The East Jerusalem real estate project known as Nof Tzion has been in deep financial difficult for months. Then along came a white knight who offered to buy it, invest in it and pay off the outstanding loans of debt holders (at 60 agurot on the shekel). The buyer’s attorney was Dov Weisglass, former confidant of Ariel Sharon. All appeared to be glatt kosher. That is, until the debt holders and residents of Nof Tzion discovered who the lead investor of the Cyprus-based venture was:, Basher Al-Masri, a Palestinian businessman. Then all hell broke loose:
“This is an essential test of Zionism,” a Nof Zion resident said. “It would be the first time that Jewish land would be sold to a Palestinian.”
The irony seems lost to her that the founding of what became Israel was based on the purchase of land (back in the days when Jews actually bought land from Palestinians rather than stealing it) from what were then known as “Arabs.” What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander, no? And what does she mean by “Jewish” land? How can a piece of land be intrinsically Jewish or anything else? Did God say when he created it that only a Jew could ever own it?
At any rate, pure business, which is what this should deal should be if Israel is based on a capitalist rather than a Jewish cronyist model, seems to have taken a back seat to Jewish jingoism. Another complicating factor was that one of the partners in the failed venture is the brother of Jerusalem’s nationalist, anti-Palestinian mayor. It would look bad to the mayor and his political backers for a Jewish venture to be sold to a Palestinian. A decisive vote on accepting the Palestinian offer has been postponed. And now there are rumors of an American-Jewish white knight whose aim is to torpedo the Palestinian offer.
Whatever racialist motives there were for delaying a vote and proceeding with Al-Masri’s offer weren’t reflected in the buyer’s own statement of his interest and intent:
This is business. I’m no politician. But rather a businessman of Palestinian nationality who knows how to work. If my business benefits my own people, then I feel even better.
What alarms the Jewish investors and residents is that Al-Masri plans to complete the construction of the remaining 300 units in the complex and sell them to middle-class Palestinian buyers. The Palestinian portion of the development would be separated physically, according to the description offered by Ynet, from the Jewish portion. One of the fears being bruited about is that if Al-Masri does take over the project he will refuse to sell to Jews out of Palestinian nationalist motives.
No one yet knows the identity of the Jewish investor-spoiler who’s trying to take the project out from under Al-Masri. There is a rumor that it may be Sheldon Adelson, though I don’t know how much weight to give to it. Of course, Irving Moskowitz is another possibility though I believe he lives in Israel now and I’m not sure I’d describe him as “American” as the article described the mystery man.
If the Palestinian offer is spurned then I think it becomes impossible to say that Jerusalem isn’t an apartheid city. If parts of the city are inalienably Jewish and may not be purchased by a Palestinian even under the terms of Israel’s capitalist system, then what else can you call it?