34 recipients of the Israel Prize in a letter addressed the JNF: “Expulsion of the family will cause disgrace to the Jewish National Fund.”
The Jerusalem District Court will convene tomorrow, June 30, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. for a hearing on the appeal of the Sumarin family from Silwan regarding an eviction lawsuit filed by the Himanuta company, a subsidiarity of the Jewish National Fund (JNF-KKL).
The family home was declared an absentee property in the late 1980s and was sold to the JNF along with other properties in Silwan, without the knowledge of the family that had been living there since before 1967.
It was part of a mechanism set up by the Ministry of Housing under Minister Ariel Sharon, who tendered dozens of Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem to settlers’ associations, while, in some cases, taking advantage of the Absentee Property Law to undermine the Palestinian homeowners’ claims.
In the late 1980’s the JNF asked the Custodian of Absentees’ Properties to declare the Sumarin family house as “absentee property” and to hand it over to the JNF, despite the fact that the Sumarin family had never left its home since it was built in the 1950’s. A few years later during the 1990’s, the Rabin government admitted that the declaration on the properties in Silwan was done contrary to proper administration and committed not to do it again, however the government did not cancel previous declarations.
The use of the Absentees’ Properties Law in areas that were annexed to Israel in East Jerusalem in 1967, could be an indication to what can potentially happen to hundreds of thousands of dunams of private lands in the areas that Israel plans to annex.
The JNF’s lawsuit against the Sumarin family has been going on for close to 30 years and has undergone many reincarnations until the coming hearing that emerges as the last legal station to rule the fate of 15 family members living in the home.
Activists from Free Jerusalem and other organizations will hold a support gathering outside the court on Salah A-Din Street in Jerusalem at 8:30 am: https://www.facebook.com/events/572331963464382
The Coalition for the Sumarin Family, which includes many activists and organizations from Israel and overseas, declared: “The Sumarin family house was given to the Jewish National Fund in sin, by using the Absentees’ Properties Law as a tool to disposes Palestinians and give their properties to settlers. There is no connection between the JNF’s goals and the values in which it is supposed to work, and the attempt to ban a Palestinian family from its home in favor of expanding a settlement in the heart of a controversial area. Two government attorneys have determined that using the law to take control of homes with families living in it is completely inappropriate. A government inquiry into the matter also stated that ‘the role of the Custodian of Absentee Property was, by any measure, extremely poor.’ It is very sad that the JNF, whose income in 2020 is NIS 1.2 billion, is engaged in a brutal campaign to evict the Sumarin family from its home.”
Appeals to the JNF to prevent the evacuation of the family
In recent days, the JNF has been sent numerous inquiries demanding that the eviction proceedings be stopped against the Sumarin family.
34 Israel Prize recipients wrote to JNF chairman Danny Atar and the board members: “We, the recipients of the Israel Prize, appeal to you with an unmistakable demand to leave the Sumarin family and withdraw from the attempt to take over their home. This is based on a clear and simple ethical principle. The sin against the family members is grounded in three of the Ten Commandments: Thou shall not steal, thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor, thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house.
The expulsion of the family as part of a campaign to “Judaize” Silwan, which has been in full force for many years, will bring disgrace to the Jewish National Fund, which otherwise fondly conjures images of the blue donation boxes that have stood in our homes and synagogues in our cities, in Israel and around the world. We urge you to discontinue an act that is manifestly immoral.”
Read the letter here (Hebrew)
125 intellectuals, academics, and world-renowned artists addressed a letter to JNF-USA (now a legally separate entity following a row over the Israeli JNF’s settlement dealings) demanding that it stop legal proceedings against the family: “Expelling innocent Palestinians from their family homes and planting colonies of Jewish settlers in Silwan cannot be justified by any ethical standard or national purpose.”
Among the signatories are: American philosopher Prof. Michael Walzer, Professors Jan and Aleida Assmann, two of the most prominent intellectuals in Germany and Europe in general, Prof. Natalie Zimon Davis, one of the world’s most important historians, poet Peter Cole, painter and curator of art Prof. Robert Storr, Prof. Jeffrey Veidlinger, a leader in Jewish Studies, and many others. Among the Israelis who signed the letter: Prof. Eva Illouz, Prof. Elchanan Reiner, Prof. Ido Landau, Prof. Ilana Pardes, Prof. Kenneth Mann, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and others.Click here for the Intellectuals’ letter
Click here for information on the signatories
Approx. 150 graduates of JNF youth movement (Chugei Sayarut) contacted JNF chairman Danny Atar: “Please, your honor, Danny Atar, stop the activity against a family whose entire fault lies in the place of residence which is holy for so many nations. As those in power in this delicate Jerusalem space, we must shape it in the image of the vision of the prophets of Israel and human morality, as a city of justice. Please do not make the death of the family member, the late Musa Sumarin, an opportunity of plunder. ”
Click here for the letter from graduates of the JNF youth movement
The Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, one of the flagship projects of the JNF in Israel, wrote in a letter to JNF chairman Danny Atar: “The JNF through its subsidiary, Himanuta, is advancing a political agenda contrary to what we believe should be the core purpose and mission of Keren Kayemet. Using force against this family stands in opposition to Jewish and humanitarian values.”
Click here for the letter of the Arava institute Director, David Lehrer
140 graduates of the Arava Institute signed a similar call and demanded that the Institute’s management put pressure on the JNF to prevent the evacuation.
Former Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior recently published an open letter to the JNF chairman, stating: “Once I have learned the details of the Sumarin case and how the family’s dignity and confidence is undermined by the JNF’s conduct in the name of the Jewish people, I cannot stay silent. [ …] The claims are based on improper and immoral use of Absentees’ Properties Law. […] The injustice done to the family, even if done in a legal mantle, cries out to heaven. There is no question here of Right or Left, religious or secular – our existence here in the country must be based on honesty, justice and fairness towards all residents, Jews and Arabs alike”.
Click here to read the full letter of Rabbi Melchior
Singer Achinoam Nini and American comedian Ethan Herschenfeld, who recently attended a fundraising event for JNF-USA, also publicly called on the JNF to demand that the Sumarin family not be evicted from its home.
A reference from Achinoam Nini can be found here
A reference from Ethan Herschenfeld can be found here