European Parliamentarians urge action on Israeli Government over attacks on Palestinian civil society, forced dispossession and illegal settlements

Numerous European parliamentarians (including in the UK) who form part of the European Parliamentarians for Israeli-Palestinian Equality, a network of those from various European parliaments of 17 countries and the European Parliament which meets regularly and cares passionately about advancing equality, justice and rights for Israelis and Palestinians, have written to their respective Foreign Ministers (including to UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss) and the European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell. 

This letter, sent on 16 November 2021, was sent to given the severity and escalation of the current situation, particularly in regard to attacks on Palestinian civil society and the “terrorist” designation by Israel of six Palestinian civil society organisations, the prospect of forced evictions and dispossession of Palestinian families in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and the prospect of the E1 settlement which would cut off occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied West Bank.

Urgent actions needed to uphold the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian equality

Dear Foreign Secretary Truss,

We,Parliamentarians from European countries, write to ask you to raise three urgent issues with the Government of Israel. We ask you publicly to press the Government of Israel

  • to rescind the Defence Minister’s designation of six legitimate Palestinian civil society organisations as “terrorist”;
  • to prevent the eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan and
  • to stop plans to build an illegal settlement on E1, completing the encirclement of East Jerusalem.

Each of these actions crosses a red line. The designation, now extended to the West Bank by Israeli military order, criminalises free speech in Palestine. The forcible transfer of occupied people is a war crime. Building on E1 severs East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. We ask you to express your concern to the Government of Israel about these grave violations of human rights and international law, which Israel can and must stop. Not only do they threaten Palestinian lives and wellbeing, but they also destroy any imaginable two-state solution-which the international community continues to advocate. All this against the background of the collective punishment of 2 million Gazan Palestinians and illegal settlement expansion and Palestinian home demolitions across the West Bank, whilst settlers attack Palestinians with impunity.

Rescind the discredited “terrorist” designation of the six civil society organisations

We ask you publicly to press the Government of Israel to rescind the designation of six Palestinian human rights and other NGOs. Ominously, the Israeli military command has just extended this designation to the West Bank, meaning that these NGOs are now at risk of having their offices searched/closed, computers seized, and even staff arrested. Israel has adduced no evidence against these organisations, but relies on recycling an old file that has already been examined and dismissed by several European Governments. The file contains information that may well have been extracted by use of torture against Palestinians who are unrelated to the six. Sadly, this designation is not an aberration, but part of a broader strategic campaign against international, Israeli and Palestinian civil society challenging the occupation. The six organisations all share the distinction of submitting evidence legitimately to the International Criminal Court. Engaging with the ICC is not a “terrorist” activity. Please call on Israel to rescind these designations immediately and to desist from all efforts to suppress civil society activity. European Governments and the European Union should continue to engage fully and publicly with Palestinian civil society, particularly with the targeted NGOs –and should maintain financial support for their programmes to uphold equal rights.

Stop the evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan

Israel is moving towards the forcible transfer of Palestinians and major dispossession of Palestinian property in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem. Any such forcible transfer constitutes a grave breach of international law. This comes as part of a determined Government –sponsored effort to obliterate the Palestinian presence from the holy basin area of East Jerusalem. This activity is criminal –it must stop.

Stop a new settlement on E1, cutting off East Jerusalem from the West Bank

Israel has pushed forward with the E1 settlement project to the east of Jerusalem, knowing full well that it is a red line for the US and Europe -and may be within days of final approval. Like all settlements, it is illegal -contravening the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN Security Council Resolutions, including UNSCR 2334. If this settlement plan is enacted, it destroys any chance of a viable two-state solution that has been European policy since 1980. Consequences The Israeli Government needs to realise that any of the above actions will do lasting harm to our bilateral relations, and to Europe/Israel relations. Each action crosses a red line. Israel knows that –and needs to know that there will be severe consequences. We believe that it is in Israel’s own best interest to desist–and that it is your duty to make clear publicly now that any or all of these actions will not pass unchallenged. Our Parliamentary network is founded on the principle of Israeli-Palestinian equality.

We urge you to speak and act against these threats to equality.