News and Views

Speak Up for Palestinian Refugees

By Matt Willgress, Labour & Palestine

It was recently reported that a minimum of $1.4 billion of international funding is needed to fund the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, known as UNRWA.

UNRWA’s temporary head Christian Saunders explained that “We are stretched to our limits under our shrinking budgets and the growing needs of Palestine refugees who are impacted by the same volatility and unpredictability that people face in the Middle East every day.”

A core reason this level of funding is needed is that in 2018, the Trump administration stopped US funding to UNRWA. The US had been UNRWA’s largest donor at that time, and this was a cut of nearly one-third of the agency’s budget.

These funds are vital for Palestinian refugees to survive and used for essential core services, including infrastructure, health and education, and with the spread of COVID-19 into the region – including in the besieged Gaza Strip – this support is going to become all the vital in the months ahead.

As the motion in solidarity with Palestine at the 2018 Labour Conference explained, UNRWA “provides emergency assistance and basic provisions to Palestinian victims of the Nakba of 1948, when the majority of Palestinian people were forcibly displaced from their homes.”

Indeed in 2019 UNRWA helped to provide education to over half a million children in some 700 schools across the region and enabled around 8.5 million patient visits in health facilities.

The cutting of this funding is just one of a number of measures took by Trump that have given a green light to the Israeli Government to continue and increase their aggression against the people of Palestine in recent years, which also included shifting the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Crucially, the cut to UNWRA funding was also part of undermining the right of return of Palestinians living outside of historic Palestine – saying they (the refugees UNWRA looks after) are not real refugees, and therefore don’t need to be part of any deal or solution.

This devastating and one-sided approach of Trump to the issue of Palestine recently culminated in the so-called “Deal of the Century” proposals, which were predictably welcomed by the Israeli Government and rejected by all major Palestinian groups.

As the aforementioned Christian Saunders said, “a lot of Palestinians are in a state of shock at this point in time, in a state of disbelief”.

Trump’s proposal would legalize illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, intensify the siege of Gaza, and allow Israel to annex around 30 per cent of the West Bank.

Rather than create a state of Palestine, the proposals would effectively mean there is no Palestine, merely a glorified municipality, with no army or coherent borders.

The proposing of the ‘deal’ has already lead to Israel threatening to steal ever more slices of Palestinian land, following recent election campaigns where Netanyahu has put promises of more annexations centre stage.

Now then is the time to speak up not only for Palestinian refugees but for the rights of all Palestinians. As the situation facing Palesintian refugees and UNRWA is one clear example of, this is definitely not the time to retreat on the issue, including in the Labour Party itself.

As Jeremy Corbyn rightly put it, “Donald Trump’s Middle East deal is not a peace plan. It is a plan to lock in illegal Israeli colonisation and deny Palestinian rights” and “is a threat to peace.”

And as TUC Congress said last year that the labour movement should “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.”

This means recognising (in the words of the Labour Party 2019 Conference motion) that “the proposals in Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ are a one-sided attempt to impose an unjust outcome destroying core Palestinian rights.”

