Palestine and Jerusalem
Dear Foreign Secretary
Please take urgent action in defence of human rights in Jerusalem and in Palestine more widely. The situation there is fast getting worse and more dangerous. Since the beginning of 2014, thousands of Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli occupation forces and settlers, tens of thousands been injured or lost their homes, millions are suffering great pressures as a result of human rights violations. The effect of this conflict and the double-standards people see within it is a major cause of unrest elsewhere in the world. The need for a solution is urgent.
The British government and the EU should be consistent and pro-active in effecting a solution which respects human rights, by
(1) Being clear that all people are equally entitled to human rights: urgently telling the Israeli government that provocative acts around the Al Aqsa mosque must stop, the siege on Gaza must be lifted and Israeli settlement on the West Bank must be ended. Pushing for a solution that takes down the Separation Wall as demanded by the International Court of Justice, ends movement restrictions, child imprisonment and other abuses and allows all people their human rights.
(2) Challenging the racism of the illegal settlement movement: while Israel continues to hold on to Palestinian land and to operate settlements on it, the UK should put Israelis and Palestinians in the same legal bracket. This would mean a change, for example, to current UKBA rules that make visas unnecessary for Israelis and difficult for Palestinians.
As long as Israelis are settling Palestine and living on its land, the UK should make them subject to the same visa rules.
(3) Enforcing Article 2 of the EU-Israel Association Agreement (2000) which says: Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.
Israel should be suspended from this trade agreement with the EU until it accords the Palestinian people their human rights.
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The information sheets below has been posted with this petition at different points in this last year and it is from
(1) July 2015 - in response to a settler attack
(2) July 2015 - more about Jerusalem
(3) November 2014 - about Jerusalem
(4) May 2015 - a report on One Year in Abu Dis
(1) A settler attack on a family on 30th July 2015
A horrific settler attack took place this morning in a village near Nablus. As part of an on-going attempt to seize more land from Palestinians and push them out, there was an arson attack by Israeli settlers on a family home that injured four and killed an eighteen-month old baby, Ali Saad Dawabsha.
(2) More and more in Jerusalem (27th July 2015)
ON-GOING VIOLATIONS ALL OVER PALESTINE Knowing people in Palestine is to hear a continual story of outrageous violations by the Israeli occupation, to get a sense of how people feel played with and in danger, stories of every sort of human rights violation including murder: people shot while in their cars, shot at checkpoints, shot in their homes… Once again in the past two days, someone killed in the north of the West Bank, the south of the West Bank and yesterday in Jerusalem area (Qalandia Camp) – the army went to arrest him and he ended up killed. These terrible stories are to our Palestinian friends something that could happen to them or the members of their family at any time. As well as the situation in Gaza where people are living under siege and still in the devastation from last year’s war.
JERUSALEM Yesterday, the events in Jerusalem were frightening. For years now there have been pressures by the Israelis to take the east of the city, pushing Palestinians from houses, taking over and settling some of them, demolishing others, threats to move whole neighbourhoods, cutting the city from its suburbs with the horrendous Separation Wall and an ID system that stops people reaching the place and affects all aspects of life. There is also tremendous pressure on the most symbolic and religiously-important place of all, the Al Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli religious settler movement yesterday organised an attempt to enter the mosque, shouting insults at the prophet Mohammed which were designed to inflame the situation. They were supported by the army. Clashes and injuries followed and a young man of 20 was shot by soldiers at Qalandia checkpoint. We are told that the settlers’ leaders are appearing on Israeli television pleased with the events and asking the government to allow them to pray inside the mosque, a step that could bring worse – maybe a division of the mosque as happened in Hebron – maybe more, as fanatics (with power) talk about demolishing it to build a Jewish temple… The situation is crazy and dangerous.
(3) What is going on in Jerusalem (November 2014)
People in Abu Dis (and all over Palestine and further afield of course) are very upset by what is happening in Jerusalem. In the aftermath of the Gaza war this summer, the pressures on the West Bank and Jerusalem have increased, while in Gaza, people are suffering enormously from the conflict and the siege has not finished.
In the West Bank, the Israeli government is planning more settlements, but also the tension has been rising since the beginning of the summer. For Palestinians, the Israeli army and the radical settlers’ movement are becoming even more dangerous– seven people have been killed in Jerusalem area alone since the beginning of the summer while hundreds of others have been wounded during protests against house demolitions and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian neighbourhoods. Since the beginning of September, around 380 people have been arrested in Jerusalem, including many kids.
