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.

Jewish, Christian and Muslim Leaders United In Support of Secretary of State Kerry’s Peace Initiative

Posted on August 15, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe

NEWSPeace-is-PossibleIn a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry this week, thirty key Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders “voiced strong support for his determined initiative for Israeli-Palestinian peace.”  In similar letters, the leaders called on key members of Congress “to support Secretary Kerry’s continuing urgent efforts for peace.”

The group, including ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, represented The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for the Middle East.  Inspired by the Abrahamic traditions,  a similar group met in January, 2013, declaring ”twilight has fallen on hope for Israeli-Palestinian peace.”  They called for “a bold new initiative for a two-state solution before it’s too late.”

The religious leaders warmly welcomed Secretary Kerry’s announcement a week ago of an agreement “that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.” Appreciating the progress made in earlier formal and informal negotiations toward resolving final status issues, the religious leaders noted that “while these talks have yet to yield a blueprint for peace, they have identified ideas for addressing key issues that must be resolved in a manner acceptable to both sides.”

The Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders offered their prayers for Secretary Kerry’s efforts and pledged that they “are prepared through the national organizations we represent to activate members of synagogues, churches and mosques across the country to support bold American leadership for peace.”

“We know the path to peace is complex and challenging,” the leaders said, “but peace is possible.”

Read the full letters below:

 

Tell Congress – Peace talks must enforce international law

Posted on August 15, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe

THIRD THURSDAY ACTION ALERT FOR AUGUST:  TELL CONGRESS THAT PEACE TALKS MUST UPHOLD INTERNATIONAL LAW

Peace Not Walls, along with other organizations in the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, will send out action alerts monthly on every third Thursday. Each action alert will focus on different issues so that Members of Congress hear consistently that their constituents support a just and lasting negotiated resolution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict. Read the full Action Alert for August.

BethlehemGateAs people of faith, we are hopeful that the renewed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians will be a positive move toward bringing peace with justice to Palestine and Israel. While many have lauded this development, in order for there to be a just and sustainable resolution of the conflict, core concerns will need to be addressed.

In the 20 years since the Oslo Peace Agreement and in violation of international law the government of Israel has encouraged and subsidized a more than doubling of the number of Israeli settlers on occupied Palestinian land. Since the new peace talks were recently announced, Israel has announced construction plans for more than 2000 new settlement units and has added 90 settlements to its National Priority list which means the Government of Israel is officially encouraging even more settlement growth by subsidizing costs to live there.

Just as the United States is swift to hold Palestinians to account for actions not in keeping with U.S. positions or international law, we should not hesitate to apply the same standard to the State of Israel. Since the 1967 war and subsequent occupation, the U.S. and international policies have been consistent in declaring the military occupation, the settlement building and the annexation of East Jerusalem to be against international law. And yet, there have been no consequences for these flagrant violations.

As stated in the Oct. 5, 2012, letter signed by ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and 15 other faith leaders, the U.S. has continued to give $3 billion a year to Israel despite these and other violations. For any real progress to be made, we must confront violations of international law on all sides and firmly hold both parties accountable.

For the sake of both Palestinians and Israelis, it is time for a peace process that results in the enforcement of international and human rights law and ends the illegal military occupation of Palestinian land.

FOR MORE ON THE PEACE PROCESS:

New European Union guidelines ban EU funding for Israeli projects in the Occupied PalestinianTerritories

Posted on July 17, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe

The European Union has announced that it will no longer fund Israeli projects in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which are slated to become a Palestinian state.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, any Israeli entity seeking funding from or cooperation with the European Union will have to submit a declaration stating that the entity has no direct or indirect links to the West BankEast Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.

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Although everything you see here is in the West Bank, the Israeli separation wall near Bethlehem claims all of the territory to the right of the wall, confiscating olive groves and the settlement on the hill into the “Israeli” side of the wall and allowing no room for growth on the Palestinian side.

 

The guidelines, which condition all future agreements on Jerusalem’s acknowledgement that its occupied territories are not part of Israel, have strained relations with the EU to an unprecedented level.

This is a key development in the long-drawn-out saga of Israel and Palestine because now EU policy officially recognizes that these territories are not a legitimate part of Israel, upholding international law, UN resolutions and the basis of the Oslo Peace Process.

Israel disputes that this settlement is against international law.

