On Tuesday 09/12/14, committee room 6 in the House of Commons was buzzing. A full house of activists engaged and enlightened by the panel of speakers on the East Jerusalem crisis. The event was chaired by Richard Burden MP, Chair of the All Party Britain-Palestine Group and included Prof Manuel Hassassian (Palestine Ambassador to the UK), Hugh Lanning (Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign) and Philipa Harvey (NUT).
Since the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israeli Authorities have isolated the city from the rest of the West Bank, expanded the Jewish population, introduced discriminatory policies against building, voided Palestinian residency statuses as well as implemented countless other schemes in an attempt to drive Palestinians out of the state. Given the heightened tensions in Isreal/Palestine over recent months, Richard Burden MP emphasized it is important to remember that East Jerusalem needs to be included in conversations about the occupation and the situation in Palestine.
Philipa Harvey, visited Palestine as part of the NUT delegation and made a commitment to come back and share real stories she witnessed. We heard of how young Palestinians struggle with establishing an identity, as they are not given the opportunity to learn about their history, their culture and geography. The education system is governed in such a way that restricts what students can be taught which goes as far as restricting being allowed to sing their national anthem. There is chronic shortage of schools, a lack of permits to accommodate the growing number of students in existing classrooms and facilities that are not fit for purpose. Families are forced to consider private systems that are exuberant in cost, home school or move out of East Jerusalem.
Prof Manuel Hassassian spoke powerfully and passionately addressing the audience as the ‘best ambassadors for Palestine’. He expressed his concerns over a two state solution no longer being viable and how Zionism is being used to justify political decisions. He posed many interesting question including ‘why state terrorism justified’. He re-iterated the frustrations around Isreals impunity despite being in violation of international law and the Geneva conventions. The right of return to East Jerusalem, and any part of Palestine, is a sacred right of every Palestinian. If security, peace and justice are not being met, there will never be peace in this region.
Hugh Lanning emphasized the need to link our concern for East Jerusalem with our work on boycott, divestment and sanctions. He urged everyone to make sure that they didn’t have ‘an Hewlett Packard Christmas’, but instead sign the PSC pledge not to buy HP products, until they end their complicity with Israel’s occupation.
After the events over the summer, there has been a major shift in the political opinions around Palestine. The crisis can no longer be ignored and the scale of support has never been so high. We must ensure that East Jerusalem is included in conversations surrounding the occupation so it does not become the forgotten state.