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Media Analyses





The Facts That Al Jazeera Missed on the Sub Laban Property Dispute


A year ago, CAMERA's findings about an Israeli court decision to evict the Sub Laban family from an east Jerusalem apartment compelled both the Associated Press and The New York Times to correct their coverage of the case. The Times correction was part of 315-word Editor's Note to a feature on evictions in east Jerusalem. As revealed in CAMERA's research, the magistrate and district courts ruled that the Sub-Labans had not been living in the home for decades, thereby forfeiting their rights as protected tenants.
 
Recently Israel's High Court partially accepted the Sub Laban's appeal, thereby enabling Noura Sub Laban, the protected tenant, to remain in the property for another decade with her husband, but not her children and grandchildren. While largely accepting the lower court's findings, the High Court stated that the dispute wasn't "a clear cut case" of property abandonment, but did not provide any details about the apparent murkiness. In addition, the justices cited the risk that the couple could lose their Jerusalem residency status were they to be evicted. Other factors which contributed to the justices' decision to allow Noura and Mustafa Sub Laban to stay for a decade included the couple's advanced ages and the fact that the apartment is owned by a trust, as opposed to an individual.
 
In the wake of the new ruling, Al Jazeera English featured the family's story, but did not report any details regarding the lower courts' findings that the family abandoned the property. Ignoring the fact that the family lived elsewhere, Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons cited only Noura Sub Laban's claim that the rulings are "unjust and racist." The report's underlying message is clear: that the rulings are born out of racism as opposed to sound legal practice. 
 
 
As reported last year by CAMERA, but ignored last week by Al Jazeera, the magistrate and district courts had found:
 
- Despite the family’s claims that they lived in the apartment, electricity and water bills for the property during this period showed virtually no usage and went largely unpaid. The Sub-Labans gave contradictory explanations for the lack of water use (ranging from refraining from washing the floors, to claims that the water was connected to a neighbor's infrastructure.)
 
- A (Jewish) neighbor living in the apartment opposite testified that no one had lived in the Sub-Laban's apartment during the years in question.
 
- The store (part of the property) was for many years unlocked, and its door was broken.
 
- A phone was only installed in 2010. 
 
- The Sub-Labans didn't call any witnesses to testify that they were living in the apartment despite the fact that many neighbors and family members could have theoretically been called. Additionally, a private investigator testified that he had interviewed neighbors and none of them knew the Sub-Labans.
 
Like earlier Sub-Laban media coverage which subsequently improved following CAMERA's work, the new Al Jazeera piece also deceptively casted a fairly standard property decision in order to fit into a larger nefarious narrative in which "Israeli settlers were intent on depriving Palestinians their rights and the Israeli court was political in its decision."

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