Posted on March 30, 2020, by & filed under Contact your politicians, Lobbying, News.


Writing to MPs and other relevant parties (local media, religious bodies, organisations) can be an effective way of taking action to raise awareness of the situation in Palestine / Israel. ICAHD responds to events by preparing sample letters which can be viewed via the links below. These are simply tools to guide you and it is always best to personalize your letter. If you have visited Palestine/Israel include that information therefore you have witnessed the situation and can testify to the reality.


Contact details for your MP may be found here.


Guidance for writing to MPs about the demolition of Palestinian homes

 

Learn about your MP

  • Read through the MP’s website, discover his/her background and special interests
  • Keep track of what they do in parliament - https://www.theyworkforyou.com/
    • See how your MP has voted and involvement in committees
  • Follow news reports about your MP in your local paper
  • Remember our government has a responsibility to bring Israel to account. Britain ratified the Geneva Conventions which means that it has a responsibility to see that it is observed.
  • Ending home demolitions is a subject that parliamentarians from every party should be concerned about especially if they care about the rule of law and the future of humanity.

 

Letter composition

  • Decide your focus – it’s best to keep to one topic. Never attempt to cover all the issues concerning Palestine in one letter. Within the letter, repeat your message for added clarity.
  • Keep your letter to one A4 page. MPs are overwhelmed with correspondence and do not have time to read long letters.
  • Express gratitude for previous engagement from your MP, even if the MP is not being as active and critical of Israeli government policy as you’d like, remain polite.
  • Seek to gain trust from your MP because it is likely that you know far more about demolitions than does your MP. Provide information to demonstrate that you know what you are talking about. With each letter you write, provide that bit more information.
  • State if you have visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory and witnessed the reality.
  • Find out if your MP has visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory/Israel. Who did they meet?
  • After presenting your “case” present a clear “ask” such as to sign an Early Day Motion, stop trade with Israeli settlement goods, stop British company JCB from operating in settlements, make representation to the Foreign Office to hold Israel accountable for violating the 4th Geneva Convention in demolishing Palestinian homes, etc.
  • Ask a question that demands an answer and end by stating that you await a response from her/him.
  • If your MP does not respond, keep writing polite letters because MPs must know the issues that concern residents of the constituency.

 

Facts for inclusion – select those points most relevant for the issue you wish to address in the letter

  • Always highlight that Israel is the occupying power – this is not a “conflict” between two equals.
  • Since 1967 when Israel’s occupation began, Israeli authorities have demolished over 55,000 Palestinian homes and structures vital for living within the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Refer to the monthly Demolitions and Displacement Reports found on the ICAHD website for latest statistics – icahd.org.
  • In 99% of the cases every aspect of Israel’s demolition and displacement policy in the Occupied Palestine Territory (East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza) is in gross violation of international law (the 4th Geneva Convention).
  • Palestinians must apply to Israeli authorities for planning permission, but it is rarely granted. Meanwhile Israel proceeds to construct thousands of illegal Israeli settlement units on occupied Palestinian land which are only for Jews.
  • There is a shortage of at least 30,000 housing units for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
  • The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated in April 2019 that in East Jerusalem Israel’s restrictive planning regime makes it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits. This means that in East Jerusalem at least one-third of all Palestinian homes lack an Israeli-issued building permit, potentially placing over 100,000 residents at risk of having their home demolished and being displaced.
  • The United Nations reports these violations and yet the world has remained silent.
  • Israel will not stop and will continue to clear the locations of vital interest to it: the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem, and the South Hebron Hills. This is de facto annexation, taking as much land as possible with as few Palestinians as possible.

 

References & Resources

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the destruction of private or state property, “except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”. It also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory”. It states, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/ihl/WebART/380-600056

 

UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) https://www.ochaopt.org/

 

ICAHD’s campaigns regarding demolitions and evictions - https://icahd.org/2020/05/14/icahd-campaigns/

  • End Home Demolitions
  • Stop JCB Equipment Being Used in Demolitions in Palestine/Israel,
  • NSPCC Stop Taking Donations from JCB
  • JNF: Do Not Evict the Sumarin Family

Lobby update on home demolitions and displacement

 

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) condemns the ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court permitting the forcible transfer of Palestinians from their homes and lands in the West Bank region of Masafer Yatta. (8 May 2022)

 

On May 5th, the Israeli Supreme Court quietly, almost furtively, dismissed the petitions of the residents of eight Palestinian villages in the Masafer Yatta area of the southern West Bank against their eviction from their homes and grazing land claimed by the Israeli army as a firing zone. The decision was issued by Judge David Mintz, who himself lives in an illegal West Bank settlement. Up to 1,800 residents, including more than a thousand children, face imminent displacement. Immediately after the ruling Israeli settlers moved a mobile home onto the land, clearly indicating a political rather than military motivation for expelling the local population and seizing its land.

