21 April 2017
This week UK Prime Minister Theresa May called a general election. The vote will take place on 8 June, the same week as Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza mark 50 years living under occupation. It will be immediately followed by the anniversary of a decade of the intensified closure and blockade of Gaza.
Ahead of the last general election in 2015, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and our supporters called on incoming MPs to ensure that 2015-2020 was the Parliament of change for Palestinians. The past two years have, however, been characterised by a deterioration of the situation facing Palestinians.
In the West Bank, the demolition of Palestinian homes and livelihoods has vastly accelerated, with the highest rate of destruction ever recorded last year. Settlements continue to expand, and the Government of Israel has announced its intention to build the first new official settlement in 20 years.
In Gaza, the blockade has frustrated the population’s ability to access even the most basic of human needs. Gaza has the highest rate of unemployment in the world, 40,000 people are still homeless after their homes were destroyed in the 2014 military offensive, and 95% of Gaza’s water is unsafe for drinking. Amid a chronic electricity crisis in Gaza, this week MAP warned that hospitals in Gaza are set to run out of fuel for vital generators in less than a week if international action is not taken, endangering patients’ lives. Despite these issues – and the UK’s aid spending in Gaza – Israel still prevents British MPs from entering Gaza via the Erez crossing to assess the situation and inform debate in Parliament.
In Syria, the war continues unabated. More than 3,500 Palestinians have died as a result, and an estimated 150,000 have fled to seek safety abroad. Those who have arrived in Lebanon face marginalisation and poverty, and in the largest refugee camp – Ein El Helweh – the continuing threat to life posed by sporadic inter-factional violence.
If the Government which emerges from the impending UK election wishes to support human rights in the region and peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike, these are the issues with which it must grapple: prolonged occupation, stifling blockade, and decades of displacement and dispossession of Palestinian refugees.
The 100 year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in November will be an important opportunity to reflect on the UK’s role in the history of these issues, and what the Government can do to resolve them.
Meanwhile, Palestinians continue to demand their rights to health and dignity. With the influence the UK continues to wield on the world stage, it can, and must, support a brighter future for Palestinians based on humanitarian principles and international law.
Later this year, MAP will deliver to the British Government a joint call from Palestinians and people in the UK to demand #HealthAndDignity for Palestinians. To join this campaign, click here: