We join grassroots and advocacy organizations from across the country that are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem currently at risk of losing their homes. We call on the Biden administration to immediately and publicly condemn the Israeli government’s plans to forcibly displace 1,550 Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Bustan neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem and to exert the utmost diplomatic pressure to prevent these potential war crimes from taking place.
The situation is particularly urgent in Sheikh Jarrah, where the Israeli government plans to forcibly displace hundreds of Palestinians from homes they have lived in for generations, in order to allow Israeli settlers to move in – an act which is illegal under international humanitarian law. On May 7, the United Nations urged the Israeli government to halt these plans, stating that the forced displacement could amount to war crimes. This takes place within the broader context of Israel’s ongoing policy to forcibly remove Palestinians from their homes through eviction, home demolition, and displacement, with the express intent of pushing Palestinians out of Jerusalem in order to create and maintain a Jewish majority and supremacy in the city.
Furthermore, we are deeply disturbed by the violence and use of force that Israeli police in East Jerusalem employed against Palestinian residents, protestors, and worshippers during the last ten days of Ramadan. Over the past week, residents and activists leading sit-ins, vigils, and protests against the forced displacement in Sheikh Jarrah were met with overwhelming violence and force from Israeli police and settlers, including a police officer kneeling on a protestor’s neck while he shouts that he is being suffocated, and attacking worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. Protestors have also faced harassment from Israeli officials, including an incident in which the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem told a Palestinian activist it was “a pity” that he wasn’t shot in the head.
Israeli state violence is, of course, not limited to Jerusalem. We are horrified by Israel’s use of disproportionate and deadly force against Palestinians in Gaza which have already resulted in the killings of dozens of Palestinians, including children. Israel’s 14-year illegal blockade on Gaza has created an open air prison with severe shortages of life-saving medicines, food, electricity, and clean water, making life unsafe and unbearable. We call on the Biden administration to condemn this violence and address its root causes: Israeli blockade and occupation.
The Biden administration has repeatedly stated that it intends to center its foreign policy around respect for human rights and international law. We therefore call on the administration to uphold international law and act in accordance with the urgency of the moment to prevent the Israeli government’s forced displacement of thousands of Palestinians.
We support the asks outlined in a letter led by Congresswoman Marie Newman (IL-03) calling on the Biden administration to:
- Immediately send the strongest possible diplomatic message to Israel to desist from its plans to demolish Palestinian homes in Al-Bustan and evict Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah;
- Publicly reiterate that U.S. policy opposes Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and that East Jerusalem is Occupied Territory under international law
- Undertake an expeditious review of previous Congressional requests that the State Department investigate whether Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes with U.S. weapons violates the Arms Export Control Act (AECA);
- If Israel proceeds with its plans to demolish Palestinian homes in Al-Bustan and evict Palestinian residents from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, then the U.S. Embassy to Israel should send observers to document Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians, including details on the military units involved in these operations and the usage of any U.S. weapons for purposes of oversight and accountability regarding Leahy Law and AECA violations.
Members of the Rights & Democracy Project Board,
Jo Sabel Courtney