As the new Israeli regime threatens thousands with illegal eviction, Louise Regan says it’s time for action

In recent months we have seen huge demonstrations in the UK and globally in support of the Palestinian people. These demonstrations followed several key events: firstly, the threat of forced removal from their homes of several Palestinian families in the Jerusalem area of Sheikh Jarrah; secondly, the incursions and attacks in the Al Aqsa compound by Israeli military during the Holy month of Ramadan; and finally, the military attacks on Gaza killing and injuring significant numbers of civilians, including children.

Since then, Israel has begun demolishing Palestinian structures in the Silwan area of Jerusalem. Sixteen families are under imminent threat of home demolitions, with over 4,000 facing the threat of eviction or home demolitions across Jerusalem. Residents attempting to save their community have been met with brutal violence from Israeli forces.

This is part of Israel’s demographic manipulation of Jerusalem to remove Palestinians and is a clear example of systematic ethnic cleansing. In the case of Silwan, Palestinians are being pushed out to make way for an Israeli park.

Words of condemnation are not enough. The UK has an obligation to uphold international law, which includes holding Israel meaningfully accountable for these illegal acts. 

Time and time again the Government has issued statements acknowledging the illegality of Israeli settlements and calling for Israel to cease demolishing Palestinian homes. Statements alone are not sufficient to protect Palestinian rights but must be backed up with real consequences when Israel continues to ignore international law.

Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah are high profile cases now but are by no means unique. Israel has demonstrated it will continue expanding illegal settlements and undermining peace for as long as there are no real consequences.

The Labour Party should be calling on the UK Government to take immediate action and stop allowing Israel to act with impunity. It must demand an end to current proceedings to evict these families, and start holding Israel accountable for all its actions which contribute to the crime of apartheid. This includes implementing sanctions and banning the import of goods from Israel’s illegal settlements.

Over the past few years, we have seen a real attempt to silence those voices speaking out against the injustices faced by the Palestinians. Whilst at times our government has condemned the actions of Israel, no real pressure has been exerted by them, and their outright opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign makes any real hope of changing the situation limited. Last year at TUC congress a motion was passed referring to an “apartheid Israeli state”, and the recent Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem reports clearly highlight the evidence that this is the case. Human Rights Watch’s landmark report exposing Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights found an “overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians”, which amounts to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. The report echoes the long-standing warnings from Palestinian civil society and the solidarity movement that Israel’s racist and discriminatory policies amount to the crime of apartheid. It concludes that urgent action should be taken to bring an end to Israel’s persecution of the Palestinian people.

As Palestinians have demanded time and time again, it is critical that the international community, including the UK Government and all political parties and public bodies, hold Israel to account through ending all agreements, trade and funding that supports the commission of these serious crimes. Likewise, as this report makes explicit, “businesses should cease activities that directly contribute to the commission of the crimes of apartheid and persecution”. This statement carries serious implications for companies like JCB, which has already been identified by the UN as complicit in violations of international law.

The B’Tselem report published in March 2021 found that the entire area Israel controls between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is governed by a single regime working to advance and perpetuate the supremacy of one group over another. It concludes “all of us must first choose to say no to apartheid”.

At the 2019 Labour Party Conference, a motion was passed which stated that:

Conference resolves:

  • to oppose any proposed solution for Palestinians, including Trump’s ‘deal’, not based on international law and UN resolutions recognising their collective rights to self-determination and to return to their homes;
  • to adhere to an ethical policy on all UK’s trade with Israel, in particular by applying international law on settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and stopping any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians;
  • to work globally for an alliance with progressive sister parties rejecting trade agreements with Israel that fail to recognise the rights of the Palestinians.

It is time for the Labour Party to take real action to support the Palestinians in their fight for justice, to enact Labour Party policy and to use the Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem reports to challenge the illegal actions of Israel.

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