Israel's Besheva weekly asked three well known Israeli figures in the field of law and human rights: How should Israel react to the Palestinian Authority's imposing the death penalty on Mohammed Abu Shahala, the Arab who sold land to Jews in Hevron?
Translated from the weekly Besheva newspaper: Professor Asa Casher, Philosopher and Linguist at TA University, author of the IDF Code of Conduct I would like to ask a question that precedes this one: Not "how" but "if"? I believe that every death penalty is an intolerable response by a sovereign state to something that has happened. To kill a human being is an act that is allowed only when there is no other option - when there is no other way to protect others from this person. This is true no matter how one analyzes it - from the humanistic aspect and from the point of view that sees man as created in the image of G-d. When a person is incarcerated in prison and no one is endangered by him, then even if he has an extremely evil past - there is no justification for killing him. When a country has a death penalty that applies to all its residents, such as in Texas, Israel will not extradite someone to that country, but we will also not initiate a campaign to eliminate the death penalty worldwide. We have other things to do. However, when the law is not a general criminal law, for someone who committed murder or the like, but is directed against us alone - that's a different story. We must ponder our response.
This is a doubly untenable law: first, because it is a death penalty and second, because it is directed against Jews living in Israel. And in this case, we are talking about a law that falls only on those selling property to Jews. Therefore, this is a doubly untenable law: first, because it is a death penalty and second, because it is directed against Jews living in Israel.
We cannot stand by quietly. We have to initiate a vociferous international protest against this, especially if the PA intends to carry out the law and not have it serve merely as a deterrent. What form will this protest take? This is the government's decision and not an easy thing to do. But no matter what, we cannot leave this issue unanswered.
Eliav Shochetman, Professor of Law at Hebrew University and The Shaarei Mishpat College
The incident in which an Arab is sentenced to the death penalty because he sold land to Jews in Hevron is not the first time that Arabs have been sentenced to death by Palestinian Authortiy courts for this type of offense.
To my recollection, there were at least two incidents like this one in the past, but in both cases the sentence was not carried out because they require the authorization of the head of the Authority, according to Palestinian law, and he did not sign the forms. He also did not authorize the death sentences of Arabs who collaborated with Israel.
At the time, reports circulated that pressure was applied to the head of the PA to get him not to authorize the death penalties, whether imposed for selling land or collaboration.
Today, as well, Israel must do exactly what it did in the previous cases, that is, exert pressure on Abbas by secret channels. Israel knows how to do this when it wants to, for money transfers, safe passage for VIP's and goods.
Whatever Israel does to free him must be kept under wraps, just the way Israel did not explain the details of the operations that served to prevent the killings in the past, Not everything needs fanfare, some things are best kept quiet.
If Israel prevents the death penalty, it will show that it is sovereign in the area.
As I recollect, all murders that did occur - of land dealers who sold to Jews - were terrorist acts or assassinations and not carried out by official PA bodies or the courts that handed down the sentences.
Another thing to remember is that this is an area controlled by Israel according to the Oslo Agreement. This is why land is being bought, in order to strengthen the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. If Israel prevents the death penalty, it will show that it is sovereign in the area.
Ms. Orit Strook, head of the Human Rights Organization of Judea and Samaria
The very fact that it has an anti-Semitic law of this nature on its books shows the true face of the Palestinian Authority – and that of Israel's government. The law shows in the clearest way possible that the PA leads the world's list of racist and inhumane governing bodies.
Leftist human rights NGO's are strangely silent and have done nothing to help this man
As a result, it poses an acid test for the Israeli government: does it ignore the fact that this makes the Land of Israel the only place in the world where it is against the law to sell property to Jews - or does it fight this travesty with all its might.
There is no doubt that if any other country in the world passed an anti-Semitic and racist law such as this one – Israel would recall its ambassador immediately and take other drastic steps. Israel's prime minister, preparing to renew talks with the PA, should demand the rescinding of this racist law as a precondition for negotiations.
Obviously, Israel must save the life of this man, sentenced to death when his only "crime" was selling land to Jews. Israel's government has the power and ability to prevent the sentence from being carried out, and if it does not employ them – it will find that it has, in effect, collaborated with the PA's hangman. This is the time to mention that the leftist Human Rights NGO's are strangely silent and have done nothing to help this man. Nor has mainstream media in Israel taken up the case.
Until Israel succeeds in having this law repealed (up to now, it has not even tried to do so), it must at least formulate a legal policy for dealing with the issue. As of today, Israel's Ministry of Justice, ever the champion of the rule of law, has ignored the PA's interpretation of the "rule of law", behaving as if there is no such thing. The Israeli courts and law enforcement agencies act as though an Arab who says "I have not sold land to Jews" is a free man who will tell the truth – forgetting that there is literally a gun held to his head if he does so. Worse, the civil administration in Judea and Samaria, ignoring the clear and present danger this poses to Arab lives, employs Palestinian Arab secretaries who receive all the documents that are filed when an Arab sells land through legal channels and can easily inform the Palestinian Authority about it. This makes Israel's government a collaborator in whatever ensues, a situation that must be changed immediately.
So long as all steps have not been taken to uproot what is termed the "rule of law" in the PA – or at least to deal with it intelligently – all the claims about "strengthening the rule of law" in Judea and Samaria are nothing but a bluff.
(source: Op-Ed; Israel National News)