Hundreds of constituents have contacted extremely concerned by situation and violence in Palestine and Israel.
I am extremely concerned that Palestinian refugee families residing in Sheikh Jarrah are facing forced evictions and that violence has increased in Israel and Palestine.
News reports state that over 200 Palestinians were wounded outside East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque when Israeli Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades on protestors. I condemn these attacks, and across the international community, there have been widespread calls for the Israeli Government to immediately halt all forced evictions, including those in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, as well as to exercise maximum restraint in the use of force with protestors. The spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Israeli Government to halt any actions that “leads to a risk of forcible transfer”, which he said, “may amount to war crimes”.
In April, over 190 organisations supported the call of Palestinian families facing imminent forced eviction from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah upon the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate their case as part of the ongoing investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestine.
According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the situation in Sheikh Jarrah is “not an isolated incident” given that “nearly a thousand Palestinians, almost half of whom are children, are at risk of forced eviction across East Jerusalem” and that in many cases the forced eviction of Palestinians is “occurring within the context of Israeli settlement construction and expansion, illegal under international humanitarian law.”
I have publicly condemned these attempts to forcibly displace Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, which in my view, violates Israel’s human rights obligations. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office with Sarah Owen MP, Member of Parliament for Luton North, on Monday 10 May. In the letter (which is attached to this email and can be found here), alongside condemning the attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the illegal annexation of Palestinian land, we pressed the Foreign Secretary to:
Outline what representations he has made to his Israeli counterpart and the Israeli Prime Minister regarding the Israeli Government’s illegal annexation of Palestinian land.
Explain what meaningful action the UK Government intends on taking to prevent the forcible displacement of Palestinians from their homes.
Outline what discussions he has had with his international counterparts through the United Nations regarding a multilateral response to the Israeli Government’s illegal annexation of Palestinian land.
In Parliament, I also supported the application for an Urgent Question on the violence in Israel and Palestine. While I was not selected to speak, you can read the transcript here. I was also pleased to speak at Friday’s “demonstration against evictions in East Jerusalem and attacks on Al-Aqsa worshippers” outside Luton Town Hall. Please follow this link to my social media post on the demonstration.
I am extremely alarmed at the increasing death toll and that the situation has led to rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza that health officials have said have killed a number of Palestinians. On 11 May, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his deep concern over the situation, including the escalation of violence in Gaza, which adds to the “heightened tensions and violence in occupied East Jerusalem”. In particular, he expressed sadness about the “increasingly large numbers of casualties, including children”.
I have long been concerned about the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, which have been identified by the United Nations as being in breach of international law. Likewise, on 6 May, the governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement on Israeli settlements that restates the internationally recognised position that “settlements are illegal under international law, and threaten prospects for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” I agree with calls for an end to the blockade of Gaza, which undermines basic human rights and economic prospects.
In addition, Amnesty International has argued that further annexation plans “would serve only to worsen human rights violations and enshrine the entrenched impunity that has fuelled decades of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other grave violations.” The United Nations Secretary-General called on the Israeli Government to abandon the plans and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has said, “Annexation is illegal. Period”.
Further to this, I am deeply concerned that the UK Government has continued to sell arms to the Israeli Government. In 2020, the Campaign Against Arms Trade reported that the UK has licensed £376 million worth of arms to the Israeli Government since 2015. They have also noted that previous government reviews have found it likely that UK-made arms have been used against Palestinians. The Government must undertake an urgent review, which includes a plan for ceasing UK arms sales where we know they are being targeted against civilians and civilian buildings.
The Labour Party has made four firm requests of the UK Government, which are:
Demand an end to the forced evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Insist that sacred sites of all faiths are treated with the utmost respect.
Insist upon the immediate halt to all new settlements and adherence to international law.
Accept the need to recognise Palestine as a state.
I have attached the full letter sent by the Shadow Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lisa Nandy MP, to the Foreign Secretary to this email and it can also be viewed here.
I am a longstanding supporter of human rights, and I will continue to press the UK Government to put pressure on the Government of Israel to end these evictions, end the wider persecution of the Palestinian people, and take steps towards lasting peace.