As long as the PA and Hamas punish Palestinians who work with Israel or are willing to sell real estate to Israeli Jews, any hope of reviving the ‘peace process’ is a pitiful waste of time and effort.
By Khaled Abu Toameh, The Gatestone Institute
The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas have again shown that peace with Israel is not only extremely ill-advised and most likely doomed from the start but critically dangerous as well. The two Palestinian parties, both the PA and Hamas, do not want Palestinians to engage in any real estate transactions with Israeli Jews; they also do not want Palestinians to assist Israel in the war on terrorism.
By opposing the sale of properties to Israeli Jews and “collaboration” with Israel, the PA and Hamas are sending a message to the Palestinian public that despite all the talk about a “two-state solution” and the possible resumption of the “peace process,” Israel remains the mortal enemy of the Palestinians.
This message does not bode well for the Biden administration’s desire to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Two Palestinian court sentences passed on October 17 provide concrete evidence of how the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip continue to regard Israel and Jews as an eternal foe.
In the first case, a PA court in Bethlehem sentenced two Palestinian men to 15 years in prison with hard labor for attempting to sell land to Israeli Jews.
The verdict was published by the PA’s official news agency Wafa; Judge Jamal Shadid reportedly presided over the court. The agency did not identify the defendants by name. It said that they were convicted of attempting to “cut off a part of the Palestinian lands in order to annex it to a foreign country” — the code used by the PA to describe real estate transactions between Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
According to Wafa, the ruling was based on the “evidence” presented by prosecutor Eyad Abdo and after the PA security forces conducted the “necessary investigations.”
This is not the first time that the PA, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, has punished Palestinians for selling or trying to sell their land or houses to Israeli Jews.
In June, a PA court in Ramallah sentenced a man to seven years in prison with hard labor for attempting to sell land to the Israeli “enemy.”
In May, another PA court in the city of Nablus sentenced two other men to five years in prison with hard labor after they were found guilty of attempting to sell land to Israeli Jews.
Last year, three Palestinians were convicted by a PA court in Nablus on the same charge. They were each sentenced to five years in prison with hard labor.
In 2018, a PA court in Ramallah sentenced Essam Aqel, a Palestinian-American, to life in prison for allegedly selling a house to Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem. Aqel was later released under pressure from the US administration.
The PA, which is largely funded by American and European taxpayers’ money, is imprisoning Palestinians for even trying to engage in real estate deals with Jews. Hamas is issuing death sentences against Palestinians on charges of “collaboration” with Israel.
On the same day that the two Palestinians were sentenced to 15 years in prison for allegedly trying to sell land to Israeli Jews, a human rights group revealed that a court in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip ordered the execution of two men by hanging for “collaboration” with Israel. The two defendants, whose names were not released, are from the towns of Khan Yunis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
The men — aged 43 and 30 — were found guilty of “collaboration with foreign parties,” a reference to Israel. Palestinians use the word “collaboration” to describe (and sometimes murder) any Palestinian who reportedly tips off the Israelis about terrorists or terror attacks.
In the past few decades, many Palestinians suspected of “collaboration” with Israel or selling properties to Israelis Jews have been executed or extrajudicially killed by fellow Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian public seems generally supportive of the death sentences and extrajudicial killings of suspected “land dealers” and informants. Even Palestinian human rights organizations appear to be extremely careful when they mention such issues.
After the death sentences were issued by the Hamas court, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said in a statement that while it “affirms its condemnation of the crimes of communication with the occupation, it rejects the use of the death penalty.” The PCHR pointed out that the Hamas courts have issued 14 death sentences since the beginning of the year. Not all the verdicts were related to “collaboration” with Israel.
Judging from the reaction of the PCHR, it does not oppose punishment for Palestinians who help Israel. It just does not favor the death penalty.
The Biden administration has decided to resume financial aid to the Palestinians with the hope that they will return to the negotiating table with Israel. But how can Mahmoud Abbas return to the negotiating table with Israel while he is sending Palestinians to prison for trying to sell land or houses to Jews?
In the Quixotic scenario that Abbas or any other Palestinian leader would ever sign a peace treaty with Israel, he would be accused by many Palestinians of being a traitor, for which the punishment is the death penalty, for “selling out” to the Jews. Abbas would also be accused of treason for giving up the Palestinian dream to “liberate all of Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” Moreover, woe unto him upon arriving in the Gaza Strip, where he would no doubt face trial for “collaboration” with Israel.
As mentioned, so far as Hamas and many Palestinians are concerned, peace with Israel or any form of “collaboration” with the “Zionist enemy” is an act of treason punishable by death.
Abbas is already facing accusations of being a traitor because of the security coordination between the Palestinian Authority security forces and the Israeli authorities in the West Bank.
As long as the PA and Hamas punish Palestinians who work with Israel or are willing to sell real estate to Israeli Jews — frequently by issuing sentences of hard labor or death — the hope of reviving the “peace process” would be, unfortunately, a pitiful waste of time and effort.
The verdicts passed against the “land dealers” in the West Bank and the suspected “collaborators” in the Gaza Strip show that Palestinians remain as far as ever from accepting Israel, let alone making peace with it.
The verdicts are yet more proof of how Palestinian leaders continue to radicalize their people against Israel — to the point that no Palestinian who wishes to stay alive would ever claim that he or she seeks to make peace with Israel or recognize all of the land as anything other than totally Palestinian in every way.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.