OVER 80 British parliamentarians representing all parties, in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, on February 8th wrote in a letter to Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, that the British government must do everything in its power to prevent the mass forcible evictions and dispossession of Palestinian families in Jerusalem.
About 200 families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan are in danger of being dispossessed following a legal battle waged against them by settler associations.
In the letter, the parliamentarians said: ‘As you are well aware, the forcible transfer of an occupied population is a grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as is the transfer of an occupier’s population into occupied territory, which includes East Jerusalem.’
They also state that ‘all measures should be on the table’ for the UK government, ‘including reducing diplomatic engagement and banning trade in settlement products in full conformity with international law obligations in order to challenge the settler economy that profits from the occupation.’
The letter came a day before the appeal hearing of four Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah.
The letter, sent by Julie Elliott MP and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi as co-chairs of the Britain-Palestine All-Party Parliamentary Group, reads:
‘Dear Foreign Secretary, We write to you with urgency because we are extremely worried about recent acceleration in attempts by Israeli settler organisations to take control of hundreds of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.
‘This would amount to the forcible/mass eviction and dispossession of hundreds of Palestinian families. As you are well aware, the forcible transfer of an occupied population is a grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as is the transfer of an occupier’s population into occupied territory, which includes East Jerusalem.
‘All this occurs in the context of Israel’s illegal annexation of occupied East Jerusalem and internationally condemned practices that include the forcible transfer of Palestinian families and settlement expansion throughout the occupied Palestinian territories …
‘On 9th February, the Israeli courts will hear an appeal on court cases regarding some of these homes, including the El-Kurd family. This verdict could have catastrophic consequences on the lives of many but at its essence this is not a legal issue, but a political one …
‘Any actions by the occupying power to alter Jerusalem’s character, status or demographic composition are illegal under international law.’
The Palestinians have responded to the letter stating: ‘We welcome Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office statements … However, we believe that, given the huge scale of this planned dispossession which would amount to the largest displacement of Palestinians since 1967, diplomatic words of concern are insufficient.’
It added: ‘After all, at the centre of such actions are hundreds of Palestinian families who are facing the imminent threat of displacement or have already endured it.
‘It is in the power of the State of Israel to stop this injustice. It is the UK’s responsibility as a High Contracting Party to the Geneva Conventions to do its absolute most to make that happen.’
The International Criminal Court ruled last Friday that it has jurisdiction over war crimes and atrocities committed in the Palestinian territories and can thus prosecute Israeli soldiers, settlers and politicians who have killed and injured large numbers of Palestinians.
The judgement paves the way for the court to open a criminal investigation into Israeli war crimes in occupied Palestine and its prosecution of these crimes. The UK government must be made to support a war crimes investigation.
The UK trade unions must now take mass actions to support the Palestinian people. They must boycott all Israeli goods and demand that the UK government recognises the state of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital, and that Israel is hauled before the War Crimes Tribunal.
The only way to peace in the Middle East is through the establishment of the State of Palestine where Jews, Christians and Muslims can live side by side in peace and security. Now is the time for the UK trade unions to support the State of Palestine!