Israeli Supreme Court rules against eviction of Palestinian family in East Jerusalem

Jewish settler groups have been trying to expel the Palestinian Sumarin family from their home in the town of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem for over 30 years

April 04, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Israeli court rules for Palestinian family facing eviction
The Sumarin family in their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (Photo: Peace Now)

The Israeli Supreme Court on Monday, April 3, ruled in favor of a Palestinian family facing threat of eviction from Jewish settler groups in occupied East Jerusalem. The ruling came during the hearing on a petition filed by two Jewish groups—Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) and Elad group—seeking to expel the Palestinian Sumarin family from their home in the town of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem and take over their land and property. 18 members of the Sumarin family are currently living on the property, as per reports. The two Jewish groups had recently won a petition in the lower Jerusalem district court in favor of their planned takeover.

Reports note that the legal battle between the two sides has been ongoing for the last 32 years. The Jewish groups first filed a petition to evict the Palestinian family at a lower court in 1991. In their petition, the groups claimed that the family’s property could be classified as ‘absentee property’ as the patriarch of the family, Moussa, had abandoned the family home. This was done based on a legal framework enacted in Israel in the aftermath of its founding in 1948. As per that framework, Israeli Jewish citizens and groups were allowed to take over lands and homes belonging to Palestinians who had fled the areas during the 1948 Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) and settled in what Israel deemed as enemy countries in the region. Countless such homes and lands were taken over and Israeli families were moved into them as the Israeli state tried to increase the Jewish population and presence in previously Palestinian-dominated areas.

The Sumarin family prevailed over the Jewish groups’ arguments in multiple lower courts and were able to successfully prove that their patriarch was not an ‘absentee’ owner. However, in 2017, the family lost the case in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court due to failing to respond to the petition filed in the court by the two groups. The defeat resulted in the next of kin and heirs of the patriarch being declared as ‘absentee’ owners and it was disputed if the original owner had given them permission to live in that property. 

The Supreme Court overturned this ruling, stating that there was no basis to declare the family’s home as ‘absentee’ property. In the ruling, one of the justices Daphne Barak-Ereve noted that “the property was once declared as absentee without any basis in law, since the owner was without a doubt a resident of Jerusalem at the time of the initial declaration.” She also criticized the Israeli government’s actions in this case, saying that “there is room for learning lessons from the conduct of the state in this case.” The lawyer for the Palestinian family Waseem Dakwar called the court’s decision “precedent-setting” and “just.”