Blog: The UK government must act on planned Palestinian evictions

UNISON condemns the violence in East Jerusalem and Gaza, regrets the loss of life on both sides and calls again on the Israeli government to comply with international law

We have all been shocked and appalled by the devastating scenes at the al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan. On Monday, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that over 300 Palestinians had been injured during the Israeli police raid on the mosque compound – almost 230 of whom were hospitalised.

Last night, the Israeli military carried out bombing raids on Gaza, killing 24 people, including nine children, according to the ministry of health. Two Israelis also died when rockets were fired from Gaza, according to reports from Israeli paramedics.

Tensions have escalated in recent weeks as right-wing groups have sought to inflame the situation and the Israeli authorities have further curtailed the rights of Palestinians, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem.

UNISON condemns the violence and regrets the loss of life and injury to both Palestinians and Israelis. We have consistently called on the Israeli government to comply with international law.

At the end of April, I wrote to James Cleverly MP, the minister for the Middle East and North Africa, to call on the UK government to take action against the planned eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, in violation of international law.

There are currently more than 70 families at risk of forced eviction, including seven families who have been ordered to leave their homes in the coming days and weeks.

The plight of the Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and violence against Palestinians protesting against the evictions has undoubtedly contributed to the current tensions. It is a situation that UNISON has followed closely in recent years and we have responded to previous threats and evictions.

In 2016, representatives of our NEC international committee and regions were welcomed to the home of the Al-Kurds, one of the families facing eviction. They heard from Mohammed Al-Kurd how his family had been made refugees in 1948 and were eventually provided with their current home in Sheikh Jarrah by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the Jordanian government in 1956.

He explained how they and their neighbours had spent years fighting expensive legal battles in the Israeli courts for the right to live in their own homes, against an Israeli settler organisation which plans to build an illegal settlement in their place.

They saw how illegal settlers, protected by the military, occupied the front half of their house and subjected the family to endless attacks and abuse.

Tragically, the Al-Kurds, like many other families not only face the threat of eviction from their home and the costs of their legal battle, they risk losing their right to remain in East Jerusalem because of the unjust laws that discriminate against Palestinians.

The eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank is far from unique. Last year, 848 Palestinian homes and other structures were targeted by the Israeli military and this year, the rate of demolitions is higher still

Not only do these acts violate fundamental human rights and are illegal under international law, they undermine the prospects of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Governments around the world have called for a de-escalation of the tensions and an end to the violence. But these words alone will do little to address the terrible injustices caused by 54 years of occupation and the continued violation of Palestinian human rights.

That is why UNISON is calling on the UK government to take action now, including prohibiting trade with the illegal settlements and suspending the UK Israel Association Agreement, to demand that the Israeli government complies with international law.

UNISON condemns the violence in East Jerusalem and the dangerous and unacceptable bombing of Gaza. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people until justice, rights and international law prevail.