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Jerusalem: the battle for land

A new battle for land has begun in East Jerusalem. Religious Jews are buying up land and houses from their Palestinian owners. Their aim: to make any future division of Jerusalem impossible. But for the families who give in to the temptation to sell, the reprisals can end in death. France 24 takes you behind the scenes to meet both sides of a highly controversial property war.

Behind the scenes of the Jerusalem battle for land, by Marc de Chalvron

A discreet meeting in an upscale Jerusalem hotel, big sums of cash, death threats and financial blackmail…welcome to the behind the scenes story of the Jerusalem battle.

Arieh King is not a man who hides. This is his strategy: saying out loud what everybody thinks in private. "Money will solve the problem", he says calmly. He has just come out of a discreet meeting with a Palestinian. Filmed by a hidden camera, the self-dubbed Zionist real estate broker in East Jerusalem tries to persuade his Arab interlocutor to leave his land. Hundreds of thousands of shekels are offered to convince him. King’s ultimate objective is political: to install as many Jews as possible in Palestinian areas of the holy city. He’ll stop at nothing, as long as it is legal under Israeli law, to make the Arabs leave and make Jerusalem Jewish.

Mohammed Maraji is the hidden face of this murky world. For the first time, he accepts to be filmed, although not without hesitation and equivocation, and he sometimes even threatens us. He is right to be afraid. Today he voluntarily acknowledges that he was a "collaborator", the person who allowed a group of settlers to buy houses; to obtain land in East Jerusalem. A risky affair.

A Palestinian who sells his house to a Jew quite simply runs the risk of death. And everyone thinks so today: even for his family and the few friends he has left, Mohammed Maraji is indeed guilty of this "crime". He denies it with the little force and energy he has left, saying he never signed the papers. Now betrayed, he defends himself and hits back, slamming the settlers’ methods and setting himself a lifetime objective: to kick out those Jews who today live in "his" house. This broken, lonely man wants revenge on the settlers.

For several weeks, Marc de Chalvron and Annette Young, FRANCE 24’s correspondents in Jerusalem, followed these two men with two separate destinies: one spurred on by ideology, the other broken by years of frustration. A world which is neither black nor white, but grey - this is where the future of Jerusalem is being played out.

By Marc DE CHALVRON

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