'I will not stay quiet': Israel evicts Palestinian family from home after 45-year legal battle

AP , Tuesday 11 Jul 2023

Israeli authorities on Tuesday evicted a Palestinian family from their contested apartment in Jerusalem's Old City, the family said, capping a decades-long legal battle that has come to symbolize conflicting claims to the holy city.

Nora Sub Laban (R) holds the hand of her son Ahmad (L) following their eviction from their home in t
Nora Sub Laban (R) holds the hand of her son Ahmad (L) following their eviction from their home in the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem s old city to make way for Jewish settlers, on July 11, 2023, on July 11, 2023. AFP

 

Activists say the Ghaith-Sub Laban family's eviction is part of a wider trend of Israeli settlers, backed by the government, encroaching on Palestinian neighborhoods and cementing Israeli control by seizing property in east Jerusalem. Israel describes it as a simple battle over real estate, with settlers claiming the family are squatters in an apartment formerly owned by Jews.

Earlier this year, Israel’s Supreme Court struck down the family’s final appeal, capping a 45-year-long legal battle over their right to live in the apartment.

“I will not stay quiet,” Nora Sub-Laban said. “If I find any loophole in the law, I will use it and I will sue them, because this is my right, and this is my home, and this is my land, and this is my country.”

The family says it moved in to the property in the early 1950s and rented it from a “General Custodian” for abandoned properties, first under Jordanian authorities and then under Israel after the 1967 war. The case dragged on for decades, as the Israeli custodian and then the Kollel Galicia trust contested the family’s “protected” status. Among its claims was that the family did not use the property for extended periods.

Police officers came to Nora Ghaith-Sub Laban's house in Jerusalem's Old City early Tuesday morning, forced open the door and removed the family, said her son, Ahmad Sub-Laban. He said his family has been barred from reentering the premises.

“When we got back in front of the house, we faced the new reality that our main entrance had been closed and we don’t have the right to use it anymore,” he said. “They took the key and changed the lock.”

Several dozen protesters gathered and chanted “occupation no more” at passersby outside the house as police stood by.

Free Jerusalem, an activist group that has tried to support the family, said that police arrested 12 people who demonstrated against the eviction Tuesday morning.

Jerusalem's Old City, home to holy sites to three monotheistic faiths, was captured by Israel along with the rest of east Jerusalem during the 1967 Mideast war, and later annexed in a move unrecognized by most of the international community.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinian seek east Jerusalem as capital of a future independent state.

Today, more than 220,000 Jews live in east Jerusalem, largely in built-up settlements that Israel considers neighborhoods of its capital. Most of east Jerusalem’s 350,000 Palestinian residents are crammed into overcrowded neighborhoods where there is little room to build.

Authorities have not let the family back into the house to recover their furniture or medicine for Nora and Rafat, Nora’s son, Rafat said. They were only able to grab one item as the authorities forced them out — a plant that has been in the family for 17 years.

“We decided to take it to remember that we lived here, our children grew up here, and that we are looking forward to returning to the house,” said Ahmad.

Ahmad and his siblings were evicted from the house in 2016. For now, Nora and her husband, Mustafa, will stay with their children in Shuafat, a town outside Jerusalem, until they can find a permanent place to stay, Rafat said.

Across the city’s eastern half, particularly in and around the Old City, settler organizations and Jewish trusts are pursuing court battles against Palestinian families to clear the way for settlers.

An Israeli law passed after the annexation of east Jerusalem allows Jews to reclaim properties that were Jewish before the formation of the Israeli state in 1948. Jordan controlled the area between 1948 and the 1967 war.

There is no equivalent right in Israel for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948 to return to lost properties.

During British rule over historic Palestine, before the war over Israel’s creation, the Ghaith-Sub Laban apartment was owned by a trust for Kollel Galicia, a group that collected funds in Eastern Europe for Jewish families in Jerusalem.

A similar dispute that could lead to evictions of Palestinian families in the nearby neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah stirred tensions that built up to a 2021 war between Israel and the Hamas militant group in Gaza that killed over 250 people.

Nearly 1,000 Palestinians, including 424 children, currently face eviction in east Jerusalem, according to the United Nations humanitarian office.

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