Tangled web of Jewish ownership in ‘Arab’ areas

The stench of hypocrisy is rising from thecurrent furore surrounding US objections to the redevelopment by a Jewish owner of the Shepherd hotel – once itself owned by the pro-Nazi Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini – in the ‘Arab’ Sheikh Jarrah district of Jerusalem.

Jewish construction is seen as an obstacle to peace; burgeoning Arab construction in Jerusalem (much of it illegal) is not. You only have to read Justus Reid Weiner‘s research exposing the construction boom in thousands of Arab units in Jerusalem, much of it lavishly funded by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and the Palestinian Authority, to understand that peace is not the issue. On the contrary, over the last several years, the Arabs have been engaged in a political and demographic race for control of Jerusalem.

To the US government and the European Union, everything is black-and-white: in their eyes west Jerusalem is ‘Jewish’, and east Jerusalem, where Israeli sovereignty is not recognised under international law, remains ‘Arab’. In truth, this simplistic view ignores the fact that the eastern part of Jerusalem only became Jew-free when the thousands of Jewish inhabitants were ‘ethnically cleansed’ from the old city in 1948, scores of synagogues destroyed and cemeteries desecrated during 19 years of Jordanian occupation. The city was reunited when the eastern side of the city was recaptured and annexed in 1967 by Israel.

The issue of land ownership in Jerusalem is far more complex than the Obama administration and the EU would have us believe. Mount Scopus – the original site of the Hebrew university campus and the Hadassah hospital – remained a Jewish enclave in Jordanian-controlled territory. It is also a little known fact that hundreds of thousands of Arab squatters in ‘Arab east Jerusalem’ live on land still owned by the Jewish National Fund. The JNF purchased hundreds of individual parcels of land in and around Jerusalem during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Some ended up under Jordanian control. In 1948, on one of these parcels the UN built the Kalandiarefugee camp, seizing the land without permission from the owners, the JNF. As Gil Zohar explained in his 2007 Jerusalem Post piece other parcels of land in ‘Arab’ east Jerusalem were cut off from their Iraqi and Iranian Jewish owners after they came under Jordanian rule. In total 145,976 dunams* of Jewish land is said to have come under Jordanian control. ((Jewish property claims against Arab countries by Michael Fischbach, p 85).

Another 16,684.421 dunams of Jewish land in the rural West Bank – including the Gush Etzion settlements, land between Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm, and in Bethlehem and Hebron – were seized by the Jordanians after 1948.

The Golan Heights are almost universally considered ‘Syrian’ territory and yet the JNF lays claim to 73,974 dunams in southern Syria (op cit, p36). The earliest purchase was made in the 1880s.

On the macro-level, it is estimated that Jews living in Arab countries owned some 100,000 sq km of deeded property, equivalent to four or five times the size of Israel. Many cities in the ‘Arab’ Middle East and North Africa had large Jewish populations. Baghdad was a quarter Jewish. When over 90 per cent of Iraq’s Jews left for Israel in 1950 – 51, property seized by the Iraqi government included three hospitals, 19 Jewish schools, 31 synagogues and two cemeteries.

In Egypt mansions belonging to wealthy Jewish families became embassies, residences and public institutions. Jihan Sadat still lives in a mansion once owned by the Castro family, and president Mubarak reputedly has the use of a villa owned by the Smouha family.

The international community gets into a huff when Jerusalem property once owned by Arabs is legally bought by Jews. Across the Arab world, Jewish property has been abandoned, sequestered or sold well below market value as Jews left in haste or were driven out. The West is sanctioning the principle that the Arab world must be Jew-free (Arab states have almost succeeded in this task, having banished 97 percent of their Jewish population) . The takeover of millions of dollars’ worth of Jewish homes, shops, offices and communal property by Arabs has never been considered provocative or an ‘obstacle to peace’.

Double standard, anyone?

* 1 dunam= 1,000 sq. metres

Update (with thanks Lily) : the irony that the Shepherd hotel in Jerusalem should have been owned by a man committed to making the Middle East Judenrein has not been lost on Avigdor Lieberman who has ordered a photo of al-Husseini meeting Hitler to be disseminated by the Israeli foreign ministry.

