A Palestinian Authority spokesman announced that a man died in the hospital on Sunday of an undetermined cause. The man was being incarcerated for the crime of selling land to Jews.
The man was transferred from the prison to the hospital two weeks ago for an unspecified illness. PA police spokesman Luay Zreikat said it was not currently known whether the man died of natural causes or as a result of physical injuries. The PA Police and Prosecutor-General Office launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the inmate’s death.
The deceased was arrested in 2012 by PA security forces on charges of involvement in the sale of land to Jews forging official documents and sentenced to ten years in jail.
The Palestinian law that forbids Palestinians selling their property were first instituted by Jordan in 1948. The law defines selling land as an act of treason and has been reinforced by several Fatwas (religious proclamations), the original issued by Haj al-Amin Husseini, the pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem during the British Mandate. These Fatwas prohibiting the sale of land to Jews have been reiterated by his successors, most recently in 2018 as an expression of rejecting the possibility of compromise in President Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan.
Palestinians who sell land to Israelis can be sentenced to death. Punishments can also include hard labor to life imprisonment for Palestinians who sell, rent or mediate real estate transactions to Jews.
In 2018, Issim Akel, a U.S.-Israeli Arab citizen was arrested by the PA on these charges. After being tortured for two weeks, pressure by the U.S. and Israeli governments led to Akel’s release.
That year, the PA arrested 44 Palestinians on these charges under orders from PA President Mahmoud Abbas to crack down on the crime.
Though organizations claiming to champion humanitarian issues should be concerned about the treatment of Palestinians accused of selling land to Israelis, in reality, many of those left-wing NGOs side with the PA in this matter.
Persecution of Palestinians accused of selling land to Jews often continues even after death. In November, at the same time Akel was being tortured in a PA prison, Ala’ Qirresh, a Muslim resident of Jerusalem, died in a tragic car accident. His family was prevented from burying him by other Arabs because Qirresh had been accused of having a role in selling land to Jews. The case was brought to the attention of Jerusalem’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern by a right-wing Israeli NGO and the rabbi approved the burial of Qirresh inside a Jewish cemetery, referring to the Arab man as “a righteous gentile.”