[The following open letter was issued by the below signatories on 1 April 2015.]
We the undersigned condemn Israel’s unceasing policy of forced displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and the West Bank in general, and the recent attempted eviction of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family from their house in the Old City of Jerusalem in particular. The family holds ‘protected tenant status’ under Israeli Law, meaning that as long as they continue to pay rent they should not be subject to eviction.
The Ghaith-Sub Laban family is a Palestinian family that has lived in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem since the 1950s. Israeli settlers and Israeli security forces have attempted to evict the family twice since the beginning of this year, citing an eviction order issued by the Israeli Magistrate Court. The eviction order is based on discriminatory property policies by which Israeli Jewish settlers can claim property they allegedly owned prior to 1948. However, Palestinians are not allowed to reclaim their property captured in 1948 and are considered absent even if they still live in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
In addition to the discriminatory property policies, Israel utilizes discriminatory housing and planning policies aiming at voluntary and forced displacement of Palestinian population. Palestinians in East Jerusalem and Area “C” of the West Bank are denied planning and building permits, and are thus prohibited from building new residential units to meet the natural growth of the communities. At the same time however, Israel is expanding illegal settlements on a daily basis. Furthermore, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and in the Old City in particular, are usually denied permits to undertake repairs, including those required for the health and safety needs. This is in net contrast with the approval of any restoration or building requests submitted by Israel Jewish families.
In the case of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family, the Court endorsed testimonies by settlers who have a conflict of interest in the case, and used it as evidence to reach its decision in evicting the family. It needs to be emphasized that the Ghaith-Sub Laban’s case is not an individual case. The Israeli judicial system and Israeli authorities have employed similar methods and policies to evict dozens Palestinian families from the Old City and other neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem.
Forced eviction of Palestinians, whether it be through the means of house demolitions, forced evictions, or other discriminatory policies employed by Israel to forcibly transfer Palestinians from East Jerusalem and Area “C” of the West Bank is a flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations under international law, and in particular its obligations under both international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem which was illegally annexed by Israel after 1967 are afforded the status of protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a state party. Furthermore, Article 47 of the Convention strictly prohibits the individual or mass transfer of protected persons. Thus, Palestinians in the above-mentioned areas should be protected from forced eviction.
Furthermore forced evictions and other discriminatory policies employed by Israel are in violation of Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), on the right to adequate housing and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to protection of home and family life from arbitrary or unlawful interference. Both rights should be guaranteed on an indiscriminate basis as established in Article 2(2) of the ICESCR and Article 2(2) of the ICCPR. Furthermore, the discriminatory manner with which Palestinians and in this case the Ghaith-Sub Laban family was treated before the Courts constitutes a violation of the right to access to justice under Article 14(1) of the ICCPR.
We call upon call upon the Israeli authorities to cease all acts of forced displacement of Palestinians and cease all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. In particular, we call on the Israeli authorities to cancel the eviction of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family and to ensure the family retains rights to the property, with protected tenant status, as long as they continue to pay rent and live in the house. In addition, we call on upon third state parties to uphold their responsibility in ensuring Israel’s compliance with its obligations under international law.
We further call upon the United Nations and other International organizations to take action to pressure Israel to cease its discriminatory forced eviction policies against Palestinians, ensure the non-repetition of such violations, as well as providing former victims with appropriate reparations and redress.
Society of St. Yves – The Catholic Center for Human Rights