Since the end of the Gaza war, radical Zionist settlers have increased the number of incursions into the Al Aqsa compound, which had been yearly, then monthly, to daily. Remember, these are people who talk of taking over, partitioning or even destroying the old mosque which is very holy to Muslims. These incursions are clearly provocative, and have resulted in an attack on a settlers’ leader, a killing with no trial of the person suspected of doing it, and further violence and tension.
For Palestinians, this seems like a plan going into place, step by step, push by push. Just as their important mosque in Hebron (Khalil) was partitioned following the shootings of Palestinians at prayer by the Zionist Baruch Goldstein in 1994, so now the possibility of losing the Al Aqsa is becoming real: for the first time for centuries the ‘athan’ (call to prayer) did not happen last Thursday, as the Israeli authorities have closed the mosque, and the hundreds of people who want to pray there have been doing this in the street.
This follows step by step the isolation of Jerusalem, most dramatically by the Separation Wall, but also by the divisions the Israelis have made between different groups of people, issuing different coloured passes, exiling many Jerusalemites, cutting the suburbs such as Abu Dis away from the centre so that now this is happening to Jerusalem but some of its people just cannot reach it.
It is a time of grief: last week the huge Palestinian celebrity Mohammed Assaf had a concert in the Al Quds University in Abu Dis. In quieter times, this would have been a massive party, but many people in Abu Dis were opposed to having any celebration at a time when people are dying in Jerusalem and the pressures on the others are so terrible.
In Abu Dis, things are not quiet. From Abu Dis, you can see the Dome of the Rock in the Al Aqsa compound – it is nearer to Abu Dis than the centre of London is to Camden Town! From Abu Dis in the nights now, you can hear the shooting and the shouting in Silwan and other areas of Jerusalem. If you look at the volunteers’ blog, you will see that there are demonstrations most nights in the streets in Abu Dis and everyone is used to the smell of tear gas.
Perhaps in the aftermath of Gaza while those upset by that war are taking a breath, and at the time of huge conflicts in the Arab world, the Israeli government believes that this move will not be noticed, or that nothing can be done. Maybe they are in a rush to get as much land and control as they can while they can hear from other parts of the world including Britain (following the vote on 13th October) that their narrative is being challenged?
This is not a disconnected series of bad activities but a huge pressure by the Israeli authorities and settlement movement to take over whole areas of the capital city and large swathes of the West Bank. It could be a step change that could move the conflict on to an even more bloody stage.
People in Palestine living under Israeli occupation currently suffer huge violations of human rights – but the restless situation in particular in Jerusalem threatens to make this even worse. We need to call on our government and the European Union to take very rapid action:
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(4) One year in Abu Dis (added May 2015) - excerpt from CADFA annual report 2014-15
The people of Abu Dis continued to suffer on a daily basis from the restrictions and violence of the occupation: the huge Separation Wall, the ID system and the checkpoints all round them, the constriction and loss of land to the settlements, and the almost-daily incursions of fully-armed Israeli soldiers because of the presence of a military camp right in the middle of town.
Abu Dis is situated between Jerusalem on its west and the huge Israeli settlements of MaaleAdumim, MishorAdumim and Qidar. Between Abu Dis and the settlements are areas threatened by the E1 settlement expansion where currently the Bedouin live. North of Abu Dis is Aizariyeh and the complex route to Ramallah, and south is the Container checkpoint that leads to Bethlehem and Hebron.
Abu Dis is affected strongly by all these areas around it, and by the atmosphere throughout Palestine more widely. This year however saw an increase in the tension and the human rights situation for Palestinians in the West Bank got worse and more dangerous and people in Gaza suffered an appalling and prolonged attack by the Israeli army in the summer months.
This was a terrible year in Palestine with violence and tension building from before April. Our Palestinian friends linked this to the failure of another round of international talks that left Israel seeking to provoke the local people; certainly there werean increasing number of killings by the Israeli military in early 2014: 27 people in Palestine were killed by the Israeli military in January-May 2014. We wrote in the last annual report about the killing of a judge by the Israeli military who had been on the same bus as our Palestinian women visitors when they returned home in 2014; he was just one victim.
The situation got worse when in June the world was transfixed by the disappearance of three Israeli settler youths near Hebron. The Israelis said they had been kidnapped by Palestinians and instituted searches and arrests across the West Bank. In June 2014 alone, there were 14 people killed by the Israeli army.
On 2nd July, a youth from Shu’fat in Jerusalem, Mohammed Abu Khdair, was seized and murdered horribly by settlers.
On 7th July, Israel attacked Gaza, and two months of savage bombing, shelling and later ground attacks led to huge numbers of deaths, injuries and widespread destruction. Whole areas were flattened, whole families killed, schools attacked. It was a summer of pure horror whose details are told elsewhere.
