United Nations-appointed independent human rights experts on Wednesday condemned the forced eviction and displacement of Palestinian families in east Jerusalem by Israeli police, warning the operations may amount to a war crime of forcible transfer.
In a news release issued by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), the experts said it was “deeply shocking and heartbreaking” to see an elderly Palestinian couple, Nora Ghaith and Mustafa Sub Laban, evicted from their family home where they lived all their lives and raised their children.
“As we have repeatedly said, forced evictions of Palestinians in east Jerusalem are part of Israel’s apartheid machinery at work, designed to consolidate Jewish ownership of Jerusalem and racially dominate the city’s population,” the experts, including Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, said.
According to the news release, Israeli police evicted Nora Ghaith and Mustafa Sub Laban from their home in the Old City of Jerusalem in the early hours of 11 July.
The Ghaith-Sub Laban family, who had a protected lease on the house since 1953, reportedly faced constant harassment and lawsuits from Israeli authorities and settlers seeking to seize their home under an inherently discriminatory law that applies to Palestinians in east Jerusalem, the release added.
The experts noted that case of the Ghaith Sub-Laban family was representative of a widespread and systematic practice by Israel to forcibly evict and displace Palestinians from east Jerusalem and “de-palestinize” the city. Across east Jerusalem, there are reportedly around 150 Palestinian families at risk of forced eviction and displacement by Israeli authorities and settler organizations.
“Israel’s transfer of its own population into the occupied territory is a gross violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime […] Nothing speaks more blatantly of its intention to annex and colonise the occupied territory in violation of international law,” they said.
“Israel must immediately cease these deliberate acts, which not only deliberately violate Palestinians’ rights to self-determination, non-discrimination, development, adequate housing and property, but also traumatize the affected family and the entire Palestinian community living defenceless under Israeli rule, and violate the fundamental norms and principles of international law,” the experts added.
The Human Rights Council-appointed experts added that it is “the duty of other States to put an end to the unrelenting assaults on the system of international law.”
According to the news release, the experts have repeatedly raised these issues with the Government of Israel without any response to date.
In addition to Ms. Albanese, the rights experts voicing concern included the special rapporteurs on violence against women and girls, contemporary forms of racism, human rights of internally displaced persons, and right to development; the independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons; and members of the working group on discrimination against women and girls.