The Covid-19 outbreak will lead to untold misery & death in besieged Gaza

By Hugh Lanning, Labour & Palestine

Last weekend, the devastating news broke for the people of Palestine of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the densely populated Gaza strip.
It is important for everyone in the labour and solidarity movements to understand why this is truly a nightmare situation for the people of the besieged Gaza strip, and why these 1.8 million people are particularly vulnerable.
The UN has previously warned that Gaza would be uninhabitable by 2020, and now 13 years of an illegal blockade mean that Gaza’s fragile healthcare system is already stretched to a point that it is hard for us to imagine. Covid-19 means it will now be placed under a simply unbearable strain.
Alongside this, the situation in Gaza is one of malnutrition on the rise, poorly controlled non-communicable diseases, dense living and housing conditions.
There are deep levels of poverty, the power supply is sporadic and sources of drinking water are largely contaminated.
Older people are without access to proper nursing and healthcare.
At the current time, Israel has restricted testing kits to the strip, where there are only 60 working ventilators and 2,800 hospital beds. Stocks of essential drugs are already chronically low.
As health officials have warned this week, this now means that under the current illegal Israeli siege of Gaza, containment and treatment of Covid-19 will be simply impossible.
Like all other people around the world, Palestinians have a right to access health treatment, and at this dangerous time, the international community has a duty to help uphold this right, meaning that Israeli restrictions must end.
The UN, Medical Aid for Palestine and many others have reported the denial of this right in recent years, and said the situation urgently needs to change in this regard. This change is now more important than ever.
And as Michael Lynk, a UN special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Palestine, has said this week, Israel is legally responsible for providing health services to ensure the safety of Palestinians in the occupied territories during the fight against the coronavirus.
He clearly stated: “The legal duty, anchored in Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, requires that Israel, the occupying power, must ensure that all the necessary preventive means available to it are utilised to ‘combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics’.”
He added that he was “particularly worried about the potential impact of Covid-19 on Gaza.”
For these reasons, all governments internationally, including Britain, must use all their diplomatic power to ensure that Palestinians have access to all the healthcare they need, and that the siege of Gaza ends immediately.
The international community must say clearly that the denial of medicines and other basic resources by the Israeli government to the people of Gaza is a form of collective punishment and illegal under international law.
Lynk has previously noted that Israel is already in “profound breach” of its international obligations with regards to the right to healthcare of Palestinians living under occupation.
If Israel does not fulfil its obligations, there can be no doubt that many innocent people will die unnecessarily, and awful harm done to countless others.
Labour members have expressed amazing support for Palestinian rights at our last two conferences.
Now we must be part of the growing and crucial international calls for an end to the siege of Gaza and in support of the Palestinian people’s right to access healthcare.
Our international solidarity at this vital time can lead to thousands of lives being saved.

  • Please take action by writing to the Foreign Office on this issue using the PSC online tool at mstar.link/GazaEndTheSiege
  • This article originally appeared in ‘The Morning Star’ here.

Under Trump’s plan, there will be no Palestine – Tony Burke

Trump says his ‘deal’ will create a “New Palestine”. It won’t, writes Tony Burke of Unite the Union and Labour & Palestine.

If you believe the increasingly erratic US President, the contents of his “Deal of the Century” proposals will allegedly ‘resolve’ the issue of Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza by the creation of a “New Palestine.”

In fact, they will do nothing of the sort. They can be summed up as a concerted attempt to destroy the Palestinian cause by stopping all vital funding to the humanitarian agency UNRWA for Palestinian refugees, increasing the siege of Gaza, and rapidly expanding illegal settlements.

The UK government’s response to the ‘deal’ was unsurprising but still deeply disturbing. Boris Johnson told Trump it was “a positive step forwards,” whilst Dominic Raab called it “a serious proposal” worthy of “genuine and fair consideration.”

In contrast, Labour’s current leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the ‘deal in this tweet:

Jeremy Corbyn

@jeremycorbyn

Donald Trump’s Middle East deal is not a peace plan. It is a plan to lock in illegal Israeli colonisation and deny Palestinian rights. It is a threat to peace.

The UK government should oppose this travesty and press for a real peace deal and a genuine two state solution.

In reality, under Trump’s plan there will be no Palestine — merely a glorified municipality, with no army or coherent borders.

In the plan, the land currently militarily occupied by Israel would be divided up. Israel could annex all the settlements and land it wants in the West Bank – including the Jordan valley – into a greater Israel.

Palestinians living in this area would be accorded the second-class citizenship currently accorded to Palestinian citizens of Israel. Jordan would impose guardianship over the remaining parts of the West Bank, and Egypt would govern Gaza.

International law and the UN recognise the state of Israel based on the boundaries prior to 1967 when Israel’s military occupation started. Multiple resolutions say there should be a Palestinian state, but Israel has never recognised a Palestinian state nor ever defined its own borders.

One can see why. Since 1967, Israeli authorities have denied that the Geneva Convention applies to its occupation and therefore it can annex territories under its military control.

So, by what criteria should the Trump deal be judged? Dictionaries define a deal as an “an agreement entered into by two or more parties for their mutual benefit.” By any definition of a deal Trump’s fails — there is no agreement or mutual benefit.

Through the force of armed and economic power it is intended to impose the deal on Palestinians as a one-sided attempt to systematically destroy and take off the table their collective rights under international law.

History has shown that bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine are inherently unequal — with the US, as Trump is showing perhaps more than any other President, the dishonest broker and enforcer.

There is then a very real risk of Palestine being forcibly carved up and atomised before our eyes and the ‘deal of the century’ must be firmly opposed.

As TUC Congress passed last year, the labour movement should “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.”

This means recognising (in the words of the Labour Party Conference motion) that “the proposals in Trump’s ‘deal of the century’are a one-sided attempt to impose an unjust outcome destroying core Palestinian rights.”

There will not be a just solution if the solution proposed is not based on the consent of the Palestinian people, including by recognising their international rights to self-determination and to return to their homes. It is not a solution if it doesn’t recognise equality for all.

We must therefore have a strong and determined show of solidarity to confront the Trump sponsored ‘Deal of the Century’, including from the Labour Party itself.

  • This piece was originally published on Left Foot Forward here.

Now is the time to Speak Up For Palestine – Hugh Lanning

By Hugh Lanning, Labour & Palestine

The title of Kubrick’s film “eyes wide shut” aptly describes the attitude of successive UK and other Western Governments to Israel’s aggressive colonisation of Palestine.

To put it simply, they believe it is necessary to turn a blind eye to some failings to keep a relationship alive.

The Israeli Government itself has a two-pronged strategy.

It is important to understand that this is not a conspiracy – it is a plan and an open political strategy. People don’t have to believe those of us who stand in solidarity with Palestine, they just need to listen to Israel’s Government itself.

Firstly, it is not to pursue peace. Israel has never recognised the right of Palestine to exist or defined its own borders.

As Trump grants Netanyahu his wish list, so the wish list then grows, covering areas such as the status of Jerusalem and settlements, plus demands for further annexation.

This adds up to the subjugation of the Palestinian people as a whole and Israel’s intention is to confine as many Palestinians as possible on as little land as possible.

Secondly, central to their strategy is the – to quote Israel’s influential Reut Institute – ‘outing, naming and shaming’ of their opponents, who are critics of the Israeli Government’s policies.

It is within this context, that MPs, Lords, trade unions, Labour and Palestine together with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others have sent a letter to all Labour Leadership candidates asking them to commit to speaking up for Palestine.

All the candidates have made statements criticising Trump’s so-called ‘deal of the century’ which ignores UN policy on Palestine. But looking at their track records on Palestine, none hold a light to the present incumbent Jeremy Corbyn, and this will make our campaigning on the issue all the more important.

The letter therefore asks for candidates to commit to make a priority of ensuring that the Labour party’s policy towards Palestine is rooted in respecting international law and UN resolutions recognising the collective rights of the Palestinian people including their right to self -determination.

It also asks for commitments to an ethical trade policy including in relation to Israel, including a commitment to stop any arms trade with Israel used in the violation of human rights of Palestinians.

This will require action starting with holding accountable those British companies named in the UN’s recently published database listing companies active in illegal Israeli settlements.

Finally, it addresses the threats posed to freedom of expression by the Government’s proposed law to stop public bodies from making decisions not to invest in companies complicit in a state’s human rights abuses where the Government itself has not imposed sanctions.

This last point is vital as we have already seen in Boris Johnson’s legislative agenda a proposal to outlaw here the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns called for by Palestinians until Israel ends the occupation and complies with international law.

As part of our campaigning on Palestine in the Labour Party and here in Britain, we also have to recognise Britain’s historical role in the colonisation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Wherever you see a straight line on a map, you can guarantee the British were involved somewhere. Syria, Iran, Iraq and many others were not self-determined nations. They were colonial constructs.

After World War 1 Palestine came under British control – which, although not ours to give, was handed over to enable the creation of modern Israel – initially with the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and then after WW2  standing aside during  the Nakba – the expulsion of Palestinians from their land and homes in 1947/8.

This is something which continues to this day, and we need to set out the brutal truth that again today, Palestinians are being systematically expelled from their homes. This is being endorsed by Trump, who in turn is endorsed by Boris Johnson.

Now Trump’s “deal of the century” is leading to Israel threatening to steal ever more slices of Palestinian land.

Labour and all UK parties need to remove the blinkers and, with their eyes wide open, act on the reality they see.  Israel’s Government needs to be treated as what it is – an aggressive, law-breaking power which needs to be pressured to behave in line with international law, not given the favoured treatment it receives.

Now is not the time to retreat on support for Palestine but to speak up and organise to defeat both Trump’s plan and organise to defeat Johnson’s plan to keep us quiet on the issue.

In other words, now is the time to speak up for Palestine.

Letter to Labour leadership candidates on Palestine policy

The following letter has been sent to all of the candidates in the Labour leadership and deputy leadership elections. It was signed by ourselves at Labour and Palestine, representatives of core groupings, Members of Parliament, Trade Unions, and prominent party members with a track record of campaigning on internationalism and human rights.

