Multiple Palestinian Families Face Impending Evictions in March ahead of Ramadan

15 February 2023
In March, numerous Palestinian families across the Old City Basin are concurrently facing imminent eviction or potentially decisive hearings on eviction cases, placing over 80 individuals simultaneously at risk of forced displacement. The eviction claims have been filed on the basis of inherently discriminatory Israeli laws by settler groups working in collaboration with the state to expand Jewish settlement in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods. If the evictions are carried out, this would not only constitute an acute violation of human rights and International Law, but also carry a severe humanitarian impact on the families and further erode conditions for an agreed political future.
These coinciding threats will coalesce with the beginning of Ramadan – a situation which could once again lead to increased tensions in Jerusalem and across the region. In 2021, the pending evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah coupled with police violencecollective restrictions on East Jerusalem residents, and breaches of the status quo on the Holy Esplanade during Ramadan served to ignite unrest throughout the region and spark the war with Hamas.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan likewise coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover this year. While Ramadan begins on 22 March and ends on 20 April, Passover takes place between April 5-12. In recent years, the confluence of these holidays has particularly seen increased friction in Jerusalem and recurring violations of the status quo on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. More details can be found here and here.
The Israeli government must be called upon to halt these processes of displacement.
The following Palestinian families face either imminent eviction or decisive court decisions in March:
  • Gaith-Sub Laban Family, Muslim Quarter, Old City – the family of veteran Ir Amim staff member, Ahmad Sub Laban, faces eviction precisely one month from today on March 15 following the Supreme Court's decision to deny their request to appeal. All legal remedies have been exhausted, and hence the family is at risk of immediate eviction. Save for state intervention, there is no further recourse to prevent their displacement. See details below.
  • Shehadeh Family, Batan al-Hawa, Silwan – The District Court ruled to evict the family by March 1. A request to appeal to the Supreme Court is currently pending. See details below.
  • Salem Family, Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah – A decisive administrative hearing on their pending eviction is scheduled for March 9 at the Enforcement and Collections Authority. If authorized, the eviction could potentially be carried out by the end of March. See details below.
  • Dajani, Daoud, Hammad Families, Kerem al Jaouni, Sheikh Jarrah – a Supreme Court hearing on their appeal is scheduled for March 29. While a similar ruling is expected to that of the one handed down last year in the cases of four other families from the neighborhood, the outcome is still not definitive. See details below.
The aforementioned families are among some 150 Palestinian families – totaling over 1000 people – across the Old City and its surrounding Palestinian neighborhoods who are under threat of displacement via eviction due to discriminatory laws and state collusion with settler groups. Sheikh Jarrah to the north of the Old City and Silwan to the south are the two neighborhoods under greatest pressure given their strategic location as gateways to the Old City and the number of historical and religious sites within their bounds.
Settler Exploitation of Discriminatory Laws
A common thread between the abovementioned cases is that the eviction lawsuits were filed by settler groups on the basis of the 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters law. This discriminatory law exclusively affords Jews with land restitution rights for assets allegedly owned by Jews in East Jerusalem prior to 1948 despite many of these properties now inhabited by Palestinians. No parallel legal mechanism exists for Palestinians to recover pre-1948 assets on the Israeli side of the Green Line now inhabited by Jews. To the contrary, the 1950 Absentee Property Law enshrines that Palestinians who were forced to abandon their homes in what became Israel due to the war of 1948 cannot retrieve them.
Settler organizations aided by state bodies act to secure ownership rights of these assets through various means despite having no relation to the previous Jewish owners or occupants. Acquisition of these rights provides settler groups with the legal platform to then “retrieve” the property from the General Custodian and initiate eviction lawsuits against Palestinian families through application of the 1970 law. A department within the Ministry of Justice, the General Custodian is the Israeli body responsible for managing pre-1948 Jewish assets in East Jerusalem until “reclaimed.” It should be noted that the General Custodian has become one of the leading state institutions who works in cooperation with settler groups to facilitate evictions of Palestinians and seizure of their homes in East Jerusalem. Many of the families facing eviction are Palestinian refugees who lost homes on the Israeli side of the Green Line in 1948 and now stand to be displaced for a second or even third time.  
Gaith-Sub Laban Family, Muslim Quarter, Old City
The family of veteran Ir Amim field researcher, Ahmad Sub Laban, is under imminent threat of eviction from their home in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The District Court ruled in November 2022 to uphold the eviction demand by the Atara Leyoshna settler organization and instructed the family to vacate the property by January 31, 2023. A leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was filed and subsequently rejected as of last week, February 6, 2023. The court ordered the family’s eviction by 15 March. As noted above, all potential legal recourse has been exhausted. Engagement with the Israeli government to halt this eviction is therefore vital.

