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Palestinian Land Laws: Wikis


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The Palestinian Land Laws[1] are Palestinian Authority (PA) laws that prohibit Palestinians from selling Palestinian territory lands to Jews.[2][3][4][5] These land laws were originally enacted during the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank (1948–1967),[3] and are deemed by the Palestinian Authority as being necessary to prevent further expansion of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories and to "halt the spread of moral, political and security corruption".[5] The law carries a sentence of the death penalty.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]



Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt during the Six-Day War of 1967. Shortly after the war, Israel began establishing settlements in these territories in contradiction with legal advice, including from Theodor Meron, the Israeli Foreign Ministry's advisor.[8]

In 2005, Israel dismantled its settlements in Gaza, but Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, recognized as occupied Palestinian territory, still account, along with their security zones, for about 60% of the area.[9] In the West Bank, also recognized as occupied Palestinian territory, settlements have continued to slowly grow and as of April 2009, included about 400,000 settlers.[6] All Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have been declared illegal under international law, but Israel disputes this finding.[6]

Palestinians argue that the growth of Israeli settlements compromises their ability to establish a viable state of their own in the territories, in accordance with the proposed two-state solution.[10] In an attempt to prevent the further spread of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority, invoking an earlier Jordanian law, announced in 1997 that the death penalty would henceforth be sought for Palestinians found guilty of selling their property to Jews. In April 2009, the PA reiterated its position that sale of property to Jews constitutes treason and is punishable by death. [5]

The laws

A number of laws appear to have been employed by the Palestinian Authority in its attempts to limit the spread of settlements. In 1997, the PA announced that it would seek the death penalty for Palestinians selling land to Jews or Israelis pursuant to a 1973 Jordanian statute known as the "Law for Preventing the Sale of Immoveable Property to the Enemy".[11] Under this statute, "the enemy" is defined as

... any man or judicial body [corporation] of Israeli citizenship living in Israel or acting on its behalf.[11]

Article 4 of the statute states that:

The sale of immoveable property against the provisions of this law constitutes a crime against state security and well being, punishable by death, and the confiscation of all the culprit's immoveable and moveable possessions. [11]

The statute additionally states that anyone who sells land to an alien (non-Jordanian or non-Arab) without permission from the government will also be subject to the death penalty.[11]

Later in 1997, the PA began drafting a new law to replace the Jordanian statute, known as the "Property Law for Foreigners". Under the provisions of this draft proposal, the sale of land to "occupiers" was described as an act of "national treason", with "occupiers" defined as the "government of occupation [ie Israel], its civilian and military institutions and its individual citizens". The draft statute authorized the "maximum penalty" (ie death sentence) for Palestinians convicted of the offence, and life imprisonment for foreigners.[11] It is not clear whether this statute was ever put into effect, but it appears it was not, possibly due to international criticism.

In the latest (2009) case in which a Palestinian was convicted of selling land to foreigners, however, it appears that some additional laws were used to obtain the conviction. The Jerusalem Post states that the defendant was convicted under a law prohibiting sale of Palestinian land to "the enemy" (possibly a reference to the old Jordanian law), as well as a Palestinian "military law" which "states that it is forbidden to sell land to Jews", and two earlier laws dating from the 1950s which forbad trade with the state of Israel.[12]

While PA courts can impose death sentences, they cannot be carried out without the approval of the PA President. The current President, Mahmoud Abbas, has consistently refused to approve executions.[13]


Sources differ on the number of Palestinians officially executed for the offence, with the Jerusalem Post stating that none have been executed[12] while a BBC report indicates that there have been two executions.[6] However, a number of extrajudicial killings have also taken place since the death penalty was first announced. In May 1997 for example, three Palestinians convicted under the statute were later found murdered. Human Rights Watch argued that the circumstances of the murders "strongly suggested official tolerance if not involvement" by the PA, citing as evidence "inflammatory statements" by PA Justice Minister Frei Abu Medein "which seemed to give a green light to violence against suspected land dealers." Medein is quoted as saying: "... expect the unexpected for these matters because nobody from this moment will accept any traitor who sells his land to Israel."[3] According to the Jerusalem Post, "scores" of Palestinians have been murdered in the last thirty years for selling their property to Jews.[5]

An additional consequence has reportedly been increased intimidation of Palestinian Christians, as many ordinary Palestinians have misinterpreted the law to mean prohibition on sale of property not only to Jews but to any non-Muslim. This misperception has been fuelled by a number of fatwas issued by Palestinian Muslim clerics in support of the PA's death penalty which fail to distinguish between Jews and Christians, but which simply condemn sale of property to "infidels" (ie non-Muslims).[14]

Events in 2009

In early April 2009, it was reported that several Jewish businessmen from the United States purchased 20 dunams (2 hectares) of land from Palestinians in the Mount of Olives area of Jerusalem. The report prompted the PA to reissue its warning that sale of property to Jews constitutes "high treason" punishable by death. Sheikh Tamimi, Chief (Islamic) Judge of the PA, reminded Palestinians of an earlier fatwa against the practice. "The city of Jerusalem is the religious, political and spiritual capital of the Palestinians," he said. "The Jews have no rights in Jerusalem. This is an occupied city like the rest of the territories that were occupied in 1967." [5] Fatah legislator Hatem Abdel Kader, an advisor to the PA Prime Minister, asserted that the ban on sale of property to Jews was still necessary as the Israeli government and settlers were mounting a "fierce onslaught" on the Arab sector in East Jerusalem, attempting to alter the demographic balance there by demolishing Palestinian homes.[5] (East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in the wake of the 1967 war, but the annexation has not been recognized by the international community).[15]

In late April 2009, a Palestinian military court condemned a man to death by hanging for treason after he sold some land to Israelis. The death sentence requires the approval of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is not expected to approve it.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b Weiner, Justus Reid (2005). Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society. page 22: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. pp. 57. ISBN 9652180483,.  
  2. ^ a b Freedom in the World: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties, 1997-1998. page 577: Transaction Publishers. 1998. pp. 610. ISBN 076580476X.  
  3. ^ a b c d Human Rights Watch World Report 1998. page 340: Human Rights Watch. 1997. pp. 512. ISBN 1564321762.  
  4. ^ a b "Israel Investigates Death Of an Arab Land Dealer". The New York Times. 1997-05-11. Retrieved 2009-07-01.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Abu Toameh, Khaled (2009-04-01). "PA: Death Penalty for Those who Sell Land to Jews". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2009-07-01.  
  6. ^ a b c d e Palestinian Handed Death Sentence, BBC News, 29 April 2009
  7. ^ "Death Verdict over W. Bank Land Sale". Al Jazeera English. 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2009-05-16.  
  8. ^ [ Senior legal official warned that settlements would be illegal in 1967] Independent - 26 May 2007
  9. ^ Katya Adler, "Challenge of Israeli settlements", BBC News.
  10. ^ Matt Spetalnick, "Obama to hear Abbas plea on Israeli settlements" The Independent (Reuters source).
  11. ^ a b c d e Alex Safian (1997-06-25), "Land, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel", CAMERA.
  12. ^ a b Abu Toameh, Khaled (2009-04-29). "PA court: Death to man who sold land to Jews". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2009-05-20.  
  13. ^ Palestinian Faces Death for Selling Land to Israel, Associated Press, Israel News, 28 April 2009
  14. ^ M. Sennott, Charles (1999-01-17). "Christians Anxious Under Palestinian Rule". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-05-16.  
  15. ^ East Jerusalem, B'Tselem.


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