Israeli minister Silvan Shalom said this measure was a “big mistake” which cast doubt on the EU’s impartiality in the Israel-Palestinian conflict:

Europeans are making a big mistake once again. They always would like to play a key role in the peace process but once again they are showing us that they cannot play a key role because they don’t have a balanced attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Oslo Peace accord, which Israelis and Palestinians signed, designated the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as the future Palestinian state, which was supposed to have been created by 1999. In this agreement, both parties agreed that they would do nothing to alter the conditions or status of these areas.  Since that time, the settlement population has more than doubled and, according to a UN report on construction planning in parts of the West Bank, Palestinian construction has been effectively prohibited in over 40% of the West Bank, where the land has been largely designated for the use of Israeli settlements or the Israeli military.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the EU announcement as a “significant move”:

The EU has moved from the level of statements, declarations and denunciations to effective policy decisions and concrete steps which constitute a qualitative shift that will have a positive impact on the chances of peace.

The Israeli occupation must be held to account, and Israel must comply with international and humanitarian law and the requirements for justice and peace.

B'Tselem Map of The West Bank, June 2011

July Third Thursday Action Alert

Posted on July 13, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe

TELL CONGRESS TO STOP PALESTINIAN DEMOLITIONS AND DISPLACEMENT

Peace Not Walls, along with other organizations in the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, will send out action alerts monthly on every third Thursday. Each action alert will focus on different issues so that members of Congress hear consistently that their constituents support a just and lasting negotiated resolution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict. This is the first of these monthly alerts.

The ongoing displacement of Palestinians and the demolitions of their homes and villages by the Israeli government are a clear violation of international law. Read the action alert about the villages within “Firing Zone 918″ and send a message to congress that we must use our relationship with Israel to stop violations of human rights and international law.

The displacement and dispossession of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children in the oPt each year must be brought to an end and the policies and practices placing thousands of others at-risk of displacement must change.

- From a UN Report on Palestinian Displacement

 

Documentary films on Israel/Palestine vie for Oscars

Posted on February 22, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe

Two documentary films about Israel/Palestine are in the news right now because they are both up for an Oscar award for best documentary film.

Five Broken Cameras was made by two men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, and tells the story of  non-violent resistance in the West Bank village of Bilin to the Israeli separation barrier and the growing Israeli settlements infringing on their daily lives.  See an interview with Christine Amanpour with the film makers. 

The Gatekeepers captures the stories of the 6 living past directors of the Shin Bet, the Israeli Secret police, and their warnings to the state of Israel that the current path of occupation and expanding Israeli settlements will not lead to peace but perpetual struggle.  See an interview with Christine Amanpour with the film maker.

UN Independent Committee Releases Report on Settlements: Israel must cease all settlement activities

Posted on February 1, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe
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All the land you see is Palestinian land. The Israeli separation barrier has been used to loop in and take land into the Israeli side of the barrier (to the right of the barrier). Here, a view from a Bethlehemite’s house looking over the barrier to Gilo, one of the larger settlements in East Jerusalem.

The report on the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people has been released by the UN international fact-finding mission, concluding that the settlements violate a “multitude” of human rights of the Palestinians and that “these violations are all interrelated, forming part of an overall pattern of breaches that are characterised principally by the denial of the right to self-determination and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian people which occur on a daily basis.”  

Read the full report

The chair of the mission, Ms. Christine Chanet from France, said the report concludes that “in compliance with Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Israel must cease all settlement activities without preconditions.”

The report details how the Israeli governments since 1967 have openly led, directly participated in, and had full control of the planning, construction, development, consolidation and encouragement of settlements.

“We are today calling on the government of Israel to ensure full accountability for all violations, put an end to the policy of impunity and to ensure justice for all victims,” said Ms. Asma Jahangir, member of the Mission from Pakistan.

The report states that Israel is committing serious breaches of its obligations under the right to self-determination and under humanitarian law. The report also concludes that the Rome Statute establishes the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over the transfer of populations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.“The magnitude of violations relating to Israel’s policies of dispossessions, evictions, demolitions and displacements from land shows the widespread nature of these breaches of human rights. The motivation behind violence and intimidation against the Palestinians and their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands, allowing the settlements to expand,” said Ms. Unity Dow, member of the Mission from Botswana

The International Fact-Finding Mission: Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was established by Human Rights Council Resolution 19/17 in March, 2012, which decided to “dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

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Tenders for illegal settlement units in East Jerusalem have ballooned during Prime Minister Netanyahu’s leadership. This chart is from the UN report above.

Recently, another report criticized the settlement enterprise.  A Peace Now report concluded that Israel’s settlement policies since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been a direct threat to the two-state solution: 

The current government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, took office on March 31, 2009. In the period since, its policies and actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem disclose a clear intention to use settlements to systematically undermine and render impossible a realistic, viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Read more about the Peace Now report. 

Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders call for renewed peace process for Palestinians and Israelis

Posted on January 26, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe

A group of Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders, making up the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for peace in the Middle East, are calling for a renewed effort to restart the dormant peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the ELCA is among the leaders.  See ELCA news release.

Here is their recent statement:

Twilight of Hope for Israeli-Palestinian Peace
January 2013

Twilight has fallen on the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders committed to peace, we urge immediate, sustained U.S. leadership before darkness falls on the hopes for a peaceful resolution.

We recently witnessed shadows of dusk. We mourn for the lives lost and shattered during the violence that gripped southern Israel and Gaza. What we have seen, recently and before, will keep happening if movement towards a viable two state-solution continues to stagnate. The status quo is unsustainable and dangerous to both Israelis and Palestinians. Now is not the time for another cycle of recriminations. It is time to break the cycle of violence with bold initiatives for peace.

The current dangerous stalemate, including the legacy of past failed peacemaking efforts, undermines our security and that of others, destabilizes the region, fuels terrorism and extremism, allows continuing Israeli settlement expansion, and prolongs Palestinian disunity. These realities and the absence of negotiations threaten to kill the prospect of a viable two-state peace agreement, the only realistic solution to the conflict.

As people of faith, we proclaim that we should never underestimate what is possible. Egypt and the United States helped achieve a ceasefire in Gaza. With the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians can achieve a lasting peace. A new dawn is possible.

As members of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI), we affirm President Obama’s support for a negotiated two-state peace agreement that provides for a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.

We know the challenges are daunting, but we believe a bold new initiative for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement should be an immediate priority of the new Administration in 2013. We fear the opportunity for a peaceful resolution is rapidly waning and the current stagnation encourages the rejectionists on both sides. Our nation has unique leverage and credibility in the region. Indeed, no past progress towards peace has occurred in this conflict without U.S. leadership, facilitation or staunch support. Once again, we need active, fair and firm U.S. leadership to help break the current deadlock and to achieve a two-state peace agreement now before it is too late.

The Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders of NILI are committed to mobilizing broad public support for U.S. leadership for peace. We will mobilize the strong support that exists in churches, synagogues and mosques across the country.

Twilight is upon us; but the hope for a new dawn remains. Let us together bring the new light of hope and work for negotiations leading to a final status agreement.

List of Endorsers (Organizations for identification only)

Christian Leaders:

Bishop Richard E. Pates, D.D., Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington
Bishop Denis J. Madden, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore
Archbishop Vicken Aykasian, Director, Ecumenical Affairs, Armenian Orthodox Church in America
Fr. Mark Arey, Director, Office of Ecumenical Affairs, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Kathryn Mary Lohre, President, National Council of Churches of Christ USA
Bishop Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church
Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Reverend Geoffrey Black, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ
Reverend Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)
Bishop Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision US
Reverend Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries, Board Member, World Vision US
David Neff, Editorial Vice-President, Christianity Today
John Buchanan, Editor/Publisher, The Christian Century

Jewish Leaders:

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Ph.D. Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University
Rabbi Burt Visotzky
Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Muslim Leaders:

Imam Mohammed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America
Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America
Naeem Baig, Executive Director, Islamic Circle of North America
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder of the ASMA Society and the Cordoba Initiative
Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain, Georgetown University
Dawud Assad, President Emeritus, Council of Mosques, USA
Eide Alawan, Interfaith Office for Outreach, Islamic Center of America
Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance

 

New Report by OCHA on Conditions for Palestinians in Jerusalem

Posted on January 3, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe

A UN report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was released in December that focuses on key humanitarian issues in Jerusalem, including:

- Around 293,000 Palestinians currently reside in East Jerusalem, in addition to 200,000 Israeli settlers who reside in the settlements which have been constructed and expanded since 1967, contrary to international law (end of 2011, ICBS).

- Approximately 4 million Palestinians from the remainder of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) are prohibited from entering East Jerusalem without Israeli-issued permits, which are difficult to obtain.

- Access to East Jerusalem is controlled by a combination of physical and administrative obstacles. Palestinians who are able to obtain permits can only use four of the 16 checkpoints along the Barrier.

- Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem lack a secure legal residency status. Between 1967 and mid-2010, around 14,000 Palestinians had their Jerusalem residency revoked by the Israeli authorities.

- Approximately 55,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are physically separated from the urban centre by the Barrier; they must cross crowded checkpoints to access health, education and other services to which they are entitled as residents of Jerusalem.

