How the Palestinian death sentence for Arab land vendors affects Israeli settlement policy

Shchunat HaUlpana in Bet El

Shchunat HaUlpana (Ulpana neighbourhood) in Bet El - not just a bunch of caravans on a hilltop

This first item is a couple of weeks old but it ties in to today’s news, and in any event is so outrageous that it needs a post of its own.

It starts with a house in Hevron which was bought by a group of Israelis (I’ll call them settlers for the sake of ease of understanding, although I hate that term). The house is near Me’arat HaMachpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs) and so was named Bet Hamachpela. The settlers moved in and all hell broke loose. You can imagine the rest: the condemnations of the left, the defense of the settlers by the right, the demands to expel the house’s residents etc.

In the end, despite both sides thinking that an agreement had been reached to defer the expulsion until the legality of the sale could be considered, the Minister of unDefence, the weaselly Ehud Barak, went ahead and expelled the residents almost on the eve of Pesach, claiming that the sale was invalid.

If that is the case, can he explain why Muhammad Abu Shahala, the Arab seller of the house has been sentenced to death by the Palestinian Authority for having the temerity to sell his property to Jews?

If the sale never took place the Palestinians would never execute one of their own. And if the sale indeed took place, triggering the death sentence from those oh-so-moderate Palestinians, then the sale was legal and the settlers have every right to remain in the house and claim their legal title.

The unDefence Minister can’t have it both ways. OK, let me rephrase that. He SHOULDN’T be able to have it both ways but it seems that in the undemocratic State of Israel in the 21st Century he can indeed.

Today we are going to see a similar battle played out with the looming threat of expulsion of residents and demolition of the Ulpana neighbourhood in Bet El.

The trouble arises once again from the death sentence that is applied by the oh-so-moderate Palestinian Authority (as opposed to the extremist Hamas) to any Arab who sells land or property to Jews. After selling the property and receiving the money, they then claim they “We wuz robbed!”, thereby triggering an automatic expulsion order from Israel’s undemocratic unDefence Minister. This also puts PM Netanyahu into an almost impossible position, catching him between a rock and a hard place between the settlers and their supporters in the Knesset and Coalition, and the unDefence Minister Barak and his supporters in the coalition.

From the first link:

Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) warned on Saturday that the coalition would fall apart if the government made good on its pledge to demolish 30 homes in the Ulpana outpost, adjacent to the Beit El settlement, at the end of the month.


“The neighborhood may not be removed,” Ya’alon said at a lecture in Beersheba.

“Totally normal people live there, and then suddenly they’re facing complaints because a Palestinian claims the land is his.

“If the Ulpana neighborhood is evacuated, the coalition will break apart,” the minister added.

Danon said that “only a left-wing government would evacuate this neighborhood. The Likud is facing a test it cannot fail.”

According to Danon, the threat to demolish homes in Beit El crosses a red line for pro-settlement Likud members, and will not be tolerated.

On Friday, Yisrael Katz called on the government to amend it policy of removing unauthorized homes constructed, like those in Ulpana, on private Palestinian property.

When the government set that policy, it did not fully understand the implications, he said.

Residents of Beit El told Katz that the land was purchased from its Palestinian owners more than a decade ago, but that the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria had warned the buyers against registering it because it would endanger the lives of the Palestinian sellers. The Palestinian Authority imposes a death sentence on Palestinians who sell property to Jews.

Although the state gave the Ulpana residents grants and banks issued them mortgages to build their homes, the state continues to classify the property as belonging to private Palestinians.

With the help of Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, the Palestinian claimants turned to the High Court of Justice. The state subsequently promised the court it would remove the homes by the end of the month.

Although the prime minister has said that he is seeking a solution that will allow the homes to remain, the state has yet to come up with a proposal or to turn to the court to ask for an extension.

A number of Likud ministers, including Katz and Ya’alon, have lashed out at Defense Minister Ehud Barak and accused him of wanting to move against Ulpana for political gain.

Ya’alon said that Barak has “a different political agenda than the government. Unfortunately, [his ministry] is responsible for settlements in Judea and Samaria.”

According to Ya’alon, the defense minister has used unnecessary force to evacuate settlers, to “make sure the Left understands who its leader is,” and so that Barak’s Independence party will pass the 2 percent threshold to make it into the Knesset in the next election.

Barak’s office responded to Ya’alon’s barbs on Saturday night, saying that the vice premier has a serious case of “Feiglinism,” a reference to Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit.

“Feiglinism is not good for the country, its security, its future, or the public in general,” Barak quipped. “I hope, for the public’s sake, that Feiglinism is not contagious.”

And I hope that it is.  (Israel Matzav has a good post on this and also on the definition of Feiglinism). I also hope that Netanyahu will finally exercise his prerogative and fire his Undefence Minster who is causing so much damage to the citizens of the State of Israel.

