HCJ 2186/11, Al Araj et al v the IDF Commander in the West Bank et al
In July 2010 Mahmoud Al Araj, resident of Turmusaya, discovered that extensive infrastructure work had been carried out on his land very close to the houses of the unauthorized outpost of Adei Ad in order to plant a vineyard. Al Araj filed a police complaint for trespassing. Approximately one month later, he discovered that the infrastructure had been completed and dozens of grapevines had been planted on his land.
Yesh Din addressed the Israeli Army Commander in the West Bank and Head of the Civil Administration on behalf of Al Araj and two other landowners from Turmusaya, demanding the vineyard and fencing be removed and the farmers be provided safe access to their land. Following this action, the invaders were issued an eviction order based on the “Order regarding Interfering Use of Private Land”. It soon became apparent that while authorities had issued the order, they refrained from enforcing it. Once the three landowners realized that Israeli authorities had done nothing to remove the invaders, they petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice with the assistance of Yesh Din, asking the court to instruct the eviction order be enforced.
After the petition was submitted, on the morning of August 28, 2011 Israeli special police forces began uprooting the vineyard the settlers had planted on the petitioners’ land. At the same time, Assaf Azoulay, a resident of the outpost Adei Ad, petitioned the High Court in order to prevent the eviction, claiming he had cultivated grapes by Adei Ad for many years. After this petition, the court instructed the eviction of the farming invasion be halted until hearing both petitions.
A hearing was held in both petitions in September 2011. The court’s judgement was handed down after the hearing and criticized the petitioner, saying “neither good faith nor truth seem to be his best friend although he is fueled by idealism”. Despite this, the court instructed the Civil Administration to grant a hearing for Azoulay and enable him to appeal the decision if necessary. According to the timetable set, the process was to end within three months.
In March 2012 Head of the Civil Administration rejected Azulay’s claims. Several weeks later, Azoulay appealed the decision to the military appeals committee. Finally, on December 20, 2018, six and a half years later the committee found that the eviction order was valid and the appellant failed to prove he had a right to the land. The committee also noted that the Palestinian petitioners did not prove their rights to the land. This is despite that the Civil Administration confirmed that the Palestinian landowners are clearly affiliated with said land and the committee itself admitted it is not authorized to make a decision in the matter of the Palestinian landowners).
In the high court hearing held in December 2018, the State requested the eviction of the farming invasion be delayed further until it could examine whether the plots in question were subject to the “Regularization Law” (for more information about the law and the petition against it:Petition to annul the bill to expropriate private Palestinian land (the Regularization Bill). Finally, in October 2019 the court found that the Regularization Law does not apply to this case (according to the State’s updated position). The court refrained from issuing an order for the State to complete the eviction according to a schedule and accepted the State’s statement that the invasion would be removed within three months; it then ordered to delete the landowners’ petition. The judgement, deleting the petition, was granted over nine years after the land was invaded, it is difficult to determine just how much harm the petitioners sustained during these nine years. The invasion was finally evicted during December 2019.
While this legal struggle was taking place, another one began in 2014 over Palestinian landowners’ rights to land in the area. In December 2014, the council heads of Turmusaya and neighboring villages petitioned the Israeli High Court to remove the outpost of Adei Ad, claiming that it was built illegally, in part on private Palestinian land, and is a focal point for criminal and violent activity designed to dispossess and banish Palestinian residents of the area from their land. The petition was partially deleted after the State announced it intended to retroactively authorize the outpost.