to facilitate the transfer of property from Palestinians to Israelis. With respect to purchasing property, any Israeli – and, in fact, any Jew from anywhere in the world – can legally buy property in Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem. And as it happens, entire organizations, backed by massive and entirely non-transparent private foreign funding (kept secret through the active protection of Israeli courts) exist for the purpose of making such purchases. They do so with a publicly-stated political agenda of working to push out the Palestinians, establish Jewish hegemony in these areas, and thereby make impossible a two-state peace agreement and undermine any Palestinians claims in the city. And they do so with the active and tacit support of Israeli municipal and governmental authorities.

On the other hand, the Palestinian side of the real estate market – the potential buyers – is artificially limited. Palestinians who do not have legal residency in Jerusalem (i.e., Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians living abroad – including Palestinians who might have been born in or have parents born in East or West Jerusalem) are barred from living in the city. Palestinian West Bankers cannot, for all intents and purposes, purchase land in Jerusalem, and they are entirely prohibited from doing so on State controlled lands (which accounts for most of the city). Those who do own land in the Jerusalem may not access it freely, since as non-residents they have no legal right to enter or stay in the city without a special permit from Israel.

Palestinians who do have legal residency in East Jerusalem are a marginalized, underserved collective of around 350,000 people. While these Palestinians technically have the right to purchase property anywhere in the city, in reality there are very few instances of Palestinians purchasing property in Jewish West Jerusalem – reflecting both the fact that their lives and communities are in the Palestinian part of the city, and the fact that Israelis do not want to sell to them. Underscoring this fact is the case Nof Zion, a settlement project in Jabel Mukabber. When that project was failing financially (for lack of Israeli buyers), a wealthy Palestinian sought to purchase the development from the creditor, offering a price higher than any Israeli bidder. His effort was thwarted by an organized and very public campaign to block the sale for the declared purpose of keeping the property in Jewish Israeli hands. The property was subsequently sold to a Jewish Israeli businessman and is now a large Jewish-populated settlement. And even in this example, small symbols can sometimes disclose large truths: in Jabel Mukabber, sidewalks line the road only in the area bordering the settlement; when the road enters the built-up Palestinian areas, the sidewalks disappear.