United Nations Office of the High Commissioner – GENEVA (13 April 2023) – The international community must take immediate action to stop Israel’s forced evictions and displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem as part of Israel’s annexation and de-Palestinianisation of the city, UN experts* said today.
“The world’s attention has been focused on Israel’s recklessness in Al-Aqsa, rockets fired from Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, with deadly attacks against Israeli and international civilians making headlines. All the while, tenfold Palestinian deaths were not making similar headlines,” the experts said.
“There has been an ongoing and unchecked tragedy: the forced eviction of Palestinians from their homes,” they said.
“Despite efforts of international organisations and activists, Palestinians under Israeli occupation continue to be forced out of their homes and dispossessed of their land and properties on the basis of discriminatory laws,” the experts said. They said these laws were designed to consolidate Jewish ownership in Jerusalem, irredeemably altering its demographic composition and status.
“Israel’s transfer of its own population into the occupied territory confirms a deliberate intention to colonise the territory it occupies – a practice strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law,” they said, reiterating their past statement. “It amounts to a prima facie war crime.”
An estimated 150 Palestinian families in the Old City of Jerusalem adjacent neighbourhoods such as Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah are at risk of forced eviction and displacement by Israeli authorities and settler organisations. Over the past decades, hundreds of Palestinian properties in occupied East Jerusalem have been taken over by settlers, in part due to a law that claims to allow the transfer of pre-1948 Jewish property to the ‘original Jewish owners’ or their ‘heirs’. According to the experts the law helps settler organizations expropriate Palestinian properties through a manipulation of the law.
“This is lawfare in action. The law is discriminatory and acquisitive by design, and no such right to restitution exists for the over 1 million Palestinians and their descendants who were displaced and dispossessed from Jerusalem, Israel, and the rest of the West Bank and Gaza as of 1947 and in 1967. They are still longing for justice,” the UN experts said.
The experts expressed specific concern for three families in East Jerusalem: the Shehade family in Silwan, the Ghaith-Sub Laban family in the Old City, and the Salem family in Sheikh Jarrah. Despite living in their homes for many decades under a protected tenancy lease, these families have faced eviction lawsuits filed by settler organisations seeking to take over their properties for years. The Ghaith-Sub Laban family has already exhausted all legal avenues to challenge the eviction order, and the Israeli authorities have served them with a notice to vacate their house by 25 April, or face forced eviction.
“This is in blatant violation of international law that does not confer the occupying Power the authority to change the local legislation unless strictly required by security needs: settler-colonial intent and interests are not a security need,” the experts said.
“The establishment and expansion of settlements constitute a grave breach of international law, prosecutable under the Rome Statute. No State should passively acquiesce with these illegal acts to trump the rights of Palestinians to self-determination, adequate housing, property, non-discrimination” the experts stressed.
“For the Palestinians, the enjoyment of human rights is a far-off hope as the suppression of these rights is part of the very architecture of the Israeli occupation,” they said.
“The almost 56-year long occupation and the way it is allowed to conduct itself with general impunity and without consequences, makes a farce of international law and the credibility of the system mandated to enforce it. The occupation must end with all deliberate speed and until that day, Israel must comply fully with international humanitarian law and international human rights law obligations.”
The experts have repeatedly raised these issues with the Government of Israel without any response to date.
**The experts: Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing; and Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.