Sep 18, 2021

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A Palestinian American who facilitated the sale of an apartment by Arabs to Israeli Jews was condemned to life in prison by a Palestinian Authority court on Monday.

Issam Akel was arrested by the P.A. last October and put through a trial, despite the fact that he has American citizenship, an Israeli ID card, and that the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel demanded 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,” wrote Ambassador David Friedman on Twitter at the end of November. “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.”

According to sources cited by The Jerusalem Post, Akel is a 55-year-old American citizen who was kidnapped and interrogated for selling an Arab-owned house in the Old City of Jerusalem to the Ateret Cohanim organization, a yeshivah group that has bought numerous properties in the Muslim quarter of the Old City and in strategic locations around the Holy Basin area of Jerusalem.

Akel allegedly received $25,000 for brokering the sale between a Palestinian widow and Ateret Cohanim.

A second property in the Muslim Quarter belonging to the Joudeh family was also sold to Ateret Cohanim, though the Joudeh family subsequently insisted that it had sold the property to Khaled al-Atari, a businessman from eastern Jerusalem with close ties to the P.A. General Intelligence Force.

Akel was reportedly living in Bethlehem and working for the P.A. Ministry for Local Government at the time of his arrest.

The U.S. State Department is in touch with the P.A. regarding the arrest.

Palestinian Islamic religious authorities in eastern Jerusalem have issued and reaffirmed a fatwa (religious decree) prohibiting Palestinians from selling their houses and lands to Israeli Jews, and demanding the total excommunication and isolation of any Palestinians who do. Many Palestinians are calling for the execution of Akel due to their belief that his help in the sale constitutes “high treason.”