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.

September Third Thursday Alert

Posted on September 18, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe

TELL CONGRESS THAT ISRAEL NEEDS TO STOP SETTLEMENTS FOR JUST PEACE 

thirdthursdayPeace Not Walls, along with other organizations in the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, sends out action alerts monthly on every third Thursday. Each action alert will focus on a different facet of the situation.  We encourage you to contact  your Members of Congress advocating for these issues and continuing to call for a just and lasting negotiated resolution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict. 

As a church, the ELCA stands for the flourishing of human community and against those actions that diminish human dignity. Israel’s ongoing illegal confiscation of land, property and resources from Palestinians, including the rapid expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, is robbing Palestinians of their houses, land and security as well as the hope of a secure, viable Palestinian state.

The U.S. government and international community officially oppose Israel’s settlement policy and hold that all Israeli settlements are illegal. However, Israel faces no consequences from the US for continuing to build settlements in defiance of international law and U.S. policy. If the U.S. is serious about achieving a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel it should follow the lead of the European Union by putting in place consequences for continued settlement activity.

Send your representatives a letter to let them know you oppose ongoing Israeli settlement expansion and believe it to be one of the most important issues threatening a negotiated, just peace. Express to them your demand that the U.S. follow through on its policy statements, uphold international law and put in place consequences for Israel if it continues its settlement activities.

Read September action alert.
Read more about settlements.

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.

claireshouse2

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

 

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

Posted on February 1, 2013 by Julie Brenton Rowe
claireshouse2

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.”

eastjerusalemtenders2012

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. 

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.

Images reveal settlement growth over the years

Posted on December 4, 2012 by karin

In this Haaretz article current plans for Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank are further explained. Check out this article for interactive maps that show settlement expansion over the years in Har Gilo, Har Homa, and Ma’aleh Adumim.

after

The outline in red shows the expansion of the settlement Har Homa since 2003. See the article link above for the interactive map that shows growth over time.

Givat Hamatos: newest Israeli settlement in southeast Jerusalem slated for final approval

Posted on December 3, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe
Typical Israeli settlements, one above and one below a Palestinian village.

Illegal Israeli settlements are scattered throughout the West Bank, housing more than 500,000 Jewish settlers. Often, land will be taken from Palestinian villages like the one shown in mid-photo for settlements like the one in the foreground and the one on the hill.

The Jerusalem Municipality is expected to give final approval for a new settlement called Givat Hamatos near Bethlehem and Beit Safafa. It will be the first completely detached settlement built within the Green Line since Har Homa near Bethlehem. Givat Hamatos A, one of four stages, will have 2,610 housing units. The approximately 4,000 units in the full plan include around 800 units for Palestinian homes built inside Beit Safafa.

According to an article in the Jerusalem Post, it was slated for approval by the Jerusalem Municipality two weeks ago but then tabled when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to town to mediate the Gaza conflict. Approval is now expected in a few weeks.

This comes at a sensitive time when Israel has just announced plans for 3,000 new settlement units in the eastern part of Jerusalem, including going ahead with previously frozen plans to develop the controversial E1 territory. If developed, E1 would virtually cut the West Bank in two and, some say, make a two-state solution impossible.

But veteran Jerusalem activist Danny Seidemann said that Israel’s plans for 7,770 new settlement units around Bethlehem (in Gilo, Har Homa and Givat Hamatos) in the southeast of Jerusalem would be “just as devastating” as E1 because it would cut off Jerusalem from Bethlehem.  Listen to his interview with NPR’s Morning Edition.  Seidemann states:

Under [the] Geneva [Accord], a two-state solution is still possible, where Beit Safafa will be Palestinian, but if Givat Hamatos were to be built it would no longer be possible. In the absence of geographical connection, there will be no political connection, and the loss of a two-state solution jeopardizes Israel’s existence.

Jerusalem City Councilor Elisha Peleg (Likud), who is on the Local Planning and Building Committee, said:

I don’t think any European country or the US would like it if we got involved with their internal matters. They don’t have a right to do this. These places are in full Israeli sovereignty. We have to be strong and to continue to build in Jerusalem as much as possible, in order to create facts on the ground that we’re not giving up on Jerusalem.

Israel has stated that settlements are designed to achieve its long-term security  and to provide needed affordable housing for its natural growth.

Palestine becomes UN non-member state with observer status; Israel to build 3000 new settlement units

Posted on November 30, 2012 by Julie Brenton Rowe

Photo from Haaretz

In an historic vote at the United Nations Thursday, Nov. 29, exactly 65 years after passing the Partition Plan for Palestine, the General Assembly voted by a huge majority to recognize Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member state with observer status in the UN.  138 countries voted in favor of the resolution, 41 abstained and 9 voted against: Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, U.S., Panama, The Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and Micronesia. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, closing his speech to the UN, asserted:

The support of the countries of the world for our endeavor is a victory for truth, freedom, justice, law and international legitimacy, and it provides tremendous support for the peace option and enhances the chances of success of the negotiations. Your support for the establishment of the State of Palestine and for its admission to the United Nations as a full member is the greatest contribution to peacemaking in the Holy Land.

The US opposed the move, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling it “unfortunate and counterproductive.”  U.S. UN envoy Susan Rice said the resolution does not establish Palestine as state, that it prejudges the outcome of negotiations, and ignores questions of security.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Proser responded to President Abbas’ speech, saying  “the UN was founded to advance the cause of peace. Today the Palestinians are turning their back on peace. Don’t let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying the world had watched a speech “full of dripping venom and false propaganda against the IDF and Israeli citizens. This is not how someone who wants peace speaks.”

An Israeli spokesman announced on Friday that Israel will build 3000 new housing units in the illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and that it will advance plans for the controversial E1 area outside Jerusalem.  If the E1 settlement plans are fully developed by Israel, it would threaten the contiguity of any future Palestinian state by virtually cutting the West Bank into northern and southern portions.

Read full Haaretz article | Read President Abbas’ full speech

Other reactions to the vote:

World weighs in on UN Palestine vote
World headlines showed a mix of emotions – but a lot of common ground on how much impact this may have on prospects for peace.
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2012/1130/World-weighs-in-on-UN-Palestine-vote

UN vote celebration in Ramallah
http://edition.cnn.com/video/?hpt=hp_t1#/video/world/2012/11/29/wr-pleitgen-ramallah-reacts-to-un-palestinian-vote.cnn

After Vote, Palestinians and Israel Search for the Next Step
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/world/middleeast/palestinians-and-israel-seek-next-step-after-vote.html?ref=middleeast

Vatican hails UN vote, wants Jerusalem guarantees
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=543566&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Palestinian Legal strategy against Israel: The Real Prize is Europe AND Israeli Reaction to UN Vote: Politicians Burn Palestinian Flag, Pundits fear International Criminal Court
http://www.juancole.com/

Supporting Palestine at the UN today is a vote for peace in the Middle East by Hanan Ashrawi
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/29/supporting-palestine-un-vote-for-peace