Fri 09 Jun 2023 2:18 pm - Jerusalem Time

A Palestinian couple counts down the days before they are evicted from their home in Jerusalem

A Palestinian married couple, Noura and Mustafa Sub-Laban, are preparing for the days awaiting the implementation of an Israeli court's decision to vacate their home in East Jerusalem in favor of settlers in a case dating back to 1978.

The house is located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of occupied Jerusalem. Sunday begins the deadline after which the Israeli police will be able to enter the house and expel them from it, after decades of legal procedures.

"These days, I'm like a prisoner on death row. When they take you out of your house, it's a death sentence," Noura Sub Laban told AFP.

"I don't sleep like other people, my life is difficult and I live on tranquilizers," she added.

The family has been involved in a legal dispute with the Israeli authorities and settlers for 45 years.

According to the family and the Israeli anti-settlement association "Ir Amim", the settlers are represented in the case by an organization called "Ateret Leoshana" in the person of Eli Atal.

Atal declined AFP's request to comment on the matter.

The settlers say that Jews resided in the property before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and Jordan later took over the administration of East Jerusalem.

They base their claims on the property on an Israeli law dating back to the seventies of the last century that allows Jews to recover property that belonged to Jews before the establishment of the state.

According to this law, those who are not related to the original owners of the property can claim it back.

As for the Sub Laban family, they say that Jordan spent the 1950s with being "protected tenants."

Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967. The Hebrew state later annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized by the international community.

The family showed AFP Jordanian lease contracts dating back to 1953, as well as Israeli court rulings recognizing them as "protected tenants."

The current Israeli courts based their decision on the need for the couple to vacate the house, on the fact that the family does not live in the building permanently.

Noura comments on this by saying that there was a period when she was not actually at home because of her hospitalization.

Her son, Raafat Sub Laban, 34, an employee of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Ramallah, says, "Legally and according to the Israeli system, we no longer have any other choice."

According to Ir Amim, eviction decisions in favor of settlers threaten about 150 Palestinian families in the Old City and nearby Palestinian neighborhoods, due to "discriminatory laws and the state's complicity with settlement organizations."

Settler associations, according to the association, either resort to the Absentee Property Law or to brokers and legal and illegal methods to achieve their goals. They have repeatedly declared that they want to "make Jerusalem a Jewish city with an Arab minority."

According to the association, the evacuation decisions are part of "a strategy to strengthen Israeli hegemony over the Old City basin, which represents the most religiously and politically sensitive part of Jerusalem, and is a core issue in the conflict" between the two sides.

220,000 settlers currently live in East Jerusalem, along with 370,000 Palestinians, according to the association.

In the Aqabat al-Rasas neighborhood where the family's home is located, there are Jewish religious schools that opened during the past years, and Jewish neighbors use the same stairs that the Sub Laban family accesses to their home.

"We live without freedom or security," Noura says.

Inside the apartment, the family took down the pictures that were hanging on the walls, as its members are aware that they will not have time to take their belongings after the Israeli police arrive to implement the eviction decision.

"When the decision is implemented, my parents will move to the house where my sister and I live," says Raafat, 34, in another neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

"This is the only option," he adds.

After the evacuation, the family will leave behind a sole trace in the house, which today appears almost empty, which is the grandchildren's scribbles on the walls and the slogans they made such as "Free Palestine", "We will return" and "This is our home".

Noura, 60, says, "I have lived in this house since childhood. I grew up in it and became an orphan. The father and mother are here," adding, "The house is not just walls. The house is a memory, my past and my whole life," but they (the settlers) don't care about that.


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A Palestinian couple counts down the days before they are evicted from their home in Jerusalem