Over 80 UK parliamentarians call on Israel to stop the dispossession of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, or face diplomatic consequences

Over 80 British parliamentarians representing all parties, in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, wrote in a letter to the British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab that the British government must do everything in its power to prevent the mass/forced 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. British lawmakers have made it clear that these evictions, some of which have already taken place, are a violation of international law, and that it is Britain's job to make sure they do not happen.

In the letter, parliamentarians said: "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”. 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 comes a day before the appeal hearing of four Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah. The families are in danger of dispossession due to the claim that the land on which their homes were built belonged to Jews before 1948, but the families cannot claim the properties they lost in ‘48 within the Green Line.

The letter, sent by Julie Elliott MP and Rt Hon Baroness Sayeeda Warsi as co-chairs of the Britain-Palestine All-Party Parliaemntary 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.

Members of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group recently heard from Palestinian writer Mohammed El-Kurd and Israeli settlement expert, and Director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Programme, Hagit Ofran about the looming threat of dispossession that hundreds of Palestinians face in East Jerusalem, in neighbourhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. As neighbours to these Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, the British Consulate in Jerusalem knows full well of the anxieties and trauma that exists, not least because some of our own Consulate colleagues are part of these families.

El-Kurd, whose family was dispossessed in 1948, and were robbed of part of their home in 2009, spoke movingly about living in constant fear that settler organisations backed by the Israeli government will take over their family home. In the coming weeks this fear is very likely to turn to reality. Ofran highlighted how these takeovers contradict international law.

On 9 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. Israeli settlers as well as government and municipality officials speak openly about wishing to control the demographics of the city. Any actions by the occupying power to alter Jerusalem’s character, status or demographic composition are illegal under international law.

We welcome Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office statements notably the Minister of State’s response to a written parliamentary question on 22 January.  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. 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 UK government must urge the government of Israel to put a stop to the forcible transfer of families from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem. The British Consulate needs to ensure that regular visits are made to Palestinian families and communities under threat of mass/forcible eviction and dispossession, in East Jerusalem and across the rest of the West Bank, demonstrating full solidarity and all assistance to them within its power. Events in Jerusalem also have a history of escalating tensions rapidly in a very damaging fashion.

The UK government should make clear to its Israeli counterpart that relations cannot continue as normal in the event of such transgressions.  All measures should be considered 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.  Settlements are illegal so such a step is not a sanction but a measure designed to ensure that the UK does everything in its power to ensure it does not assist in such serious breaches of international law.

Yours sincerely,

Julie Elliott MP (Co-Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group)

Rt Hon Baroness Sayeeda Warsi (Co-Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group)

Raab letter

Raab 2

Raab 3

Full list of signatories:

Julie Elliott MP (Co-Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group)

Rt Hon Baroness Sayeeda Warsi (Co-Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Parliamentary Group)

Rt Hon Diane Abbott MP

Lord John Alderdice

Rushanara Ali MP

Paula Barker MP

Apsana Begum MP

Clive Betts MP

Rt Hon Baroness Tessa Blackstone

Baroness Christine Blower

Crispin Blunt MP

Tracy Brabin MP

Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP

Alan Brown MP

Richard Burgon MP

Rt Hon Lord Menzies Campbell of Pittenweem QC

Dan Carden MP

Rt Hon Alistair Carmichael MP

Lord Rupert Carrington

Joanna Cherry QC MP

Rt Rev the Lord Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun

Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP

Neil Coyle MP

Rt Hon Ed Davey MP

Rt Hon Baroness Frances D’Souza

Lord Alf Dubs

Stephen Farry MP

Richard Graham MP

Lord Tony Greaves

Lord Andrew Green of Deddington

Rt Hon Lord Peter Hain

Lord John Hendy QC

Lord Clive Hollick

Baroness Sheila Hollins

Rachel Hopkins MP

Dr Rupa Huq MP

Lord Qurban Hussain

Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece

Lord Raymond Hylton

Christine Jardine MP

Kim Johnson MP

Rt Hon David Jones MP

Baroness Jenny Jones of Moulsecoomb

Baroness Judith Jolly

Lord Frank Judd

Ian Lavery MP

Baroness Ruth Lister of Burtersett

Caroline Lucas MP

Kenny MacAskill MP

Stewart McDonald MP

Rt Hon John McDonnell MP

Baroness Molly Meacher

Baroness Susan Miller of Chilthorne Domer

Navendu Mishra MP

Layla Moran MP

Grahame Morris MP

John Nicolson MP

Rt Hon Baroness Lindsay Northover

Lord Jonny Oates

Brendan O’Hara MP

Kate Osamor MP

Baroness Kathryn Pinnock

Lord Jeremy Purvis of Tweed

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

Baroness Rosalind Scott of Needham Market

Andrew Selous MP

Naz Shah MP

Baroness Shas Sheehan

Tommy Sheppard MP

Andy Slaughter MP

Alyn Smith MP

Zarah Sultana MP

Owen Thompson MP

Rt Hon Lord William Wallace of Saltaire

Rt Hon Lord Norman Warner

Claudia Webbe MP

Baroness Janet Whitaker

Dr Philippa Whitford MP

Mick Whitley MP

Lord Stewart Wood of Anfield

Lord Tony Woodley

 

Parliamentarians who have signed onto the letter after it was sent and published:

Kate Hollern MP

Tony Lloyd MP 

Stephen Flynn MP

Baroness Diana Warwick of Undercliffe

Munira Wilson MP