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Peace Not Walls

ELCA signs letter to President Trump about UNRWA funding

On February 6, 2018 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) joined thirteen other Christian denominations and organizations concerned about and working in the Middle East in signing a letter to President Trump “to express our dismay at the recent decision to withhold $65 million in U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).”

The letter highlights the devastating humanitarian impact of these cuts, the politicization of humanitarian aid, and the denial of basic rights to Palestinians.

You can read the full letter about UNRWA funding  here.

ELCA Churchwide Assembly addresses human rights concerns in Israel and Palestine


The text below is an ELCA News Story that can be found here

CHICAGO (Sept. 8, 2016) – Voting members of the 2016 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans Aug. 8-13 approved two memorials that address concerns over human rights in Israel and Palestine. The assembly also affirmed the ELCA’s inter-religious partnerships and efforts to address anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hatred based on religion and reaffirmed actions of previous assemblies regarding responsible investment in Israel-Palestine.

Through the first action – “Peace with Justice in the Holy Land” – the assembly reaffirmed the commitment of the ELCA to continue its awareness-building, accompaniment and advocacy for  a peaceful resolution of the Israel and Palestine conflict, as well as seeking ways to support Palestinians and Israelis in restorative-justice dialogue.

The memorial also called for assisting the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and other Christians to sustain their endangered presence in the Holy Land and promoting the economic empowerment of Palestinians, including through investment, prayer for the ELCJHL and the work of The Lutheran World Federation Jerusalem program.

The action reaffirmed the need to protect the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis and oppose all violence and actions that discriminate or deny any people their freedom, dignity or human rights.

It also urged the church’s members, congregations, synods, agencies and presiding bishop to call on their members of Congress and the administration to require that, to continue receiving U.S. financial and military aid, Israel comply with internationally recognized human rights standards as specified in U.S. law, stop settlement building and the expansion of existing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, end its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enable an independent Palestinian state.

Dennis Frado, director of the Lutheran Office for World Community, said that these actions “called for greater accountability by the U.S. government on the basis of international human rights standards for Israeli practices in order for Israel to continue to receive foreign and military assistance.”

Frado emphasized that these laws apply to all U.S.-aid recipients. “The ELCA has made similar calls for accountability for U.S. aid with respect to the civil war in El Salvador in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as signed a letter to Congress in May 2016 concerning military aid and sales to several Middle East nations, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well as Israel,” he said.

In the second action – “Justice for the Holy Land through Responsible Investment” – the assembly called on the church to reaffirm the actions of the 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2013 ELCA churchwide assemblies regarding responsible investment in Israel-Palestine. The memorial directed the ELCA’s corporate social responsibility review team to develop a human rights social criteria investment screen based on the social teachings of the church and on human rights concerns raised in the ELCA Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine, adopted by the ELCA Church Council in 2005.

The memorial also encourages ELCA members, congregations, synods, agencies and institutions to increase positive investment in Palestine and other under-resourced areas where human rights abuses materially impact the well-being of all people and to engage in shareholder advocacy in support of human rights.

The ELCA’s social criteria investment screens provide a guide for this church with regard to corporate social responsibility. They delineate areas in which the ELCA would like to invest or refrain from future investing and provide criteria to evaluate the scope of corporate social responsibility work. The social criteria investment screen policy was approved by the ELCA Church Council in 2006 and revised in 2012.

“The Churchwide Assembly voted to develop a human rights social criteria investment screen taking into account the concerns raised in the ELCA Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine. It did not vote to divest,” said Frado.

The assembly welcomed two guests who brought greetings and shared their respective commitments to partnering with the ELCA and others opposing hatred based on religion and to building peace.

Rabbi David Sandmel, director of interfaith affairs of the Anti-Defamation League, told those gathered, “All of us who are people of faith, who are proud to identify with a particular tradition, must stand together and speak out, to act, and to protect those at home and around the world who suffer because of their religious identity. This is one of the great challenges of our generation, one that we can only address together.”

Dr. Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, commended the ELCA’s shared vision of a society where “different religious are working together, and different religions – shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand – are creating and translating our religious ideals of equality, respect, and of peace and justice together.” Both guests received a standing ovation and warmly embraced each other.
Sandmel lifted up the ELCA’s 1994 “Declaration to the Jewish Community,” which repudiated Luther’s anti-Judaic diatribes, denounced anti-Semitism, and reached out to Jewish neighbors.

“This declaration serves as the framework for our church’s Jewish relations – past, present and future,” said Kathryn Lohre, ELCA executive for ecumenical and inter-religious relations. “The actions of the assembly must be understood in relationship to these commitments – as challenging the policies of the government of Israel– and not as an affront to Judaism or the Jewish people. Therefore, we must continue to engage in dialogue seeking mutual understanding and collaboration for the common good.”

All the legislative updates of the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly are available at


ELCA passes actions on Israel and Palestine

At the 2016 Churchwide Assembly the ELCA voted in favor of two actions related to peace with justice in Palestine and Israel.

On August 12 the assembly voted in favor of the “Peace with Justice in the Holy Land (Category C1) ” memorial. The vote was done by electronic ballot: 751 (82.26%) in favor and 162 (17.74%) opposed.

On August 13 the assembly voted in favor of the “Justice for the Holy Land through Responsible Investment (the Category C2)” memorial. The vote was done by card. The vote was in favor by a very large majority and many observers at the assembly suggest it was 90+% in favor. 

2015 LWF Jerusalem Annual Report Now Available

2015 LWF Jerusalem Annual Report

2015 LWF Jerusalem Annual Report

The 2015 Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Jerusalem Program Annual report is now available. The report includes updates and articles on each of the ministries of the LWF Jerusalem Program, including: Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), the Vocational Training Program, Scholarships, Material Aid, LWF Olive Oil from the Mount of Olives, and more.

The report includes a tribute remembering and celebrating the life and work of Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, who passed on 16 May 2015. Dr. Tawfiq served as Chief Operating Officer and as Chief Executive Officer at AVH for a total of eighteen years.

View the 2015 Annual Report (PDF)

The LWF Jerusalem Program also celebrates new developments in 2016:

April 2016: AVH celebrated the opening of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) $2.9 million contribution provided AVH with the essential equipment needed to operate the unit and intensive advanced training for its staff members to run the newly established Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit.

Read more and find photos here

April 2016: On Thursday, 21 April 2016 the LWF and German Development Cooperation celebrated the opening of a renovated multi-purpose sports field at the LWF Vocational Training Center (VTC) in East Jerusalem.

Read more and find photos here

May 2016: The AVH Infection Control team held a hand hygiene awareness campaign in cooperation with the WHO SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands campaign. This annual event calls for health care workers to improve hand hygiene practices. AVH used this opportunity to reach out to staff, patients, and visitors to raise awareness about good hand hygiene habits.

Read more and find photos here

October Third Thursday Advocacy Alert


Peace 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. 


roadblockThis week tell your Members of Congress in person or in writing that Israel should remove the hundreds of movement restrictions on Palestinians only (not Israeli settlers) within the West Bank which protect expanding Israeli settlements. With over 500 movement restrictions limiting access to farmland and making import and export extremely difficult, the Palestinian economy is dramatically limited.

The complex system of restrictions on movement and access imposed by Israel is the most significant impediment to Palestinian private sector growth.
– From a recent World Bank report

Read October’s full action alert.
Read more about settlements.
Read 2012 UN OCHA Report on Movement and Access

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

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


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.


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

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.


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


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


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.