Minister of State (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations)
The Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
21 April 2023
I am writing to express my deepest concerns about the recent attacks on Al Aqsa Mosque, as well as the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory. You will be aware that on 5th April 2023 the Israeli authorities forcibly removed more than 350 peaceful worshippers gathered for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan from the mosque and left at least 14 Palestinians injured while denying them medical attention. Similar events have taken place at Al Aqsa Mosque in the past, for example in 2021.
The UK has a historic responsibility for the ongoing conflict in this part of the world, and I welcome yesterday’s parliamentary debate and the strong support from the Minister for human rights. I too condemn the terrorist attack that killed Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee, and all the attacks that have killed or injured civilians in this ongoing conflict.
I was also deeply disappointed by your government’s failure to use the debate to reflect that, as the occupying force, the Israeli authorities bear a unique and far greater moral and legal responsibility for the current situation. De-escalation can only be achieved with the full realisation of Palestinian rights and the end of the Israeli authorities' systematic discrimination against Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian Territory. I am therefore calling on you to work with the international community to ensure that:
- International law and accountability is adhered to by all parties. The UK government must remind all parties to strictly adhere to the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN Security Council Resolutions and condemn actions taken by the authorities that go against these resolutions. The government has already condemned war crimes taken by Russia and Syria and should treat Israel in a similar manner, including on the matter of referrals to the ICC.
- Israeli authorities stop the use of deployed force within the Al Aqsa Mosque.
- The Israeli government stops collective punishment, an act illegal in international law and used by the Israeli authorities through the demolition of homes owned by an alleged Palestinian attackers.
- The Israeli settlement of E1 and the additional 7,000 settlement units set to be approved do not go ahead. By approving these settlements, the Israeli government is backtracking on their promise at the Sharm El Sheikh summit to freeze settlement announcements and this decision will permit settlers to move into territories in the north of West Bank that Israel evacuated as part of the Disengagement Plan 2005. Proceeding with these proposed settlements should trigger a response from the international community.
- The authority over the West Bank is transferred back to the Israeli Defence Minister. The Israeli Finance Minister’s control over the territory has brought this area, as well as settlers and Palestinians living there under Israeli civilian control and is therefore a breach of the international law which requires occupied territory to be under temporary military control.
- The Israeli government’s employment of lethal force in the region is deescalated. The UN reports that 2022 was the deadliest year in the West Bank since 2005, and at least 88 Palestinians and 16 Israelis have been killed since January, the deadliest start to year in the West Bank in two decades.
- The Israeli government upholds religious freedom and protection for religious minorities. The recent storming of Al Asqa mosque is a flagrant attack on the freedom of Muslims to practice their religion during the holy month of Ramadan. Moreover, Israeli authorities also restricted Christian attendance at the Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of Holy Sepulchre during Easter. The Israeli authorities’ efforts to restrict religious freedom and practice must end.
- The Israeli authorities end the use of torture and detention without trial against Palestinians. Both the UN Committee Against Torture and the UN Committee of Human Rights have criticised the use of administrative detention orders and the continuation of the practice must be condemned.
As was noted during yesterday’s debate, the prospects for peace feel more distant than ever. Too many lives have been lost in both Palestine and Israel, whilst the world continues to stand by. I therefore urgently call on you to use this moment to play a more proactive role in tackling the underlying human rights abuses, discrimination and injustices, and for the FCDO to pursue suitable sanctions against the Israeli Government until all violations of international law and human rights are ceased.
I look forward to hearing from you with a response to each of the above points.
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