Peace Not Walls

Articles, stories, photos and video about keeping faith in the Holy Land and creating a peaceful, just environment where all humans can flourish.

Israel and Hamas: Fire and Ceasefire in a New Middle East – International Crisis Group

Posted on November 24, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

The International Crisis Group analyzes the politics and new realities of the Gaza situation post-Arab Spring:

For now, the immediate objective must be to ensure fighting truly stops and that the other commitments mentioned in the ceasefire agreement are fulfilled. There is good reason for scepticism given the history of such undertakings and the imprecision in the text itself. But new dynamics in the Middle East potentially could make this time different. Cairo has an incentive to ensure success; it has much to offer – politically, diplomatically and, together with its allies in Ankara and Doha, materially – to Hamas; and the Islamist movement would be loath to alienate Morsi’s Egypt in the way it rarely hesitated to alienate Mubarak’s. By the same token, Israel can take solace in the fact that, even when governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt proved pragmatic and eager to avoid escalation. If it does not wish this situation to change, it too will have to live up to its undertakings. Finally, the U.S. and President Obama likely acquired new credibility and leverage in Israel by virtue of the unquestioned support they offered Jerusalem; those assets can be used to ensure compliance with the ceasefire agreement.

Read full analysis.

LWF President and General Secretary urge parties to honor Gaza ceasefire

Posted on November 22, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

The Lutheran World Federation urges all parties to honor the Gaza ceasefire and appeals for an immediate resumption of negotiations for a broader peace.

In a statement today by LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, the LWF said that the recent conflict has cost innocent human lives and injuries on both sides. The need for a broader peace is urgent, they said.

The LWF reiterated its call for an immediate lifting of the economic blockade against the Gaza Strip, urged international efforts to relieve the suffering there and appealed to all parties to refrain from violent or provocative actions.

“The humanitarian situation facing the 1.6 million people living in Gaza is dire. Children, the elderly, and other vulnerable people have been bearing the brunt of the conflict,” the LWF leaders said.

Read the full LWF Press Release

In addition, ELCJHL Bishop Munib Younan issued this video message:


Pray for Gaza and Southern Israel

Posted on November 19, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Gaza and Southern Israel, as escalated violence has claimed many lives and brought devastation to a beleaguered region.  110 Palestinians and 3 Israelis have been killed, hundreds wounded and enormous devastation of infrastructure and housing in Gaza has occurred.

The Association of International Development Agencies, 44 aid agencies operating in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel that includes The Lutheran World Federation, has called upon all sides to end the violence as a humanitarian disaster is in the making:

As the impact of days of violent escalation worsens for civilians in Gaza and in Israel, a group of 44 aid and development agencies today urged world leaders to take swift action to enforce a ceasefire in order to protect civilian lives and infrastructure and prevent another widespread humanitarian disaster in Gaza brought on by a prolonged military confrontation.

The agencies said the international community must apply immediate pressure on the government of Israel to keep the crossings to Gaza open to allow in supplies of essential humanitarian aid and push all parties to the conflict to end violence and uphold their obligations under International Law.

“World leaders cannot sit by while civilian casualties in Gaza and Israel continue to mount,” said Nishant Pandey, Oxfam Country Director.       Read their full statement.

The National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine has also released a statement calling for a halt to the war against Gaza and an end to the 5-year Israeli siege of Gaza which the statement  says is the underlying cause of the violence.

Meanwhile, talks of a cease-fire are rumored as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flies toward the region.

Read more about the escalation of violence and the 5-year siege of Gaza.


Some restricted aid to finally reach Palestinians, with conditions

Posted on April 9, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

Last year, Congress approved $147 million in aid to the Palestinians which should have been spent last year to rebuild infrastructure and generate economic growth.  Two congresswomen, however, have delayed those funds for 8 months.  Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist, comments on the recent release of some of these funds.

Congresswoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, announced on March 23 that she was ending her restriction on the funds.  The second congresswoman, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, agreed recently to release her hold on part of the funds – $88 million – with some restrictions that Kuttab says potentially inhibits the growth of Christian tourism in the Holy Land. 

Ros-Lehtinen stipulated that the money not be used for assistance in Gaza or for road construction projects in the West Bank, except if directly related to security.  She also denied use for trade facilitation, tourism promotion, scholarships for Palestinian students and other aid for Palestinian Authority agencies and ministries.  Kattub comments:

It is hard to understand why a member of Congress would set such conditions over the recommendations of USAID. The USAID money for reconstruction of Gaza was pledged by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and doesn’t go to the Hamas-led government but to the people of Gaza, who suffered tremendous hardships during the Israeli war in 2008-09. Road construction and trade facilitation projects in the West Bank fit perfectly with the two-state solution, which Israel’s prime minister supports.

He also thinks that this move contradicts a request for proposals from USAID, in which the U.S. government was looking for contractors able to help in rebuilding the following Christian sites in the occupied West Bank:

  • Burqeen church near Jenin, a Christian sanctuary dating to the early Byzantine era. The current structure dates to the 12th century.
  • Sabastia/Samria. The biblical capital of the Northern Kingdom of Ancient Israel, the current ruins date from the Roman period.
  • Tell Balata Archaeological Park in Nablus, which is listed as an archeological biblical site. It’s the site of the Canaanite and biblical city of Shechem.
  • Jacob’s well, reputed to be the site of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. The site is also associated with the biblical patriarchs.
  • Shepherd’s field in Beit Sahour, which is a Christian site near Bethlehem.

It is interesting that one or two people can counteract the will of congress, our democratically-elected means of governing.

New UNRWA reports show economic woes in Gaza and record number of children displaced by home demolitions

Posted on June 14, 2011 by Julie Brenton Rowe

An UNRWA report done on the 5th anniversary of the Gaza blockade shows that unemployment in the 2nd half of 2010 reached an unprecedented 45%, one of the highest rates in the world.  Real wages continued to decline, especially in the private sector, falling 35% since the first half of 2006.

These are disturbing trends, and the refugees, which make up two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.5 million population, were the worst hit in the period covered in this report. It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.  – UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness

Read more     |   Read full report   |  See Peace not Walls Gaza page


Another UNRWA report shows that a record number of children were displaced in May by Israeli eviction or demolition of Palestinian homes and families.  UNRWA has also created a new website called Demolition Watch that monitors these demolitions and evictions, and calls upon Israel to stop this practice as they claim it violates international law

Gaza Cease-fire Announced, Broken

Posted on April 8, 2011 by Robert Smith

Original post: April 7, 2011. After weeks of mounting tensions and cross-boundary violence, Hamas has worked with all militant groups within Gaza to ensure a cessation of rocket attacks from the coastal territory. See this analysis from the Israeli daily newspaper, Ha’aretz. The ELCA’s Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine (available here in PDF format) seeks “An end to terrorism and violence by individuals, groups, and states” (2.B.1.b).

Update: April 8, 2011. Unfortunately, the cease-fire has not held among all parties in Gaza. As Ha’aretz reports today, militants in Gaza fired several mortars into Israeli territory, prompting an IDF military strike. The Ma’an News Agency reports that the status of the ceasefire is unclear, given the refusal of some militant groups to lay their weapons down.