Minister of State (Minister for the Middle East and North Africa)
The Rt Hon James Cleverly MP
18 May 2021
As a member of the British-Palestine all party parliamentary group, I am writing to share my deepest concerns about the current escalation in violence, and to set out the view of the group that an effective response from the international community, including the UK, to events in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory should ensure that:
- International law and accountability are fully adhered to by all parties. The UK government should ensure that all parties are made fully aware of their legal responsibilities, including strict adherence to the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN Security Council Resolutions. Above all this must prioritise ending all attacks by any party on civilians and civilian infrastructure.
- All those who violate international law and commit war crimes should be aware that the International Criminal Court (ICC) can and should prosecute. We urge the UK government to fully support the ICC’s investigation into all alleged grave crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory no matter which party stands accused.
- Israel ends all violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. This includes the end of all settlement building, the cancellation of all forcible evictions and demolitions in Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere. A failure to do so should trigger consequences from the international community.
- Israel allows Palestinians the full right to freedom of assembly and to mobilise against human rights abuses, free from fear of unlawful force and violence. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have described the use of ‘repeated, unwarranted and excessive force’ against peaceful protestors. The widespread use of stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas against civilians holding demonstrations should cease. As UN experts have stated: “A militarized response to civilian protests against discriminatory practices only deepens social divisions. Respecting rights is the only path forward.”
- Israel desists from the use of force deployed inside Al Aqsa mosque. In a serious escalation, Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound where thousands of peaceful worshippers were regularly gathered for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, desecrating one of the holiest sites for Muslims around the world. Rubber bullets, tear gas canisters and sound bombs have been used against worshippers, injuring over 200 civilians while denying access to the compound by Red Crescent medical teams.
- The status quo agreement regarding the holy places in Jerusalem is fully restored and adhered to in full.
- Hamas and other groups must cease firing rockets and mortars into Israeli civilian areas. This constitutes a war crime.
- All Israeli actions to stop rocket attacks in Gaza must be taken in full compliance with international law. There can be no repeat of the massively disproportionate attacks on Gaza as in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2014. We have already seen in these wars that Israel’s use of explosive weapons in a densely populated Gaza led to the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians. The compelling evidence of former Israeli soldiers who fought in Gaza in 2014 strong evidence that Israel did not adhere to international law nor stick to the core principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality.
- The UK should end the sale of arms to Israel that could be used in the subjugation of the Palestinian population in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
- All parties should facilitate the continuous free flow of humanitarian agencies and goods. In particular, there should be no repeat of the bombing of Palestinian civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, especially the Gaza Power plant.
In addition, the UK government and international community must adopt measures to address the long-term underlying causes including the need to:
- End of the 54 years of occupation and 14 years of the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Palestinians in Gaza cannot be left under blockade and occupation, shut off from the outside world and unable to trade and travel freely. The current status quo is a proven recipe for a never-ending political and humanitarian disaster. However, it also means addressing the systematic discrimination against Palestinians as outlined in the recent Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem reports, that determined that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid.
- Lift the blockade of Gaza and allow the free flow of goods both ways. The tunnels under the Gaza-Egyptian border should be closed off permanently with international monitoring. This will prevent the import of weapons and drugs into the Gaza Strip.
- Strengthen support for UNRWA and work with international partners to put it on a sustainable long-term financial footing to ensure the dignity of Palestinian refugees until such a time as a just and sustainable solution to their plight is achieved.
- Work to ensure the holding of free and fair Presidential and Parliamentary Palestinian elections throughout the occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem. Israel must not be allowed to veto Palestinian democracy whilst Palestinian leaders must do everything to ensure elections proceed.
- End Israel’s systematic discrimination against Palestinians including its own Palestinian citizens, a root cause of the anger and frustration witnessed particularly on the streets of Israeli cities such as Lod, Akka and Haifa. All mob attacks must be fully investigated. This must include those who organised and participated in marches chanting “death to Arabs.” The UK should look to proscribe groups such as Lehava who have promoted violence and extremism.
Please can you confirm whether the Prime Minister intends to rescind his recent comments undermining the International Criminal Court’s investigation into the situation in Palestine, and express the UK’s full support for the court and its independence in this matter, and that the UK Government’s position is to:
- Pursue an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the lifting of Israel’s 14-year blockade and closure
- Support the call for the holding of a special session of the Human Rights Council to address the current situation, and mechanisms for accountability
- Provide immediate assistance to the Palestinian health sector, enabling it to meet current needs and for sustainable development.
I look forward to hearing from you and would appreciate you directly addressing the points above, in turn, please.