This is not the first time by far that seizing land for military purposes has served as a pretext for expelling an area’s Palestinian residents in order to clear the land for Israeli settlement. Although a civilian population living under occupation is protected under international law (the Hague Regulations, the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Law of Armed Conflict, among others), Israel has always exploited a loophole: the right of the Occupying Power to take temporary possession of private land if it is “required for essential and urgent military needs.” Until 1979 the army simply took control of the expropriated land, expelled its residents and handed it over to Israeli settlers.

That was such a blatant violation of international law that, in 1980, a former Israeli Supreme Court ruled that land could not be taken from Palestinians and handed over to the settlers directly. There had to be some “legalizing” intermediate process. So the Israeli government invented the concept of “State Land.” Refusing to honor the Ottoman or British-era deeds the Palestinians possessed, it simply declared that 72% of the West Bank had no legal ownership, and therefore reverted to the Israeli state as “State Land.” That policy of “Israelizing” the land of the West Bank stands in gross violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines an occupation as a temporary military situation and therefore prohibits any action on the part of the Occupying Power that makes its control or changes in the status quo permanent. An Occupying Power is prohibited from expropriating land, forcibly transferring a population out of its living space (an action that constitutes a war crime), demolishing homes, infrastructure and farms, and settling its own civilian population in an occupied territory.

The 1980 case, then, set up a two-stage process for “legally” expropriating Palestinian land and giving it over to settlers. The army takes control of the land under the pretext of “urgent and immediate military necessity,” as it has in the Masafer Yatta case, rids it of its residents, then withdraws as the government asserts its claim of State Land, thereby opening the way to permanent Israeli settlement. In this specific case, Ariel Sharon, then the head of the government’s Settlement Committee, admitted in a 1981 meeting – held just months after the Masafer Yatta firing zone was declared – that firing zones in the South Hebron Hills were necessary to ensure that the area remained in Israeli hands. In the early 2000s the army issued evacuation orders against the Palestinian population, sparking the 20-year legal struggle that ended so ignominiously in the dark of the night last week.

This process of displacement is made all the easier when it comes to nomadic populations such as the Bedouins of the Jordan Valley or of the Negev/Naqab region of southern Israel, or of the Palestinian pastoralists of Masafer Yatta, who move from their settled villages (which have names and permanent buildings) seasonally to exploit fresh pastureland. These communities have no formal deeds. As farming and herding peoples who have lived in the area for centuries, the very fact that they move their herds seasonally disqualifies them under Israeli policy from claiming permanent residence. This leaves them with no legal standing whatsoever, enabling the Israeli Supreme Court to deny that their displacement rises to a case of forcible transfer. This is clearly a spurious and self-serving manipulation of international law intended to ethnically cleanse a region Israel seeks to repopulate with its own settlers since the prohibition against forcibly transferring a population has nothing to do with ownership of land or the life patterns of the people being removed. It is their very presence in the land that is occupied that gives them protection from displacement under international law.

One way Israel evades its responsibilities under international law is simply to declare it inapplicable. Israel is a signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention but denies its applicability since, in Israel’s convoluted legal arguments, there is no occupation, only “disputed territories.” This non-legal concept has allowed Israel to evade the requirements of international law. It derives solely from the agreement of the United States to disconnect the Oslo “peace process” negotiations from international law so as to enhance Israel’s ability to unilaterally leverage its power in the negotiations, effectively undermining the Palestinians’ ability to assert their legal rights. Indeed, the automatic support Israel receives from the United States and Britain in the UN Security Council, the body responsible for enforcing international law, removes any Israeli fear of sanctions or legal repercussions for its egregious human rights violations. This is what enables the Israeli courts and government to engage in the cynical, cruel and patently illegal maneuvers displayed in the Masafer Yatta decision.

At a time when the international community is condemning Russia for its blatant human rights violations in the Ukraine and warning that Russia’s disregard for international law threatens the entire world order, the fact that the United States and much of Europe vigorously support Israel’s equally flagrant violations exposes not only hypocrisy but a willingness of the world’s powers to set aside international law when it suits their political needs. This is precisely what they have done by allowing Israel to violate international law with impunity. Not only does this undermine any claim of upholding an international order based on law and justice, it actually destroys it. The implications of selectively granting immunity from sanctions to some countries like Israel and the NATO powers while weaponizing international law against whoever those countries want to attack puts us all at jeopardy.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) joins other Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organization in condemning the illegal ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court permitting the forcible transfer of an entire Palestinian population from their homes in an area it has lived in for centuries. We call for the prosecution of Israeli officials responsible for carrying out forced transfer if that in fact takes place. On a broader level, ICAHD condemns Israel’s attempt to invalidate international law as it applies to occupation, apartheid and Palestinian rights in order to pursue its illegal policies of land expropriation, displacement and the annexation, de facto or de jure, of the Occupied Territory.

