Jerusalem

Jerusalem

An American has been rescued from a prison term – or possibly worse – for the crime of selling property to a Jew.

Breaking Israel News reported the Palestinian Authority arrested 55-year-old Issam Akel last October, but he now has returned to the U.S. after pressure from Israel and the United States.

The Palestinian Authority ban on selling property to Jews carries the death penalty, the report said.

“Fortunately, 55-year-old Akel happened to be a citizen of Israel and the U.S., a factor that saved his life according to Ateret Cohanim, the NGO which facilitated the sale of his home in Jerusalem’s Old City,” the report said.

Ateret Cohanim Executive Director Daniel Luria told BIN the issue remains sensitive, because “even though Akel is now in the U.S., there may still be elements that would want to harm him.”

BIN explained that two Palestinian factions had been vying to obtain a building known as Bet Gitta. The sale, however, was facilitated by Ateret Cohanim to Jewish entities.

That turned Bet Gitta into a major issue for both Palestinian groups, Luria said, “with each side trying to save face by showing that they were more militant in preventing the sale of land to Jews.”

As they argued over the issue, it came to light that another building nearby also had been sold to Jews.

That property was dedicated in memory of Ari Fuld, who had been murdered by a Palestinian terrorist months earlier.

“The PA accused Issam Akel of helping sell the property,” Luria told BIN. “Initially, they were unaware that he was an American citizen. Palestinian Authority security forces abducted and incarcerated Akel torturing him for several weeks. He was entirely cut off from the outside world. The methods they used to torture him were brutal, straight out of the Middle Ages. His house in Ramallah was ransacked. Eventually, he was tried and sentenced to life in prison with hard labor.”

Luria noted the United Nations, European Union and other international bodies were entirely silent about the case.

Palestinians are adamant about the ban on the sale of property to Jews, the report explained, “as each piece of property becomes a key element in the battle over Jerusalem.”

Luria explained that every sale in which Ateret Cohanim is involved has a willing seller and a willing buyer.

“There is no lack of Arabs who would like to sell their property. And as Jews, we are very interested in helping to purchase land in Jerusalem,” Luria said.

Ultimately, BIN explained: “Pressure placed on the PA from several angles led to the release of Akel. The Israeli police shut down a PA office in Jerusalem and arrested several PA operatives. Ateret Cohanim worked to shift the media focus onto the event. The U.S. government also exerted political pressure and in November, David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, called for the PA to release Akel.”

Luria urged citizen activists to address the draconian sale ban.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.