Israel: Arafat's government encouraged land sale killings
June 2, 1997
Web posted at: 1:48 p.m. EDT (1748 GMT)
In this story:
From Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Yasser Arafat's government encouraged the
killing of Arabs who sold land to Jews, Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged on Monday. Palestinian
officials denied the Palestinian Authority was involved in
the killings and called the accusations Israeli propaganda.
Three Arab land dealers have been killed and a fourth has
disappeared in the past month following warnings from
Palestinian officials that the death penalty should be
imposed on those who sell land to Israelis.
In addition, Arafat's police have prepared a list of 16 other
land dealers to be executed, Israeli officials claim.
Meanwhile, Israeli police have arrested six Palestinians who
allegedly kidnapped another man suspected of planning to sell
land to an Israeli.
Netanyahu called the killings a threat to the peace process,
but Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said Israel would
continue peace efforts while trying to halt Palestinian
(79 K / 7 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
Last month, Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Medein
urged the death penalty for those who illegally sold land to
Israel. There was precedent under Jordanian law which allows
someone who sells land to an enemy to be killed.
The Palestinian National Council is considering several
proposals to legally prohibit the land sales.
Abu Medein said Palestinians suspected of collaborating with
Israel would be brought to trial.
The Palestinian attorney general, Khaled Kidreh, said
Palestinian police have arrested 15 Arabs who would be
brought to trial on suspicion of selling land to Jews.
At issue in the land battle is control of Jerusalem, a fight
that intensified with Netanyahu's decision to build a Jewish
housing project on disputed land in Jerusalem.
Arabs see any Israeli real estate deal as a land grab to deny
them any claim to title or sovereignty.
"When a Japanese buys land in California, Japan does not
exercise sovereignty in California. When the French buy land
in New York, the French government does not exercise
sovereignty," said Palestinian Cabinet Minister Hanan
Ashrawi. "But Israel does that."
The killings have become a public relations debacle for
Palestinians, giving hard-line Israelis an opportunity to
challenge Arafat's commitment to peace.
"This is an indication that we have growing next door to us,
indeed across the street, a very tyrannical ruthless
dictatorship," said David Bar Illan, a senior adviser to
Palestinians, however, argue Israel is using the killings as
"Mr. Netanyahu wants to create an issue ... to draw attention
away from the problem the peace process is facing," charged
Ahmad Qorei, speaker of the Palestinian National Council.
Few Palestinians mourn the death of a real estate agent
selling Arab property. Often the agent is seen as a traitor.
In a larger sense, however, the issue is not kidnapping and
murder. The violence is all part of the battle for Jerusalem,
the West Bank and Gaza -- a battle which has taken a brutal
turn, now that the peace process has broken down.
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