I am writing to you about a matter that is of deep concern to me, and I seek your help.
The Jerusalem Municipality under the approving eye of the Israeli government continues to implement policies of displacement and dispossession that result in the forced transfer of Palestinians residing in East Jerusalem through rulings on evictions and home demolitions that replace the indigenous Palestinian population with Jewish settlers. Two examples of recent happenings have come to light during March, and each are grave violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Al-Bustan - One hundred homes in the Palestinian community Al-Bustan, next to Silwan are slated for demolition that will displace 1550 Palestinians. Al-Bustan is located just below the Old City’s Western Wall and Al Aqsa Mosque. For years, the Jerusalem Municipality has sought to clear this privately-owned Palestinian land to construct a “biblical” tourism park to be named “The King’s Garden” that will connect it to what Israelis say is the original City of David (few archaeologists verify this). You may be aware that ten years ago, the demolitions in Al-Bustan were stopped because of pressure from the international diplomatic community, including the UK, which led to the Municipality agreeing to negotiate a housing solution with the Palestinian residents. Since 2011 Palestinians in Al-Bustan have spent $500,000 on legal fees and the creation of a new masterplan for the area that was drawn up by Knesset Member Yousef Jabreen. But now the Jerusalem Municipality has said that it is not sticking to its commitment, points out that these homes never had planning permission (but Israel rarely grants planning permission to Palestinians) and it has asked the Local Affairs Court to reactivate demolition orders. A court ruling is expected in April.
Sheikh Jarrah - Eight Jerusalemite families totalling 19 households of around 87 Palestinians residing in Sheikh Jarrah are currently at imminent risk of forced eviction. Four of these families totalling around 30 people, have been ordered to leave their homes by 2 May 2021. This is only the start of clearing all of the Palestinian families from this community to be replaced by Israeli settlers. Sheikh Jarrah is a Palestinian neighbourhood that overlooks the Al Aqsa mosque from the north. In 1956 an agreement was signed between the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and Jordan which governed it at the time. A housing scheme was provided for 28 Palestinian families who had been made refugees in 1948, enabling them to move to Sheikh Jarrah where they would join dozens of other Palestinian families already living there. An agreement between the United Nations and Jordan stipulated that the families would receive the houses in return for renouncing their refugee status with the UN refugee agency. The Israeli government doesn’t recognize the agreement nor any of the documents which are held by the Palestinians and prefers to accept forged documents presented by religious Jewish settlers who claim that Jews lived there in the early 20th century. Four Palestinian families lost their homes in Sheikh Jarrah (in 2008 and 2009) and the settler’s goal is to remove the remaining 24 families, displacing several hundred individuals.
I request that you immediately alert the FCDO to these developments and request that not only these actions be condemned but that assurance is given that our government will intervene by pressuring Israel to stop acting with impunity so that the demolitions and evictions do not proceed. With each day that passes, Israeli authorities deepen its apartheid regime and settler colonial policies over the Palestinian population. The UK as a third contracting party to the Fourth Geneva Convention has a responsibility to see that the international rule of law is enforced.
I await your response. Thank you.