On Thursday 28th of July, Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood issued a statement from the UK government condemning the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Whilst this condemnation of the unabated expansion of illegal settlements is welcome by SNPFoP, we need far more than statements from this UK Government, we need to see them take firm action with the international community to put pressure on Israel to put a halt to the continued colonisation of occupied Palestine.
Tobias Ellwood’s statement in full reads:
“The UK condemns the Israeli authorities’ decision to issue tenders for a further 323 settlement units in East Jerusalem. This follows recent development of plans for 770 new units in the Jerusalem suburbs.”
“As set out in the Quartet report, settlement activity is counterproductive and undermines progress towards a two-state solution. This announcement comes on the back of an alarming increase in demolitions of Palestinian houses throughout 2016, including in East Jerusalem.”
“These steps are the latest examples of what seems to be an acceleration of a systematic policy of illegal settlement expansion and demolition of Palestinian property. Along with our international partners, we call on Israel to halt all demolitions and settlement activities.”
Last week Tommy Sheppard MP wrote to the chief executive of the Californian-based online company Airbnb pointing out that the Israeli settlements where the homes are situated are illegal under international law.
“It is of deep concern that a company such as yours that prides itself as being a community, is showing such disregard for the communities in the Occupied Territories who are seeing their homes demolished for Israeli settlements to be built,” he wrote to Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky.
“It seems incredible that a company that aspires to have an international reputation should be assisting in the operation of illegal settlements. By facilitating owners to maintain their settlement properties through Airbnb your company is supporting the unlawful occupation.”
Speaking from Westminster Sheppard told The Scottish Six: “Let’s be clear about this. Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine are illegal. Palestinians are regularly subjected to home demolitions to allow for the building of Israeli settlements which are then subsidised by Israel to encourage settlers to move in and take valuable resources, including water, away from Palestinians.”
Andy Murray, convener of SNP Friends of Palestine, also hit out.
“What Airbnb is doing is immoral, unethical and perpetuates the violation of international humanitarian law,” he said. “Illegal Israeli settlements are counterproductive and one the biggest stumbling blocks to a peaceful and just resolution for the Palestinian people.
“Commercial entities such as Airbnb are effectively financially rewarding illegal settlers for the seizure of occupied Palestinian land and encouraging others to do the same.”
One of the properties in the Occupied Territories is a two-bedroomed apartment with a swimming pool in Ofra, available for £50 per night.
One reviewer said: “The view from this place is lovely. The hosts supplied us with a luscious bowl of fruit, and milk and coffee and tea, as well as locally produced soap made of all-natural ingredients. A beautiful tiled terrace greeted us at the top of the stairs. The apartment was spacious, and the walls were lined with bookshelves, a book-lover’s dream.
“The host and his wife were very available to meet any needs that arose. Also, for those whose only language is English, the host is fluent. For a reasonable charge they supplied us with a fresh Israeli breakfast. Ofra is a safe and protected neighbourhood.”
Last night Yopav Sorek, the host of the Ofra property, told The Scottish Six: “Israel never occupied any territory of Palestine, as such a state never existed.” He added:“Every place needs to be defined in some way. Airbnb offers only two options: Israel and Palestine. As we are Israelis in an Israeli settlement, that’s the reasonable description.”
Founded in San Francisco in 2008, Airbnb’s online listing service spans 191 countries and 34,000 cities around the world.across the world.
The website connects tourists and travellers in need of a place to stay with locals looking to rent out a spare bedroom or property. Both guests and hosts are rated by the online community.
The company’s stated mission is to allow people to “belong anywhere” and it has been used by nearly 17 million travellers.
Despite being based in California, Europe accounts for more than 50 per cent of Airbnb’s business, with Paris as its busiest city worldwide.
Last year the company launched in Cuba with 1,000 listings, even though Cubans have limited access to the internet. It is also trying to expand throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
We need you to contact your MP and ask them to ensure they attend next week’s debate in the UK Parliament on new rules banning public bodies from making ethical procurement decisions.
Many of you will have read in the media about this Tory government’s new guidance limiting the ability of public bodies – including but not limited to local councils and universities – to make ethical choices in their procurements. This could reverse the many positive efforts public bodies have made to divest from illegal Israeli settlements, as well as other areas. In some cases the guidance even appears to contravene the government’s own advice and international law.
In their press release announcing the guidance, the government said….
“We need to challenge and prevent these divisive town hall boycotts. The new guidance…will help prevent damaging and counter-productive local foreign policies undermining our national security”.
Although the guidance has already been published, there are still a number of questions the government needs to answer. It’s therefore key that as many MPs as possible attend and speak out at the debate just announced so the government can see the strength of feeling there is over this issue. The debate will be held next Tuesday, March 15 in the UK Parliament’s Westminster Hall from 2:30-4:00pm.
Please make no assumptions that your MP will be there, the only way they will know of the strength of feeling is if everyone contacts them!