Control by accommodation: Religious jurisdiction among the palestinian-arab minority in Israel

Michael Karayanni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The various religious communities of the Palestinian-Arab minority in Israel have adjudicative and prescriptive jurisdiction over their members in a variety of family law issues. In matters of marriage and divorce, this jurisdictional authority is exclusive in nature: these members cannot opt for any other institution or judicial body but those of their respective religious communities when seeking to conduct or adjudicate their marriages and divorces. In other matters of family relations, such as custody over children, maintenance allowances, alimony claims between the spouses, inheritance, and more, these religious courts possess a concurrent jurisdictional capacity. What this means is that the members of the specific religious community can use the courts of their community on these matters instead of turning to the regular civil courts (usually the Court of Family Affairs) upon establishing a certain precondition. A common condition is that of consent: the religious court will be competent to deal with one of the listed family law matters if all parties to the action have consented to such jurisdiction. What exactly is included in an action pertaining to marriage or divorce, what is the exact list of family law matters that are subject to concurrent jurisdiction, as well as what forms a consent for such jurisdiction, have drawn much litigation. Given the different options and prospects of litigation, parties naturally engage in “forum shopping” in order to maximize their interests, given that the religious courts and the civil courts do not necessarily see eye to eye on the different disputed matters, nor on the procedure of adjudication. Notwithstanding these controversies, there is a general agreement in the literature dealing with law and religion in Israel that the jurisdictional authority granted to the Palestinian-Arab religious communities is a form of minority accommodation. Consequently, scholars commonly refer to this jurisdictional authority as a “group-differentiated right,” “group right,” design of “self-government,” or “autonomy.” In addition, scholars and public figures frequently make calls to enhance the recognition granted to Palestinian-Arab religious institutions (millets), in the name of such values as liberal multiculturalism and inclusive democracy toward an indigenous minority.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationInstitutionalizing Rights and Religion
Subtitle of host publicationCompeting Supremacies
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages2
ISBN (Electronic)9781316599969
ISBN (Print)9781107153714
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2017.


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