Widely reported comments last week highly critical of Israeli construction in east Jerusalem by David Cameron, during Parliament’s weekly question-answer session, set off an Israeli media firestorm and a diplomatic row between Israel and the UK.
The British prime minister’s comments, which elicited a strong response from Jerusalem, came in response to a question by Bradford East Labour MP Imran Hussain. Hussain said he had visited a Palestinian woman in east Jerusalem named Nura who had lived in her home for nearly 60 years, but was being forced out by settlers.
PM David Cameron replied thusly:
I am well-known for being a strong friend of Israel, but I have to say the first time I visited Jerusalem and had a proper tour around that wonderful city and saw what had happened with the effective encirclement of East Jerusalem, occupied East Jerusalem, it is genuinely shocking,”
However, reporters covering the row failed to pay sufficient attention to the exact accusation leveled by MP Hussain which elicited Cameron’s response.
Here’s the clip.
As you can see, Hussain refers to his Palestinian “friend” Nura, who he claims had been living in the same east Jerusalem home since 1953, and is allegedly being kicked out by Israeli settlers.
Hussein is almost certainly referring to Nura Sub Laban, a Palestinian featured by Associated Press (AP) and New York Times stories about the “evictions” of Palestinian families from east Jerusalem. However, as corrections prompted by CAMERA (based on a careful examination of relevant court documents) to both stories show, claims that the Sub Labans had lived in their home continuously since 1953 are simply not true.
CAMERA provides background on the building in dispute:
before the 1948 war, the building was “owned by a trust for Kollel Galicia, a group that collected funds in Eastern Europe for Jewish families in Jerusalem.” When Jordan occupied Jerusalem in 1948, the property fell under the control of the Jordanian administration and was rented to the Palestinian Sub-Laban family in 1953. Following the 1967 war, when Israel gained control of eastern Jerusalem, the property was, according to the AP, “handed to an Israeli government department, the General Custodian. Palestinian residents were recognized as “protected tenants,” provided they continued to live in the apartments and pay rent to the Custodian.”
the Sub-Labans were never the owners of the property, but rather enjoyed “protected tenant” status. That status can be lost if the tenant abandons the property without intention of returning – and it is irrelevant whether the tenant is Jewish or Palestinian
And, herein lies the crux of the legal case against the Sub-Labans.
The court concluded that, from 2001-2010, the family did not live in the apartment, thus losing their status as “protected tenants” – and from 2010 until 2014, they had only “pretended” to live in the apartment. The court further concluded that the Sub-Labans “had been living with their extended family” and paying rent at another apartment” during that time.
CAMERA prompted a long New York Times editors note (at the end of their original story) stating that the paper “should have noted that an Israeli court in 2014 upheld a lower-court finding that [Nora Sub-Laban] had not returned to live at the property after renovations were completed in 2000 or 2001.“
The New York Times correction also noted that the original version of their story, by Dia Hadid, was based entirely on Palestinian claims, and did not take into account the landlord’s testimony or court records.
MP Hussain evidently did the same exact thing in British Parliament – relying merely on the false claims of his “friend” Nura Sub-Laban.
Hussein’s claim that the Sub-Labans are being driven out by “settlers” despite living in the same apartment “since 1953” is untrue. In fact, the Palestinian tenants are being legally evicted by landords because they lost protected status after abandoning the property for many years.
Based on the evidence, it seems that the MP’s question – framing a normal legal dispute into a case of discrimination – which prompted David Cameron to express “shock” over Israeli actions in “occupied east Jerusalem” was based on a lie.