More than 4000 km separate the neighbours of the Vallehermoso 94 block in Madrid’s Chamberí neighbourhood from the neighbours of Silwan and Sheik Jarrah in Jerusalem, where the Palestinian population faces daily eviction orders and expulsions that fulfil a plan of ethnic cleansing of their neighbourhoods. Despite the distance that separates them, the inevitable need for expansion of the Israeli colonial regime and its relentless quest to expand its funds unites the neighbours of these two cities against Zionist interests in an immediate struggle to remain in their homes.
*This article has been written on the basis of the public accounts reports of the socimi VBare, the colloquium held between activists for the Palestinian people and activists for the right to housing in Madrid in the Squatted Social Centre “La Traba” and the joint work of several organizations from both areas that start from today the boycott campaign against VBare.
We hope it will also serve to show one of the many ways in which the speculative interests operating in our state are connected to the elements of the Zionist entity, responsible for war crimes.
Six years ago, the Israeli Socimi VBare – VBA Real Estate – began operating in Spain, a company dedicated to real estate speculation, taking over several blocks of flats, mainly in Madrid and becoming one of the 20 largest owners in the whole country.
This company, which makes real estate harassment and blackmail its trademark, takes advantage of the tax regime of the Socimis to expel neighbours who have been living in the neighbourhoods of Madrid for more than 20 years, speculate, raise the prices of rents in the city and take the extracted capital out of the country, without paying a single tax.
Funds extracted from the expulsion of residents from their homes to finance the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
The pressure strategies used by VBare to expel the neighbours from these blocks are multiple and each one faces its own. From continuous telephone harassment, threats with complaints, visits to their homes, interrogation of their underage children, as one of the neighbours relates, to the excuse of the need to carry out renovations, are all valid to carry out their objectives.
“One of the flats that has been refurbished is currently offered on the property portal Idealista. It is a 55m2 off-plan fifth floor flat with two bedrooms and a living room/kitchen that has been for rent for weeks on Idealista for €1,550 per month. It is said to have a lift, although work to install it is still in progress. The neighbours claim that this is the place where the building’s concierge lived for 25 years. “She had to leave tired of the pressure from VBare to leave the house,” denounce the tenants who still remain in this building of 26 flats and who claim to have suffered similar situations during the last few months. “
*Excerpt translated from the article published in July 2020 in SomosChamberi in the newspaper eldiario.es
The aggressiveness with which this company operates is not new. In Spain, after the severe economic crisis of 2008, dozens of evictions began to be carried out on a daily basis, which were responded to through the organisation of residents in resistance platforms, mainly the PAH – Platform of People Affected by Mortgages -, which faced not only the legal proceedings that were opened against the residents but also the different pressures that they had to suffer from the vulture funds.
The Chamberí residents began to organise themselves through the Chamberi Solidarity Network, a platform created by the residents 6 years ago, to give a collective response and resist the attacks that this fund was beginning to inflict – 5 residents who had been in their homes for more than 25 years were evicted.
To start its activity, VBare needed to incorporate through its entry to the MAB (a Multilateral Trading System) in 2015 as a REIT (Know un spanish as “SOCIMI”) or Real Estate Investment Trust, a legal figure brought from the US in 2009 with the PSOE (the social democratic party in Spain) reforms, which, after a brutal real estate crisis, aimed to make the rental market more flexible and dynamic and to reactivate a real estate cycle through major tax incentives such as exemption from corporate taxes, exemption from transfer taxes and exemption from corporate transactions , making them extremely attractive to large capitalist holders. This reform was consolidated and given a new twist with the subsequent reform of the PP (Spanish Conservative party) in 2012, which allowed them to further increase their margins for action.
The creation of these entities became a fundamental axis in the restructuring of the financial system in Spain. Banks were getting rid of their “toxic” housing packages, which were bought by vulture funds articulated as REITs (Real Estate Investment Trust).
Since then, Spain has become the second country in the world with the most REITs, behind only the US. They have achieved their goal of artificially increasing the sector’s profitability in order to attract huge investment flows to Spain, an opportunity that Israel’s big funds were quick to seize.
