Leave or let live? Arabs move in to Jewish settlements

Sun Dec 7, 2014 11:23am EST
 
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By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Little noticed amid the furor over one of Israel's most contentious policies, a small but growing number of Arabs are moving into Jewish settlements on occupied land in East Jerusalem, drawn by cheaper rent and better services.

For decades, Israel has encouraged Jews to settle in East Jerusalem, changing the population balance, provoking Palestinian anger and drawing international condemnation.

But in one such settlement, around Mount Scopus where the Hebrew University is based and many Palestinians study, about 16 percent of residents are either Arab citizens of Israel or Palestinians, according to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics.

"Really it's not a matter of ideology," said Rawya Mazal, an Israeli Arab realtor who sells or lets properties to Palestinian families in a nearby settlement at French Hill. "It's about convenience, living close to campus or making an investment."

Cross-community relations aren't always harmonious. Few if any Arabs live on Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, and a surge of violence in recent months has persuaded some to leave those in East Jerusalem.

Like so much in the region, the ethnic mix is complex. Official figures from 2013 show 7.4 percent of French Hill residents are Arabs, and Mazal believes the true non-Jewish population is closer to 20 percent.

While the high proportion of Arab residents in French Hill and Mount Scopus is probably exceptional, the trend is visible in other East Jerusalem settlements too.

In the working-class areas of Pisgat Ze'ev and Neve Yaacov to the northeast of Jerusalem's Old City, 1 to 2 percent of residents are now Israeli Arab or Palestinian, figures show.   Continued...

 
Palestinian Abu Steve who resides in Pisgat Ze'ev, an urban settlement in an area Israel annexed to Jerusalem after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East war, poses for a photo outside his store (on L) in the East Jerusalem settlement December 7, 2014.  REUTERS/Ammar Awad