by Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
the past few days graffiti scrawled on walls around the mixed Jewish
and Arab town of Jaffa in central Israel exclaims: “Settlers, keep out”
and “Jaffa is not Hebron”.
Jaffa is only a stone’s throw from the bustling coastal metropolis of
Tel Aviv, Arab residents say their neighbourhood has become the
unlikely battleground for an attempted takeover by extremist Jews more
familiar from West Bank settlements.
numbers of nationalist religious Jews, distinctive for wearing knitted
skullcaps, have begun moving into Jaffa’s deprived main Arab district,
Ajami, over recent months.
have been simmering since a special seminary was established last year
in the heart of Ajami for young Jewish men who combine study of the
Bible with serving in the Israeli army. Many such seminaries, known as
“hesder yeshivas”, are located in the occupied territories and have
earnt a reputation for turning out extremists.
week Ajami’s residents were dealt a further blow when an Israeli court
approved the sale of one of the district’s few remaining building plots
to B’Emuna (Hebrew for “with faith”), a construction company that
specialises in building subsidised homes for religious families, many
of them in West Bank settlements.
Known and very popular cialis coupon which gives all the chance to receive a discount for a preparation which has to be available and exactly cialis coupons has been found in the distant room of this big house about which wood-grouses in the houses tell.
Association of Civil Rights in Israel, the country’s largest human
rights law centre, which petitioned the courts on the Arab residents’
behalf, called the company’s policy “racist”.
which is expected to complete 20 apartments in the next few months, is
applying for approval for a further 180, as well as a second seminary
and a synagogue.
have no problem living peacefully with Jewish neighbours,” said Omar
Siksik, an Arab councillor representing Jaffa in Tel Aviv’s
municipality. “But these Jews are coming here as settlers.
in Hebron, their policy is to weaken us as a population and eventually
push us out of our homes,” he said, referring to a West Bank city where
an enclave of a few dozen settlers has severely disrupted life for tens
of thousands of Palestinians.
fortunes have changed dramatically since early last century when it was
the commercial hub of Palestine, famously exporting its orange crop
around the world. During Israel’s founding in 1948, most of the town’s
Palestinians were expelled or forced to flee, with the few remaining
inhabitants confined to Ajami.
Jaffa’s 18,000 Arab inhabitants are outnumbered two to one by Jews,
after waves of immigrants were settled in empty homes during the 1950s.
residents have long complained of being neglected by a municipality
controlled from Tel Aviv. Ajami’s crumbling homes, ramshackle
infrastructure and crime-ridden streets were on show in this year’s
much-feted eponymous movie, nominated for an Oscar as best
the latest arrivals in Ajami are causing considerable anxiety, even
from officials in Tel Aviv. Gilad Peleg, head of the Jaffa Development
Authority, said he was “deeply concerned” at the trend of extremist
organisations arriving “to shake up the local community”.
Jabali, 56, lives in a modest single-storey home close to the olive
grove where the new apartments will be built. “We’ve seen on TV how
these settlers behave in the occupied territories, and don’t want them
living next to us,” she said. “They’ll come here with the same
despite widespread opposition, the Tel Aviv District Court last week
rejected a petition from 27 residents who argued that the Israel Lands
Authority had discriminated against them by awarding the land to
B’Emuna, even though its policy is to build apartments only for Jews.
Zefet, the judge, accused the residents of “bad faith” in arguing for
equality when they wanted the interests of the local Arab community to
take precedence over the interests of Jews.
Siksik said the judge had failed to take into account the historical
injustice perpetrated on Ajami’s population. “For six decades the
authorities have not built one new house for the Arab population, and
in fact they have demolished many Arab homes, while building social
housing for Jews.”
Shabita, a member of the local Popular Committee for the Defence of
Jaffa’s Lands, said the plots in Ajami being sold by the government
originally belonged to Palestinian families, some of whom were still in
the district but had been forced to rent their properties from the
land was forcibly nationalised many years ago and the local owners were
dispossessed,” he said. “Now the same land is being privatised, but
Ajami’s residents are being ignored in the development plans.
the settlers, the lesson of the disengagement [from Gaza in 2005] was
that they need to begin a dialogue with Jews inside Israel to persuade
them that a settlement in the West Bank is no less legitimate than one
told Israel National News, a settler website, that it was developing
Jewish-only homes in several of the half dozen “mixed cities” in Israel
to stem the flow of Jewish residents leaving because of poverty and
falling property values caused by the presence of an Arab population.
B’Emuna has said it is looking to buy more land in Jaffa.
short distance from the olive grove that is about to be developed is
the Jewish seminary established last year. An Israeli flag is draped
from the front of the building and stars of David adorn the gate at its
manager, Ariel Elimelech, who was overseeing two dozen young men on
Sunday as they pored over the Torah, said he commuted daily to Ajami
from his home in Eli, an illegal settlement deep in the West Bank south
of the Palestinian city of Nablus.
Elimelech said he favoured coexistence in Jaffa but added that the
seminary’s goal was to strengthen Jewish identity in the area. “We
don’t call this place Ajami; it’s known as Givat Aliyah,” he said,
using a Hebrew name that refers to the immigration of Jews to Israel.
said the students performed a vital service by visiting schools to help
in the education of Jewish children before performing 18 months of
Agbaria, who chairs the Ajami neighbourhood council, said residents
would launch an appeal to the Supreme Court and were planning
large-scale demonstrations to draw attention to their plight.
Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest
books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the
Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing
Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His
website is www.jkcook.net.
A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.