The Gaith-Sub Laban family has been embroiled in more than a 40-year legal battle to maintain its protected tenancy and beat back persistent attempts by the Atara Leyoshna settler group to assume control of the family’s apartment where they have resided since 1954. It should be noted that Atara Leyoshna is affiliated with the Ateret Cohanim settler organization who is behind the mass eviction lawsuits in Batan al-Hawa, Silwan and attempts to take over the iconic Christian hotel properties near Jaffa Gate.
The Sub Laban family first rented the apartment from the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property (property allegedly owned by Jews prior to 1948) in 1954, at which point it was granted protected tenancy status. The family has consistently maintained this status – from 1948 through 1967, until today – and continued to pay rent to the Israeli General Custodian, which assumed control of properties administered by the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property.  Despite its protected tenancy status, the Sub Labans have been under unrelenting threat of eviction since 1978, first by the General Custodian and later by Atara Leyoshna.
Other Palestinian families living in the family's building have been gradually evicted over the years and their apartments handed over to settlers. In an attempt to force the Sub Labans out, settlers blocked the stairway leading to the family’s apartment. For 15 years, the apartment could only be entered through a neighbor's unit, until the Court ordered the stairway unsealed in 2001.
Atara Leyoshna’s Acquisition of the Sub-Laban’s Apartment
In May 2010, the General Custodian conveyed the apartment to Atara Leyoshna on the basis of the aforementioned 1970 law. Soon after receiving rights to the Sub-Laban apartment, Atara Leyoshna filed an eviction claim against the family. After the lower courts ruled to the evict the Sub Laban family in favor of the settler group, their case reached the Supreme Court in 2016.
The court ruled that Nora Gaith and Mustafa Sub Laban (Ahmad’s parents) could remain in their home, yet only for another 10 years, after which their protected tenancy would be terminated. The ruling did not apply to the third generation of protected tenants--Ahmad and his siblings, including those still living with their parents in the home. 
In 2019, the settler group filed another eviction lawsuit against the family, claiming that they had violated the terms of protected tenancy by spending long periods away from their home. Despite evidence showing the Gaith-Sub Laban couple spent time away due to recurring health issues, the lower courts ruled to evict the family in favor of the settler group. As mentioned above, the Supreme Court this time denied the family’s request to appeal, ending an over 40-year legal battle over the Sub Laban’s home by authorizing the family's eviction. It should be noted that they are being forcibly evicted three years before conclusion of the 10-year protected tenancy period upon which the Supreme Court had originally ruled.

