UK Parliamentarians demand action on Israel's forcible evictions of Palestinians

A group of UK Parliamentarians have written to the UK Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron ON 30 April 2024, demanding UK action on the forcible evictions from their homes and demolitions, especially in occupied East Jerusalem.  All of the signatories have travelled with Caabu and Medical Aid for Palestinians (and some also with Amnesty UK) on parliamentary delegations which have visited the neighbourhoods of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem. The letter was sent by Caabu board member and Liberal Democrat MP, Rt Hon. Alistair Carmichael.

Their demands include an end to Israel's discriminatory and racially motivated demolitions of Palestinian homes, increased sanctions on settlers involved in the forced dispossession of Palestinians , including Israel’s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben Gvir; Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor, Arieh King, a proscription of settler groups involved in the forced eviction of Palestinians – including those with charitable status in the UK, and a full ban imposed on all business with Israeli settlements in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.

Dear Foreign Secretary,

As British Parliamentarians who have visited areas of occupied East Jerusalem under threat, including Bustan in the neighbourhood of Silwan, and Sheikh Jarrah, we write to you to demand urgent UK action to protect Palestinians from forcible evictions from their homes and demolitions. All such evictions are illegal under international law. Some 1,500 people in Bustan alone face forcible eviction by Israeli state-backed settler groups. 

On a recent delegation with Caabu, Medical Aid for Palestinians and Amnesty UK, some of us heard from local grassroots activists in Bustan of the longstanding plight of some 1,550 residents to protect their homes from Israeli demolitions and settler takeovers, and the right to build homes on the land they own – including in co-resistance with Israeli peace activists. Across occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinian homes and neighbourhoods are coveted by hard-line Israeli settlers and settler organisations, many of whom have charitable ties in the UK. This forms part of a systematic effort to further encircle and “Judaize” Jerusalem, preventing East Jerusalem from being the capital of a viable and secure Palestinian state, and further isolating it from the rest of occupied Palestinian territory. These settler groups are clearly accelerating their activities whilst the focus is on Gaza.

Israeli courts have ruled in favour of the forced dispossession of Palestinians from their homes in favour of Israeli settlers, in both Batan al-Hawa in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. In both cases, Palestinian families have been instructed to vacate their homes.  A failure to do so will mean they are forcibly removed. 

On 14 February 2024, Israeli authorities stormed and then later demolished the Bustan home of leading Palestinian community leader Fakhri Abu Diab, leaving him and his family homeless. Ostensibly, this demolition was carried out as part of the wider Israeli plan to replace Silwan residents’ homes with a biblical theme park. However, it is more likely that it was in retaliation against Fakhri’s community work. He brought international attention to the plight of the Palestinians in his community by hosting the EU Representative (Ambassador Alex Stutzmann) and Deputy Assistant US Secretary of State, Andrew P. Miller, in January 2024.Lord Ahmad tweeted: “It is unacceptable. I condemn this and all demolitions. Israel must halt this policy now.” The State Department issued a long statement, too. Over two months later nothing has changed, Israel continues this policy, and has even accelerated it with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaking of increasing its scope.  What action will the government take to ensure there are consequences for such violations of international law?

Israel’s illegal policies of forcible displacement, which constitute a war crime in international law, have long taken place. Both the Israeli government and Israeli state-backed settlers have acted with impunity for decades.  Settler violence against Palestinians has intensified; as these forcible dispossessions point to, there needs to be accountability for such violations.

As part of this process, the Israeli authorities have, whilst demolishing Palestinian properties, been expanding Israeli settlements inside occupied East Jerusalem as well as those that surround the city, cutting it off for Palestinians from the rest of the West Bank. The demolitions in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan are designed to clear the area for illegal settlement expansion. As far back as February 2016 after you yourself visited as Prime Minister, you described the “effective encirclement of East Jerusalem—occupied East Jerusalem” as “genuinely shocking”. The settlements and associated infrastructure around Jerusalem has grown massively since then.  

We call on the UK Government to demand and implement the following:

  • A total end to discriminatory, racially motivated demolitions in East Jerusalem, as well as in Area C of the West Bank and inside Palestinian communities in Israel (for example, the Negev).
  • A demand that the Jerusalem Municipality reveals its current plan for Bustan, instead of withholding it from the residents’ lawyer.
  • Increased sanctions on settlers involved in the forced dispossession of Palestinians, including Israel’s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben Gvir; Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor, Arieh King; and all Israeli officials and individuals involved. 
  • Proscription of settler groups involved in the forced eviction of Palestinians– including those with charitable status in the UK.
  • A full and total freeze on expansion of all settlements including those in and around East Jerusalem.
  • A full ban imposed on all business with Israeli settlements in occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.

We look forward to receiving your response. 

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon. Alistair Carmichael MP

Rt Hon. Baroness Tessa Blackstone

Olivia Blake MP

Flick Drummond MP

Baroness Barbara Janke

Layla Moran MP

Baroness Shas Sheehan

Tommy Sheppard MP

Nadia Whittome MP

Munira Wilson MP