Alarmed by the imminent forcible transfer of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family from their house in the Old City of Jerusalem, which is slated to occur sometime between 28 June and 13 July 2023, the Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC) vociferously assert that such manifestation of the ongoing Palestinian Nakba is a result of the international community’s deliberate failure and unwillingness to take effective and meaningful measures to end Israel’s illegal occupation, and settler-colonial apartheid regime. Accordingly, PNGO and PHROC urgently demand Third States, in compliance with their erga omnes obligations, and responsibilities as State Parties to the Rome Statute, to promptly intervene and halt the forced displacement of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family. Third States must take meaningful and effective steps to ensure that Israel’s impunity for international crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory is brought to an end.
Recently, the Israeli Enforcement and Collection Authority served 68-year-old Nora Ghaith and her 72-year-old husband Mustafa Sub Laban a compulsory “eviction” notice, ordering them to vacate their home and remove their possessions by 11 June 2023. As such, the elderly couple are now confronted with the looming threat of forcible transfer, which constitutes both a war crime and a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute. The decision to forcibly transfer Ghaith-Sub Laban family aims to facilitate the seizure and acquisition of their home in the Old City of Jerusalem by an Israeli settler organisation, and a subsequent transfer in of colonising Israeli settlers.
The Ghaith-Sub Laban family has been residing in their home as tenants since 1953, renting the property from the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. However, following the onset of the Israeli occupation in 1967, the Israeli General Custodian of Public Property assumed control over the property. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the family was temporarily displaced from their home but eventually allowed to return in 2000 after legal proceedings. In 2010, the property was privatised without notifying the family, and it was taken over by the Galetzia Trust, which has ties to settler organisations including Ateret Cohanim. The Galetzia Trust filed a court petition to forcibly “evict” the family, and in September 2014, the Magistrate Court presided over by a settler judge, granted the petition on the grounds that the family no longer held their protected tenant status. This decision was followed by two “eviction” attempts by settlers in early 2015.
Following an appeal, the Israeli High Court ruled in December 2016 that the parents of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family (Nora and Mustafa) could remain in the home as protected tenants for an additional ten years. Nevertheless, their children and grandchildren, totalling six individuals, were required to vacate the premises immediately. On 27 January 2019, the Galetzia Trust initiated a new “eviction” case against the Ghaith-Sub Laban family, taking advantage of the 2016 High Court ruling that allowed them to initiate new proceedings two years after the initial ruling.
Recently, and by unlawfully applying Israeli domestic laws to an occupied territory – which are inherently discriminatory and serve as the foundational tool to establish and maintain Israel’s settler-colonial apartheid regime –, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled to terminate the family’s protected tenancy status, and forcibly transfer them from their home. Notably, the tenancy status as a private property right is especially protected and cannot be confiscated during a military occupation. Further, Israel, the Occupying Power is obliged to maintain the laws in force status quo ante bellum and is prohibited from interceding into the civil life of the occupied population, without grounds of absolute military necessity, or for the benefit of the protected occupied population.
Specifically, the “eviction” order is based on Israel’s discriminatory Administrative Matters Law, which was enacted in 1970 and exclusively allows Israeli Jews to pursue claims to land and property ownership allegedly owned by Jews in the eastern part of occupied and illegally-annexed Jerusalem before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Meanwhile, for the past 75 years, Palestinian refugees have been denied the right to return to their properties and homes that they were forcibly displaced from during the Nakba. In some cases, Palestinian refugees in Jerusalem have their original homes a few kilometres away in the western part of the City. Not only are they denied to return to their homes, but they face the threat of displacement for a second or even third time.
For over 45 years, the Ghaith-Sub Laban family has endured a lengthy, exhausting, and unaffordable legal struggle, actively resisting recurring lawsuits, harassment, and efforts by Israel and settler organisations to forcibly displace them and seize their home for the purpose of expanding settlements in the eastern part of occupied Jerusalem. As noted by the former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, Makarim Wibisono, the Ghaith-Sub Laban case is: “illustrative of the environment in which Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem live with pressure from powerful settler organizations, and the absence of proper legal protections for Palestinians”.
Indeed, the Ghaith-Sub Laban’s case is not an isolated incident but rather emblematic of a larger widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population. The Israeli occupying authorities – mobilising its discriminatory judicial system – have consistently employed similar methods and policies to forcibly transfer dozens of Palestinian families from the Old City, Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and other neighbourhoods of the eastern part of occupied Jerusalem. According to a 2019 report by the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), approximately 199 Palestinian households are subject to “eviction” cases, placing 877 people, almost half of whom are children, at risk of displacement. In 2019, the former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, emphasised that the majority of these “eviction” claims “have been brought by settler organizations, [and] exist within the context of the unilateral annexation by Israel of occupied East Jerusalem. The Security Council, in its resolutions, affirms that all legislative and administrative measures taken by Israel to alter the character and status of Jerusalem are null and void”.
In light of the impending threat of the forcible transfer of Ghaith-Sub Laban family, we reiterate and emphasise the urgent need to move beyond mere verbal condemnations and taking concrete and effective actions. In particular, we call on:
The international community in its entirety, including the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the UN Secretary-General, the UN Security Council, Third States, and the UN Special Procedures, to urgently intervene to stop the forced displacement of Ghaith-Sub Laban family and seizure of their home;
Third States to meaningfully and effectively cooperate to end Israel’s occupation, colonisation, and apartheid regime, including through arms embargoes, economic sanctions and countermeasures against Israel; and targeted individual sanctions against Israeli settler organisations;
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate and publicly condemn the imminent forcible transfer of Ghaith-Sub Laban family, and expedite, without delay, the issuance of arrest warrants for cases in the Situation in Palestine, and to operationalise the plans announced at the Assembly of States Parties in December, for the investigation team to visit the occupied Palestinian territory in 2023; and Third States to provide full cooperation to facilitate the coordination of the visit;
Third States to revoke immediately any charitable status conferred on profiteering settler organisations domiciled in their jurisdictions, and operating in violation of international law; and to revoke and deny visas to settlers illegally present in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; and
Third States and the international community to intervene to immediately and unconditionally end Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory and dismantle Israel’s settler colonial apartheid regime, ensuring that the exercise of the rights of self-determination and return of the Palestinian people as a whole, as mandated by international law, are fulfilled.