Israeli Supreme Court rules against eviction of east Jerusalem family
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday against a petition by the Jewish National Fund supported by the City of David Foundation, also known as Elad, which works to increase the Jewish presence in the city, to evict the Palestinian Sumarin family from their house on the side east The neighborhood of Jerusalem in Silwan. The ruling overturned an earlier ruling by the Jerusalem District Court.
The legal struggle over the Sumarin family home has been going on for 32 years. The house is located in an area of the Silwan neighborhood that is part of the City of David archaeological site, which is managed by the Elad organization. In 1991 the Jewish National Fund, through its subsidiary Himenota, petitioned the court to declare Moussa, the patriarch of the Sumarin family, “absent” and the house as “absent property”. The procedure was not unusual and has been invoked to evict Palestinian residents since the 1950s, often in relation to homes left behind by Palestinian families who fled their homes and settled in countries considered enemies of the state during war of 1948. Under that legal framework, the house was registered as such in 1991, which left the house vulnerable to seizure by Elad.
Over the years, the Sumarin family has tried to prove that the house was not abandoned. The family managed to establish that Moussa was absent, but Himenota declared his children so. Members of the Sumarin family failed to convince the court that they were the legitimate heirs of the original owners of the house who had died or that the original owners had authorized them to live in the building. There are currently 18 Sumarin family members living in the house.
On Monday the Supreme Court condemned the state’s previous registration of the house as absentee property while the owner was alive and living in Jerusalem. Human rights activists now hope the legal precedent will help stop other eviction orders affecting Palestinian families in Silwan.
The Elad group is working to purchase property within the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan to bring in Jewish families.