JERUSALEM – President Donald Trump’s envoy to Israel David Friedman has demanded the release of an American national who is being incarcerated by the Palestinian Authority over his alleged involvement in the sale of real estate to Jews.
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.”
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.
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) November 28, 2018
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.
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.
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.
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 or from 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.
Deputy Minister Michael Oren, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., 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.”