VBare’s main shareholder is the Israeli investment fund Meitav Dash, the second largest fund in Israel and the product of several mergers between different Israeli funds in 2013, one of them being the venture capital fund BMR, which specialises in the technology sector – anti-virus software – and the medical sector.
Nir Barkat: Co-founder of BMR, Mayor of Jerusalem (2008 – 2018) and Israeli military (1977 – 1983).
Other major investors in this entity include:
Value Base bank, founded by Victor Shamrich and Ido Nourenberg in 2013 – following the merger of their previous company, Dash Apex with Meitav – and Dan Ramoni, owner of Ramoni industries Ltd.
Victor Shamrich and Ido Nourember: founded Apex in 1993, and are credited with growing the company through M&A transactions to become Israel’s second largest asset managers with $38 billion in assets under management.
Dan Ramoni: industrial entrepreneur whose company is active in the field of plastics and metal engineering. His clients include: Teva pharmaceuticals, Opel, Mercedes, Audi, Netsle, General Motors, Motorola, Nokia, Israel Aircraft Industries and many more.
The third largest shareholder and most intrinsically linked to the history of colonisation, plunder and ethnic cleansing of Palestine is the Wertheim family, owners of the Wertheim holding company.
This family currently owns the majority of the shares of the Israeli bank Mizrahi Bank, whose activity involves financing and granting loans to companies and colonies that want to establish themselves in Palestinian territory.
Owned by David and Droit Wertheim, sons of Moshe Wertheim own and control the majority of shares in the family’s group of companies, mainly the Central Bottling Company – bottler of Coca-Cola and 40% of Israel’s beverages -, 22% of Mizrahi Bank, Alony Hetz, one of Israel’s largest real estate investment holdings, and the Keshet media group.
Moshe Wertheim: born in 1930, serving in his youth in the Palmach group, an elite unit integrated into the paramilitary group that preceded the Israeli occupation forces, Haganah. He later served the Mossad while studying in Jerusalem, working for them in Italy and Switzerland. At the age of 35 he retired from the army and joined the pharmaceutical company Assia, later to become TEVA, as pharmaceutical director. Two years later he founded Central Bottling.
Moshe Wertheim is an example of how Israeli capital operates. After his time in the Zionist paramilitary militias prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, he founded several companies, one of them the first Israeli aircraft manufacturer. His success led him to move from productive capital to financial capital, i.e. 100% speculative capital, which found its great opportunity for growth outside the borders of Israel after the global crisis of 2008, where due to the neoliberal measures that were applied worldwide as a solution to this crisis, he was able to acquire numerous financial assets at cost price, a very important part of which is the housing market in the Spanish state.
The international community is a direct accomplice of the war crimes that the Palestinians suffer daily and of the business that these crimes generate not only inside Palestine but also outside, with the export of weapons “tested in combat”, proven techniques of civil repression on the Palestinian population and in the case that directly affects the neighbours of these blocks, speculation about the basic goods for life and the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution.
Large fortunes, such as that of the Wertheim family, were created from the occupation of Palestine, grew thanks to the global neoliberal system and continue to underpin the colonisation of Palestine and the impoverishment of the working classes around the world.
The huge amount of money invested in the Israeli army, the 4th largest army in the world with more than 12% of GDP, in the colonies that occupy the Palestinian territories and expel their inhabitants, is generated through the funds and companies that, like VBare, speculate with every bit of life of the popular classes all over the world.
It is through the housing platforms that there is an answer to the real estate harassment and urban speculation in our state and it is through popular organisation that the Palestinian people continue to resist. The interests that are trying to take our land, our homes and our lives are intrinsically linked and our struggle against them is intrinsically linked too.
We therefore initiate and encourage any conscious collective and individual to participate in and nurture this boycott campaign. To bring the weight of justice to bear on each and every one of the companies complicit in war crimes, to prevent one more family from losing their home because of capitalist and colonial speculation, and to advance the isolation of the Zionist regime, for the liberation of Palestine and the right to a dignified life everywhere in the world.