Jewish officials in the West Bank city of Hebron are appealing to the international community to intervene on behalf of a Palestinian who has been sentenced to death by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for selling property to a Jew.
The accused, Muhammad Abu Shahala, is a former PA intelligence agent who was convicted following a rushed trial using a confession obtained through torture. Shahala cannot be executed, however, without express authorization from PA President Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen).
"It is appalling to think that property sales should be defined as a 'capital crime' punishable by death," wrote Hebron community leaders David Wilder and Noam Arnon in their open letter to government officials on behalf of Shahala. "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."
The letter was addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and other high-ranking international officials.
The letter added, "It is incumbent upon the entire international community, which views Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority as a viable Middle East peace partner, to publicly reject such acts of legal murder, when the 'crime' is nothing more than property sales. What would be the reaction to a law in the United States, England, France, or Switzerland, forbidding property sales to Jews?"
The United States recognizes the PA as the legitimate government of the Palestinian people and as future leaders of a Palestinian state. Earlier this month, Clinton approved a $147 million economic support package to the Palestinian government despite a hold on these funds by the House Foreign Affairs Committee for the PA's attempts at reconciliation with designated terrorist group Hamas.
Disregarding the PA's diplomatic overtures to Hamas, such support from the U.S. would seem surprising in light of the PA's adherence to undemocratic laws like the one condemning Shahala to death, which has always been part of the PA legal system.
"The PA was established in May 1994. The first law it adopted defined selling land to Jews as a capital offense," notes columnist Caroline Glick. "Shortly thereafter scores of Arab land sellers began turning up dead in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria in both judicial and extrajudicial killings."
Wilder and Arnon say action by the international community is needed to save Shahala, not only from a potential death penalty, but to gain "his immediate release from imprisonment, for he has committed no crime."