Israeli Court Blocks State Attempt to Expel Palestinian Attacker's Mother From Jerusalem

Judge rules that Mustafa Khatib's mother was not responsible for his 2015 attack against Israeli forces, says expelling her would violate her rights

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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File photo: Israel Border Police on patrol in East Jerusalem, May 18, 2018.
File photo: Israel Border Police on patrol in East Jerusalem, May 18, 2018.Credit: Mahmoud Illean/AP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

A Jerusalem court blocked last week yet another attempt by Israel's Interior Ministry to expel the mother of a Palestinian man who stabbed a policeman to death in October 2015 from her home in Jerusalem.

District Court Judge Oded Shaham rejected the state’s appeal against the ruling by the appellate court, that the mother could not be expelled. The state’s decisions concerning the mother had a punitive aspect for deeds not done by her, and for which she was not responsible, Shaham wrote.

Her son, Mustafa Khatib, was shot by colleagues of the stabbed policeman and died at the scene of the attack outside Jerusalem's Old City, at age 17.

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Following a hearing, the Interior Ministry decided in March 2016 to revoke the West Bank-born mother’s residency permit, which was granted to her in 1999, three years after she moved to the city, based on a family unification application her husband had filed.

Benjamin Agsteribbe and Daniel Shenhar, lawyers with human rights organization Hamoked – Center for the Defense of the Individual, appealed against the decision on behalf of the mother and in May 2018, the registrar Elad Azar ruled that the decision to revoke her residency permit had been made without authority, because the mother does not constitute a danger. There isn’t even a claim that she encouraged her son to commit an attack or evidence that she knew about it, he wrote.

He also wrote that the law in respect to citizenship and entering the country does not empower the interior minister to revoke residential status for the purpose of deterrence, nor may the interior minister examine positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when considering whether to grant a permit to be within Israel.

In July 2018, advocate Moshe Williger of the Jerusalem District Prosecution appealed to the Jerusalem District Court against Azar’s ruling. Williger wrote that the Interior Ministry’s decision to revoke the mother's residency permit became concrete after the mother failed to condemn her son’s act. Williger also wrote that the appellate court’s decision in practice reined in the broad discretion of the interior minister to grant residency, limiting the minister to administrative matters such as timely delivery of documentation and meeting set criteria.

"With that broad discretion, the interior minister may consider whether allowing residency in Israel could imperil the public’s security or well-being, state security or vital interests, and whether granting the permit... is in compliance with the state’s values as a Jewish and democratic state," Williger wrote.

In his decision to reject the state’s appeal, Shaham wrote that even the decision on residency relying on the broad discretion of the interior minister must meet the test of judicial review and not disproportionally undermine basic rights.

Regarding a media interview in which the mother denied that her son had stabbed a policeman, Shaham wrote that it is hard to relate much importance to her position during that interview, which could be reasonably interpreted as a natural state of denial.

“The mental condition of the respondent arises from other things she said during that interview relating to the attack by her son during which he was killed, according to which they don’t know if it’s ‘reality or a dream. We still haven’t gotten used to it.’ It is also doubtful whether the position of the Interior Ministry, relating significant weight to this, complies with basic tenets of freedom of thought and opinion.”

The interior minister’s decision constitutes real damage to the basic right of the respondent, who has three children, to a family life, Shaham wrote, adding that the minister was revoking a permit the respondent had possessed for many years. “In this respect, the decision did not give weight to the far-reaching significance of uprooting a family from the place that is the center of its life.”

Shaham ordered the state to pay 10,000 shekels ($2,720) to cover the family's legal fees.

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