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Palestinian family under threat of eviction by settlers

The Sub Laban family has been living in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City for over 60 years. Now, a right-wing settler group is trying to expel them, with the full support of the state.

By Aviv Tatarsky

Settlers and Border Policemen stand on the roof of the Sub Laban family home, Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Settlers and Border Policemen stand on the roof of the Sub Laban family home, Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

The State of Israel has been trying to expel the Sub Laban family from their home in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem for the past 35 years. During the first 30 years of its attempts, it was the Custodian General who did the job; since 2010 it has been the “Ateret Cohanim” settler NGO. The family went through exhausting legal procedures until last year when the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled that the family had lost its protected tenant status, and must removed from the premises.

Despite the fact that family members appealed the decision to the District Court, it did not delay the order. In the past month, settlers have attempted to expel the family — at first by themselves, and eventually with police accompaniment. These two attempts failed, although the third attempt could take place any day. On Sunday, Palestinian and Israeli activists will hold a demonstration in support of the family.

One law for Jews, another for Arabs

Three generations of the Sub Laban live in the home. It was owned by Jews until 1948, after which the Jordanian custodian rented it to them in the 1950s. After 1967, the home came under the control of Israel’s General Custodian, which worked tirelessly to expel the family. Today, 80 Jewish families affiliated with Ateret Cohanim in the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City. All of them live in homes from which Palestinian tenants were previously evicted.

Read more: Ahmad Sub Laban tries to save his family’s home

Eighty families, which means approximately 500 Jews. When 33,000 Palestinians live in both the Muslim and Christian quarters, there is no doubt that this will remain a Palestinian area in the future. The families of Ateret Cohanim, on the other hand, are backed by the state, which profoundly strengthens their presence: the guards are armed by the state, tourism projects are funded by the state, the violent Jerusalem Day march is supported by the state.

Here is just a small example of the way in which these settler groups try and mold state policy to strengthen their power. Two years ago, the Jerusalem Municipality was supposed to push for accepting a new master plan for the Old City. The goal of the plan was to — God forbid — make it easier to obtain building permits in the Old City. For a moment, it was possible to fantasize that 33,000 residents will finally be able to fix, renovate and even expand their apartments. It was incredible to sit in the discussion in city hall and watch Mati Dan from Ateret Cohanim arrive, flick his wrist and cancel the discussion faster than John Kerry can say “poof.” A week later, Mayor Nir Barkat set up a meeting between Dan and the city engineer, in which they put together the plan’s formal death certificate. In half an hour, Ateret Cohanim was able to throw away a plan that the municipality itself came up with — one that took years to finalize and on which public money was spent.

Women from the Sub Lahan family sit in their family home, Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Women from the Sub Lahan family sit in their family home, Old City of Jerusalem. (photo: Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Everything, of course, begins with Israeli law, which allows for the transferring of Palestinian assets to political organizations, since they belonged to Jews until the 1948 war. At the same time, the law prevents Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to reclaim their properties that were lost during the Nakba of ’48, and especially the homes in which Jews currently live.

Last Monday, Israeli and Palestinian activists went to the Sub Laban home in order to prevent a possible eviction. Due to our presence, the police agreed to wait and see whether the family’s lawyer will be able to get the court to delay the eviction. The fact that Meretz chair Zehava Galon was present — a day before the elections — was likely also a reason for the police backing down. The court, however, only delayed the eviction for one day. Instead of freezing the process until a court hearing against the eviction, which will take place in May, the imminent danger of eviction returned.

On Sunday, Jews and Palestinian activists will once again stand together against the expulsion. Israelis can only gain by joining the struggle to prevent the Sub Laban family from expulsion. By standing in front of policemen and settlers, we discover that we have power. We have psychological power as well as the power to fight against injustice. The solidarity of Palestinians and Jews who fight together creates a new reality that we want to see: one of justice, cooperation and freedom from violence and fear.

Aviv Tatarsky is a researcher for Ir Amim. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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    1. Brian

      Well, this is pure apartheid style racism. It’s all ultimately based on who is a Jew and who is an Arab. Not on anything else. The part that is based on history is selectively applied based on, you guessed it. You can frankly applaud apartheid like Jello or quietly wink at apartheid like some others here, but it’s still apartheid.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Pedro X

      No one would ever accuse 972mag of balance or journalistic integrity. Reading Arab sources, Maannews, Silwanic and Wafa, I was able to piece together a more fuller context for the eviction. The rented premises against which the eviction order was granted against is in located in the neighborhood of Aqabat al-Khalidiya. According to Wafa this is a Jewish neighborhood. In fact Maan mentions that units in the home in question already have Jewish tenants except for this one Arab family.

