That phrase comes from an analysis of settlement patterns in "Little Israel" (i.e. pre-1967 Israel) by Nadav Shragai in Ha'aretz, titled "Settling Jaffa, Acre, Lod and Ramle." Shragai finds that Israel is losing its grip on these cities with mixed Arab-Jewish populations:
Neighborhoods and apartment buildings in which Jews have lived in the past are being bought by Arabs. Some of these transactions are private initiatives, while others are part of a deliberate campaign. Take, for example, the plot near the Golani junction where a Hamas charity front nearly succeeded in acquiring land from a cash-strapped Jew. Jewish investors managed to raise the necessary funds, thus rescuing 50 dunams (some 12 acres) of agricultural land.
These rescue missions do not always have a happy ending. In Upper Nazareth, a town established over 50 years ago to solve the demographic problem posed by Arab Nazareth, "for sale" signs adorn dozens of residential structures. The sellers are Jews. The buyers, for the most part, are Arabs. A residential neighborhood originally planned to house career army officers is today inhabited by Arabs. In addition, the population of the Hakramim neighborhood is changing. The Jews are going, the Arabs are coming.
Comments: (1) This pattern precisely reverses the trend of a century ago, when Jews purchased Arab land.
(2) It also fits several developments that I have noted over the years: Palestinians imitating Zionists; Muslim Zionism as a more powerful force than Jewish Zionism; Muslims wanting to live in Israel, not the Palestinian Authority; and the growing tactic of terminating the Jewish state through demographics and politics rather than through violence. (May 17, 2009)
July 27, 2009 update: Shragai again looks at the struggle for land ownership in "The U.S.-Israeli Dispute over Building in Jerusalem: The Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik Neighborhood." After recounting the efforts of Irving Moscowitz and others to build the Jewish presence, he goes on:
Jews from abroad are not the only ones buying property in Jerusalem. Munib al-Masri, a Palestinian millionaire from Nablus who holds American citizenship, is planning to purchase property 900 meters from the Teddy Kollek Stadium, not far from Jerusalem's Malha shopping mall. His investment company is planning to build 150 housing units next to Beit Safafa, according to company chairman Samir Halayla. Until 1967, Beit Safafa was an Arab village south of Jerusalem divided between Israel and Jordan. After the war it became an area where Jews and Arabs lived together, generally as good neighbors.
The Gulf States, the PLO, and Palestinian millionaires such as al-Masri and the late Abd al-Majid Shuman have all invested funds to purchase property and support construction for Palestinian Arabs. The Jerusalem Treasury Fund affiliated with the Jerusalem Committee headed by King Hassan of Morocco is also active. The Jerusalem Foundation for Development and Investment was founded in Jordan, and there are several similar funds and foundations in Saudi Arabia.23 Foreign donations from Qatar were also involved in the construction of 58 housing units recently completed in Beit Hanina under the auspices of the Arab teachers' association.
Aug. 15, 2009 update: More imitation of the old Zionist practice of buying up land from stressed owners, this time in the Galilee:
Wealthy individuals from Arab states that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel have recently procured hundreds of dunams of private agricultural land in the Galilee, Israel Radio reported on Saturday. Farmers in the Galilee tried to unite in an effort to thwart the sale, which was reportedly funded by tycoons from the Persian Gulf, but did not succeed in raising sufficient funds to buy the land from its owners, who were forced to sell after suffering from financial problems.
Sep. 2, 2009 update: And if Arabs are imitating Zionists, the reverse is also true, reports Matthew Wagner in the Jerusalem Post:
A Jew who sells land to an Arab in Israel should not be allowed to lead prayers in synagogue, should not be given the right to make a blessing during the Torah reading, should not be counted among the quorum needed for public prayers and is considered an abettor to the enemies of Israel, according to a halachic decision issued on Monday night by a group of rabbis calling themselves "The New Sanhedrin." Prof. Hillel Weiss, a spokesman for the Sanhedrin, said that while the seller of land to Arabs is helping the Jewish people's enemies, this does not mean that he or she is guilty of a sin that entails the death penalty. …
In their decision, the Sanhedrin explained the historical background. "In recent years a phenomenon has arisen in which Arabs are buying houses and land in Jewish neighborhoods and in this way are gradually buying up these neighborhoods." Sources connected with the Sanhedrin said that the halachic decision was a response to sales of land and apartments in French Hill, Pisgat Ze'ev and other Jerusalem neighborhoods to Arabs.
Sep. 5, 2009 update: Arabs are moving into Jewish areas of eastern Jerusalem, reports Ben Hubbard of the Associated Press:
Yousef Majlaton moved into the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev for such comforts as proper running water and regular garbage pickup. But he represents a potentially volatile twist in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over the holy city. The hillside sprawl of townhouses and apartment blocks was built for Jews, and Majlaton is a Palestinian. Pisgat Zeev is part of Israel's effort to fortify its presence in Jerusalem's eastern half which it captured in the 1967 war.
But Majlaton, his wife and three kids are among thousands who have crossed the housing lines to Pisgat Zeev and neighborhoods like it in a migration that is raising tempers among some Jewish residents. It wasn't so much the politics of this contested city that drew Majlaton to Pisgat Zeev, however; it was the prospect of escaping the potholed roads and scant municipal services he endured for 19 years while renting in an Arab neighborhood. "You see that air conditioner?" he said, pointing to the large wall unit cooling his living room. "In the Arab areas, the electricity is too weak to run one that big." Majlaton, 50, says some Jewish neighbors are warming up to him, but the influx bothers others, who say they're thinking of moving out or refuse to sell or rent to Arabs.
Going beyond the anecdotal, Hubbard reports that in 2007, the latest year with available statistics, the Israel Center for Jerusalem Studies found that "about 1,300 of Pisgat Zeev's 42,000 residents were Arabs. In nearby French Hill, population 7,000, nearly one-sixth are Arabs, among them students at the neighboring Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Neve Yaakov, with 20,000 people, had 600 Arabs." The Old City's Jewish Quarter has no Arab residents, however, being closed to them.
Following the law of unintended consequences, this migration was touched off by construction of the separation barrier started in 2002 as the result of suicide bombing attacks.
The wall stranded tens of thousands of Jerusalem Arabs on the "West Bank side," and many moved to Arab neighborhoods on the Jerusalem side for easier access to jobs and schools. But a housing shortage in those districts is pushing the overflow into Jewish areas, residents and real estate agents said.
June 15, 2010 update: Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet, told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that "Hamas is working through Dawas [Islamic missionary groups] to buy land within the municipal borders of the city." He added that Palestinian groups are competing for influence in Jerusalem: "The main forces operating in Jerusalem are Hamas, Fatah and the Islamic Movement."