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Racism, real estate and Jewish traitors

By Neve Gordon

Living without your name

Published: May 31, 2012

My friend’s wife was accepted to a PhD program at McGill University in Montreal. They decided to move to Canada with their two children at about the same time that I was offered a fellowship at Princeton and decided to move with my family to New Jersey for a year. Hoping to rent out our apartments while we’re away, we both posted ads on the most popular website in Israel. I received about five calls a day and found a tenant within a couple of weeks. My friend received only three calls in four weeks, and none of the people who called came to look at his flat.

A few days ago he removed his ad from the website and posted a new one, only this time he changed his name from Hussein to Rami. Rami is an ethnically indeterminate name – it can be either Jewish or Palestinian – but there are no Jews called Hussein. Within three days ‘Rami’ received about thirty phone calls, and six people came to look at the flat. He expects to sign a lease with one of them tomorrow. In Israel, if you are a Palestinian and want to rent a flat, at times, to misquote Arthur Miller, you have to live without your name.

Keeping the Rent Down

Published: July 12, 2012

A few weeks ago I told the story of my friend Hussein, who had to advertise his flat under the pseudonym Rami in order to rent it out. The other day, my neighbor Yifat, who owns two flats in our block – she lives in one with her two children and rents the other out – told me about her attempt to raise the rent from 4000 to 4500 shekels a month.

The tenant, she said, tried to haggle, offering her 4100 shekels. Yifat was willing to come down to 4400, arguing that many military bases are being relocated to the Negev, which would surely lead to a steep increase in rents. Indeed, an air-force pilot had already contacted her and was willing to pay 4500.

The tenant didn’t yield. She said she was willing to meet halfway, but no more. “4250 shekels is a hefty price,” she said, “particularly if one takes into account the new circumstances in the neighborhood.”

‘What new circumstances?’ Yifat asked.

‘Didn’t you hear?’ the tenant said. ‘Neve is going away for a year and has rented his flat to an Arab.’


After reading the last post, a Palestinian lawyer wrote that she thought the flat prices on the block would actually increase once people heard that I left the neighborhood.

Another friend responded that in the “most accomplished enemy competition” between “Jewish traitors” and Arabs, it appears that the latter still have the upper hand.

These posts first appeared in the LRB blog and were republished on +972. Neve Gordon can be reached through his website www.israelsoccupation.info

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    1. joel

      Neve Gordon left out one important detail from his article. Did Hussein specify in his rental ad where the flat was located?

      If I saw a rental from a man named Hussein I would assume, in Israel anyway, that the flat was in an Arab neighborhood and I would look elsewhere. If I saw that a man named Hussein had a rental in Jewish (unlikely)or mixed neighborhood I wouldn’t be concerned that I was renting from an Arab.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Philos

      I would be more sympathetic to this article if it’s petite bourgeois tone hadn’t made me vomit into my own mouth first. Oh woe betide the landlady and her racist tenants. Oh if only they’d agree to my arbitrary rate increase of 12.5% in the Negev……

      Reply to Comment
    3. Joel – The neighbourhood is specified in the listing. Presumably, people search in their preferred areas for an apartment.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn9

      This is an outrage. 4500NIS for a flat in Be’er Sheva?

      Reply to Comment
    5. joel

      @ Lisa

      Would you rent an apartment in an ultra religious neighborhood?

      Be honest.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Philos

      @ Joel, look up the definition of “non sequitur”

      Reply to Comment
    7. Joel

      Okay. Look up the definition of “hypocrite”.

      Reply to Comment
    8. max

      Isn’t the bottom line the fact that people rented the flat despite it being offered by an Arab?
      Doesn’t it strongly indicate that they were worried about the neighborhood – or any other similar connotation – rather than the ethnicity?
      So it comes down to the impression that Jews have of Arab homes, not the people.
      Is this racism? Could be, but only if we can compare to other social segments, otherwise it’s merely anecdotal.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Rorr

      A Jewish traitor would be a guy who calls for the destruction of Israel and the death and dispersion of the Jewiish population, while simultaneously taking money from said state. And that would be Neve Gordon.

      Reply to Comment
    10. aristeides

      Joel’s question should be – “Would you rent a flat from a haredi?”

      Reply to Comment
    11. joel

      @ Aristeides.

      You are right. My question should have been,”Would you rent a flat from a haredi?”

      Either way I frame the question the honest answer from Neve or Lisa is the same.

      Reply to Comment
    12. I did rent an apartment from a Haredi. He lived in Bnei Brak and the apartment was on Karl Netter Street in Tel Aviv. We had a slight dispute over his desire to insert a clause in the contract that would forbid me from having premarital sex in the apartment, but in the end the real estate agent convinced him that the clause wasn’t legal and he should be happy to have a nice Jewish girl who paid the rent on time. And so it was.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Joel


      Many Arabs living on Karl Netter Street?

      Reply to Comment
    14. Jan

      @Joel -There were times in the US when a non-Jew would never move to an area where Jews predominated.There was a time in the US when there were restrictive covenants that prevented people from selling their homes to Jews. My parents told me how they were unable to buy the home they wanted because the owner would not sell to those who he deemed the killer of Christ.

      Fortunately those days are over. Today we seem some of the same feelings about Arabs in Israel. WIll they ever end in Israel? One can only hope.

      Once many people in the US had the same opinion of Jews as you seem to do of Arabs. I

      Reply to Comment