Israel’s high court has temporarily halted the eviction of the Sub Laban family from their home in the Muslim quarter of occupied Jerusalem’s Old City, but that has not stopped Jewish settlers from harassing the family in an apparent attempt to pressure them to leave.
On 3 January the family came home to find that the Jewish settlers who took over the adjacent apartment last month had drilled six large holes into the concrete walls of the children’s bedroom.
The video above shows the surreal situation where family members could peer through the holes and see the settlers continuing to bore into the house.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, the Sub Laban family called the police, who came to the house and asked the settlers to repair the damage, but took no further measures against them.
The Sub Labans have lived in fear of eviction since 1978, but pressure intensified in 2010 when Israeli authorities gave their property to a trust that is believed to be operated by Ateret Cohanim, an organization that settles Jews in East Jerusalem.
In October 2014, the Sub Laban family received their latest eviction notice, which they are currently fighting in an Israeli judicial system that habitually favors Jewish settlers’ claims.
Israeli lower courts have all ruled that the family has exhausted their right to appeal the eviction. Now they waiting for the high court to decide if they have a further right to challenge it.
In the meantime, they find themselves surrounded by three settler families who seek to push them from their home of more than six decades.
Over the last year, settlers have made several attempts, sometimes with the help of Israeli police, to evict the Sub Laban family.
The Sub Labans’ position is unique only in the amount of international attention it has received. This video, published by the Institute for Middle East Understanding in December, highlights the family’s struggle to stay where they are:
While Ateret Cohanim denies any involvement in the eviction of the Sub Labans, it is estimated that the organization has helped settle at least 500 Jewish settlers in the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City.
Ateret Cohanim is currently coordinating a large-scale takeover of 88 Palestinian homes in the Baten al-Hawa area of Silwan, just outside the Old City.
In October, Israeli settlers accompanied by police forcibly evicted the Abu Nab family in Baten al-Hawa.
In December, eviction proceedings advanced against five more families in the area.
According to Betty Hirschman of the Israeli human rights group Ir Amim, 17 Palestinian families have already been evicted and 19 more are in some stage of legal proceedings.
In a recent press release, Ir Amim said that the seizure of the 88 units would translate to an influx of several hundred more settlers into Baten al-Hawa. This would represent “a major settler stronghold within the core of Silwan,” which is one of the most politically tense neighborhoods in East Jerusalem due to its proximity to the Al-Aqsa mosque.
As the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz detailed in a recent exposé, Ateret Cohanim works closely with the Israeli government to advance its declared goal of creating a Jewish majority in East Jerusalem.
The land in question in both the case of the Sub Laban family and Baten al-Hawa belonged to Jews before 1948, when it came under Jordanian control after the partition of historic Palestine.
Between 1948 and 1967, Jordanian authorities leased the land to Palestinians, including the Sub Labans, who moved into their home in 1953.
After Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and then annexed it in violation of international law, the land came under the authority of Israel’s General Custodian (also called the Administrator General).
In 2001 the General Custodian transferred the land in Baten al-Hawa into the hands of the Benvenisti Trust that is operated by Ateret Cohanim.
Since then the organization has been exploiting an Israeli law that allows Jews to reclaim land lost in 1948.
Notably, that Israeli law denies Palestinians forcibly expelled from their homes, including from thousands of houses in Jerusalem during and after 1948, the same right.
While some evictions require physical force to expel the inhabitants, as in the case of the Abu Nab family, Ateret Cohanim tries to induce Palestinian families to leave “voluntarily.”
According to Haaretz the organization offers Palestinian families facing eviction ample compensation if they leave quietly.