EXCLUSIVE – Michael Oren: Human Rights Groups Must Condemn Palestinian Authority Over Arrested American

Michael Oren (Tara Todras-Whitehill / Associated Press)
Tara Todras-Whitehill / Associated Press

JERUSALEM – Cabinet Minister and former Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren called on human rights groups to condemn the Palestinian Authority over its incarceration of an American national due to his alleged involvement in the sale of real estate to Jews and contended that failure to do constituted “racism.”

“I call on all the world’s human rights groups to condemn the Palestinian Authority for the incarceration of Isam Akel,” Oren told Breitbart News Wednesday.

“Any government that would incarcerate anybody for selling land to Jews would be accused of anti-semitism and racism. So why aren’t the so-called defenders of human rights doing just that? Not doing so is in itself racist.”

His words come on the heels of a demand from President Donald Trump’s envoy to Israel, David Friedman, to the PA to release Akel.

Ambassador Friedman, who was recently charged with U.S. relations with the Palestinians in addition to his role as top diplomat in Israel, tweeted: “The Pal Authority has been holding US citizen Isaam Akel in prison for ~2 months. His suspected “crime”? Selling land to a Jew. Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence. We demand his immediate release.”

Akel’s detention, which began on October 11, has been extended for a further 45 days as of Monday evening, sources close to the situation told Breitbart News. The PA has denied claims of abduction, saying Akel came of his own accord. However, Akel’s wife, Mariam, told Breitbart News that her husband was lured to Ramallah under the pretense of signing some paperwork.

International human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky expressed outrage at the silence from the international community.

“The Palestinian Authority’s arrest of U.S. citizen Isaam Akel for the purported ‘crime’ of simply selling land to a Jew, which is punishable by death under Palestinian law, is a flagrant violation of international law that only further serves to underscore this grossly racist, illegal and antisemitic policy by the PA,” Ostrovsky told Breitbart.

“Moreover, the silence of the international community and human rights organizations, which do not waste an opportunity to condemn Israel over settlements, but repeatedly turn their backs to grave violations of international law by the PA, is simply deafening, reeking of hypocrisy and cold indifference because they cannot allocate blame to the Jewish state,” Ostrovsky added.

The news comes on the heels of sweeping arrests by Israel Police of eastern Jerusalem residents in a crackdown on Arab Israelis suspected of illegally working on behalf of Palestinian Authority security forces.

According to Akel’s wife, he was held for more than a week from the time of his arrest on October 11 before she was given any information pertaining to his whereabouts.

The Jerusalem Post cited Palestinian sources as saying Akel worked for the PA Ministry for Local Government and was suspected of receiving $25,000 in commission for his role as “solicitor” in the sale of a house in Jerusalem’s flashpoint Old City.

Earlier in the week, 32 Arab residents of Jerusalem with Israeli IDs were arrested by Israel on suspicion of working with the PA security forces in violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords. The suspects’ homes were raided by police, who found large stashes of both shekels and foreign currency, weapons, Palestinian police-issued ID cards, military equipment and uniforms, and various certificates, photographs and documents.

The sting was reportedly part of a wider undercover operation aimed at targeting eastern Jerusalem residents involved in preventing the sale of houses to Israeli Jews — an offense that carries the death sentence in Palestinian society. Earlier this month, the offices of the PA Ministry for Jerusalem Affairs, headed by Adnan al-Husseini, were also raided by Israeli security officials who seized computers and documents purportedly showing the illegal PA activity in eastern Jerusalem.

Israel Police raid findings

This week, Israeli police also arrested the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Ghaith, for the third time in a month. Ghaith is suspected of having facilitated Akel’s arrest by Palestinian security forces.

Ghaith will remain in custody until Thursday and has been barred from making any contact with the PA. Prior to his arrest, he was also forbidden from going overseas for three months, travelling to the West Bank or having contact with certain Palestinian officials, including the PA’s General Intelligence Service chief, Majed Faraj, who also handles Palestinian security coordination with Israel.

According to Lt. Col. (res.) Baruch Yedid, who served in the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit, Faraj was behind Akel’s arrest. The order, he said, came directly from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Yedid slammed Israel for not doing enough to pressure Faraj into releasing Akel.

The PA government has formed a commission of inquiry to investigate the real estate deal in which Akel was allegedly involved. When a Jewish family moved into the house in question, which once belonged to the well-known Palestinian Joudeh family, it sparked an angry wave of protests on the Palestinian street, with people calling for the execution of those who facilitated the sale.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat blasted Israel for Ghaith’s arrest, saying it was an “arbitrary decision taken by the Israeli occupation authorities to punish and further obstruct the work of the two main legitimate political Palestinian authorities in occupied East Jerusalem.”

When Akel’s arrest was first reported, a State Department official told Breitbart News that the U.S. is providing “all appropriate consular assistance.”

“We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen has been detained by the Palestinian Authority,” the official said.

At the time, Oren described the abduction at the time as “preposterous.”

“This man is basically being imprisoned for selling land to Jews and could be executed for it, it’s a capital offense,” Oren told Breitbart News.

“In any other place in the world this would be considered rank anti-Semitism and racism. Imagine if someone were sentenced to death for selling land to Jews in New York. It’s preposterous,” he said.

To top it off, Oren added, this was happening in “our ancestral capital.”

“It’s not selling land to Jews in Jenin, it’s selling lands to Jews in Jerusalem,” he said.

In the past week alone the PA has sentenced two individuals to 15 years of hard labor for selling land to Israeli Jews.

In April, another Palestinian man received 15 years of hard labor for the same offense. A PA court in Nablus last month also convicted two men of selling land to Jews, sentencing them to a nine-year jail term and six years of hard labor respectively.

Earlier this month, Breitbart News reported that the chief rabbi of Jerusalem approved the burial of a Palestinian Muslim in a Jewish cemetery after Imams refused to bury him over suspicions that he too sold real estate to Jews.

Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who serves as the Imam for the Al Aqsa Mosque, said that any Palestinian who betrays their people by selling “to the Jews in Jerusalem is not a member of the Muslim nation.”

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