Top court rules against booting E. Jerusalem Palestinian family after 32-year battle

Supreme Court dismisses case filed by KKL-JNF, which acted on behalf of right-wing group seeking to take over Sumarins’ home in Silwan, located inside City of David national park

The Sumarin family in their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (Peace Now)
The Sumarin family in their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (Peace Now)

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled against evicting a Palestinian family in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, which was sought by the Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael-Jewish National Fund, bringing an end to a 32-year legal battle.

The eviction of the 18-member Sumarin family was pursued by KKL-JNF and backed by the right-wing group Elad, which seeks to expand the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem. The Sumarins’ home is located in the middle of the City of David national park, which is managed by Elad.

The first lawsuit to evict the Sumarins was filed in 1991, with KKL-JNF’s subsidiary arguing that the home was considered absentee property, which would allow for its confiscation by the state.

The family won the case, with a lower court ruling that they were not absentee residents. However, KKL-JNF continued to file suits against the Sumarins, eventually winning in 2017, after the family failed to issue a response to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. The Jerusalem District Court rejected their appeal in 2020, leaving them with only the Supreme Court to turn to.

In its Monday ruling, the three-judge panel criticized the state’s handling of the case, saying there had been no basis off of which to declare the Sumarins’ home absentee property. “There is room for learning lessons from the conduct of the state in this case,” wrote Justice Daphne Barak-Erev.

“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 added, lamenting that the state sought to subsequently declare Musa Sumarin’s children to be absentee owners after the declaration failed to stick with Musa.

The Sumarins’ lawyer Waseem Dakwar called Monday’s decision “precedent-setting and just.”

“The decision includes criticism of how the authorities behaved on this matter and in their declaration of the Sumarin home as absentee property, despite the fact that the [Musa] is a resident of Jerusalem. This demonstrates the importance of the Supreme Court as the last bastion [of security] for every resident and citizen of the country,” he added.

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