UK must take action to stop Israeli war crimes in occupied East Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah

UK must take action to stop Israeli war crimes in occupied East Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah

6 May 2021

We urge political action to be taken by the UK Government, and other members of the international community, to stop the forced eviction, displacement and dispossession of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, occupied East Jerusalem. The UK government is well aware that the forcible transfer of an occupied population constitutes a war crime under international law. 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.  

There is most definitely scope for political action - including from the UK, because in spite of Israeli excuses, this is not simply about a private civil dispute between two parties, it is grounded in discriminatory Israeli law. Israel's legal and judicial system maintains the law of occupier that is designed to work against the occupied, in this case the Sheikh Jarrah families. It is therefore so vital that political pressure and action intensifies, because the families will not obtain justice under a discriminatory system that is stacked against them and in the favour of illegal Israeli settlers wishing to take over their homes. It is little wonder that the families rejected an Israeli Supreme Court ‘deal’ that would declare the homes are owned by settler organisations and would require the Palestinian families to pay rent to Israeli settlers, and be granted the right to live in the home. Some of the families were given until 6 May to reach such a ‘deal’.

Whilst we welcome the statement from the UK Consul General, and his visit to Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, 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. We welcome the February 2021 statement from over 80 UK parliamentarians, which stated:  

“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.” 

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 .The UN Secretary-General recommended that Israel reviews the application of planning laws and policies to ensure that they are in accordance with Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  The international community should also be including demands for the return of homes that have already been taken as well as demanding accountability for the actions of Israeli officials. 

Finally, we abhor the distressing scenes of Israeli police brutality, which has frequently been deployed against these families and their supporters whilst holding vigils and protests to protect their homes, and stand in support and solidarity with them as they seek justice and accountability. The UK government and the rest of the international community should condemn in absolute terms, the ways in which knees were placed on the necks of members of the Sheikh Jarrah families and other Palestinians, the use of batons, tear gas and skunk spray, and other forms of police violence used on those trying to save their community from forced eviction and dispossession. 

Commenting on this, Caabu’s Joseph Willits said:

“ It is no surprise to me that we are seeing many Palestinian families facing the grim and brutal realities of forced eviction and dispossession such as in Sheikh Jarrah, and demolitions of Palestinian homes and destruction of livelihoods in other parts of the West Bank including in East Jerusalem. As more Palestinians are made homeless and their rights trampled on (often through military raids, arrest and physical abuse), the staggering lack of concern through a lack of action from governments and the international community increases and is oftentimes palpable in its hypocrisy. The forcible transfer of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah (which would constitute a war crime) is happening merely a hop, skip and a jump away from the Consulates of Britain, Belgium, Spain and Sweden. We should never be surprised why so many Palestinians have contempt for a process that can barely even recognise their humanity.

There is 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. There is a serious problem when settler violence or take overs of Palestinian property or land, Israeli police and military brutality carried out with impunity, right wing Jewish extremists marching through Jerusalem chanting “death to Arabs” or the blatantly obvious lack of civil rights for Palestinians, are simply ignored or condensed down into a both-sides narrative that ignores the horrendous realities.

If we are 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.”


Notes to editors:

  1. For more information or interviews contact Joseph Willits on (+44) 7860 860 777 or [email protected]
  2. Over 80 UK parliamentarians call on Israel to stop the dispossession of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, or face diplomatic consequences
  3. Caabu join Sheikh Jarrah families and 190 organisations send a letter to the ICC calling for urgent investigation of their imminent forced displacement