LONDON: The Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) has urged the UK government and the international community to take political action to prevent the forced eviction, displacement and dispossession of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem.
“The UK government is well aware that the forcible transfer of an occupied population constitutes a war crime under international law,” CAABU said in a statement issued to Arab News.
“The international community continues to condemn such violations, including Israel’s illegal annexation of occupied East Jerusalem, forcible transfer of Palestinian populations and settlement expansions, yet little or no action is ever taken.”
Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, a district of East Jerusalem, have been fighting an Israeli court order — which CAABU calls “discriminatory” — that declared settler organizations the owner of numerous Palestinian homes, forcing the occupants out of their homes or into an arrangement that would see them pay rent to the settlers in exchange for the right to remain in place.
The UK should immediately intervene politically to prevent these evictions and dispossessions, CAABU said.
“A clear political demand that should be asked is a moratorium on evictions for Palestinians based on discriminatory law and that Israel stops applying such discriminatory laws,” it added.
Last week, the UK’s consul general in Jerusalem said: “The UK position on this is clear. East Jerusalem is occupied and it has been illegally annexed. The restitution and planning laws here, and their implementation, are unfair and they breach Israel’s obligations as an occupying power.”
CAABU welcomed the consul general’s statement, but warned that for Palestinians, “such words will do little to convince them that justice for them will be taken seriously unless the egregious human rights abuses related to their forced eviction and dispossession also come with actions and consequences for the occupying power, Israel.”
Joseph Willits, a parliamentary officer at CAABU, told Arab News: “There’s a lack of willingness by the (British) government to go further than issuing standard pro forma statements which issue condemnations, talk of a two-state solution and a peace process — but effectively, there’s no action.”
Willits echoed the demands made by over 80 British MPs in an open letter in February, which said: “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.”
He said: “There’s a willingness from so many quarters, including among so-called progressives in the UK, to justify, ignore or remain tacitly complicit in such egregious human rights abuses. We need to begin to call this anti-Palestinian racism out for what it is.”
He added: “If we’re unable to stand with, or speak up for, Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere, to help save Sheikh Jarrah, then human rights abusers globally will continue to rub their hands with glee.”