- 35% of land in East Jerusalem has been confiscated for Israeli settlement use; only 13% of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian construction, much of which is already built-up.

- At least 33% of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack Israeli-issued building permits, which are difficult to obtain, potentially placing at least 93,100 residents at risk of displacement, which has a psychological impact. Since 1967, the Israeli authorities have demolished some 2,000 houses in East Jerusalem.

- There is a chronic shortage of classrooms in East Jerusalem: 1,100 additional classrooms are required to accommodate Palestinian children and many existing facilities are substandard or unsuitable.

New OCHA report on illegal Israeli settlement impact on Palestinians

Posted on December 19, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

 

 

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Concerns in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA) has released a new report on the humanitarian impact of the Israeli settlement policy on Palestinians. Among its findings:

Key Facts:

    • Since 1967, Israel has established about 150 settlements (residential and others) in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; in addition to some 100 “outposts” erected by settlers without official authorization. Three new settlements were approved in 2012 by retroactively ‘authorizing’ such outposts.
    • In 2011, the settler population was estimated at over 520,000; the annual average rate of growth during the past decade was 5.3% (excluding East Jerusalem), compared to 1.8% for the Israeli population as a whole (ICBS).
    • Up to 28 November, there had been a threefold increase in the number of new settler housing units which were issued for tender in 2012, compared to 2011 (Peace Now); on 30 November, the Israeli authorities announced plans to build 3,000 new settlement units in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
    • The fenced or patrolled areas of settlements cover three percent of the West Bank; in total 43% of the West Bank is allocated to settlement local and regional councils.
    • Virtually all of the land declared by Israel as public or “state land” (27% of the West Bank) has been allocated to settlements, rather than for the benefit of the local Palestinian population (B’Tselem).
    • About one third of land within the outer limits of settlements is privately owned by Palestinians, according to official Israeli land records (Peace Now).
    • In 2012, one Palestinian was killed and approximately 1,300 injured by Israeli settlers or security forces in incidents directly or indirectly related to settlements, including demonstrations.
    • Only ten percent of 781 investigations conducted by Israeli police into incidents of settler violence between 2005 and 2011 resulted in indictments (Yesh Din).
    • Approximately 540 internal checkpoints, roadblocks and other physical obstacles impede Palestinian movement within the West Bank; these obstacles exist primarily to protect settlers and facilitate their movement, including to and from Israel.
    • The location of settlements was the major consideration behind the deviation of the Barrier’s route into the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; once complete, about 80% of the settler population will live in settlements located on the western (“Israeli”) side of the Barrier.
    • Israeli settlers in the West Bank consume approximately six times the water used by Palestinians in the West Bank.

LWF President’s Christmas Message

Posted on December 18, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

Children hold hands in Za’atri Refugee Camp in northern Jordan, caring for thousands of Syrian refugees.

Lutheran World Federation President Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, released his Christmas message this week, urging people to think of Christmas as a time to remember the refugees among us, even as the Christ child was born to a refugee family.

We can see the faces of the Holy Family today in refugee families forced to flee from Syria into the Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan, in Somali refugee families in the Dadaab complex in northeastern Kenya, and in other refugees throughout the world. In Europe today, we see the Holy Family in the experiences of Roma communities. An ancient nomadic culture, Roma are still exposed to marginalization simply because they do not conform to dominant culture.

Many refugees are uprooted with little hope for a solution. I am one of them, a Palestinian who carries a refugee card. I know what it means to be rejected, neglected and stateless. My heart breaks for every refugee, for every family forced from their home. In this Christmas season, we know that Christ finds his manger in every person who seeks asylum, in each of the nearly 44 million refugees and internally displaced people throughout the world. Forced to escape Herod’s persecution, Christ experienced abuses of power and the effects of armed struggle.

The child of the manger continues to understand the plight of every refugee wherever they are. The duty of the church is to be a safe haven for all refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. To them we say, “Do not be afraid. A Savior is born to you and the whole world.” They must find a place in our inn.

We in the Lutheran communion continue to commit ourselves to accompanying God’s people, especially those who are marginalized and displaced. Our call is to provide refuge from violence and poverty, shelter in the storms, and shade from the heat. Today, the LWF is directly serving nearly 1.5 million refugees throughout the world. That means that each of our 143 member churches is responding to the needs of 10,500 refugees. This generous spirit reflects the strength of our communion working together to respond to God’s call to welcome the stranger.

Read the full Christmas message | Read LWF press release