Apartments in a recently completed luxury housing complex in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Jaffa are only being offered to Jewish buyers, a local rights group says it found after an investigation.
Located in the heart of the city’s historic district, the “Nitsana 20” project consists of 20 housing units and boasts round-the-clock security, private parking and other exclusive amenities.
According to a Sunday report in the Hebrew-language Ynet news site, the alleged discrimination was discovered several weeks ago, after Fatma Helwa, an Arab resident of Jaffa, called the Nitsana 20 sales office and was told no more apartments were available.
Helwa told the website her suspicions were aroused when weeks later, the “for sale” signs outside the property were not taken down, and she turned to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel with her concerns.
The NGO dispatched a Jewish woman, “Karen,” to also call the project’s sales office. In a secretly recorded phone conversation, the sales representative can be heard telling “Karen” that “plenty” of apartments were available, and invited her for a tour of the complex.
A short time later, when ACRI sent a caller with an Arab name, “Kamal,” to inquire, he was told that no apartments were available, but was assured that his name would be kept on file “just in case something changes.”
In the following days, ACRI dispatched a number of other callers, and found the project’s sales staff consistently told the Arab callers that all the units were sold, whereas the Jewish callers were told a variety of apartments were available.
A banner across the website for the Nitsana 20 complex says “last apartments still available” and “once in a lifetime opportunity to get the apartment of your dreams.”
When “Karen” attended her meeting at the company offices, she asked a representative of Bareket Israel, the real estate development behind the project, if any Arabs had purchased apartments in the complex.
“I can’t promise anything, and I won’t turn away a prospective buyer just because they are Arab,” he can be heard telling her. “But, up until now, no Arabs have expressed interest in the project.”
“None at all?” she can be heard asking again.
“No, none have purchased or even inquired,” he said. “These are areas that they’re less interested in.”
Jaffa has seen a wave of gentrification and construction that, according to its Arab residents, has priced them out of the market and led to an influx of Jewish homeowners.
“It’s against the law to discriminate against Arab clients, and these companies know this, so they they come up with more ‘sophisticated’ tactics to get around it,” ACRI Attorney Gil Gan-Mor said.
“Again and again we come across cases of discrimination in the real estate market,” he said. “When you listen to the conversations with the Arab and Jewish clients, it’s clear just how discriminatory and unacceptable their marketing strategies are.”
Last year, another luxury apartment complex in Jaffa was exposed by a Channel 10 news report as being “completely Jewish.” Sales staff were heard in secret recordings saying that when prospective Arab buyers expressed interest in an apartment, they repeatedly ignored or put them off until they gave up.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.