US, EU, UN pan Israeli eviction of Palestinian family from Jerusalem’s Old City

State Department says move ‘exacerbates tensions, undercuts efforts to advance two-state solution after family loses home they’ve had since 1950s

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Noura Ghaith-Sub Laban, center, is comforted by family as she reacts to their eviction from their home in Jerusalem's Old City, July 11, 2023. (Mahmoud Illean/AP)
Noura Ghaith-Sub Laban, center, is comforted by family as she reacts to their eviction from their home in Jerusalem's Old City, July 11, 2023. (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

The United States, the United Nations and the European Union condemned the Tuesday eviction of a Palestinian family from their home in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City where they had been living since the 1950s.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sub Laban family’s eviction earlier this year, citing a law that allows Jews to reclaim properties in East Jerusalem that were owned by Jews before the formation of the state in 1948. At the same time, Israeli law bars Palestinians from reclaiming property in west Jerusalem from which they were removed as a result of that same war.

Asked to comment on the eviction, a US State Department spokesperson said Wednesday, “We have been clear that it is critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.”

“This certainly includes evictions of families from homes in East Jerusalem in which they have lived for generations,” the spokesperson added.

The EU’s Delegation to the Palestinians tweeted that it “regrets the decision by the Israeli authorities, noting that hundreds of other Palestinian families face similar evictions in East Jerusalem. “We urge the Israeli government to respect international law and let these families live where they have been living for decades.”

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement citing UN experts who argued that the eviction “is representative of a widespread and systematic practice by Israel to forcibly evict and displace Palestinians from east Jerusalem and ‘de-palestinize’ the city.”

Activists gather outside of Nora Ghaith-Sub Laban’s home after their eviction from their home to make way for Israeli owners in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 11, 2023. (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

During British rule over Mandatory Palestine, before the War of Independence over Israel’s creation in 1948, the Sub Laban’s apartment was owned by a trust for Kollel Galicia, a group that collected funds in Eastern Europe for Jewish families in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian family says it moved into the property in the early 1950s and rented it from a “General Custodian” for abandoned properties, first under Jordanian authorities and then under Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967. The case dragged on for decades, as the Israeli custodian and then the Kollel Galicia trust contested the family’s “protected” status.

Police officers came to Nora Ghaith-Sub Laban’s house in Jerusalem’s Old City early Tuesday morning, forced open the door and removed the family. Police arrested 12 people who demonstrated against the eviction Tuesday morning.

Following the eviction from the property, a Jerusalem city council member and the grandson of the late scholar and former Sephardi chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, also the founder of the ultra-Orthodox party Shas, posted pictures of himself outside the home, holding an Israeli flag.

Jerusalem’s Old City, home to holy sites of the three monotheistic faiths, was captured by Israel from Jordan along with the rest of East Jerusalem during the Six Day War, and later annexed in a move unrecognized by most of the international community.

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

Today, more than 220,000 Jews live in East Jerusalem, largely in Jewish neighborhoods that Israel regards as part of its capital. Most of East Jerusalem’s 350,000 Palestinian residents live in overcrowded neighborhoods where there is little room to build.

A similar dispute that could lead to evictions of Palestinian families in the nearby neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah stirred tensions that built up to a 2021 war between Israel and the Hamas terror group in Gaza that killed over 250 people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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