Palestinian Family Cries 'Fraud' in Building Sale

Jerusalem-based Arab family claims sale of two Jerusalem buildings to Jewish buyers is 'fraudulent' amid tensions over the capital's future.

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Leftists, Arabs protest over 'Judaization' of
Leftists, Arabs protest over 'Judaization' of
Gilli Yaari/Flash90

A Palestinian family has gone to court claiming fraud over the partial purchase of two landmark east Jerusalem properties, including the home of the "Palestinian national theater," by Jewish buyers. 

The move is part of a growing battle over property in Jerusalem, where Arabs are seeking to cement their presence in order to establish facts on the ground for a future "Palestinian state."

The case surrounds two large buildings in the heart of east Jerusalem located very close to the famed American Colony boutique hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

One houses Al-Hakawati, the "Palestinian national theater," and the other is the Nuzha building, which is currently leased to a branch of Israel's Mercantile Bank and the offices of several law firms and human rights groups.

According to court documents seen by AFP, the Jerusalem District Court has issued a temporary injunction freezing the partial purchase of the buildings by a company called Golden City (Jerusalem), following a complaint filed by a Palestinian Arab family alleging that it was fraudulent.

Hani Tannous, the Palestinian family's lawyer, claimed to AFP reporters that the complaint had been filed in the name of Wafiqa Freitekh, whose late husband Ali Assad Freitekh owned both buildings. 

In his will, Freitekh bequeathed 50 percent of the property to his wife and the other 50 percent to his children, on condition that the buildings not be sold without authorization from the Sharia Court, an Islamic civil institution whose decisions are enshrined in Israeli law, Tannous said.

He further claimed that the property transfer was registered with the Israeli land registry in 2009.

But the family has since discovered that Golden City has registered itself as the partial owner of the buildings.

"During searches at the land registry, we found that Golden City had registered 50 percent of the (Nuzha) building and the theatre in its own name," Tannous explained, saying documents appeared to show that the wife had sold her share.

"We have filed a complaint in the name of Wafiqa Freitekh against Golden City and against the land registry," he said.

Golden City, a private company owned by Israeli Yehiel Klein, is based in Beitar Ilit. Lawyers for the company did not respond to a request for comment.

Tannous did say, however, that Golden City has already handed the District Court documents allegedly showing details of the sale, bearing what appeared to be the seal of the Sharia Court.

Although the two properties have an estimated value of up to $15 million, Golden City allegedly purchased its share for just $600,000 in a transaction which took place in October 2013.

Tannous claimed that the documents were forged, however, adding that the family categorically denied any knowledge of such papers and that the Palestinian notary whose signature appears on the contract allegedly died in 2007.

Mohammed Halayiqa, director of the Palestinian National Theatre, also claimed he was unaware of any sale of the property, telling AFP he had signed a 99-year lease with the Freitekh family.

"We still have 95 years left on the lease which has been paid in advance and no matter what happens, nobody can throw us out or put its future in jeopardy," he said.

The court ordered the defendants to file a response by the end of October.

It should be noted that selling land to Israelis is viewed as treason by the Palestinians and carries a penalty of life imprisonment. There have even been several cases in which perpetrators have been killed - and, as such, if a legitimate sale was made, the sellers would remain mum in the face of locals and the media.