The letter asks for candidates to commit to make a priority of ensuring that the Labour party’s policy towards Palestine is rooted in respecting international law and UN resolutions recognising the collective rights of the Palestinian people including their right to self determination and the right to return.

It asks for commitments to an ethical trade policy including in relation to Israel, and including a commitment to stop any arms trade with Israel used in the violation of human rights of Palestinians. These commitments reflect policy passed at the last Labour Party Conference.

It also addresses the threats posed to freedom of expression by the Government’s proposed law to stop public bodies from making decisions not to invest in companies complicit in a state’s human rights abuses where the Government itself has not imposed sanctions.

We will be publicising all responses we get from candidates.

____________________________________________________________

Respecting International Law and Human Rights

US President Donald Trump’s so-called ‘deal of the century’ represents not a proposal for peace but a demand to the Palestinian people to live under conditions of inequality, external control and occupation in perpetuity. Palestinians are denied their core collective rights and are being offered no viable state, but instead a series of Bantustans with no capital in historic Jerusalem and no pathway for the realisation of the rights of Palestinian refugees enshrined in UN resolutions.

The plan undermines international law, making no mention of illegal settlements or occupation. Instead, Israel is given the green light to annex further swathes of the West Bank, which the US would then recognise.

The UK Government’s welcoming of the deal, even while hiding behind its avoidance of formal endorsement of the plan, does a disservice to the cause of peace and is a shameful contradiction of historic and bipartisan UK-expressed support for international law and UN resolutions, including the non-acquisition of territory by force and the confirming of the rights of Palestinians, inter alia the right to self-determination.

In its flirtation with the plan, HMG has stepped further back from a UK foreign and trade policy predicated on respect for international law and human rights – which should be applied not just to Israel-Palestine, but to all instances where violations of international law are taking place in war and conflict zones in which the UK could be implicated and to other arenas vital to our future including environmental policy and climate change.

But this Trump White House plan announced on Tuesday January 28th did not emerge in a vacuum. This assault on all who strive for peace and justice, on the rule of law and on a normative values-driven international order, had its enablers. Reaching this point was facilitated by sins of both omission and commission that include the actions of successive UK governments in failing to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. The current government is now taking unprecedented measures to guarantee those actions will even be protected under UK law.

The Johnson government has announced its intention – in the Queen’s Speech and accompanying notes – to introduce legislation to stop all public bodies from making purchasing, procurement and investment decisions not in line with UK government foreign policy and sanctions.

This will severely limit the freedom of expression of civil society, public bodies and democratic institutions to spend, invest and trade ethically in line with international law and human rights across all issues including the environment and fossil fuel industries, the arms trade and conflict situations including, but not limited to, Yemen.

Its aim is to limit the effectiveness of those campaigning peacefully in pursuit of policies with which the government disagrees. In particular, the government has stated publicly that the prime motivation for the legislation is to limit the effectiveness of lawful, non-violent campaigns in support of Palestinian rights.

This kind of UK Government position helped create the enabling environment in which the US plan was introduced and helps empower and guarantee impunity for those in Israel who are now pushing to annex further areas of the illegally occupied West Bank.

We welcome the statements you have made opposing Trump’s deal. We also recall policy adopted at the Labour Party Conference in 2019 stating that a Palestine policy based on human rights and international law meant applying those principles to trade with Israel, including any arms traded or used in violation of human rights. This policy was later reflected in the Party manifesto.

If elected as Leader of the Labour Party will you commit:

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 a consistent ethical UK trade policy, including in relation to 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 oppose the government’s proposed restrictive legislation regarding procurement and investment and, if that is passed, to promise that a future Labour government would make it a priority to rescind laws which restrict the globally recognised rights to freedom of expression and association to campaign for ethical trade policies.

Signed:

Andy Slaughter MP

Yasmin Qureshi MP

Baroness Tessa Blackstone

Baroness Christine Blower

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union

Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF

Barbara Plant, President of GMB

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of TSSA

Kamel Hawwash, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Ben Jamal, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Hugh Lanning, Labour and Palestine

Asad Rehman

Labour Speaks Up For Palestine

By Matt Willgress, Labour & Palestine

It was uplifting to see Labour Conference this year overwhelmingly pass a motion in support of peace and justice for Palestine.

The motion argued that “Labour’s ethical foreign policy must prioritise Palestinians’ rights to freedom, justice and equality, including by applying these principles based on international law to all UK trade with Israel,” and resolved “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.”

