The Supreme Court Issues an Injunction against the Demolition of a Mosque in the Unrecognized Arab Village of Husseniya


Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Israel issued an injunction banning the demolition of a mosque in the unrecognized Arab village of Husseniya. Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel submitted the motion for an injunction in the name of Husseniya resident, Mr. Kamal Sawaed, a member of the committee in charge of holy sites in the unrecognized village. 

These unrecognized villages, of which there are tens located throughout the country, were declared illegal by the National Planning and Building Law (1965) when the lands on which they sit were re-zoned as non-residential and ownership was claimed by the State. Although most of the unrecognized villages existed before the establishment of the State, they are afforded no official status: They are excluded from government maps, they have no local councils, nor do they belong to other local governing bodies, and they receive little to no basic government services, such as electricity, water, telephone lines, educational or health facilities. The Israeli authorities use a combination of house demolitions, land confiscation, denial of basic services, and restrictions on infrastructure development to dislodge residents from the villages in order to use the land for the establishment and expansion of Jewish settlements. Estimates place the number of inhabitants of the unrecognized villages at approximately 60,000-70,000. 

Adalah's directed its injunction motion against the Magistrate Court in Akka and the Local Planning and Building Committee of Misgav. The Local Planning and Building Committee had submitted an indictment against residents of Husseniya for building the mosque without a permit. The Magistrate Court convicted the accused based on a quick procedure in the National Planning and Building Law called "demolition order without conviction." 

In the motion for the injunction, Adalah argued, through Attorney Marwan Dalal, that the Magistrate Court had no jurisdiction to order the demolition, since the mosque is a holy place, and thus, its decision is void. Further, Adalah argued that no one consulted with any of the religious representatives of the Muslim community prior to the procedure in the Magistrate Court, thus violating an Attorney General opinion to do so when the subject is a holy place for a religious community. The mosque in Husseniya, built five years ago, is the only religious building in the village. Adalah emphasized that freedom of religion and freedom of worship are fundamental rights, which Husseniya residents are entitled to enjoy without coercive interference by the State. 

The injunction is effective for seven days, pending the filing of a petition by Adalah on the matter to the Supreme Court. Adalah will demand in its petition that Husseniya residents, Palestinian Arabs, be afforded the same religious benefits as their Jewish counterparts, including funds to renovate the mosque. As in other petitions filed by Adalah relating to the unrecognized villages, Adalah will argue that there should be no connection between lack of recognition by the state, and the residents' entitlement to enjoy basic rights.