As settlements expand, British Parliamentarians witness life under occupation

This week a group of British parliamentarians visited the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) with MAP and Caabu, continuing our cooperation to give MPs and Peers the opportunity to witness the devastating impacts of living under 50 years of military occupation.

The delegation, comprising of Tommy Sheppard MP (SNP), Margaret Ferrier MP (SNP) and Baroness Sheehan (LD), visited Palestinian communities, farms, and hospitals and met with a range of Israeli, Palestinian and British officials and civil society groups.

In Hebron, the group met with Breaking the Silence. On Tuesday the delegation visited the Lajee Center, a Palestinian NGO providing sporting activities and social and rights based training for young refugees in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem.

In the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem explained the day-to-day threat of violence and forced eviction against Palestinians which accompanies life in close proximity to Israeli settlers.

Settlements under scrutiny

Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory have been the focus of considerable international political and media attention in recent months. At the end of 2016 the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 2334, reaffirming the illegality of settlements, thanks to the USA refusing to wield it’s veto.

Yet, the following weeks saw the Israeli Knesset pass the Regularisation Law, which ‘legalised’ a potential additional 4000 settler homes currently part of outposts in the West Bank which are illegal under Israeli law due to being built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

This was the first time Israeli legislation has been created solely to apply to the occupied Palestinian territory, representing a further significant step towards the annexation of Palestinian lands by Israel and a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Last week Tommy Sheppard MP, along with four other MPs, called a debate in the UK Parliament on the issue of Israeli settlements. Speaking in the debate, Mr Sheppard said:

Over the past 25 years, the Israeli Government have, in contravention of the fourth Geneva convention, moved half a million of their own civilian population into an area in which they are in military occupation. That is why people call the settlements illegal … Every brick that is laid and every new apartment that is built in the settlement complex puts a solution further away.”

Margaret Ferrier MP, also on this week’s delegation, called on the UK government to take action:

“The illegal settlements critically interfere with the ability of the Palestinian people to exercise their fundamental right to self-determination. The time is right for the UK to recognise Palestine ... The UK has not only a moral duty but a legal duty not to recognise, aid or assist Israel’s illegal settlements and associated infrastructure.”

Time for action

As Palestinians approach the 50th anniversary of the 1967 occupation amid the rapid expansion of the Israeli settlement enterprise, it is more important than ever that we stand in solidarity with Palestinians and support their right to live with health and dignity.

You can support Palestinians demanding their rights to health and dignity by signing our petition and joining our call to the UK government:

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