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Three points to consider when in Palestine and Israel, Foreign Minister

Photo of a child taken care of by medical staff.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministers visit to Israel and Palestine is an important opportunity. We, eight civil society actors, hope that Tobias Billström engage with various stakeholders and clarify Sweden’s positions.
This opinion article was published in Swedish e-magazine Altinget in May 20, 2024.

We, Swedish organizations with a strong commitment to the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations’ work for human rights and a just future peace, would like to provide you, Tobias Billström, with some points to consider during your visit.

  1. Sweden must act forcefully for a permanent ceasefire.

Given the catastrophic situation in Gaza, and especially in recent days in Rafah, this is the most urgent: to achieve a halt to Israel’s continued military offensive.

In Rafah in southern Gaza, hundreds of thousands of people who have fled the fighting in other parts of the tiny area have gathered after the Israeli military designated it as a safe zone. The same military is now urging evacuation. People do not know where to flee, and even the UN has warned that there is no safe place to go. UN reports indicate that over 150,000 pregnant women and mothers with small children are living under terrible conditions, where hundreds of people share one toilet.

Meanwhile, Israel has stopped almost all emergency aid into Gaza. Before the current war started, there were 500 trucks per day. In recent days, only a handful have been allowed, and no fuel is being permitted in anticipation of the offensive against Rafah. This has caused over a million people to live at catastrophic levels of starvation. Without a permanent ceasefire, this situation will continue to worsen.

2. Sweden should act for a ban on trade and financial support for illegal settlements.

During your visit to Palestine, we urge you to visit the families and villages that are harassed daily by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, supported by Israeli security forces. Since October, residents of 19 villages have been forced out of their homes and land due to harassment.

The EU has made it clear that this is against international law, but despite this, the policy continues and is actively supported by the Israeli government and its ministers. Regardless of the Israeli government’s makeup, settlements have continued to grow while Palestinians’ houses are demolished to make way.

We welcome that you and the EU have imposed sanctions on some of these perpetrators, but this and these rights violations will not end without more forceful measures against those who decide and finance these illegalities.

3. Visit the vulnerable and work for a Permanent End to the fighting
Finally, we urge you to take the time to meet with organizations that work for human rights, democracy, equality, and peace, especially female representatives. These people and organizations in both Israel and Palestine, who tirelessly work – often with the support of Swedish aid – for equal human rights, are an indispensable part of a peaceful, equal, and democratic future for both Israelis and Palestinians. Among them are also organizations in Israel that actively work for a ceasefire and for the release of hostages.

Martin Nihlgård, Secretary General of IM, Swedish Development Partner

Anette Uddqvist, Chief Administrative Officer of Operation 1325

Anna Stenvinkel, Secretary General of Forum Civ

Henrik Fröjmark, Head of Policy at Act Church of Sweden

Jennifer Vidmo, Secretary General of Action Aid

Kerstin Bergeå, Chair of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society

Mattias Brunander, Secretary General of Diakonia

Petra Tötterman Andorff, Secretary General of Kvinna till Kvinna

Caption: “Sweden must act forcefully for a permanent ceasefire.” Eight civil society actors writes an open letter to Foreign Minister Tobias Billström. Credit: PMRS

By: tfeditor