By the Labour and 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.