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    NY Times' Jerusalem property makes it protagonist in Palestine conflict


    Posts : 22
    Join date : 2010-02-17

    NY Times' Jerusalem property makes it protagonist in Palestine conflict

    Post  chatillion on Tue 02 Mar 2010, 5:51 pm

    Wiggle. Wiggle. Semantics. Technicalities.

    >>During an appearance at Vassar College in early February, controversial New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner was asked about the ongoing evictions of Palestinian families from homes in East Jerusalem which Israel occupied in 1967. Israeli courts have ruled that Jewish settlers could take over some Palestinian homes on the grounds that Jews held title to the properties before Israel was established in 1948.

    Bronner was concerned, but not only about Palestinians being made homeless in Israel's relentless drive to Judaize their city; he was also worried about properties in his West Jerusalem neighborhood, including the building he lives in, partially owned by The New York Times, that was the home of Palestinians made refugees in 1948. Facts about The New York Times' acquisition of this property are revealed for the first time in this article.

    "One of the things that is most worrying not just the Left but a lot of people in Israel about this decision is if the courts in Israel are going to start recognizing property ownership from before the State [of Israel was founded]," Bronner said according to a transcript made by independent reporter Philip Weiss who maintains the blog

    Bronner added, "I think the Palestinians are going to have a fairly big case. I for example live in West Jerusalem. My entire neighborhood was Palestinian before 1948."

    The New York Times-owned property Bronner occupies in the prestigious Qatamon neighborhood, was once the home of Hasan Karmi, a distinguished BBC Arabic Service broadcaster and scholar (1905-2007). Karmi was forced to flee with his family in 1948 as Zionist militias occupied western Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods. His was one of an estimated 10,000 Palestinian homes in West Jerusalem that Jews took over that year.

    The New York Times bought the property in 1984 in a transaction overseen by columnist Thomas Friedman who was then just beginning his four-year term as Jerusalem bureau chief.

    Hasan Karmi's daughter, Ghada, a physician and well-known author who lives in the United Kingdom, discovered that The New York Times was in -- or rather on top of -- her childhood home in 2005, when she was working temporarily in Ramallah. One day Karmi received a call from Steven Erlanger, then The New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, who had just read her 2002 memoir In Search of Fatima.

    Karmi recalled in a 15 May 2008 interview on Democracy Now! that Erlanger told her, "I have read your marvelous memoir, and, do you know, I think I'm living above your old house ... From the description in your book it must be the same place" ("Conversation with Palestinian Writer and Doctor Ghada Karmi").

    At Erlanger's invitation, Karmi visited, but did not find the elegant one-story stone house her family had moved into in 1938, that was typical of the homes middle- and upper-class Arabs began to build in Jerusalem suburbs like Qatamon, Talbiya, Baqa, Romema or Lifta toward the end of the 19th century. The original house was still there, but at some point after 1948 two upper stories had been built.

    Erlanger, responding to questions posed by The Electronic Intifada via email, described the residence as "built over the Karmi family house -- on its air rights, if you like. The [New York Times] is not in [the Karmi] house." Erlanger described the building as having an "unbroken" facade but that it consisted of "two residences, two ownerships, two heating systems," and a separate entrance for the upper levels reached via an external staircase on the side.

    Questions The Electronic Intifada sent to Thomas Friedman about the purchase of the property were answered by David E. McCraw, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel for the newspaper, who wrote that the original Karmi house itself "was never owned even partly by The Times. The Times purchased in the 1980s a portion of the building that had been constructed above it in the late 1970s." The purchase was made from "a Canadian family that had bought them from the original builders of the apartment."

    McCraw acknowledged in a follow-up conversation that as a general principle of property law, the "air rights" of a property -- the right to build on top of it or use (and access) the space above it -- belong to the owner of the ground.

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