The Gaith-Sub Laban home is marked in red.
Shehadeh Family, Batan al-Hawa, Silwan
The Shehadeh family, comprised of five households, numbering 35 individuals, is under threat of displacement from their home in Batan al-Hawa, Silwan as a result of an eviction claim filed by the Ateret Cohanim settler organization. Following a hearing in November 2022, the Jerusalem District Court ruled in favor of Ateret Cohanim and ordered the eviction of the Shehadeh family by March 1, 2023. A leave to appeal was recently filed to the Supreme Court. Before issuing its decision on the leave to appeal, the court requested a response from the plaintiffs (settler group) by January 31, 2023. The settler group requested an extension to the deadline for submission of their response, and the court granted the extension until yesterday, February 14. It should be noted that the justice (Noam Sohlberg) presiding over the decision on the leave to appeal is considered one of the most conservative judges on the Supreme Court, resides in a settlement, and sympathetic to the settler cause based on prior rulings. 
If the justice rejects the leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, it would pave the way for the eviction to occur.
The Shehadeh family is one of 85 Palestinian families, numbering over 700 individuals, who face mass displacement via eviction from Batan al-Hawa, Silwan by Ateret Cohanim. The eviction lawsuits have been formally filed by the Benvenisti Trust, a Jewish trust who allegedly owned property in the area from over a century ago and now controlled by members of Ateret Cohanim whose aim is to expand Jewish settlement in the neighborhood by evicting Palestinian families and taking over their homes. Following the state's appointment of two Ateret Cohanim members as trustees to the trust in 2001, the organization has initiated dozens of eviction demands based on the 1970 law. To date, 14 Palestinian families have been evicted from the neighborhood.
Legal Action Against Ateret Cohanim
Ir Amim has brought legal action against Ateret Cohanim, the Benvenisti Trust, and relevant state bodies, challenging the dubious appointment of Ateret Cohanim members to the trust’s management and their gross misappropriation of the trust to advance the organization's agenda. This has included the attempted establishment of a Jewish heritage center in the home of an evicted family. As a result, the Registrar of Trusts (department within the Justice Ministry) announced the opening of an in-depth investigation into the management and actions of the Benvenisti trust and its trustees in September 2020. Ir Amim is still awaiting the results of this investigation while subsequent legal action has been initiated.  See here for more.
The Shehadeh's family home is marked in yellow with a red circle.
Salem Family, Um Haroun, Sheikh Jarrah
The Salem family, comprised of three generations and 11 individuals, including four children, are at risk of eviction from their home of over 70 years in the western section of Sheikh Jarrah (Um Haroun). Two key settler activists and Jerusalem City Council members, Yonathan Yosef and Deputy Mayor Aryeh King are behind the initiation of these proceedings. After the Enforcement and Collections Authority (ECA) authorized their eviction last year, the family appealed to the Magistrate’s Court. The court ruled in April 2022 to accept the family’s appeal and ordered the case return to the ECA for further deliberations.
An administrative hearing has been scheduled at the ECA for March 9If the ECA decides in favor of the settlers, the family’s eviction could potentially be carried out by the end of March. The legal recourse in this case is extremely limited; therefore, the only effective means of preventing the family's displacement is through state intervention.
The Salem family is among roughly 40 Palestinian families under threat of eviction by settlers from the Um Haroun section of Sheikh Jarrah.  See here for further details on this case and the eviction threats in Um Haroun.
Dajani, Daoud, Hammad Families, Kerem al Jaouni, Sheikh Jarrah
The Dajani, Daoud, and Hammad families are among some 30 families from the Kerem al Jaouni section of Sheikh Jarrah facing displacement due to eviction lawsuits filed by Nahalat Shimon, a US company working at the behest of settlers to seize the families' homes for the expansion of Jewish settlement. These families were among seven families whose cases reached the Supreme Court in 2021, which garnered global attention and contributed to nation-wide unrest and the flare-up with Hamas in May of that year.

Following a hearing at the Supreme Court on four of the seven families (Jaouni, Al Kurd, Askafi and Qassem) in August 2021, the justices proposed a settlement, which was ultimately rejected by both sides. In March 2022, the Supreme Court issued a verdict, accepting a portion of the families’ appeal, which has provisionally frozen their eviction and afforded them with the opportunity to prove property rights in the framework of formal settlement of land title proceedings.

A hearing at the Supreme Court on the appeal of the Dajani, Daoud, and Hammad families has been scheduled for March 29 before a panel comprised of Justices Barak-Erez, Fogelman, and Sohlberg. While a similar ruling to that which was handed down in the cases of the Jaouni, Al Kurd, Askafi and Qassem families is expected, the outcome is still uncertain.

The Salem family home is marked in yellow and outlined in red. The homes of the Dajani, Daoud and Hammad families are among those marked in green and outlined in red.
Undermining Palestinian rights and Thwarting a Political Agreement
Evictions of Palestinian families and settler takeovers of their homes have increasingly been used as a strategy to cement Israeli hegemony of the Old City Basin, the most religiously and politically sensitive part of Jerusalem and a core issue of the conflict. These measures are reinforced by a constellation of settler-operated tourist sites, which together serve to alter the character of the space and forge a ring of Israeli control around the areaThis creates an irreversible reality on the ground that deliberately subverts efforts towards an agreed political resolution on Jerusalem.  

Moreover, such actions severely violate the individual and collective rights of Palestinians in the city and contravenes International Law, while carrying an acute humanitarian impact on the affected families.

Since the eviction claims are based on inherently discriminatory laws, the legal recourse is limited. The political nature of these measures hence requires state intervention as a result of concerted engagement.

All efforts must be made to end these measures of dispossession and to secure a sustainable solution which will safeguard the families' rights to their homes, communities, and city.

A map illustrating the growing ring of Israeli settlement and control around the Old City Basin marked by evictions of Palestinians, residential settler enclaves, touristic settlement sites, green space, and national parks. 

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