About Nora's Case
Pending a decision of the High Court of Israel, the Palestinian Gaith-Sub Laban family may be forcibly evicted from their home in occupied East Jerusalem, in violation of international law, at any time after this Thursday 03 December 2015. Eight members of the family, spanning three generations, are facing unlawful forced displacement purely on the basis of their Palestinian ethnicity, in order to be replaced by Israeli settlers. These include grandmother Nora Gaith-Sub Laban, three of her children, and two of her grandchildren aged three and nine.
In 1953, the Gaith-Sub Laban family entered into a protected lease agreement with the Jordanian government custodian that took over “absentee” property following the 1948 hostilities. The agreement was renegotiated with the Israel custodian in 1967 following the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, giving the family “protected tenant” status under the Protected Tenant Law of 1972. This allows them to remain as long as they continue to pay rent and live in the house. In 2010, the Israeli Guardian of Absentee Property passed the property’s ownership to the Galetzia Trust. This trust is related to a number of Israeli settler organisations, including Ateret Cohanim, an Israel settler organisation which has publicly declared its aim of creating a Jewish majority within the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and which believes that any property that has belonged to Jews at any point in the past should be given to Jewish owners. The organisation claims that Jews lived in the property prior to 1948.
On 14 September 2014, on the basis of testimony provided solely by settlers affiliated with Ateret Cohanim, a Judge in the Magistrate’s Court, herself a settler, held that the family had deserted the property and have not been living there between the year 2000 and the present time, and that they had thus lost their protected tenancy status. This is despite the fact that the family has continued to reside there and to pay rent throughout this period. This decision was predicated on testimony from Israeli settlers living next door and associated with Ateret Cohanim, who claimed that they have never seen the Gaith-Sub Laban family and do not know them, and is further predicated on allegations that the level of payments made for utility bills are too low to demonstrate that the family lives there. It was additionally decided that the family had nullified their protected tenancy status on the basis that they had installed an air-conditioning unit without a permit, a decision that would appear to contradict the finding that they do not live there. No testimony was heard from the Gaith-Sub Laban family or from any supporting witnesses. It is clear that both the witnesses and the judge hearing the case had a major conflict of interests regarding its outcome. The Israeli District Court upheld this eviction order on 11 October 2015, and on 2 November 2015 the family received notice that they were to be forcibly evicted on 30 November 2015.
The Gaith-Sub Laban family submitted grounds of appeal to the High Court of Israel, asserting that the lower courts made a legal error by accepting inadmissible testimonies based on hearsay, rather than fact, from witnesses who have a clear conflict of interest. The appeal further states that considerable damage will be caused to the family should they be evicted from their family home. On this basis, on 18 November 2015, the High Court issued an injunction preventing the eviction of the family. It must be stressed, however, that this injunction may only last a few weeks. The Court has given the Galetzia Trust until Thursday 3 December 2015 to send their response to the family’s request for an appeal hearing. It is expected that within a few weeks of this date, the Court will make a decision whether or not to permit an appeal hearing. If the Court decides that the grounds of appeal are insufficient, the appeals process will end, the injunction will be lifted and the family will once again be subject to forced eviction.
As well as appearing to violate their “protected tenant” status under domestic Israeli law, the Ghaith-Sub Laban family’s pending forced eviction would amount to a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the individual or mass transfer of protected persons, a category that includes Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. In addition, the family's forced eviction would violate numerous provisions of international human rights law, including: the right to adequate housing; the right to protection of home and family life from arbitrary or unlawful interference; the right to access to justice; and the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. The facts of the case make clear that the Ghaith-Sub Laban family's pending forced eviction is a direct result of their Palestinian identity, in clear violation of the United Nations Convention To End All Forms Of Racial Discrimination, and is part of Israel’s on-going and discriminatory policy of forcibly and unlawfully displacing Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in order to make way for expanding illegal Israeli settlements.*
*The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimates that there were at least 265,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the occupied Palestinian territory as of July 2015, of which 5,775 were reported displaced between 2009 and early April 2015 following evictions and demolitions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
"My name is Nora Sub Laban. I am a Palestinian grandmother living in Jerusalem. I’m over 59 years old now. My family has lived in this home for 62 years. Israeli forces and settlers will be coming again to uproot my family from our home at any moment. But I have hope. If thousands of people take action around the world and put pressure on the Israeli government, they’ll back away.
I worked hard to ensure my children received a decent education. My two oldest sons dedicate their lives working for human rights. My daughter is a university student. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my grandchildren who are 9 and 2 years old growing up in our family home. I pray for a peaceful future for them and my heart aches when I think we could all be evicted from our home in the coming days.
We’re being evicted because a settler organization, Ateret Cohanim, that publicly declares its desire to create a Jewish majority in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem petitioned the Israeli courts to kick us out of our home. The Israeli Magistrate court issued an eviction order in September 2014 based on testimonies of Israeli settlers that want to take over our neighborhood. They know nothing about my family and our life at home, and are blinded by hate.
I have lived through my life watching my neighbors in the Old City, and my family across Jerusalem, being slowly pushed out of the city through cooperation between settlers, the Israeli political establishment and the outcome of discriminatory judicial rulings. I have decided to remain steadfast, and need your help to ensure we're not forced from our home."