Israeli Firms Are Working Overtime to Sell Stolen Palestinian Land to US Jews

The real estate events peddling land in Israeli settlements in the West Bank appear to flout US and international law.

“Your chance to own a piece of the Holy Land!” exclaims the cheerful advertising copy on a real estate website aimed at attracting buyers in the U.S. and Canada to purchase land located in Israel and in a number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The site describes five land sale events that occurred this spring in the U.S. and Canada.

Another land sale event held in Baltimore invited attendees to “Buy Your Home in Israel Now!” But, as with the other events, attendees couldn’t just be anyone interested in some freshly stolen land. You have to be Jewish, but not just any kind of Jewish.

Greg Kaplan, a local Jewish community member who wanted to learn more about these restrictive events and who tried signing up for the April 1 land sale event in Baltimore, which was hosted by the Jerusalem-based CapitIL Real Estate Agency, told me:Bottom of Form

I got a call from Shmuly Eisenmann of CapitIL. He asked me where I daven, who the rabbi is there, and for the rabbi’s number, seeming incredulous that I wouldn’t just have the rabbi’s number stored in my phone. He said he would check on me with the rabbi and asked if the rabbi would know who I was. I said probably not because I don’t go to shul that much. He asked if there was someone at another shul who could vouch for me.”

Kaplan was not allowed into the event, which was scheduled to take place at Shomrei Emunah, “a full-service shul and Jewish center” in Baltimore whose list of speakers and scholars in residence includes an IDF lieutenant colonel.

Gillian Stoll, a member of the New Jersey chapter of IfNotNow, who tried to register for the Teaneck, New Jersey, event on March 31, received a series of phone calls. On the first call, Stoll admits to being caught off guard by a slew of questions including the name of her temple and rabbi, his direct number as well as what the reading was at the temple that week. She gave the name of her old rabbi and temple, and the man calling seemed satisfied for the moment, offering that they had to cancel previously “because of protesters.” She then “got a second call from another not so nice guy saying he called the rabbi and he hadn’t heard of me … and asked how old I was … and if I’d been to Israel.” Stoll was also not allowed into the event.

Needless to say, I — as a secular Jew who hasn’t been to temple since about 2007 and whose most recent run-in with a rabbi involved one chanting alongside me at an anti-Zionist action — didn’t even get a phone call. And while these discriminatory practices might be necessary to avoid a bunch of anti-Zionist protesters in your midst, they are, in fact, illegal.

A recent press release from the Palestinian Assembly for Liberation (PAL) Law Commission pointed out that these land sale events “are illegal under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and Civil Rights Act of 1965, since registration, entry, and participation are denied on the basis of identity (i.e., race, ethnicity, national origin, and religion).”

The commission added that these events violate not only U.S. law but also international law with regard to hosts “exhibiting and offering properties on West Bank settlements recognized as illegal by the U.S. Department of State and by international law” including “Article 49 of the Geneva Convention … Settlements have been found to be grave breaches of international law, and therefore war crimes, by the International Court [ICJ] of Justice in 2004, and are also currently under review by the ICJ in the context of the case of South Africa v. Israel for crimes of genocide, and by the International Criminal Court.”

PAL Law Commission has filed notices and complaints with attorneys general and real estate licensing authorities, and has also served formal cease and desist letters alongside notice and demand letters regarding their findings.

When asked about responses from hosts or organizers, PAL spokesperson Hena Zuberi said:

“The response we’ve received is them shifting their events online and/or sponsors pulling out of the events, at least publicly. Although this hasn’t been a direct communication with us it came as an effect directly following our legal action and served as a major legal and grassroots victory for the case and the campaign overall. We’ve shut down several events and moved others online through this action.”

One such event was scheduled to take place in Flatbush, Brooklyn, at the Khal Bnei Avrohom Yaakov Simcha Hall and was later moved online after both legal action and local protests. Indeed, it’s impossible to say whether legal action, direct action or a combination of the two has pushed the cancellation or relocation of land sale events. Either way, it’s clear that hosts and organizers are uncomfortable with the attention, as they should be.

On the site listing the event in Flatbush as well as events in Montreal; Toronto; Teaneck, New Jersey; and Lawrence, New York, a banner reads “Our expert speakers will address all your questions about purchasing real estate in Israel and focusing on: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Modiin, Givat Shmuel, Raanana, Neve Daniel, Efrat, Motza, Haifa, Ma’ale Adumim, Ashkelon, Netanya.”

