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Israel’s top court rules against evicting East Jerusalem family after 32-year legal battle

April 4, 2023 at 11:02 am

Israeli left wing activists lift portraits of Palestinian families during a protest outside the Israel Supreme Court in Jerusalem on October 25, 2021 [MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP]

The Israeli Supreme Court yesterday ruled against evicting the Palestinian Samreen family from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, bringing an end to a 32-year legal battle.

The case was brought by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), supported by the City of David Foundation, also known as Elad. The house where 18 members of the Samreen family live is located in the City of David archaeological site which is managed by Elad.

In its ruling, the three judge panel criticised the way the Israeli state has handled the case over the past 32 years and recognised the Samreen family’s ownership of their house.

The legal battle over ownership of the house began 32 years ago, when in 1991 the Jewish National Fund, through its subsidiary company Himenota, filed the first petition to evict the family under the pretext that Mousa, the Samreen family’s patriarch, was an “absentee” and declared the house “absentee property” under the so-called Absentee Property Law.

The Absentee Property Law brought into force in the 1950s, is the legal means by which Israel has seized and transferred the ownership of thousands of properties belonging to Palestinians who were forced to flee, or were deported during the 1948 war into the possession of the State of Israel.

Following the lawsuit brought in 1991, the Samreen family won the case, with a lower court ruling that they were not absentee residents. However, in 2017, the JNF filed another petition with the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court which it won, after the court rejected the appeal filed by the Samreen family in 2020, leaving them with only the Supreme Court to turn to.

Commenting on Monday’s ruling, the family lawyer, Muhammad Dahla, said the so-called guardian of absentee property had forged documents to declare the property as absentee property, even though the Palestinian owner lived and died in Jerusalem.

READ: Settlers get $8m boost to Judaise occupied Silwan