In the ongoing struggle to reclaim their homeland, the Palestinian Authority has always seen occupied East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state, but the situation on the ground is rapidly changing as more and more Palestinian homes are taken by Israeli entities.
While this has been happening for decades, according to Palestinians in East Jerusalem, there are new agents involved: Palestinian middlemen who act as fronts in the purchase – allegedly backed by settler organizations and, in some cases, individuals in Arab countries.
Getting permission to build a home in Jerusalem is nearly impossible. There is little land allocated for construction and Israeli authorities usually deny Palestinian applications for building permits. Palestinians are often forced to build their homes “illegally”, without permits.
When they build, “the municipality of Jerusalem starts issuing demolition orders and imposes huge fines – up to hundreds of thousands of dollars – on someone already financially overburdened,” explained Khaled Zabarqa, a Jerusalemite lawyer who works with families whose homes have been acquired by settlers.
Under financial pressure, many families choose to sell their homes, so they look for credible Palestinian buyers so as not to sell to settlers.
Enter Palestinian buyers with cash to pay for the homes, sometimes well over market price, and whose profiles are acceptable to sellers and the Palestinian authorities who vouch for their credibility.
These Palestinian “investors” will then sign over their newly bought East Jerusalem real estate to offshore companies – favored by settler organizations – which later transfer ownership to a settler organization.
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