      “All of the apartments around us and even in our own building are now inhabited by Jewish settlers,” the family’s son Rafat Sub Laban told Ma’an during an interview at the home. “In the 1970s and 80s they started taking them over one by one, and now we are the only Palestinians left here.”

      Wafa and Maan both identify that the nub of the matter concerns the allegations that the Arab family left the building abandoned for 15 years or more, causing their lease to terminate. Maan says that the Arab family only returned to the house in 2000. Wafa claims that the testimonies about abandonment were false, while Maan admits that the premises were abandoned but the abandonment was as a result of restoration work ordered and begun in the 1980s.

      Wafa also points out that there was evidence (which Wafa rejected) of the Arab family living in other houses in Jerusalem which it owned during the period in question.

      Maan reports that the Sub Laban family in 1967 negotiated a new lease for the premises with Israel, the terms of which it agreed to abide. The court has ruled that the Palestinian family breached the terms of its lease and no longer have a right to rent the property.

      The matter has been adjudicated in court and the Palestinian family lost and will have to move to another of their family properties in Jerusalem, unless an Appeal Court intervenes and rules otherwise.

      Reply to Comment
      • Y-Man

        that’s a shitload of prevarication. the fact is that this kind of thing would never, ever happen to a Jewish family. the “legal” bullshit is a charade.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          It would seem that if there is a prevaricator here it is Y-Man. Israelis who do not obey the conditions of their leases or have no legal right to inhabit their homes are turfed out on their behinds. The most public spectacle of Jewish authorities, after lengthy court cases, using police to remove Jews from their homes was recently plastered across the papers when the municipality of Tel Aviv evicted recalcitrant tenants in Givat Amal who no longer had a right to remain in their homes on leased lands which had been sold to development companies to develop high rises for upwardly mobile yuppies. Active Stills and 972mag carried many pictures of the poor Israeli Jews who lost their homes to the bulldozers.

          In 2007 Tel Aviv used 100 police to evacuate 30 families from Kfar Shalem neighborhood after they failed to obey eviction orders issued against them. The municipality sent in bulldozers and demolished their premises.

          In 2007 Israel evicted Israelis from the old wholesale market in downtown Hebron. In 2012 it issued more eviction orders for Israelis in Hebron.

          I might also mention that the Jewish state used the IDF and border police to evict over 8,000 Jewish residents from their communities in Gaza and many hundreds in Judea and Samaria who all did not go so nicely in 2005. The evictions even made the stone hearted Lyse Doucet of the BBC shed tears for the community members and children as they were being dragged from their homes. Then there were the thousands of Israelis who were forced out of their homes in the Sinai so Israel could complete its peace agreement with Egypt.

          I should also mention, as the Levy report showed, that Jewish citizens in Judea and Samaria have had their homes, farms, and vineyards torn up by the authorities of Cogat without the benefit of an opportunity to have their cases adjudicated by a court first.

          Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            My god Pedro X are you a PR man or ad man in real life? Or on Bibi’s direct payroll? Unbelievable the endless diversionary smoke you put out.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Further Action to Support the Sub Laban and Shamasne Families, THIS FRIDAY:

      Stop the Judaization of East Jerusalem! Breaking the ring of settlements
      —> Friday, 27/3, 13:45, Damascus Gate <—

      From the event page:
      "Two families in East Jerusalem are facing imminent
      eviction from their homes: Sub Laban family from the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, and Shamasne family from the neighbourhood of Sheik Jarach. These evictions are part of ongoing efforts of the settler movement supported by the state to create a ring of settlements surrounding the Old City in order to promise the continued control of Jews on Jerusalem as a whole.

      This coming Friday (27/3) we will march together with members of the two families from the Sub Labens' house in the Muslim Quarter to Shamasnes' home in Sheik Jarach. Our aims are to prevent the eviction of the faimilies and resist the Judiazation of East Jerusalem.

      The eviction of the two families is being promoted under the legal pretext of the houses having been owned by Jewish families prior to 1948. While they face losing the homes they have lived in for decades, their own rights to the land and assets these families lost in 1948 are denied. In this way, the law discriminates between Jews and Palestinians, making these Palestinian families, along many others, refugees for the second time.

      Together, Israelis and Palestinians, we will call: Stop the Judaization! Stop the racism!"

      Reply to Comment