Punishable by Death

March 26, 2019

by: Nathan Williams, Deputy International Administration Director

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Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that everyone deserves the right to own property. Ownership entails the right of possession, the right of use and the right to transfer the ownership to someone else by selling, gifting or bequeathing. This right has become self-evident in democratic nations where private property ownership has become an important tenet of a free and fair society. Unfortunately, this is not the case for those trapped under the rule of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Toward the end of 2018 and early 2019, no less than three cases were reported where Arabs were convicted, accused or murdered for exercising their human right of selling their property to the highest bidder.

Off With His Head

While it may seem absurd to lose your life for selling your own property, PA law forbids the sale of property or land to a Jewish Israeli, an act which is punishable by death, life imprisonment or hard labor.  It would seem that to the PA, no crime is more dreadful than selling land to a Jew. The accusation alone that an Arab is considering the purchase proposal of a Jewish Israeli could land the seller in grave trouble with the PA and its counterparts in the Islamic religious structures. This betrayal of state and creed is considered so severe that it is believed the traitors’ badge of infamy will follow them even beyond the grave, with death bringing no absolution for the treasonous crime of exercising their human rights.

Righteous Gentile?

A case in point would be that of Ala’a Qarash, who was killed unexpectedly in a traffic accident last November. Accused of being a conspirator who sold land to Jewish people years ago, several mosques and Muslim cemeteries refused to allow his funeral. Per Muslim tradition, Qarash’s body was brought to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to perform burial rites, Muslim protesters denied his entry. The family was informed that the former PA-appointed grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, issued a fatwa (Islamic religious ruling) against Qarash, saying: “Whoever sells to the Jews in Jerusalem is not a member of the Muslim nation. We will not accept his repentance and he will not be buried in the Muslim cemetery.”

As Qarash’s body lay outside the gates of a cemetery in Nabi Salih, the story took a miraculous turn. Israeli right-wing advocacy group Im Tirtzu brought the case to the attention of Jerusalem’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Aryeh Stern. Rabbi Stern issued a Torah ruling which heralded Qarash as a “righteous Gentile” and requested permission for his burial to be allowed in the Har HaMenuchot Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem. The Rabbi explained to Ynetnews, “Since the Muslims themselves are unwilling to bury him, we must do something to right this wrong done to a man disgraced for his willingness to sell land to Jews.” Undeniably the PA and Islamic religious leaders in Jerusalem conspired together to ensure that Qarash and his mourning family were shamed beyond belief until the Islamic leaders’ hate-filled lust for revenge was appeased.

Kangaroo Court

The PA further utilizes its justice system to impede on the rights of its citizens and enforce its own special brand of institutionalized racism against Jewish property buyers. In December, a court in Ramallah sentenced a Palestinian–American man, Issam Akel, to life imprisonment for attempting to sell land to Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem. Akel was arrested in October and spent two months in a Palestinian jail while awaiting trial. As Akel is also a US citizen, the scandal caught the attention of the United States Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. Friedman called for the immediate release of Akel. After substantial pressure from American officials, a secret deal was reached between US and PA authorities, leading to Akel’s release and deportation to the United States.

Mob Justice

Although the law allows for the death penalty, it can only be carried out upon approval by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, which has not happened since he became president of the PA in 2005. However, the accusation alone is enough for radical Palestinian nationalists to execute vigilante justice. Ahmed Salameh was murdered outside his home in Qalqilya on December 12 in a gang-style drive-by shooting. Unidentified attackers shot Salameh at close range while he sat in his vehicle. Palestinian news sources reported that Salameh was wanted by the PA security services for his connection to land sales to Jews in Judea and Samaria.

Adeeb Joudeh faced death threats and public shaming after it was revealed that his house in the Old City of Jerusalem was purchased by Ateret Cohanim (a Jewish organization seeking to preserve a Jewish presence in the Old City of Jerusalem). The Joudeh family is the keeper of the key to the door of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Although they are Muslim, it is an honor the family holds in high regard.  The Muslim community of east Jerusalem pressured the Joudeh family to relinquish their right to hold the key, an honor they have held since the 12th century.  The Joudehs have since denied they had any knowledge that the buyer was linked to Ateret Cohanim.

While the State of Israel is often falsely lambasted by Palestinians on the world’s stage for being racist, it would seem that the PA is blissfully unaware of its own intrinsically racist and anti-Semitic policies. The PA enforces racist legislation that affects not only the human rights of its people, but also places its citizens in the sights of nationalistic vigilantes. It is clear that there is a very high price to pay to be a “citizen” of the PA: your freedom, or even your life.

Photo Credit: VanderWolf Images/shutterstock.com

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