Since the Palestinians have exhausted their legal remedies in the Israeli court system which has proved itself merely a facilitator of Israel’s occupation policies, ICAHD calls on the national courts of every country to prosecute Israeli violations of international law, some of which rise to war crimes and crimes against humanity, based on the principle of universal jurisdiction. We also call on the International Criminal Court to include the current Israeli actions in Masafer Yatta in its ongoing investigation of war crimes committed in the State of Palestine, with the purpose of bringing the perpetrators of this crime of forcible transfer to justice, including the Supreme Court Judges that authorized it.

Finally, ICAHD calls on the international community to take immediate measures to end Israel’s regime of colonization, apartheid and occupation and to effectively broker a just and lasting settlement that will restore to the Palestinians their basic national rights. That is what the rule of law truly requires.

 

Jordan Valley demolitions - an Example - Humsa Al Bqai’a (Khirbet Hamsa – in Hebrew)

A Bedouin community located in Area C in the north of the Jordan Valley

Current population: approximately 70 of whom 41 are children

The Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) demolished it on 3 November 2020 in the largest mass demolition within the previous ten years. Following it, the European Union, 10 of its member states, and the UK funded the rebuilding of 29 of the structures.

During February 2021, the ICA returned to destroy the community’s housing and structures essential for living. Aid was delivered enabling the residents to remain on their land however the Israeli authorities came back causing more destruction and it confiscated aid that had been provided. The ICA repeated this five times this calendar month. Israeli authorities said that the confiscated items would be handed back if the residents relocated to a new location further to the west, near Tubas.

JCB and Volvo bulldozers were used during the demolitions.

The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):

  • Calls for Israel to allow full, sustained, and unimpeded humanitarian access to the community in Humsa Al-Bqai’a
  • States that forced displacement is a crime under international law (4th Geneva Convention)

 

Additional facts:

The Jordan Valley is home to approximately 60,000 Palestinians, but nearly 90 percent of the land here is in Area C thus under complete Israeli control.

It includes closed military zones and about 50 agricultural settlements housing some 12,000 Israelis, illegal under international law.

According to OCHA, so far in 2021 within the West Bank, Israeli authorities have demolished, seized, or forced people to demolish at least 227 Palestinian-owned structures, including 93 that were donor-funded, displacing 367 people, including some 200 children. This represents a near 185 per cent increase in structures targeted and a near 450 per cent increase in donor-funded structures targeted, compared with the equivalent period in 2020.

Palestinians living in rural areas are also dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Bedouin communities are among the most economically vulnerable within historic Palestine. The repeated demolitions of their homes and property, including assistance provided by the international humanitarian community is having a devastating economic, social, and traumatic impact.

ICAHD’s message:

This is yet another demonstration of Israel’s settler colonial policy which is to clear as much land as possible of the indigenous Palestinian population, claiming it for Israel.

Israel is not responding to governments issuing statements of “deep concern”. Action must be taken to hold Israel accountable, including imposition of sanctions and to cease trading in goods from the illegal settlements.

ICAHD continues to call for one democratic state to be established as the only just way ahead. In the meantime, demolitions and displacement must end immediately.


Points about the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation

On 9th April 2021, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to the Conservative Friends of Israel to confirm the UK’s opposition to the ICC investigation, asserting it doesn’t have jurisdiction and that it gives the impression of being a "partial and prejudicial attack" on Israel.

Based in The Hague, the ICC was set up in 2002 to bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes - genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It has the power to act where a state is "unable or unwilling genuinely" to do so itself. The ICC has ruled it has a mandate to investigate the occupied territories and has accepted the Palestinians after they were granted non-member observer State status at the UN.

ICAHD believes that our Prime Minister’s position should be challenged therefore we encourage supporters to write to their MP making the following points about what Boris Johnson declared:

  • The British government should demonstrate that it upholds international law and the criminal justice system.
  • The British government along with the entire international community should respect the impartiality and the independence of the ICC.
  • The British government should voice its full and unambiguous commitment to the work of the ICC.
  • The British government should not stand in the way of the Palestinian people seeking justice through the ICC.
  • Following the British government’s approval of the Balfour Declaration, which ushered in Zionist settler colonial policies that have affected the lives of every Palestinian, this is an opportunity for Britain to help address the wrongs that have been committed.
  • The ICC under Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda spent nearly five years assessing the legality of proceeding with the investigation of possible war crimes committed by both Israelis and Palestinians. It concluded to proceed with the investigation thus there is no legal reason to stop it nor not to cooperate.
  • Britain is a permanent member of the UN’s Security Council. It should demonstrate that is it a positive force in the world and that it upholds a rules-based international order.

British Parliamentarians send letters to the Foreign Secretary: Pressure Israel to stop evictions

81 British parliamentarians representing all parties within the House of Commons and the House of Lords signed a letter to the British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, asking that the British government must do everything in its power to prevent the mass forced evictions and dispossession of Palestinian families from their homes in Jerusalem. This letter goes beyond the usual words of condemnation and states that “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.”

Read the letter and find out whether your MP was a signatory. If so, please write to express gratitude for this support. However, if your MP’s name does not appear, then write requesting an opinion on this position because our government has a responsibility to ensure that international law is respected. Please keep up the pressure.