The Ghaith-Sub Laban family’s six-year legal battle to remain in their home of six decades has come to an end, as the Israeli high court made a final ruling in the family’s eviction case on Wednesday.
After Jewish settlers rejected the court’s proposed compromise on Tuesday, the Israeli judges returned a more favorable verdict to the settlers: allowing the Ghaith-Sub Laban family to remain in their home for only 10 more years, and at that point terminating their protected tenancy.
Without protected tenancy, the settler organization that owns the building can evict the family.
But the court has ordered the descendants of Mustafa Sub Laban and Nora Ghaith, whose mother first moved into their house in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City in East Jerusalem in 1953, to leave their home.
Nora and Mustafa currently live in the house with a daughter, two sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren aged 4 and 9.
If Ahmad and his brother and sister violate this stipulation, the whole family may be evicted.
The high court ruling also excludes the small storage room below their house from the decision, allowing settlers to proceed to take that over.
The Ghaith-Sub Labans are the last Palestinian family remaining in the building. The others have already been evicted and replaced with Jewish settlers.
In a statement on Facebook, the family said, “Nora and her family appealed to the Israeli high court asking for a ‘remedy of justice.’ Apparently their notion of ‘justice’ is unheard of!”
Nora Ghaith-Sub Laban said the high court accepted the settlers’ claim that the house was abandoned, a claim the family has vehemently denied.
“The court process and final decision starkly expose how settlers, over the course of decades, have taken advantage of land trusts to abuse Palestinian families in East Jerusalem,” Israeli human rights group Ir Amim said in a statement.
Though the Ghaith-Sub Laban family have been at risk of eviction since the 1970s, they have been fighting the Kollel Galicia Trust’s determination to evict them from their home since 2010, when the Israeli government gave the group the property.
Nora’s mother first rented the house in 1953 from the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property.
The custodian assumed control of properties in East Jerusalem that Jews had abandoned in the early 20th century during the Palestinian revolts against Zionist and British colonization.
Palestinian refugees from western Jerusalem often moved into these properties in the Jerusalem after they fled or were ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias in 1948.
When she moved in, Nora’s mother was granted protected tenancy status, which should last for three generations.
After Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, the family began to pay rent to the Israeli General Custodian.
In 2010, the Israeli General Custodian transferred the property to Atara L’yoshna, which eventually became the Kollel Galicia Trust.
The organization immediately appealed to evict the family on the basis that the family had left the apartment and therefore forfeited their protected tenancy status. In 2014, a Jerusalem court upheld the settlers’ claim.
“[The] Israeli judiciary once again sustains the discrimination that Palestinians face, where Israeli settlers are allowed to reclaim property they allegedly owned pre-1948 whereas Palestinians are prohibited from the same,” the family said in a statement.
Israel has never allowed Palestinians to recover any of the vast tracts of property seized from them in 1948.
“The Israeli high court, as with all similar eviction or house demolition cases, has proved itself to be a partner to Israel’s settlement expansion policy and to the settler’s ambition to take over as many houses [as possible] in occupied East Jerusalem.”
According to Ir Amim, the Ghaith-Sub Labans are one of nine families in the Old City currently under threat of eviction. Seven of these families live on the same street as the Ghaith-Sub Labans.
Ir Amim and anti-settlement group Peace Now have released data showing the settler population in the so-called historic basin of the Old City has increased 70 percent since Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister in 2009.
Sixty Palestinian families have been evicted in the same time period.
While private settler groups like Kollel Galicia Trust and Ateret Cohanim have been primarily responsible for evicting Palestinians in the Old City over the last year, they have received stolid support from the government. Ir Amim says the ministry of housing and construction’s security budget for East Jerusalem settlers grew 119 percent since 2009.
Earlier this year, when the high court first granted the family the right to appeal the Jerusalem court’s ruling to evict them, the family credited international support and attention as partially responsible for the favorable ruling.
“All the efforts to pressure the Israeli government and involve foreign diplomats are paying off,” Nora Sub Laban said hopefully last February.
Representatives from the US and European consulates had attended hearings for the family, and last year, the US consulate expressed “concern” over the family’s pending eviction.
But Wednesday’s high court ruling laid bare the paucity of such rhetoric from states that have demonstrated their unconditional support for Israel while it continues to force Palestinians off their land and out of their homes.