Crossposted at Melanie Phillips’ blogand at Israpundit

The US – Israeli building dispute over Jerusalem

Jews owned land in the West Bank and Gaza (leaked Palestine Paper)

BBC ignores Jewish claims in Abu Dis


  • The Law of Return is for The Jews, the option to return to Greater Israel and The Arab-Palestinians to leave Greater Israel and return to the Arab countries they originated from. The Arab-Palestinians should move to the Million plus Jewish homes confiscated by the Arab countries from the expelled Jewish people and the 120,440 sq. km. of Real property the Arabs confiscated from the million plus Jews and their children expelled from Arab countries. That is the only viable alternative.
    Face it and stop hallucinating, once and for all. There will never be an Arab-Palestinian State in Greater Israel West of the Jordan River (Judea and Samaria). Jerusalem the United Eternal Capital of the Jewish people.
    YJ Draiman

  • Steve, the fact is that all of the land west of the Jordan, as well as land east of the Jordan River, not demarcated until 1925, was part of the Jewish National Home juridically erected by the international community in 1920 at the San Remo Conference, endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922, confirmed by Article 80 of the UN charter circa 1945, and left unchanged by the General Assembly partition plan recommendation of 11-29-1947. In short, all the land west of the Jordan, including Jerusalem obviously, belongs to the Jewish National Home [Israel recognized Jordanian sovereignty east of the Jordan in the Israel-Jordan peace treaty of 1995].

    So Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem was recognized as far back as 1920. Further, Jews have been the majority of the population in Jerusalem at least since 1853, according to the contemporary French historian Cesar Famin and the Britisher Bartlett. It is generally agreed by knowledgeable historians, even some Arabs, that Jews were the majority in the Holy City in the 2nd half of the 19th century. In 1853, the Old City was the whole city.

    Further, the Old City –on the east side of the city– was under Jordanian occupation from 1948 to 1967. Jews were forbidden to live or even to pass through the kingdom of Jordan by the kingdom's racist laws. Jewish holy places were out of bounds to Jews during the Jordanian occupation. The "Palestinian Authority" has anti-Jewish laws similar to those of Jordan.

  • Fair point and I am not an expert, but the sovereignty is disputed in all these areas.

    That doesn't stop the press talking about 'Arab' east Jerusalem – meaning that a majority of the area is owned and lived in by Arabs – and 'Palestinian land' in the West Bank when there has never been a Palestinian state.

    The ownership issue is complicated by the fact that the JNF has a quasi-government status and'acts on behalf of the Jewish people'.

  • Sounds like you are conflating land ownership with state sovereignty.

    A Canadian may own property in Ft. Lauderdale. That doesn't make his condo Canadian territory.

  • The plot of real estate in question, formerly owned by Haj Amin el-Husseini, British-appointed mufti of Jerusalem and Nazi/Holocaust collaborator, is located about 100 meters from the Shim`on haTsadiq quarter. This quarter or neighborhood is adjacent to the presumed Tomb of Simon the Just [Shim`on haTsadiq]. The tomb and surrounding real estate were purchased by the Ashkenazi and Sefardi communities of Jerusalem circa 1890 in a joint enterprise. Small homes were built on the Jewish-owned plot for poor Jews. Ironically, the Arabs in the adjoining Shaykh Jarrah neighborhood were the wealthy, such as the Nashashibi family that owned a multi-story luxury [for that time] apartment building across the street [Mount Scopus Road, דרך הר הצופים ] from Shim`on haTsadiq. As said, the property owned by the Mufti Husseini was just down the street, about 100 meters from Shim`on haTsadiq and the Nashashibi building.

    The Arab propagandist historian, George Antonius, lived in that same area in a home that he rented from the Mufti and that was called Karm al-Mufti [the mufti's vineyard]. I don't believe that Antonius' former home is part of the plot of land subject to US State Dept and British Foreign Office demands. However, I am not sure exactly where Karm al-Mufti was. Maybe it was part of the plot in question.

    Anyhow, the Jews living in Shim`on haTsadiq were subject to attacks by Arab irregulars in December 1947 and all of them fled near the end of the month. All fled but one family that stayed into January 1948. This last remaining family fled between the 8th and 10th of January. Hence, the Jews of Shim`on haTsadiq were the first group that fled its homes during the War of Independence and could not go home after the war, whereas Jews who had fled south Tel Aviv in December 1947 could go home after the war.

    In other words, the first refugees in that war were Jews, contrary to conventional false claims made today.


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