In Response to an Adalah Petition, the Supreme Court of Israel Prohibits the Demolition of Arab Homes and Orders that a New Plan be designed for Kammaneh


In a precedent-setting decision, delivered on 5 September 2001, the Supreme Court of Israel ordered the District Planning Committee to re-examine and resubmit the plan for Kammaneh, an unrecognized Arab village of 1,400 people in the process of receiving recognition for several years. The Court also prohibited the demolition of Arab homes excluded from the old plan and the removal of Arab residents from Kammaneh. This decision marks the first time that the Supreme Court of Israel essentially provided the remedy of recognition to an unrecognized Arab village. Unrecognized villages lack municipal status, despite the fact that most existed before the establishment of the state and the enactment of the National Planning and Building Law (1965). Without formal recognition, Arab citizens of Israel who reside in these villages do not receive basic services such as electricity, water, telephone lines, and educational and health facilities.


Arab citizens of Israel who live in Kammaneh, which was established in the 1930s and is located in the north of the country, filed two petitions to the Supreme Court in 1999 against the Regional Council of Misgav, the District and Local Planning Committees, the National Planning Committee, and the Ministry of the Interior challenging their exclusion from the plan. A Steering Committee formed to prepare Kammaneh for its impending recognition and municipality status rescinded a previous decision and refused to recognize Kammaneh as a single geographical unit, due to pressure from residents of Kamoun, a nearby Jewish village. The Steering Committee set forth a plan, which recognized two separate neighborhoods without territorial continuity, one in the east and another in the west, which excluded the western neighborhood and Al-Jelasi. Private attorney Hosam Sbeit filed one of the petitions on behalf of the 140 residents of Kammaneh's western neighborhood; Adalah staff attorney Jamil Dakwar filed the other petition on behalf of the 150 residents of Al-Jelasi neighborhood. Both petitions demanded that the Court order that both of the respective neighborhoods and their residents be included in the plan to recognize and accord municipal status to Kammaneh.


The Supreme Court joined the two petitions for argument and early in the proceedings recommended that the District Planning Committee re-examine the subject, however, the respondents did not follow the Court's suggestion. In fact, during the course of the litigation, the Ministry of the Interior proposed that the families currently living in the western neighborhood and Al-Jelasi could remain in their homes and receive basic services. This arrangement would remain in effect, according to the Ministry until the death of the head of family; afterwards, the family members of the deceased would be required to move and their homes would be demolished.


In the closing arguments submitted by Adalah on behalf of all petitioners and the village in its entirety, Adalah attacked the Ministry of Interior's proposed recommendations as unreasonable and inadequate to secure the housing rights of the village residents. Writing on behalf of the Supreme Court, Justice Matza also severely criticized the proposed recommendations. He stated: "It is very strange, that is the least that one can say … This suggestion is not only discordant with basic social norms, and therefore incomprehensible, it is also inapplicable. There ought to be a solution for these neighborhoods, which have been excluded from the program's borders. The solution ought to fit within the framework of the Building and Planning Law. The National Planning Committee made a recommendation [in 1998], as we recall, but what the District Committee did instead was far from satisfying." The Court required the District Planning Committee to submit a new plan within 18 months.