Why Hamas jails people who can’t pay their debts

In the red? Free bed

ZIAD AL-ZAYYAN traded his home for his freedom. For years he ran a profitable business importing ceramic tiles to Gaza. In 2016 he took out a loan to pay for an order worth 80,000 shekels ($20,830). But in a besieged territory with 43% unemployment, fewer and fewer people can afford to fix up their homes. Mr Zayyan could not find any customers for his last order. Desperate to pay off his creditors, he sold his flat in Nuseirat, a refugee camp south of Gaza City. He got $17,000 for it, 23% less than what he paid three years earlier. “All of that money went to cover the loan,” he says.

His alternative was jail. Most countries have abolished debtors’ prisons. Palestine should have, too. It signed a UN treaty that forbids them. But they still exist in Gaza, which has been ruled since 2007 by Hamas, a militant Islamist group. Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on the territory after it took power. Last year the Palestinian Authority (PA), which…

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