If anyone wanted further proof that no Palestinian leader would ever be able to recognize Israel's right to exist, it was provided recently in the form of yet another religious decree, or fatwa, issued by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein. It is a fatwa that basically tells Muslims: "We will kill you, punish you in many ways, if we catch you selling land or homes to Jews."
The fatwa makes it clear that no Muslim is entitled to sell his or her land -- or transfer ownership over it -- to "enemies," a reference to Jews. The implications are extremely serious. Anyone who violates this religious opinion or decree will face various forms of punishment, ranging from being boycotted to the death sentence.
The fatwa, which was published by the mufti on July 10, has attracted no attention from the international media or those parties that keep telling us how keen they are about achieving peace between Palestinians and Israel. Human rights organizations around the world do not seem to be bothered at all by such threats against Muslims.
According to the fatwa, it is considered a "betrayal of Allah, His Messenger and Islam" to sell land to the "enemies" or accept compensation for it. The Muslims, it states, are obligated to boycott anyone who violates the ruling, refrain from marrying the "sinners" or doing any business with them. Taking matters to their most extreme, Muslims are prohibited from attending the funeral of -- or even burying in a Muslim cemetery -- anyone who dares to sell land or a house to a Jew.
In his statement, the mufti reminded all Palestinians that the Supreme Fatwa Council in east Jerusalem had already issued a similar decree back in 1996.
It does not come as a surprise that Muslim leaders forbid their followers from doing any business, including real estate transactions, with Jews. Palestinians themselves have long been aware of this ban, which dates back to the beginning of the last century.
In the past few decades, scores of Palestinians suspected of being involved in real estate transactions with Jews have been abducted, tortured and brutally murdered. Many of the murders took place shortly after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. According to Israeli sources, some of the victims were kidnapped and murdered on instructions from the PA security forces (which are funded and trained by Americans and Europeans).
Arguably, then, there is nothing new about an Islamic religious leader issuing what can be described as a death sentence against Palestinian land-dealers and land-brokers. Nonetheless, it is important to remind all those who seem to have forgotten about such fatwas and why they cannot be dismissed as mere rhetoric.
First, let us consider who is behind the latest fatwa: the mufti of the Palestinian Authority in east Jerusalem. That figure is an official representative of the PA and its president, Mahmoud Abbas. So it is safe to assume that the Mufti receives his salary, directly and indirectly, from the financial aid provided to the Palestinians by the international community, first and foremost the US and EU.
Pictured: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, in Ramallah on April 5, 2010. (Photo by Omar Rashidi/PPO via Getty Images)
Second, the mufti serves as the highest religious authority for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and has the final say on most religious and non-religious issues. In other words, the mufti's position parallels that of a US Supreme Court judge. If the mufti issues a legal opinion or religious decree, his people and leaders are expected to abide by it.
Third, the Palestinian mufti often issues his fatwas after consulting with Islamic religious leaders throughout the Arab and Islamic countries. This means that his rulings regularly represent the consensus among leading Islamic figures in the Arab and Islamic world. Here it is worth noting that no senior Islamic religious leader has challenged or questioned the fatwa prohibiting Muslims from doing business with Jews. In other words, the same fatwa applies not only to Palestinian Muslims, but to Muslims worldwide.
Fourth, the fatwa shows that the Palestinian Authority is no different from its rivals in Hamas when it comes to recognizing Israel's right to exist. If, as the fatwa rules, it is forbidden for a Muslim to give up or transfer the ownership of "any part of Jerusalem or Palestine to the enemies," then it is echoing the official position of Hamas.
Hamas has one redeeming feature: it is honest about its murderous ideology. Hamas's long-standing position has been that all the land of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, is Muslim-owned land. As such, according to Hamas, no Muslim is entitled to give up one inch of this Muslim-owned land to non-Muslims. For Hamas, the land of Palestine is Waqf (Islamic trust) land, whose ownership cannot be transferred to a non-Muslim. This, by the way, is the same phrase the Palestinian Authority used in the mufti's July 10 fatwa, where he says that the land of Palestine and Jerusalem belongs to the Islamic trust. We see, therefore, that there is no difference between the opinions of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas when it comes to accepting the presence or sovereignty of non-Jews over what they perceive as Muslim-owned land.
Fifth, the mufti's ruling contradicts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's public stance claiming to support a two-state solution and recognizing Israel's right to exist. Is it possible that Abbas has not heard of his mufti's fatwa banning Muslims from transferring the ownership of Muslim land to Jews? Or is Abbas playing dumb and pretending that the rulings of his mufti and the Supreme Fatwa Council in east Jerusalem are non-binding? More likely, however, Abbas is playing his usual double game, having his mufti send one message to Muslims while he, the Palestinian president, continues to send a totally different message to Westerners. Abbas's message to the West: "We are ready for compromise and concessions."
Sixth, this fatwa, whether Abbas takes it seriously or not, serves as a warning to all Palestinians of the punishment that awaits them if they sell a piece of land or a house to a Jew. For some Palestinians, by the way, the shame of being ostracized and disowned by their own people and clan is worse than the death penalty. There have been a number of cases in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip where people were denied burial in Muslim cemeteries because they were accused of selling land to Jews or having other dealings with them. This is something that is considered extremely humiliating not only for the individual, but for his entire clan.
Seventh, Abbas and Palestinian leaders can always use this fatwa to justify their refusal to make any concessions in return for peace with Israel. They can tell world leaders that according to Islam, it is forbidden for them to allow non-Muslims control over any part of the Holy Land. This is why the latest fatwa serves the interests of Abbas and his associates, allowing them to appear as if their hands are tied for religious reasons.
Eighth, it is also important to note that the fatwa was issued against a backdrop of reports suggesting that the US administration is about to publish a new plan for peace in the Middle East. The Palestinians fear that the plan, which is known as the "deal of the century," would require them to make territorial concessions to Israel, including recognizing Israel's right to exist. So, the fatwa is Abbas's pre-emptive strike against President Donald Trump's plan. Abbas has already condemned the yet-to-be-announced peace plan as a US-Israeli "conspiracy" to eliminate Palestinian rights. With the new fatwa, Abbas can go to President Trump and other world leaders and tell them, "I would truly like to make peace with the Jews; however, I am prevented from doing so by this fatwa, which bans Muslims from doing real estate transactions with Jews. Sorry!"
The Palestinian fatwa is yet another declaration of war (jihad) on the presence of Jews in the Middle East. It is also a declaration of war on any Muslim who dares to think about peace with Israel. Moreover, the fatwa proves that the Palestinians are openly practicing apartheid, prohibiting the sale of property and homes to Jews. Moreover, this is happening at a time when Muslims in Israel are accustomed to purchasing homes from Jews and moving to Jewish neighborhoods and towns. The mufti's stance represents the true apartheid in this region. One can only imagine the response of the international community had the Chief Rabbi of Israel issued a decree banning Jews from doing business with Muslims. But in the instance of the Palestinian mufti and his superiors in Ramallah, everything seems to be fine -- once again, the international community turns a blind eye to the Palestinian leaders' apartheid and their terrorizing of their own people.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.