Israeli Supreme Court Stays Eviction of Palestinian Family from East Jerusalem Home (Press Release on 6 August 2020)
- Eviction of the Sumarin family from Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem, stayed after Israeli court declares it will hear their appeal
- Decision follows international campaign by Sumarin Coalition
- 69MPs had signed Early Day Motion 529, condemning the unjust eviction of the family.
- Appeal has been described as a ‘test case’
- If the appeal is not successful, the expulsion of Palestinians from their privately owned land could accelerate
Yesterday (05/08/2020) the Israeli Supreme Court stayed the eviction of the Sumarin family from their home in Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem, declaring it will debate whether to hear their appeal against a Jerusalem District Court verdict which gave a green light to their eviction. The Associated Press reported in July that the "Absentee Property Law" being used to evict the Sumarin family may be seen as a test case and extended throughout the West Bank if Israel’s annexation plans proceed, offering Palestinians a grim model for a post-annexation future.
The Sumarin family have been subject to a long attempt to force them from the family home in which they have been living, dating back long before 1967, when Israel annexed East Jerusalem in violation of international law.
The eviction attempts have been spearheaded by Himanuta, a subsidiary of the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF). The KKL-JNF has been central to the ongoing dispossession of Palestinian land.
In 1989, KKL-JNF initiated a move whereby the Custodian for Absentee Property, established by the Israeli state in 1950, declared the house absentee property. This deemed it abandoned without the family’s knowledge and despite members of the family living in the home. Following this, the property was transferred to KKL-JNF along with a host of other Palestinian properties in Silwan.
Immediately after taking over the home’s ownership, the KKL-JNF filed an eviction suit against the Sumarin family in 1991. The lawsuit was dismissed but KKL-JNF appealed and continued the proceedings repeatedly for nearly 30 years.
On June 29th, 2020 the family lost an appeal in the Jerusalem District Court, which gave the green light for their eviction. The family, with support from an international network of activists, crowdfunded to submit an appeal to the Supreme Court. The court’s declaration that it will hear the appeal temporarily delays the eviction.
An international campaign, led by the Sumarin family and including Jewish Israeli groups, has developed to prevent the eviction. In the UK, human rights campaigners have spoken out prominently against the eviction. A cross-party group 69 MPs has signed Early Day Motion 529, which condemned the eviction. In Jerusalem, on the day of the court decision, activists from “Free Jerusalem” and “All That’s Left” chained themselves to the entrance of the JNF-KKL headquarters: nine protesters were arrested.
Stop the JNF UK, the UK branch of the international campaign to Stop the JNF, said: “We are pleased that the Sumarin family have been given some temporary reprieve by this decision. The unjust eviction of the family, indicative of the widespread discrimination Palestinians in East Jerusalem face, must not take place.”
The Director of ICAHD UK added: “We welcome news that the Israeli Supreme Court will hear the Sumarin family case but based on previous cases involving Palestinians, we’re concerned that the Court will rule on the basis of narrow Israeli law rather than following international law and providing the protection due to Palestinians under the 4th Geneva Convention.”
Court Rejected the Sumarin Family Appeal and Ruled its Eviction by 16 August 2020
The eviction lawsuit against the Sumarin family is based on the abuse of the Absentees’ Property Law, enacted in 1950 to allow the young State of Israel to deal with the hundreds of thousands of properties abandoned by its Palestinian owners who became refugees during the war in 1948. In 1967 with the annexation of East Jerusalem, Israeli law has been applied to East Jerusalem and Israeli governments have taken advantage of this law in order to ban families, such as the Sumarin family, from their homes and transfer the assets to the settlers.
The Coalition for the Sumarin Family said: “In the ruling, the court did not address the most important, fundamental point, which is that the house was taken in plunder. The JNF’s legal woes did not change the fundamental fact that the use of the Absentees’ Property Law to take over the house was done without good faith, as two government legal advisers and a government inquiry commission, determined”.
