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Peace Not Walls

Ecumenical Letter to the President Marking 50 Year Israeli Occupation

Presiding Bishop Eaton is among 20 ecumenical leaders to sign a letter to President Trump on the 50 year Israeli occupation. The letter was organized by Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) in connection with the CMEP Advocacy Summit now underway.

“Mr. President, we ask you to take the necessary steps to make this year a true jubilee year and work toward a just and durable solution that advances security, human rights, and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians. These steps should include upholding longstanding U.S. policy that recognizes Israeli settlements as illegal and an impediment to peace while ensuring accountability for policies about settlements that disregard legal restraints and international consensus. We call on your administration to promote a shared Jerusalem by Palestinians and Israelis, as well as full access to the Holy Sites of the three religious traditions – Jews, Muslims and Christians – who call them holy.

We pray and hope for a negotiated resolution to the conflict. In this 50th year of occupation, we ask your administration to do more than just seek an end to conflict. Through the confiscation and destruction of viable agricultural lands, deindustrialization, and restriction of movement, the occupation has placed a stranglehold on the Palestinian economy. Trade is an essential component of a stable economy and without it poverty, unemployment, food shortages, and medical crises will continue to destroy the livelihoods and safety of Palestinians which in turn contributes to instability and violence that harms Israelis.

Mr. President, we encourage you to support development and humanitarian assistance that will promote human dignity, especially in the West Bank and Gaza, including access and protection for aid agencies and others. This year, there are more than 2 million people in Gaza and the West Bank in dire need of humanitarian assistance — nearly one out of every two Palestinians.

Mr. President, we Christian leaders continue to choose hope and call for a just peace for both peoples and an end to the occupation. We will support your efforts to build a peace between Israelis and Palestinians “that allows both peoples to live, worship, and thrive and prosper.” It is possible in this 50th year to move from occupation toward jubilee and realize the vision of two viable states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace within secure and recognized borders.”

You can find the full letter here.

“Peace Process” or not, Israeli Occupation Grinds On

During the past two weeks, two events have caught the attention of the international community: the shooting deaths of two teenage protesters in Beitunia and the destruction of thousands of fruit trees on a farm south of Bethlehem. The Nassar family has endured years of harassment by Israeli authorities and set up a retreat center known as Tent of Nations. For Christians affiliated with Lutheran churches throughout the world, these two incidents were heaped on top of the financial crisis facing Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), an institution of the Lutheran World Federation on the Mt. of Olives providing Palestinians with regular cancer and dialysis care.

These three crises exemplify different aspects of how Palestinians experience Israeli control over their lives. In Beitunia, Nadim Nuwara and Muhammad Salameh, both minors, experienced the deadly threat of confrontation with Israeli military forces. The Nassar family experienced the looming threat of Israeli claims to land, either through outright confiscation or prohibited usage for reasons of security. AVH is experiencing institutional threat due to funds not being transferred in a timely fashion from foreign aid agencies, including USAID. Each level—personal, to family, to institutional—is a direct effect of Israeli occupation. Each level is cloaked in excuses and attempts to make the case for the occupation—claims are made that the trees needed to be removed since they could be used to hide terrorist activity; the video of the shootings was forged by Palestinian propagandists.

None of these situations is unique. In February of this year, Amnesty International released a stinging report titled “Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank,” documenting tremendous abuses of power by Israeli police and military units. With this context in mind, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has expressed “grave suspicion that forces willfully killed two Palestinians, injured two others” in the Beitunia incident. In the same way, the Nassar family is experiencing the same threats against farmland in “Area C” portions of the West Bank since the Oslo Accords were signed twenty years ago. Their case is more public, in part, because they have built an international network to support their claims. Many other farmers—especially along the so-called “seam zone” between Israel’s separation barrier and the Green Line denoting Israel proper—have not been so fortunate. And AVH is one in a network of East Jerusalem hospitals, all facing funding shortfalls due to restrictions by western governments. Each of these threats—not just the shootings of unarmed teenagers—present the overwhelming violence, both direct and structural, of the Israeli occupation, harming every aspect of Palestinian life.

These three incidents are related. International advocates seeking to raise awareness about the human toll of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict ought not focus on one without addressing or acknowledging the others. Even among progressive American activists aware of many aspects of life in Israel and Palestine, the deaths of two Muslim teens previously unknown to them can seem distant. Even while we seek to preserve necessary humanitarian institutions like AVH and seek to show solidarity with all farmers with generations owning land in what remains of Area C, the blood of these boys cries out for justice. Because each person has inherent dignity in the eyes of God, these matters are related when this dignity is horribly violated. There is no doubt which one demands swift investigation and swift justice.

The occupation must end. Human dignity must be respected and allowed to flourish. People in Gaza and the West Bank should have access to necessary health care. No more trees should be uprooted under the guise of security concerns for nearby colonies. No more children should die.

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

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


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


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.”


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

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



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

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.


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.