World Bulletin/News Desk
No sooner does one enter the Palestinian village of Silwan in East Jerusalem than one can see the Israeli flags fluttering over a number of homes in the area.
The presence of Israeli settlers in 37 apartments in the village brings Palestinians face to face with what they most fear: Israeli settlers buying homes in Palestinian villages of the Old City, thus changing the city's demographic nature.
This is particularly meaningful in this part of the world, where success is measured by the size of one's land holdings.
Israeli settler groups could only get their hands on 11 apartments in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where around 55,000 Palestinians live.
Settlers recently managed to acquire another 26 apartments and ten homes in the area, bringing the total number of apartments owned by settlers in the predominantly Palestinian village to 47.
This has prompted fears of creeping Israeli control over the villages, which for centuries have been Palestinian.
"The acquisition by Jewish settlers of 37 more apartments in the village raises the number of settler-owned homes to 47," Ahmed al-Ruweidi, the Palestinian presidency's Jerusalem affairs advisor, told Anadolu Agency.
He said settlers generally acquire the apartments through brokers, who buy them from their Palestinian owners before selling them on to Jewish settlers.
That Palestinian villagers now find Israelis as their next-door neighbors has come as a shock to both residents and Palestinian officials.
"We are shocked by this," Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, head of the Palestinian Higher Islamic Authority, told AA.
"We never expected that so many apartments could be sold to Israeli settlers," he added, noting the presence of special committees tasked with monitoring property deals in Silwan.
Local residents say that when they arrived, the Israeli settlers found the apartments completely empty, raising fears that they may have been sold to the settlers by their original Palestinian owners.
Soon afterward, some local residents posted the photos and names of local brokers who buy apartments from their Palestinian owners and then sell them on to Israeli settlers.
Al-Ruweidi said Palestinians used the word "confiscation" when they talk about property in Palestinian villages purchased by Israeli settlers.
"The Palestinian mind cannot accept the idea that a Palestinian might sell his or her land or home to Israelis," al-Ruweidi said.
"Now, however, such taboos have been broken; now folks talk about the people who buy these homes and plots of land and sell them to the Israelis," he added.
AA could not independently approach the alleged property brokers whose photos and names have been posted on social media networks.
"The selling of properties does not happen directly with Israeli settlers," said Ziad al-Hamouri, director of the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, a Palestinian NGO.
"Brokers buy these properties and then sell them to settler groups," he told AA.
He said international law did not recognize the purchase of Palestinian property by Israeli settlers, noting that these laws banned any change in the status of homes, land or residents under occupation.
On Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas amended the Penal Code in the occupied West Bank.
The amendments stipulate that Palestinians who sell or lease property to individuals from an "enemy country" would be imprisoned for life with hard labor.
The Revolutionary Council of Abbas' Fatah movement on Tuesday accused Palestinians involved in such dealings with committing "treason."
In 1996, Sheikh Sabri issued an edict banning the sale of Palestinian property to Israelis. The pronouncement, he said, was based on a 1934 edict to the same effect.
Al-Ruweidi, meanwhile, said the Palestinian government was closely monitoring the legal status of property in Palestinian villages.
"But this is a tough task," he conceded.
For the Israelis, however, it is not an issue of buying one or two apartments. Rather, it appears to be a gradual process aimed at establishing control over the Old City.
Aryeh King, a right-wing settler bent on evicting Palestinians from Jerusalem, praised those who did the "holy job" of buying Palestinian property in Jerusalem.
In a message entitled "The Children Have Come Back," he expressed hope that the number of Israeli residents in the area would rise further.Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Ekim 2014, 17:14