When I sent this list of location names to Nora Barrows-Friedman, an associate editor at The Electronic Intifada who has covered Palestine for 20 years and has a deep understanding of various demarcated zones and boundaries, she explained:

“Neve Daniel and Efrat are major settlements in the area between Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank. Efrat is the settlement Palestinians call “the snake” because it’s a narrow but long settlement that snakes atop the hills. Ma’ale Addumim is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank, and Ashkelon is the city just north of Gaza.

Without more information on Modiin, she couldn’t say whether or not it’s Modiin Illit, which is “part of the Ariel/Maale Addumim/E-1 settlement bloc.” However, even without that clarification, it’s clear that much of the property on offer at least five of these land sale events falls within the West Bank. But, as Barrows-Friedman pointed out, “it’s all occupied land, of course.”

Meanwhile, violence and displacement has skyrocketed with roughly 4,000 Palestinians displaced in the West Bank in 2023, the majority after October 7, according to a February report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Tamara Nassar at The Electronic Intifada reported in late March that “Israeli forces and settlers have injured nearly 5,000 Palestinians in the West Bank since 7 October, more than 700 of them children.” The Express Tribune, a Pakistani partner paper of The New York Times, reported on March 30 that some 27,000 decares of land (roughly 6,600 acres) in the West Bank have been confiscated by Israel just since October 7.

This displacement and violence looks many different ways, from airstrikes and targeted demolition by “military operations,” to physical attacks by armed settlers, to what a friend of mine once called “paper genocide” vis-a-vis Palestinians not having Israeli-issued building permits — permits basically no Palestinian can get because of the apartheid regime’s discriminatory permitting policies. Zuberi points out that, like the violence against Palestinians, these land sale events “have been occurring over a significant period … well before the recent events in Gaza.”

Though an escalation in violence is clear, we must be careful to see October 7 and its aftermath as a continuation of this colonial violence, rather than a beginning. Likewise, the current critical attention being given to land sale events is a credit to the growth of the Palestinian movement, not an indication of Israel having adopted a new colonialist tactic.

In short, be it 1948, 1967, 2014 or today, Palestine is occupied land, Israel upholds apartheid, and these land sale events are one of many tactics being used to disappear an Indigenous people and culture, to wipe them off the map literally and figuratively, much as was done here in the so-called United States with mass land sale events of so-called “Indian land” in the West.

Outside the land sale event held on the stolen land known as Baltimore, our protest was powerful. Palestinian flags waved above my head along with placards and homemade signs decrying genocide and demanding justice and liberation. Bullhorns carried the message of “Free Palestine” and “Occupation is a Crime.”

A woman paused in front of me and offered up a box of dates. I smiled and took one, thanking her. She smiled back, adjusted her hijab and continued to weave her way between the small crowd that had assembled across the street from Shomrei Emunah, where the land sale event was scheduled to take place.

Meanwhile, across the street in front of Shomrei Emunah, a crowd of Zionist counterprotesters waved the Israeli flag, and several marched across the street to get in our faces, spitting and yelling abuse and threats.

Police presence grew over the course of the evening, but it hardly dissuaded the violent Zionists from harassing our group of peaceful protesters, some of whom were at prayer. Several drivers hurled insults and threats as they drove by, some coming around several times waving Israeli and U.S. flags. A few cars revved their engines and slammed on their brakes in front of us, reminding me very starkly and grotesquely of the terrorist in Charlottesville, Virginia, who drove his car into our group of anti-fascist protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring several others.

As the evening wore on, we heard news that the land sale event had been moved last minute to a new location. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Zuberi told me, “These victories would not have been possible without the relentless pressure mounted by the PAL legal team and the local PAL chapters’ and allies’ grassroots support and organizing.” This grassroots organizing included the Baltimore chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ office in Maryland, and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) as well as individuals such as me who, though not affiliated with any one organization, felt the need to show up.

Cassidy Cohen with Jewish Voice for Peace’s Baltimore chapter added: “We come from a Jewish tradition that has for millennia opposed empire, colonization and nationalism, that values every human life, and is rooted in social justice…. As Jews, we oppose all displacement and genocide of Palestinians. We say never again for anyone.”

In other words, to act in solidarity with tireless Palestinian leadership in the struggle for their liberation is the mandate of all who believe in justice, especially us Jews.

Original article

Photo: Zionists encircle anti-Zionist protesters standing with kuffiyahs and a sign reading "Waterfront properties built upon bulldozed bodies" outside of Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore, Maryland. Source: Eleanor Goldfield.