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Ruling on East Jerusalem Arab

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The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the authorities were justified in denying an East Jerusalem Arab the right to live in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. The decision ended a long legal battle by Mohammed Sa’ad Burkan, 31, to be allowed to re-purchase a flat he and his family had occupied for 20 years before the 1967 Six-Day War and from which they were dispossessed to make way for Jewish tenants.

His bid for the flat was rejected by the Housing Authority last year on grounds that the renovated building was reserved exclusively for Jewish immigrants or war veterans. The three-judge panel stated that the State had the right to discriminate against Burkan, a citizen of Jordan, in a case where “the assets of the State are concerned.” The court said the expropriation of the house had been legal and noted that Burkan was offered alternative housing or monetary consideration.

Mayor Teddy Kollek hailed the decision. He said he had always favored dividing the Old City into separate Jewish and Arab quarters because there was no point in deliberately mixing the two ethnic groups. He added, however, that the Moslem quarter should be renovated as extensively as the Jewish quarter.

At the hearing last month, the presiding judge questioned Burkan’s sincerity in initiating the litigation and criticized him for not applying for Israeli citizenship and thereby showing his solidarity with the State.

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