In one of a number of great speeches in the debate, Unite Assistant General Secretary Tony Burke said that “this motion calls for our solidarity at a critical moment [as] the Palestinians, occupied and besieged, are facing a new attack.”

The motion came just weeks after TUC Congress also passed a strong motion in solidarity with the Palestinian people entitled “Palestine – supporting rights to self-determination.”

The motion rightly noted that “The US and Israeli administrations are destroying prospects for peace in Palestine – by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, stopping funding for Palestinian refugees, the continuing siege of Gaza, expanding illegal settlements and plans to annex illegally large areas of the West Bank.”

As PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka commented, “Over the past few weeks, we have seen a strong show of solidarity between the UK labour movement and the people of Palestine in their struggle for freedom. This is something we should be proud of.”

This solidarity couldn’t be more important in a situation where recent actions by US and Israeli administrations are destroying prospects for peace in Palestine, and the proposals in Trump’s “deal of the century” are a one-sided attempt to impose an unjust outcome destroying core Palestinian rights.

In addition to the policies mentioned above, we have seen Netanyahu announce plans to annex illegally large areas of land occupied in 1967.

And, linked to this, there was the demolition and destruction of Palestinian homes in Wadi Hummus in July. This was not just another ‘nasty act’ by Israel as part of its on-going – 50-year-old – military occupation.

We should be clear that it was a conscious and deliberate step by the Trump-Netanyahu alliance to push the envelope of global acquiescence to Israel’s continuing and continuous violation of international law and Palestinian human rights.

The overall situation for the people of Palestine is that the ongoing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and siege of Gaza undermines any prospect of a viable Palestinian economy and leaves millions of Palestinians in poverty and extremely vulnerable to precarious, low-paid work, unemployment and underemployment.

Labour members must understand that Britain has a special responsibility to redress the ongoing injustices against the Palestinian people, denied their right to self-determination during the British Mandate, not least because of the role Britain played as a colonial power during the 1948 Nakba when Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes. As part of this, we must work to stop any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians and as the motion at Conference declared, “work globally for an alliance with progressive sister parties rejecting trade agreements with Israel that fail to recognise the rights of Palestinians.”

Israel’s banning this Summer, at Trump’s request, of a visit by two Muslim US Democrat Congresswoman, was yet another demonstration of their joint determination to silence criticism and democratic action aimed at holding Israel to account for its violations of Palestinian rights.

We must not be silenced – now is the time to speak up for Palestine.

In passing the motion at Conference this year, Labour made it clear that its ethical foreign policy should always mean that Labour will side with the oppressed, not the oppressor.

Now this policy is in place, it is up to us in the Labour Party to put the substance into practice.

As Tony Burke also said in the debate at Conference, “Comrades, as our movement has always said, an injury to one is an injury to all. We stand alongside the Palestinian people – people facing the massive forces arrayed against them with dignity, fortitude and courage. They will not struggle alone.”

  • Sign up to Labour and Palestine’s statement here

“They do not struggle alone” – Unite speech in support of Palestine at Labour Conference 2019

Please find below the speech given by Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union, to support the motion in support of Palestine at Labour Conference 2019 – you can read the motion passed here:

“Tony Burke, Unite, proud to speak in support of this motion in support of the Palestinian people – a motion that highlights the escalating attacks taking place against them.

Today, we call upon our labour movement to return to its greatest tradition: solidarity. 

From the ranks of this movement, our comrades have fought and died in the battle against fascism in Spain, have campaigned for the end to British colonial rule around the world and played a crucial role bringing down the evils of apartheid in South Africa.

This motion calls for our solidarity at a critical moment. The Palestinians, already occupied and besieged, are now facing a new attack.

There is a need for a strong determined show of solidarity to confront the Trump sponsored ‘Deal of the Century’, which is nothing less than a concerted attempt to destroy the Palestinian cause by stopping all vital funding to the humanitarian agency UNRWA for Palestinian refugees, increasing the siege of Gaza, and rapidly expanding illegal settlements.

The motion calls for Labour to address this by adopting an ethical and internationalist foreign policy, including by ending arms sales to Israel that are used for aggression and human rights abuses.

Comrades, as our movement has always taught, an injury to one is an injury to all. This motion gives us a chance to stand alongside the Palestinian people, who are facing the massive forces arrayed against them with dignity, with fortitude and with courage.

They do not struggle alone.”