In the past few weeks, more than 10,000 people of conscience around the world have called on the Jewish National Fund to remove their hands from the Sumarin family home and immediately stop attempts to throw the family into the street. Among them are 34 recipients of the Israel Prize, 120 world-renowned intellectuals, and 150 graduates and of the JNF youth group.
The family said it was considering to appeal to the Supreme Court.
(Update by Peace Now 1 July, 2020)
On 21 September, the BBC released this news:
An investigation by BBC News Arabic has found that Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, controls companies that have donated $100m to an Israeli settler organisation. Elad operates in occupied East Jerusalem. By allowing settlement activity in the area Israel is considered to be in breach of international law. Israel disputes this view. Analysis of the bank documents leaked to Buzzfeed News who shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the BBC has revealed that Chelsea football club owner, Abramovich, is the biggest single donor to the organisation. Elad also runs the City of David and other archaeological sites, visited by a million tourists each year in Jerusalem. There are arguments that Israel is breaking international law by allowing exploratory archaeological digs to be carried out in occupied land.
See the BBC films here:
https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-middle-east-54237970 – just under 10 minutes with focus on the Sumarin family’s story
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my2Udh7xmAI&feature=youtu.be – the full 30-minute report which reveals the written agreement between Elad and the KKL JNF subsidiary Himanuta in which Elad commits to taking upon itself the legal work and expenses to evict the Sumarins. (Starting at 12:25)
For further information on the campaign to remove the charitable status in the UK of the JNF, see http://www.stopthejnf.org/
The Israeli Embassy claims that the state of Israeli has no part in East Jerusalem demolitions (13 October 2020)
In response to 71 British MPs protesting to the Israeli government over the Jewish National Fund’s efforts to expel the Sumarin family from their home in East Jerusalem, the Israeli embassy in London has claimed that the decision on this is not in the hands of its government, stating “ The Government of Israel is not a party to the ongoing legal proceedings involving the Sumarin family.” This is a disingenuous attempt to deflect responsibility.
The JNF’s move to confiscate the Sumarin family’s home is a direct consequence of Israel’s 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem and its subsequent support for Jewish settlement there. Both are in contravention of international law concerning Occupying Powers and have been condemned by the international community, including the British government.
In 1989, KKL-JNF initiated a move whereby the Custodian for Absentee Property declared the Sumarin home to be absentee property, behind the family’s back and without its knowledge. Following this, the property was transferred to KKL-JNF along with a host of other properties in Silwan declared absentee in a similar manner, now facing the same fate as the Sumarins.
The Sumarins’ threatened eviction is just one strand of a policy to reduce East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population, Judaizing the city. This policy sits alongside other displacements and the seemingly unstoppable rise of illegal West Bank settlements, forcing out Palestinians to make way for Jewish settlers.
None of this will proceed without the Israeli government’s explicit authorization; the state of Israel must be held responsible for the policy and the practice of ethnic cleansing its entirety – so too must its agents, like the JNF.
Israeli take-over of Sumarin family home delayed - 5 April 2021
At 9am on Monday, 5th April the Israeli Supreme Court met to discuss the Sumarin family's appeal against the attempt by Keren Kayemeth Leisrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) to take over their home and give it to ELAD, an extreme right-wing settler group. To everyone’s surprise, the judges asked to hear the Attorney General's position on the case and has given it 60 days to state its position. Following that, the Sumarin family’s lawyer and the JNF will be given 30 days to respond before another hearing is scheduled.
Fifty-three years ago, the Israeli government unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem in violation of international law. For the past 30 years, the Sumarin family from Silwan, located just south of the Dung Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, has been fighting Israel’s attempt to displace it. Israel has used its Absentee Property Law based on questionable evidence and a draconian application which is biased against Palestinians to obtain Palestinian property as it confiscates increasing amounts of historic Palestine, a process that Israel calls Judaization. The Sumarin family’s struggle to stay in their home is yet another example of what displacement looks like and which has already been experienced by thousands of Palestinians not only in East Jerusalem but also in the West Bank.
