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Israeli Supreme Court orders separation of Palestinian family to avoid eviction by settler group

Dec. 21, 2016 8:06 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 22, 2016 3:49 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Following a contentious court battle between a Palestinian family in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem and Israeli settler organization Ateret Cohanim, the Israeli Supreme Court Tuesday 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 organization.

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 organization has claimed that the family had deserted the home several years ago, which Nora has 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, emphasizing to Ma’an that her family had not deserted the home at any point.

The court had suggested previously that the family remain in the home until Nora’s death, which would strip the family of protected 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 meters, while the settlers would 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 legalization 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 organization.

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 nonprofit organization -- receiving tax-deductible donations from the United States through their financial intermediary American Friends of Ateret Cohanim -- which focuses on “Judaizing” 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.

Ateret Cohanim, along with other pro-settler organizations, commonly uses Israel’s 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters law to evict Palestinians from their homes. According to the law, Jewish Israelis are allowed to claim ownership of property if they can prove it was under Jewish ownership before 1948.

However, the law only applies to Jewish Israelis, and not to Palestinians who were dispossessed of their lands and properties prior to and after the establishment of Israel in 1948, despite their right being upheld by UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

Ateret Cohanim has forced out several Palestinian families from properties which were owned by Jewish families before 1948, with some 30 families currently threatened with eviction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Batan al-Hawa, as hundreds of Palestinians have been targeted through discriminatory legal channels.

The organization has also worked to purchase property from Palestinians to increase Jewish presence in East Jerusalem, while deterring Jewish families from selling property to Palestinians.

There are an upwards of 300,000 Israeli settlers residing in East Jerusalem, as the settler population in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem continues to increase at a faster rate than the population in Israel.

The presence of Israeli settlers in occupied Palestinian territory is considered illegal under international law according to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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