Israel expels Sub Labans from their home in Jerusalem’s Old City

The family fought settler attempts to take their home for about 45 years. On Monday night, security forces evicted them.

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Israeli forces and settlers have expelled a Palestinian family from their home in the occupied Old City of Jerusalem based on an Israeli court order.

The order said the family, who have lived in their home for 70 years, should be removed so settlers could take over.

Just after dawn on Tuesday, dozens of Israeli police and paramilitary officers raided the Ghaith-Sub Laban family in occupied East Jerusalem and forced them out before settlers moved in.

In videos shared by local journalists, Ahmad Sub Laban is seen carrying a small tree out of his home. He reportedly told local media the tree is as old as his 17-year-old son and that it was the one thing the family asked to take with them as a memento of the house “until they return to it”.

Dozens of Israeli left-wing activists protested in front of the family’s home until late morning on Tuesday.

Palestinian civil society and rights groups released a statement late last month blasting Israel’s efforts to displace the family, which they said is “forcible transfer, which constitutes both a war crime and a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute”.

The statement said the ongoing expulsions of Palestinians are a “result of the international community’s deliberate failure and unwillingness to take effective and meaningful measures to end Israel’s illegal occupation, and settler-colonial apartheid regime”.

The groups also called states to take action, “including through arms embargoes, economic sanctions and countermeasures against Israel; and targeted individual sanctions against Israeli settler organisations”.

The Ghaith-Sub Laban family has been renting the home since 1953, while the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the Old City, was under Jordanian administration.

They were granted protected lease rights, but have faced a costly, 45-year legal battle in Israeli courts against government-backed settler organisations to displace them.

When Israel occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967, the state assumed control over the property before it was transferred to a private Jewish settler organisation, Galetzia Trust, which reportedly has ties to the infamous Ateret Cohanim group.

In 2014, an Israeli magistrate court ruled that the family no longer held protected tenant status and that the settlers could displace the family.

“The case was decided against the family by a magistrate who was herself a settler,” a 2016 report by then-UN Special Rapporteur Makarim Wibisono read.

That year, six members of the family of eight – the children and grandchildren – were forcibly displaced when the Israeli High Court ruled that they could no longer live there.

In June this year, the high court ruled that the parents – 68-year-old Nora Ghaith and her 72-year-old husband Mustafa Sub Laban – could be expelled anytime between June 28 and July 13 after they had exhausted all legal options.

In response, a group of Israeli and Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations said in a published letter: “[A]fter more than 45 years of recurring lawsuits and harassment by the Israeli authorities and settler organizations, the Supreme Court recently ruled to terminate the family’s protected tenancy status and evict them from their home.”

“Uprooting Palestinians, whether through means of evictions, home demolitions or other discriminatory policies and practices employed by Israel to forcibly transfer Palestinians from East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank is a flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations under international law,” the statement added.

Several campaigns by rights groups attempted to stop the expulsion of the family but were unsuccessful.

Videos shared online showed Nora Ghaith standing outside her home, crying, after settlers had moved in, while dozens of protesters chanted against the expulsion.