Israeli Court Postpones Eviction of Palestinian-rented House in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, March 16, 2015 (WAFA) – Israeli Jerusalem District Court postponed Monday noon the eviction of a Palestinian-rented house in Jerusalem Old City’s neighborhood of Aqabat al-Khalidiya until May.

Tensions have been running high as the Palestinian family of Sub Laban received Sunday evening notifications that settler groups with the presence of the Israeli Police intend to take over their house Monday morning.

Israeli police raided the house early morning and ordered the Sub Laban family to evict it, granting them only ten minutes to leave the apartment.

The evacuation was delayed following attempts by the family’s lawyer managed to delay it for two hours in a successful attempt to obtain a court ruling to halt the eviction.

Dozens of Israeli settlers arrived at the scene and attempted to evacuate the Sub Laban’s by force amidst heightened presence for police, locals and foreign peace activists.

Jewish settlers last February attempted to evict the house, citing that the house belongs to a Jewish family and that settlers have the right to inhabit it instead of a Palestinian family.

During a previous interview with WAFA, house’s owner, Ahmad Sub Laban, said his family rented the house in 1956 from Jordan’s then Custodian of Enemy Property (CEP), 11 years before Israel occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem. The house was originally owned by Jewish migrants before the CEP assumed control of Jewish-owned property upon the Israeli-Arab war in 1948.

The Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property was established to handle property taken from Jews in the West Bank in 1948. In 1967, this function was disbanded.

However, the Sub Laban family is renting the property as protected tenants. According to the law, a protected lease in Israel gives the tenants certain privileges such as paying the rent at a fixed rate unlike the market price at around 10 to 20% of the actual price.

A protected lease also means that the family is protected from eviction even after the rental contract has elapsed, and they are entitled to transfer their rights to other tenants and to receive substantial compensation in return.

The apartment rented by the Sub Laban family has been the focal point of a constant battle of law suits and verdicts in favor and against. The battle, as Ahmad said, dates back to 1978.

He told WAFA the Jewish organization Ateret Cohanim filled the latest lawsuit at the Israeli court of magistrate to seize the property in 2010, and won it. Nevertheless, the family appealed the decision before the District Court, which is due to return with a verdict on May 31, 2015.

Also a researcher on settlement activities, Ahmad said his house is the last remaining Arab-resided house in Aqabat al-Khalidiya, and if the appeal is overruled, there will no longer be any Arab presence in the neighborhood.

Even though the law clearly supports the Sub Laban family, the settler group which filed the law suit against them used false testimonies to prove that the house has been uninhabited for a long period of time.

Brothers Ahmad and Rafat both confirmed that the family has been facing malicious attempts to legalize the process of evicting the house; starting from allegations of vandalizing the property to claims that the family has other homes and shouldn’t be renting the property.

Ahmad said he is mostly against the dual standards adopted by Israel through the unlawful eviction of Palestinians from houses rented legally, while denying Palestinians their right in returning to their homes from which they were exiled in 1948.

Rafat said that he is worried in specific that a settler group is systematically working to empty the city and its neighborhoods from Palestinian families and replace them with Israeli settlers.

He said, “This is my grandmother’s house, where my mother lived and where my brother and his children live. It is illegal to force us to leave even though we have the right to stay here.”

Some 200,000 Israeli settlers reside in settlements established in occupied East Jerusalem, which has been unlawfully annexed to Israel; 35 percent of the annexed areas were expropriated and allocated to settlements, according to the United Nations’ statistics.

It said that about 2,000 settlers have been implanted in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods, in houses which have been taken over by various means, including the application of the Absentee Property Law and the processing in Israeli courts of claims over properties allegedly owned by Jews prior to 1948, among others.

Most of these settlements are concentrated in the so-called ‘Holy Basin’ area – comprising the Muslim and Christian quarters of the Old City, Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah, At-Tur (Mount of Olives), Wadi Joz, Ras al-‘Amud, and Jabal Al-Mukabbir.

Settlement activities and Israeli settlers in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem are considered illegal by international law.