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Court prevents eviction of Palestinian family by JNF

After two decades of legal struggle, the Ruweidi family from Silwan has been granted recognition by the courts that they are indeed the rightful owners of their home. The decision rejects the Jewish National Fund’s claim that the home is the property of the State of Israel.

Moriel Rothman contributed to this report.

The Ruweidi family outside their home in Silwan May 9, 2012 (Photo: Moriel Rothman)

The Jerusalem District Court ruled in favor of the Ruweidi family from East Jerusalem last week (May 2), accepting the claim that their home is not “absentee property,” as the Jewish National Fund has sought to prove in court since the 1990s. The Ruweidi family will thus be able to continue living in their home.

The JNF, operating through its subsidiary organization Himnutah and together with the rightwing organization ELAD, claimed the Ruweidi’s home was legally seized by the state. During the proceedings it turned out that the confiscation was based on a declaration made in 1987 by a Palestinian man who has no connection to the family, and is suspected of falsifying similar claims in East Jerusalem on several occasions.

Sameer abu Alaa al Ruweidi, Juma’a’s nephew, expressed the family’s relief at the court’s decision:

“This house was one of the first four houses in Wadi Hilweh, built by my great great great great grandfather. First of all, we give thanks to God. We also pray that the rest of the land that we own, which has been taken by the settlers, will be returned to us, and that all of the palestinian houses that have been taken over by settlers in Jerusalem will be returned to their owners.”

The court affirmed that the house, located in the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood of Silwan and referred to as “Plot 51,” is in fact owned by Juma’a Muhammad Saalim al-Ruweidi, now 85 years old, who was born raised in the house.

According to the 1950 Absentee Property Law, all property belonging to a Palestinian living outside of the newly declared State of Israel could be – and was – transferred to the possession of the “Custodian of Absentee Property” – meaning, the state. On several occasions, those properties were then handed over to organizations like ELAD and the JNF. In the past, this law has been used disingenuously as a means for appropriating land from Palestinians in order to expand Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem.

To learn more about the legal significance and usage of the Absentee Property Law, read Ir Amim’s comprehensive report on the matter.

After years of legal battles regarding the Ruweidi’s home, the District Court ruled in 2004 that the family had failed to prove ownership. The family then appealed to the Supreme Court, who in 2010 ruled that the District Court must reexamine the evidence. On Tuesday, the family was vindicated when the court finally ruled that the evidence for “absentee property” was indeed insufficient and asserted the Ruweidi’s family ownership of the house.

Sameer abu Alaa al Ruweidi thanked the Wadi Hilweh Alternative Information center for their support, as well as Peace Now and Rabbis for Human Rights, who have accompanied the family throughout their legal battle: “We call on the Israeli government to put an end to the cruel practices of settlers taking over Palestinian houses through forged documents and by force,” said al Ruweidi.

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    1. aristeides

      If they had already been thrown out and Jews moved in, they would never get their house back, no matter what the court said.

      Reply to Comment
    2. sh

      That news was one happy moment in an otherwise very bad news day yesterday.
      Days before they were going to be evicted, the JNF was bombarded with horrified letters from both here and abroad and were moved to put the plan on hold subject to further clarification. That’s a lesson to retain.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Rafael

      This family is just surviving. No non-Jews are in safe in Israel, specially in Jerusalem.

      Reply to Comment
    4. If the courts show any justice (and court justice is usually very slow) it will be in areas deemed soverign Israeli territory.
      I said “any justice”–not “all justice.”

      Reply to Comment
    5. gnowamme

      rafael, as a jerusalemite who lives in the city and often hangs around palestinians and non-jews (i’m married to a one), i must tell you, your hate drove you out of your senses. what kind of statement is that? what’s the subtext? think of what you’re implying. there are so many bad things worth condemning here, why jump overboard and make a fool of yourself?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ya3cov

      Gnowamme above uses the “I have [insert oppressed group] friends” so I can speak for them excuse to justify illegal annexation and the whitewashing of ethnic cleansing. This rhetorical tool hasn’t worked in the US for years but still works in Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    7. sh

      Nir Hasson explains the background to the Ruweidi story and others who were dispossessed by the same methods in the past, and who is behind it, in Haaretz today. It makes truly sickening reading.

      ‘Starting in the 1970s, Nabulsi, an East Jerusalem taxi driver, provided settler organizations with affadavits claiming that Palestinian owners of East Jerusalem homes were “absentees” residing in enemy countries, which the state used over and over to expropriate the properties and turn them over to settler organizations….. Overturning a previous court’s ruling and determining that the Roweidi family, not Elad or the JNF, were the Silwan property’s rightful owners, Judge Miriam Mizrahi said Nabulsi’s affadavit, which was crucial to Elad’s case, looked awfully suspicious.”

      Read on. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/the-palestinian-taxi-driver-crucial-to-jewish-settlement-in-e-jlem-1.429579

      Reply to Comment
    8. Muhammad


      It’s only a drop in the ocean, but at least…

      Reply to Comment
    9. Gnowamme

      Ya3cov, I live in W. Jerusalem, by all definitions Israel, not Palestine.

      I exactly do not want to approve or whitewash anything. But I believe exaggerating/demonizing is both counter-productive and unnecessary. As I said, there’s not a lack of policies worth of slamming, why go overboard?
      Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq are all condemnable, and yet only idiots claim the US is committing genocides and running a concentration camp. I hope you agree.

      As I said, I live here, with a non-Jew spouse and many non-Jew friends. And yes there is racism, especially the destructive, increasing efforts by right wing groups to “Judiaze” Palestinian districts. This is extremely nasty, supremacist racism. And it’s political implications cannot be overestimated. There is also plenty of racism and intolerance among the city’s Muslim population. And I don’t mean objection to Israeli rule or policies, I mean radical Islamist views.

      But to say “no non-Jew is safe in Israel”, and that they’re just “surviving”… What can I tell you. It takes someone who doesn’t live here and is not politically active here to make such statements.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Gnowamme, you wrote “Ya3cov, I live in W. Jerusalem, by all definitions Israel, not Palestine.” You have to add, “by all Israeli definitions.”

      The 1948 annexation of West Jerusalem has never been recognized outside of Israel – the United States does not recognize it, and no other countries do, as far as I know. That is why Americans born in West Jerusalem do not have their country of birth listed as “Israel” on their passport.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Rodrigo

      Jeremiah, your information is slightly out of date. The US State Department does not recognize Jerusalem as being Israeli, but the US Supreme Court ruled that Israel may be listed as the country on a passport for children born in Jerusalem as per law passed by the US Congress.

      Reply to Comment