A campaign launched by a British NGO to save the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied Jerusalem has had an amazing response from the general public, its chair has told MEMO.
"We have been overwhelmed by the response from the British public," said Ismail Patel of Friends of Al-Aqsa. At least 45,000 emails have been sent to MPs as a result of the campaign. According to Patel, this demonstrates that the leaders of Britain's main political parties, who have largely kept quiet on the crisis in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, are out of touch with public opinion.
Friends of Al-Aqsa has been asking people to write to their MPs urging them to uphold British and international law. The government, campaigners insist, should release a strong statement condemning Israeli violations.
"It would be great if people could also call on Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to impose sanctions on Israel for its blatant violations of international law," explained Patel. "These include its illegal annexation of Palestinian land — including Jerusalem itself — and the system of apartheid that it inflicts on the people of Palestine, as documented by Human Rights Watch and Israeli rights group B'Tselem."
The Jerusalem District Court, part of the Israeli apparatus complicit in the occupation, ruled that a number of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah must leave their homes to make way for illegal Jewish settlers. In total, 58 people, including 17 children, are due to be forcibly displaced in this way.
The ruling is an example of what Palestinians have endured for decades. It is part of the Israeli policy used to force Palestinian families out and replace them with settlements for Jews only. All of Israel's settlements are illegal under international. Nevertheless, Israel has established more than 250 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
Building settlements requires Palestinians to be forcefully displaced, their homes to be demolished and access to their land to be denied by the Israeli occupation authorities. Last year saw the highest rate of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem on record. Moreover, around 170 Palestinian structures were demolished, resulting in the forced displacement of 385 men, women and children.
The imminent evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah are part of the ongoing catastrophe — Nakba — that started in 1948, when over 750,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes and made refugees. Israeli historians have called this an act of deliberate ethnic cleansing.
Friends of Al-Aqsa is a UK based NGO concerned with defending the human rights of Palestinians and protecting the sacred Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. It was established in 1997 and has an international support base.