During the war and after the Gaza ceasefire (at the end of August), while people’s attention was elsewhere, the push by Israeli settlers and the Israeli government on Jerusalem intensified. The pressures on Palestinians and to take away their houses continued, and now the pressures by settlers to get into the Al Aqsa Mosque and to press for a division of the mosque (as in Hebron) also increased. In Abu Dis (as elsewhere) there were demonstrations by young people against this situation, violent responses by the army and numbers of young people were wounded. The Israeli army began to use a new sort of bullet and to shoot many boys in the legs and the feet. Adam Eriqat was wounded with a rubber bullet in his head.
E1 settlement expansion.
The Israelis pushed on with their attempts to expand settlement expansion into the ‘E1’ area that is internationally particularly controversial* Roads and infrastructure continued to be developed. Settlers had a huge march to the empty land between MaaleAdumim and Aizaria and put up tents for some time. In September, the Israeli authorities gave the Bedouin in the E1 areas military orders to leave their homes. In January, the army gave confiscation orders for an area to the east of Abu Dis. Other parts were taken over to build new settlers’ roads.
In February, Abu Dis people built a protest camp, Bawabit al-Quds on the land to be confiscated. This was a centre for solidarity activities and was several times attacked by the army and people arrested. In March, it was cleared and Israeli bulldozers started to work on the land.
There continued to be large numbers of people imprisoned by Israel (about 60 at the end of the year. In April 14 prisoners went on hunger strike to protest against their conditions and against the re-imprisonment of some people freed under a prisoner exchange with Israel the previous year.
This had a strong effect across Palestine for months. In Abu Dis, there was a prisoner solidarity tent in the main street until June.
Adam and Johar, two young Abu Dis footballers who had been shot in January were arrested by the Israeli military when returning from three months’ treatment in Jordan.There were many arrests at the Bawabit al-Quds protest camp where people from Abu Dis were protesting the confiscation of more Abu Dis land.
During this year, five Abu Dis people were given administrative detention (imprisonment with no trial) for repeated periods.
There were regular arrests of child prisoners, some held for short times and some were by the end of the year in prison for more than a year. This included YazanDandan who was arrested at the age of sixteen and Mahmoud NafisJaffal who was arrested at the age of fourteen.
House demolition, disruption of education, military violence
Two houses in Abu Dis were destroyed by the Israeli army during this year. Both of them were near the Israeli Wall. A house next to the Cliff Hotel was destroyed in September. CADFA members may remember writing letters about two years ago in protest at a demolition order given to the owner of a second house which is near the University. The house was not destroyed at that time but was destroyed by Israeli bulldozers in December 2014.
In order to destroy it, the Israeli army shut the Al Quds University early in the morning, destroyed the house and also dug up a neighbouring road. When the students arrived there were demonstrations and shooting by the army and this continued for another day.
Tension was huge in the streets particularly in the evenings and on Friday afternoons. At the end of last year, young people in Abu Dis broke a hole in the Wall that imprisons them. This had previously happened in another place, but this time it was near the University. Such efforts are always followed by Israeli military reprisals, shooting of tear gas and rubber bullets.
The education of boys at Abu Dis Boys’ School was disrupted many times when the army shot tear gas into the school. On 8th October, the army went inside Abu Dis Boys’ School and threw tear-gas into the classrooms.
In November, a bus-driver from Abu Dis who, Yousef al-Ramouni, was found hanged in his bus in Jerusalem. People were convinced that this had been done by settlers and this led to major unrest across the West Bank; in Abu Dis dozens of young men were shot by the army, mainly in their legs.
Quieter violations of human rights
Abu Dis is a confined space where more and more people are living in less and less land, and their lives dominated by the Israeli occupation, military rule, structured inequality and on-going violations that are described to some extent in the CADFA books available from us. The drama of the violent incidents described above should not hide the quieter on-going violations of human rights that faced the people of Abu Dis. In 2014-15, every household in Abu Dis was affected to some extent by the denial of people’s right to move and the right to family life, the domination of IDs and ‘permissions’ and checks at checkpoints, the division of families by different-coloured IDs, the impossibility for many people to go to Jerusalem.
People’s health suffered with the difficulties of getting to hospital past checkpoints and the military at the huge Separation Wall. Going to hospital in Ramallah means passing checkpoints but the local hospitals, visible from Abu Dis on the other side of the Israeli Separation Wall can be impossible to reach. At least three Abu Dis people died of heart attacks this year whose families believed that they may have survived could they have reached Al Muqassed Hospital, 4 km away.
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