Israeli town halts property sales after realizing most buyers were Palestinians

A town in the Galilee region of Israel has suspended future building tenders for a 2,200-household residential development after its mayor learned that around half of the buyers were Palestinians.

The town of Kfar Vradim was established in 1984 by billionaire Israeli Stef Wertheimer, one of the richest people in the world.

Kfar Vradim is built on land annexed from the nearby Palestinian village of Tarshiha. Part of the land being developed in Kfar Vradim is owned by Palestinians in Tarshiha.

The Israeli government has long sought to increase the number of Jewish residents in the Galilee, where Palestinians remained a sizeable population after the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948.

This has been achieved by building Jewish colonies on land belonging to Palestinian communities, preventing the natural growth and the establishment of new Palestinian towns and villages.

The new residential development in Kfar Vradim is set to more than double its population. In the first wave of bids, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, 58 of the successful bidders on 125 lots were Palestinians.

Mayor Sivan Yechieli assured residents that he would preserve the “secular-Jewish-Zionist nature of Kfar Vradim” and that he would “ask the relevant government bodies to create solutions allowing for the maintenance of demographic balances” – meaning a Jewish majority – according to Haaretz.

The paper stated that the protest over sales to Palestinians began after real estate broker and Kfar Vradim resident Nati Sheinfeld reported them on Facebook, calling on the community to “wake up.”

Community reaction

Sheinfeld asked in his post: “What will be the nature of education in the preschools and schools? Are we growing an Arab village inside Kfar Vradim?”

Most of the nearly 100 comments on Sheinfeld’s post opposed Palestinians bidding on properties in Kfar Vradim, but some commenters were open to the idea of living in a mixed community.

The attitudes expressed by residents of Kfar Vradim on Sheinfeld’s Facebook post reflect those of Jewish Israelis as a whole: nearly half say they wouldn’t want Palestinians as neighbors, according to a recent survey.

Far-right Israeli lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich, author of a genocidal plan to expel Palestinians as part of a “surrender-or-transfer ultimatum,” shared Sheinfeld’s post on Twitter, stating: “Continue rolling your eyes and clucking all kinds of ‘enlightened’ words while we lose the Jewish majority in the Galilee. This time in Kfar Vradim. You need to wake up!”

Racism

Adalah, a legal center for Palestinians in Israel, stated that Yechieli’s words and actions “are motivated by racism.”

Preventing Palestinian citizens of Israel “from purchasing homes due strictly to their national identity is an illegitimate act,” Adalah added.

“In a climate in which the Israeli Knesset continues to promote racist legislation targeting Arab citizens, Kfar Vradim’s council leader feels emboldened to promote racist policies and to trample the most basic of democratic principles,” the group stated.

Jamal Zahalka, a Palestinian lawmaker in Israel’s parliament, called on the attorney general to investigate Yechieli’s “racist” decision.

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