by Arnold Ahlert
Muhammad Abu Shahala is a former Palestinian intelligence officer who, after reportedly being tortured, admitted committing a capital offense. As a result he has been sentenced to death. His “crime”? He sold his home in Hebron on the West Bank to Jews. Under Palestinian law, all that awaits Shahala’s rendezvous with destiny is the approval of the sentence by Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas. Who is trying to save him? Jewish officials, who are attempting to get the international community involved.
An open letter authored by David Wilder and Noam Arnon of the Jewish Community of Hebron addressed to U.N Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other officials notes that “Mr. Muhammad Abu Shahala, a former intelligence agent for the Palestinian Authority, has been sentenced to death, following a hurried trial. His crime: selling property to Jews in Hebron.” The letter continues:
Mr. Abu Shahala reportedly confessed following torture sessions at the hands of his captors. The death sentence can be executed only following concurrence by Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, president of the PA. After he signs the death warrant, Abu Shahala may be killed.The letter then poses a pertinent question. “Is the Palestinian Authority a reincarnation of the Third Reich?” it asks.
It is appalling to think that property sales should be defined as a “capital crime” punishable by death. The very fact that such a “law” exists within the framework of the PA legal system points to a barbaric and perverse type of justice, reminiscent of practices implemented during the dark ages.
Noted columnist Caroline Glick provides an answer to that question. “The PA (Palestinian Authority) was established in May 1994,” Glick writes. “The first law it adopted defined selling land to Jews as a capital offense. Shortly thereafter scores of Arab land sellers began turning up dead in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria in both judicial and extrajudicial killings.”
A report by the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) contends that, before the creation of the PA, the decree had been in effect since before the creation of Israel in 1948. If CBN is correct, it reveals an inconvenient truth: the kind of irrational hatred that would make selling one’s home to a Jew an offense punishable by death pre-dated the creation of the Jewish State. Such a reality blasts a giant hole in the seemingly intractable belief among Western leaders that all of the region’s ongoing animosity is the result of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians — or that such animosity can be quelled by any “peace process.”
The dispute at hand goes back to 2007, when 20 Jewish families moved into the Hebron house claiming they had “bought it from its Palestinian owner.” At that time, the Palestinian owner, who remained unnamed in several stories about the dispute, claimed the house had been illegally seized. In a hearing in October of 2008, the settlers presented the court with an audio tape on which the owner admits he had sold the house to a realtor. The High Court of Justice was unmoved and order the eviction to proceed.
The ongoing dispute continued to fester until April 2, 2012, when the settlers were ordered to leave the house by the Israeli Civil Administration. Officials contended that the sale violated public order in what has been declared a restricted military zone, tellingYnet News that the eviction order was issued “due to security concerns” and that such a sale “poses a threat to the stability of the area.” They further contended that even if the house had been purchased legally, the contract still requires the authorization of the defense minister. On April 3, Prime Minister Netanyahu delayed the court-ordered eviction in order to give settlers time to prove their ownership. At that time it was first reported that the unidentified Palestinian seller was “a former PA security officer who lives in the Gaza Strip,” who had “been detained by the PA for months now, while the affair is being sorted out.” The article further noted that as a result of selling the house, “[H]e is expected to serve a prolonged prison sentence.”
On April 6th, the Jewish settlers were finally evicted, and the three-story building has been sealed until an Israeli court can establish the legal owner. The settlers have remained camped in tents near the house since their expulsion.
None of this apparently matters to PA authorities. Abu Shahala remains on death row for the “crime” of selling real estate to Jews, even as the sale itself remains in dispute in an Israeli court. It remains to been seen if PA president Mahmoud Abbas will sign his death warrant, or whether any international pressure will be brought to bear in the case. The above letter was published ten days ago, suggesting international inertia at best–or calculated indifference at worst.
Yet it is telling that Mr. Shahla’s most ardent defenders are Jews, including, as Arutz Sheva reported on April 15th, “several Israeli Knesset Members and leaders in Judea and Samaria,” while those who would kill him are his fellow Palestinians. In 1957, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”
That day has yet to arrive.
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