Peace & Justice for Palestine – Motion Passed by Labour Conference 2019

Please find below the text of the motion carried nearly unanimously at Labour Party Conference 2019 in support of peace and justice for Palestine.

Conference notes:

  • Recent actions by US and Israeli administrations are destroying prospects for peace in Palestine – by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, stopping funding UNRWA for Palestinian refugees, the continuing siege of Gaza, expanding illegal settlements and announcing plans to annex illegally large areas of land occupied in 1967.
  • The proposals in Trump’s “deal of the century” are a one-sided attempt to impose an unjust outcome destroying core Palestinian rights.

Conference believes:

  • Labour’s ethical foreign policy must prioritise Palestinians’ rights to freedom, justice and equality, including by applying these principles based on international law to all UK trade with Israel.
  • An internationalist Labour Party has a special responsibility to redress the ongoing injustices against the Palestinian people, denied their right to self-determination during the British Mandate, because of the role Britain played as a colonial power during the 1948 Nakba when Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes.

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.

TUC Speaks Up for Palestine

In an important decision this week, TUC Congress passed a motion (see below) expressing its solidarity with Palestine, and supporting policy based on prioritising “Palestinians’ rights to freedom, justice and equality.”

Speaking in the debate, Philippa Marsden, Unite representative and member of the recent trade union women’s delegation to Palestine, said that “besieged and blockaded from all sides, the Gaza Strip remains the world’s largest prison,” adding that, “but increasing numbers of annexations and the building of illegal settlements has built a string of mini Gazas across the country,” and concluding that “All of us here must redouble our efforts to build solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

Continue reading “TUC Speaks Up for Palestine”

Speak up against the demolition of Palestinians’ homes

By the Labour & Palestine Team.

Wadi Hummus is a neighbourhood in the Palestinian district of Sur Baher within part of East Jerusalem illegally occupied by Israel in 1967. On Monday 22nd July Israeli soldiers stormed hundreds of residential homes and began bulldozing them – cheering and taking selfies as they blew the houses up.

House demolitions are not new, but this is part of the largest demolition programme since 1967 – egged on by President Trump’s support for Israel’s annexation of Palestinian land. However, these demolitions are particularly significant, because Sur Baher is not only located on occupied Palestinian land, but is in areas supposedly under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

The ostensible excuse for this is that the houses are too close to Israel’s wall that illegally imprisons millions of Palestinians in their own land. The problem with this argument is that 85% of the wall is built occupied Palestinian territory. It was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.

Of course, if proximity of the houses was the real issue, it could be readily solved by taking down the wall or moving it out of occupied Palestinian territories. But the wall is used to grab land and the demolitions are part of a systematic programme to drive Palestinians out of Jerusalem.

Home demolitions are caused directly by Israel’s ongoing policy of settlement expansion. As Amnesty International said in a statement, “Israel must immediately end its cruel and discriminatory policy of home demolitions and forced displacement. Instead of destroying families’ homes Israel must dismantle parts of the fence/wall built inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including in parts of Sur Baher, in violation of international law.”

According to OCHA (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), Israel has destroyed 126 structures in East Jerusalem – displacing 203 people – in the short time between the 2nd January and 17th July 2019 alone, and sadly this is a very familiar story for the Palestinian people.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a party, the transfer of the population by an occupying state into an occupied territory is a breach of article 147. Furthermore, destruction of property which is not rendered absolutely necessary by military operations is a breach of Article 53.

Labour Conference policy last year made clear that the UK is legally required to take action in upholding international law. This should mean not facilitating and supporting the settlement infrastructure through trade or by selling arms to Israel which could be used for the human rights abuses of the Palestinian people.

With Trump ally, Boris Johnson, becoming Prime Minister – this is a key time for Labour to speak up about the dangerous shift in US policy on Israel since Trump became President, which is encouraging a more aggressive stance from Israel’s reactionary government.

Since Trump’s election, we have seen a number of hostile acts including shifting the US Embassy to Jerusalem, cutting all aid to UNRWA (the official UN agency for assisting Palestinian refugees) and the proposal of the so-called  ‘deal of the century’ which would in fact kill all possibility of an independent Palestinian state.

Now more than ever we must argue that Britain must take a stand for Palestinians’ human rights.

  • You can follow Labour & Palestine on Twitter here and Facebook here, and sign their Speak Up for Palestine statement here.
  • The Palestine Solidarity Campaign have an online tool where you can ask your MP to speak up on this issue here and Jewish Voice for Peace have produced this video here.