Supreme Court stops eviction of Arab squatters in Jerusalem neighborhood

“The ruling today in the High Court is contrary to the wording of the law and constitutes a precedent that will endanger the tens of thousands of property owners in the country,” said Jerusalem deputy mayor.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Israel’s Supreme Court effectively banned the eviction of four Arab families found to be living in houses that were built on land originally owned by Jews in the Shimon HaTzadik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem on Tuesday, ruling that they could not be evicted until the completion of the legal process and an additional Justice Ministry investigation into ownership of the properties.

The Court did not give a specific time frame through which the eviction freeze would be valid, but judging by previous cases, the families likely have gained several years before needing to return to court or face a potential eviction.

The families were ordered to pay a symbolic amount of rent, equivalent to less than $500, to be deposited into a trust, as the legal proceedings continue.

Justice Noam Solberg disagreed with his colleagues, writing in his dissenting opinion that the Arab families “have violated their commitments as protected tenants, and lower courts recently ordered their eviction.”

A previous compromise in August 2021, which was essentially identical to the currently ruling, was vehemently rejected by the Arab families. At the time, they called the idea of paying rent on properties which were found not to belong to them after a decades-long court battle “oppressive” and a smokescreen for “ethnic cleansing” and “forced expulsion.”

Advocates for Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem expressed dismay with the Court’s latest ruling, saying they believe it represents a violation of the rule of law and unacceptable weakness in the face of terror.

“In the ruling of the Supreme Court today on the issue of the Arab families squatting in Jewish owned homes, we again witness another embarrassing capitulation to international intervention and threats of terror,” Chaim Silberstein, founder and chairman of the Keep Jerusalem NGO, told World Israel News (WIN).

“Instead of making the letter of the law their priority, left-leaning judges have once again engaged in judicial activism and replaced the political echelons in making decisions that are political in essence, not legal.”

Calling the decision “a sad day for the rule of law in Israel,” Silberstein said that “Israel, if it wants to be Jewish and democratic, needs a more balanced Supreme Court.”

“The High Court is an extreme left-wing stronghold that is detached not only from the people living in Israel, but also from the laws of the State of Israel,” Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King said in a statement to WIN.

“The ruling today in the High Court is contrary to the wording of the law and constitutes a precedent that will endanger the tens of thousands of property owners in the country who have …tenants who refuse to pay and deny the owners [rights] over their properties.”

King said he believes the families “will refuse to pay the meager amount” they are ordered to fork over by the Supreme Court, and their failure to do so will result in the “eviction procedure returning to normal.”

Despite that, he said, “this is a scandalous decision by judges who …ruled that their opinion and political position prevails over the language of the law approved in legislation decades ago in the Knesset.”

“Once again, the High Court ruled against the Jewish state. The High Court’s decision to allow the invading Arab families in the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood to continue living in the properties they looted is not just a surrender to terrorism, but a reversal [of previous policy],” said right-wing NGOs Your Jerusalem and Im Tirtzu in a joint statement.

“The unrestrained and predatory power of the High Court must be balanced, otherwise the State of Israel will not be able to continue to exist. Not as a Jewish state, not as a democratic state and not as a state at all.”