|Yesterday, after 10 months of repeated requests for extensions to the deadline, the Attorney General of Israel submitted his long-awaited legal opinion in the eviction case of the Duweik family from Batan al-Hawa, Silwan. In his scant one-page response, the Attorney General stated that while he will attend the upcoming Supreme Court hearing on the matter, he does not think the case merits him addressing and/or taking a wider principled position on specific legal questions posed to him by the Supreme Court.
The Duweik family is among 85 Palestinian families, numbering over 700 individuals, who stand to be displaced from Batan al-Hawa due to eviction lawsuits levelled against them by the Ateret Cohanim settler organization. With the assistance of state bodies, Ateret Cohanim has filed dozens of eviction demands based on discriminatory laws, which afford Jews the right to reclaim pre-1948 assets in East Jerusalem, while denying Palestinians the same right to retrieve properties in West Jerusalem and other areas on the Israeli side of the Green Line. The setter group is bent on establishing a Jewish settlement enclave in the neighborhood by uprooting Palestinian families and supplanting them with Israeli settlers. This is turn serves to further consolidate Israeli control of this area, undermining conditions for a negotiated political resolution.
Next week on October 25, a major hearing at the Supreme Court will take place on the Duweik family appeal. Among the 85 families facing eviction, the Duweik family case is the first to reach the Supreme Court level, and its outcome will inevitably set a precedent, significantly impacting the rest of the cases in the neighborhood.
In an unusual move, the Supreme Court earlier this year requested the legal opinion of the Attorney General concerning specific legal issues in the Duweik family case. The court's request appeared to indicate a possible understanding that these cases are more than a "private real estate dispute," but rather one of national interest with far-reaching political and moral ramifications, and therefore requires government weigh-in.
As in the eviction cases in Sheikh Jarrah, the Attorney General and by extension, the government, was given a rare opportunity to take a moral stand by providing a legal opinion and policy position to help prevent the mass displacement of these families. Yet, at this point, the Attorney General's response appears to imply that he has declined to intervene. Now, the decision concerning the fate of these families seems to lie solely in the hands of the Supreme Court.
The rights of Palestinians to housing and shelter and the right to family and community life are fundamental and must be upheld. The same discriminatory legal system, which led to the confiscation of these families' original homes in 1948, is now being exploited 73 years later to displace them for a second time from their current homes in which they have lived for decades.
The Supreme Court has the power to make a principled and just decision to uphold the rights of these families to remain safely in their homes, free from the constant threat of being forcibly uprooted and driven from their homes and communities.