45 Urgent Motions to Cancel Ex Parte Demolition Orders Issued against Almost All Homes in the Unrecognized Arab Bedouin Village of Al-Sura in the Naqab

Beer el-Sebe Magistrates' Court, Different Motions 9364/06 Suleiman Nasasra and Adalah v. The State of Israel

On 5 August 2007 Adalah filed 45 motions to the Beer el-Sabe Magistrates' Court to cancel demolition orders issued by the court in December 2006 to demolish almost all of the houses that belong to Arab Bedouin families in the unrecognized village of al-Sura in the Naqab (Negev). Adalah Attorneys Suhad Bishara and Adel Badir filed the motions on behalf of the owners of the houses threatened with demolition.

Al-Sura has existed as a village since before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Approximately 300 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel currently live there. Following the establishment of Israel, the residents of Al-Sura were not asked to leave the village; nor did the state attempt to seize the land. Further, the villagers filed land claim forms for their land, following a process employed by the Ministry of Justice from the 1970s, in accordance with the Land Registration Ordinance, for the registration of land in the Naqab. However, this procedure was never completed and the lands were not registered in the names of the village's residents.

Most of the villagers received warning notices in September 2006. They immediately approached the local committee in the village, which repeatedly contacted the state authorities, either through meetings or via written correspondence, in order to clarify matters and in an attempt to reach an agreement. However, the authorities did not propose any solution and rejected all of the solutions suggested by the villagers.

In October 2006, the state submitted ex parte requests to the court to issue home demolition orders in accordance with article 212 of the Planning and Building Law without the presence of or hearing from any of the affected parties. The state contended that, �The monitors of the state have in their possession no information about the identity of the owners of the buildings and/or those responsible for their construction and use.� The state further claimed that the buildings had been built without licenses, and that the area on which the village stands cannot be changed into an area for residential building as it was originally designated as an industrial area and the land belongs to the state according to Israeli law.

The Magistrates' Court decided to issue demolition orders on the buildings on the ground that, �Not issuing demolition orders would be interpreted as giving building permission to them, and such a thing must not occur in a state governed by the rule of law.�

In the motions, Adalah argued that the state's arguments before the Magistrates' Court in seeking the ex parte demolition orders were false, as after receiving the warning notices the residents of the village had previously approached the local committee, which in turn had approached the state authorities, without success.

Adalah emphasized that the state is exploiting the Planning and Building Law in order to exert pressure on the villagers to abandon their homes and to transfer them to one of the poor, crowded government-planned Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab. As Adalah argued, �The exploitation of Planning and Building Law in this regard aims to reduce the possibility of these citizens' succeeding in the lawsuits that they filed in order to secure their land rights, which derive from the fact that they have inhabited the land for a long period of time. Therefore demolishing the homes and evacuating the residents will reduce the possibility of succeeding in the lawsuits that have been pending since the 1970s.�

Adalah further argued that, �There has been a dangerous violation of the constitutional right of the families to housing, which is part of the constitutional right to dignity. The village of Al-Sura was founded tens of years ago, and the authorities had previously taken no measures against its residents. This is in addition to the fact that no alternative is available to the villagers and that lawsuits remain pending before the Israeli authorities regarding the ownership of the land. Moreover, there is no imperative or public interest to justify the demolition of the houses in the village.�

In the motions, Adalah emphasized that the issuance of ex parte demolition orders is an extraordinary measure and should remain as such. However, recently this measure has become a worrying phenomenon: the state files request after request to the courts for ex parte �Requests for Demolition Orders Without conviction�, which are automatically accepted by the courts. This practice results in a violation of the basic right of the homeowners to dignity and to defend themselves before the courts. Further, decisions are made over the future of houses, which provide shelter for families, without providing them with alternative housing.

  A Sample Motion (Hebrew)