Resolution to the long-running eviction case against a Palestinian family from their home in the Old City of Jerusalem is no nearer after settlers rejected a compromise proposed by Israel’s high court on 19 December.
Last February, the high court agreed to hear an appeal by the Sub Laban family, after the lower courts ruled to evict the family from their home of more than six decades in occupied East Jerusalem.
At a hearing attended by diplomats from the United States, United Kingdom, French, Belgian and Dutch consulates, the court recommended a settlement whereby protected tenancy status would be granted to Nora Ghaith and her husband Mustafa Sub Laban, but exclude their children, the third generation.
According to a statement released by supporters of the family, this means that as long as Nora and her husband live, the family can remain in the home.
But settlers have rejected the compromise, sending the high court back into deliberations on the family’s appeal.
According to the family, the settlers’ lawyer has demanded that they be evicted and suggested they move into a small storage room under the home.
Colonization of Old City
The Sub Laban family have been resisting eviction since 2010, when the Israeli government gave the building to the Kollel Galicia Trust, a private settler group that aims to colonize the Muslim quarter of the Old City. With the support of the government, the Galicia Trust and its settlers have been determined to remove the family from their home.
Over the last year, settlers have made several attempts to evict the Sub Labans, at times with the assistance of the Israeli police.
At the beginning of the year, settlers who had recently taken over a neighboring house drilled six large holes into the walls of the Sub Laban children’s bedroom.
The Sub Labans are the last Palestinian family remaining in the building. The others have been evicted and replaced by Jewish settlers.
The Galicia Trust has deep ties to Ateret Cohanim, another private settler group that has settled at least 500 Jews in the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City. All of these settlers reside in homes from which Palestinian families were evicted.
Threat of eviction
Nora Ghaith’s mother first moved into the house in 1953, when many Palestinian refugees from West Jerusalem were forced to find new homes after being expelled by Zionist militias to establish the State of Israel.
The building she moved into was one of many that had been abandoned by Jews at the beginning of the 20th century and had fallen into the custody of Jordan. Until 1967, Jordan’s Custodian of Enemy Property leased these properties to Palestinians as “protected tenants.” The protected tenant status was supposed to apply to at least three generations.
When Israel took control of East Jerusalem, the properties came under control of Israel’s General Custodian.
Palestinians remained as residents, but since the 1980s, private settler groups have tried to claim the properties for Jewish residents in close cooperation with government bodies.
The lawyer of the Galicia Trust that is fighting the Sub Laban family in court, claims the family abandoned the property more than 30 years ago, therefore forfeiting their protected tenant status. The family denies this claim.
The high court’s suggested compromise would maintain the protected tenant status for the second generation of the Ghathi-Sub Laban family, but terminate it for their children.
The United Nations’ Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported last month that 180 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem are currently under threat of eviction after settler organizations like Ateret Cohanim challenged residents’ “protected tenant” status. These families total some 818 individuals, including 372 children.