"The Koran is our constitution", PA
"The Koran is our constitution", PAphoto: file

In line with its Islamist ideology, the Palestinian Authority in Gaza has enacted a new law adopting the traditional Muslim criminal code. Penalties include amputation and crucifixion, as well as the death penalty for negotiations contrary to Hamas's interpretation of "Palestinian interests".

According to a report on the new law appearing Wednesday on the Al-Arabiya website, as translated by

Only the victim of a crime can pardon a criminal or opt to forgo the "Koranic penalties".

Palestinian Media Watch, the Palestinian Legislative Council approved a bill "to implement Koranic punishments." The Arabic website, the online arm of the popular Al-Arabiya satellite news outlet, refers to the London-based Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayat, which said the decision to implement shari'a (Islamic law) was "seen as unprecedented," and that it has "brought criticism and concern from human rights organizations in the Gaza Strip."

The criminal code adopted by the PA includes such punishments as lashes, amputation of thieves' hands, crucifixion, approval of blood revenge, and execution. According to the Arabic press, the law stipulates that only the victim of a crime can pardon opt to forgo the "Koranic penalties".

Among the crimes punished with lashes, and that have no specific "victim" who can pardon the offender, are the consumption, owning or producing of wine. According to the new PA law such an individual "will be punished with 40 lashes if he is Muslim, and anyone who drinks wine, or angers another person [with wine], or causes him distress when drinking wine in a public place, or goes to a public place while drunk, will be punished with no less than 40 lashes and imprisonment for the minimum of three months."

Touching on the political aspect of the Hamas ideology, the new law reportedly includes the death penalty for anyone who "raised a weapon against Palestine on behalf of the enemy during war, was appointed to negotiate with a foreign government on a Palestinian issue and negotiated against Palestinians' interest, performed a hostile action against a foreign country in a way that endangers Palestine in war or in harming political relations, served a foreign army in time of war, advised or helped soldiers to enlist in this army, weakened the spirit or the force of resistance of the people, or spied against Palestine especially during war."

PA legislators in Gaza denied the reports that they adopted Islamic criminal penalties, saying that there has been no official statement to that effect. Al-Hayat, however, said the proposal for the law was submitted by the PA government led by Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh.

If in fact passed, as reported in the Arabic press, the new law only puts into practice what was stated succinctly by a PA legislator - Hamed Bitawi of the Hamas organization - just after Hamas won the January 2006 PA elections in a sweeping victory: "The Koran is our constitution, Mohammad is our prophet, jihad is our path and dying as martyrs for the sake of Allah is our biggest wish." His statement was answered with a standing ovation and calls of "Allahu Akbar".

It also bears noting that the Palestinian Authority Constitution as it was adopted under the PLO's Yasser Arafat and led by Fatah also declares, "The principles of Islamic shari'a are a major source for legislation."