A good start for Netanyahu and his government, not to mention the unDefence Minsiter, would be to bring to the world’s attention the antisemitic nature of the Palestinian Authority’s automatic death sentence to anyone selling land to Jews. Such a law would not be acceptable anywhere in the civilized world. Why does Israel not combat it in international forums and the press?

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8 Responses to How the Palestinian death sentence for Arab land vendors affects Israeli settlement policy

  1. JudyPT says:

    Minister Barak is keeping his portfolio under false pretences.Netanyahu bribed him into the coalition as head of the Labour faction.When Barak broke from them he should have returned all his mandates as nobody knows what and who this faction represents.This is a very easy way for Bibi to get rid of Barak in a democratic way at least until the next elections.Wedont even know if they will get enough votes to get ANY seats at all.

    • anneinpt says:

      You’re quite right about Barak. The question then arises, why is Bibi keeping him in his coalition? why didn’t he get rid of him? Has Barak got something on Bibi? Or does he really express Bibi’s secret views?

      Like I said, we are really a sham democracy. There is no transparency and the people have no direct vote.

  2. Reblogged this on danmillerinpanama and commented:
    Israel’s enemies will be disabled with laughter.

  3. Andrea says:

    This case sounds interesting but I have not unfortunately the proper knowledge about Israeli law concerning sales of real estate property to reach an opinion. I would not be surprised that under a pure legal point of view a valid title of property could be evidenced in two ways ( at least ) : transcription of written contract in public register or undisputed possession over years ( usually twenty or more ).
    I trust that Israeli courts have properly dealt with this point , assuming – as I do – that Israeli law is the applicable law in this territory. Israeli real estate public register should show if contract has been registered or the name of owner . If this has not been done even for the noble purpose to not expose the seller to dramatic consequences, it is almost impossible for the buyers to claim their right in absence of requisite of undisputed possession of land over the years.
    Application of law has sometimes illogical consequences but I do not know if it is the case. I guess that as Israeli citizens the buyers should have knew Israeli laws or they should have had the means to know this – at least their lawyers.
    But all this I confess is still obscure to me and tenth of articles on Israeli newspapers from left to right have not helped me on the specific legal point of view. I am afraid that political considerations are prevailing .

    • anneinpt says:

      Hi Andrea, long time no see! Thanks for your comment, and I agree with you that the laws are highly confusing. I’m certainly not sure of them myself, and I would bet that most Israelis aren’t too certain about the land laws either.

      In the territories, i.e. the West Bank, Israeli law does not apply, or at least does not fully apply, so as you correctly guessed, the law for purchasing property is either possession for a certain length of time or a valid sale contract. Since the sales contracts are either not signed, or denied afterwards because of death threats, it becomes almost impossible for Jewish Israelis to purchase property in the West Bank – which is the exact intention of the Palestinians.

      We did see one victory just a couple of days ago when the High Court approved the ownership by a Jewish group of a house in Bet Hanina in East Jerusalem. This time, although Palestinians had been living in the house for decades, the ownership was proven by valid sales and purchase contracts. See here for more:

      The settler-run Israel Land Fund took over the fight for the properties from a man who said he purchased the homes more than three decades ago. The properties also were owned by Jews before 1948, according to the fund. The organization plans to establish a Jewish enclave of 50 apartments in the Arab neighborhood.

      Of course Israel can never win and the EU and UN have already condemned the eviction of the Palestinians. It seems eviction is a one-way street in Israel – Jews only. Now you can understand our frustration.

  4. Paddy O'P says:

    Barak (Ehud) recently formed a new party, claiming it is centre or left of centre. In order to win
    the next election he must gather all the left leaning parties together with those dissatisfied in
    Likud, kadima, labour, etc. and thus have a majority to win the election. In order to do that
    he has to stab Likud and in particular Netanyahu in the back, and become at least as left as
    labour and the possible new entry of Lapid. The only way he can do this is by forcefully removing
    all – I emphasize all – doubtful settlements as quickly as possible and thus force an early
    election. He has a very willing partner to do this in the form of the Supreme Court, who simply
    hate all settlers and settlements and who cannot see any justice whatsoever in their continued
    way of life. The more so if they are religious. That is the current strategy of Barak, but it
    could be overcome easily if the PM fires him from the post with immediate effect.

    Paddy O’P

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks for your comment OP. However I disagree your assessment of how Barak’s strategy might play out, by turning to the extreme left: it would certainly not be a winning strategy since the Israeli public has turned much further right in recent years, and Barak wants to win.

      I do agree that the Supreme Court sides with his attitude towards the settlers, but I don’t know where that attitude springs from.

      The PM could fire him but hasn’t done so, even under extreme provocation – which means that the PM wants him right there. My theory is that the PM wants as wide a base for his coalition as possible, and if that means tolerating an anti-Bibi like Barak, well so be it.

      In other words, Bibi has put politics above ideology and the existence of the coalition government above the needs of his own people. No different from any other politician in fact. Plus, I don’t think Bibi is as right-wing as he’s made to be out in the media.

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