On hearing the news, ICAHD’s Jeff Halper stated, “The struggle of the Sumarin family for the home in Silwan represents perhaps the last stage in the struggle against Judaization, which began some 125 years ago with the Zionist invasion and gained traction since the conquest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 1967. Activities of the Israeli government – massive expropriation of Palestinian land, the demolition of more than 140,000 Palestinian homes since 1948, massive population displacement and the replacement of the Palestinians by Israeli Jews, annexation, the construction of massive settlement blocs – all this integrated with aggressive actions by settlers, the police, the army and the courts in which individual families like the Sumarins are left standing alone. The “fall” of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah signifies nothing less than the end of any political separation between Israeli and Palestinians in which both peoples enjoy sovereignty, leaving only two alternatives: apartheid, the outcome for which Israel is endeavouring tirelessly, or the transformation of Israel and its occupation into a single democracy of equal rights for all its citizens. We must stand with the Sumarin family as we strive for this equality.”
Last year ICAHD UK joined a coalition along with Stop the JNF-UK and others including from Jerusalem, in the campaign entitled JNF, Do Not Evict the Sumarin Family. In addition to awareness-raising, our lobbying efforts resulted in 72 MPs signing Early Day Motion 529. Activists from other countries, including the US, also campaigned on behalf of Sumarin family. We believe that all these efforts embarrassed the JNF and resulted in governments expressing their concern about yet another attempt by the Israeli government to violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. This week’s ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court has bought us more time to campaign. We have a real possibility of winning this case which will be a strategic step in helping not only the Sumarin family to keep their rightful home, but also thousands of other Palestinians who are also threatened with demolitions and displacement. Please add your support – it's important.
August 2021 Update on the Sumarin Family
Since April 5th, the Israeli Supreme Court repeatedly granted additional time extensions beyond the 60-days deadline to Israel’s Attorney General Madelblidt as it awaited his opinion on the Sumarin case. The court said it would not make a final ruling on evicting the Palestinian Sumarin family until it had heard from Madelblidt. The initial State response is that the Sumarin’s should be evicted so the family now has until August 31st to respond by to the State which argues that the Israeli Supreme Court should reject the family’s case to appeal their eviction. The Sumarin family had presented a principled petition arguing that Israel’s Absentee Property Law was abused, and that the home never should have been taken from the family, because of statute of limitations, that there were alternatives to bringing this to the Israeli Supreme Court, and that the issue has already been ruled on, as well as substantial arguments.
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) which seeks possession of the Sumarin property also has a chance to respond to the State’s decision that has come via Attorney General Madelblidt. The Israeli Supreme Court will then schedule another date for the hearing concerning this case
Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, announces that he supports the eviction of the Sumarin family – 9 January 2022
On 9th January, the Israeli Attorney General gave the greenlight to the dispossession of the Sumarin family from their home in Silwan, East Jerusalem. If it goes ahead, 15 members of this family will be left homeless, including eight children. This is not a real estate dispute; the forced displacement of the Sumarin family is being pushed through by the Israeli state and settlers to make way for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli settler organisations like Himanuta, supported by the state, have used the rigged Israeli legal system to remove Palestinians from their homes, and take control of them.
The dispossession of the Sumarin family, like all expulsions of Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem, is in clear violation of international law. As the UN Office of The High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) has repeatedly stated “Forced evictions are a key factor in creating a coercive environment that may lead to forcible transfer, which is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention and is a grave breach of the Convention.” The UK Government has also condemned dispossession of Palestinians from Jerusalem. In August 2021, Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the UN Security Council with reference to Silwan, that forced expulsion “in all but the most exceptional circumstances, [is] illegal under international law.”
For Further Information see
The Jewish National Fund is Trying to Kick a Palestinian Family Out of Their Home - The Court Stopped it. For Now. (Haaretz)
KKL-JNF and its Role in Settlement Expansion. (Peace Now)
The Jewish National Fund Should Stop Trying to Kick a Palestinian Family Out of Their Home (Rabbi Michael Marmur)