Following a contentious court battle between a Palestinian family in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem and Israeli settler organisation Ateret Cohanim, the Israeli Supreme Court yesterday evening ruled that the couple would be permitted to reside in their home for ten years without their children until it is transferred to the ownership of the settler organisation.
According to a statement released by Mustafa Sub Laban and his wife Nora Gheith, the decision came after they appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court against a previous decision to evict the family immediately, adding that the most recent decision “partly accepted the appeal” and will allow the couple to stay in the home for ten more years.
However, their children, daughter Lama and sons Ahmad and Raafat, will be barred from residing in the home, as the court has stipulated that the couple could only stay as “protected tenants”, which refers to certain Palestinians in East Jerusalem who held rental agreements with the Jordanian government before 1967, when Israel occupied the Palestinian territory.
Leaseholders are considered protected tenants for three generations. However, when the last family member of the third generation dies, the family loses the status.
The court decision added that if any of their children are found to be residing in the home, Ateret Cohanim would be allowed to immediately push for their complete eviction from the premises.
The settler organisation has claimed that the family had deserted the home several years ago, which Nora denied, saying that Nora’s family had rented the house in the area of Aqbat Al-Khalidiyaa in the Old City since 1953 before the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
The court had suggested previously that the family remain in the home until Nora’s death, which would strip the family of the “protected tenant” status.
However, the settlers refused the suggestion, and instead proposed that the family stay in a small storage room in the basement, barely measuring 20 square metres, while the settlers reside in the rest of the house.
“The Israeli judicial system proved once again that the Israeli occupation is implementing a policy of racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens,” said the couple’s son Ahmad, a human rights activist, adding that the Israeli courts “behave as a partner with Israeli authorities and settlers,” and “enable them to take possession of as many [Palestinian] houses as possible in East Jerusalem.”
Ahmad noted that the legalisation of Israeli policies aimed at displacing Palestinians was in “obvious contravention of international law”.
In addition, according to the statement, the storage room in the basement was excluded from the court decision and would immediately be transferred to the settler organisation.
Last year, Israeli authorities attempted to evict the family from their home. However, their lawyer was able to obtain a court order to halt the eviction.
Ateret Cohanim is an Israeli pro-settlement non profit organisation – receiving tax-deductible donations from the US through its financial intermediary American Friends of Ateret Cohanim – which focuses on “Judaising” East Jerusalem through a Jewish reclamation project working to expand illegal settlements and facilitate Jewish takeover of Palestinian properties across the Green Line into Palestinian territory.
The organisation has also worked to purchase property from Palestinians to increase the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem, while deterring Jewish families from selling property to Palestinians.