Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
10 August 2001
 
Deal with root causes of Middle East violence, says ecumenical leader
ENI-01-0286

By Stephen Brown
Geneva, 10 August (ENI)--The general secretary of the World
Council of Churches, Dr Konrad Raiser, has described continued
Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory as a "clear violation
of international law".

Speaking after a major consultation on the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict organised by the WCC at its Geneva headquarters this
week, Dr Raiser said that Israel was in a situation of "impunity"
where violations of international law were not being followed up
by effective sanctions.

Dr Raiser was interviewed by ENI yesterday (9 August), before
the news of the attack by a Palestinian suicide bomber on a
Jerusalem restaurant and Israel's subsequent retaliation against
Palestinian targets.

The WCC consultation brought together more than 40 participants
from around the world, including representatives of Jerusalem's
churches and members of Israeli human rights groups.

A press release issued by the WCC after the gathering spoke of
the "urgent need for the churches to move from affirmation to
action in solidarity with the Palestinian people".

It added that the consultation was intended to strengthen
ecumenical support for a "comprehensive peace, based on justice
and security for the Palestinian and Israeli people".

The consultation had before it the report of a seven-person
ecumenical delegation sent to the region by the WCC at the end of
June, which made a series of proposals for developing an
"international ecumenical response to the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict".
 

These included the need to:

:: address and condemn the Israeli military occupation and
affirm the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance to injustice and
foreign occupation;
:: condemn violence against civilians and support non-violent
resistance;
:: insist on the "application of international law as it applies
to the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian right to resist that
occupation, and all efforts for a negotiated peace settlement";
:: address the right of Palestinians to "self-determination on a
sustainable sovereign state, side-by-side with Israel".

The delegation also called for pressure to be exerted both on
Israel to end the occupation and on other governments,
"particularly the United States, to compel Israel to end the
occupation".

Dr Raiser rejected the idea that the WCC might be seen as being
uncritically one-sided in advocating the Palestinian cause.

To speak of the "legitimacy of Palestinian protest and
resistance is meant to draw attention to the root causes of the
conflict", Dr Raiser told ENI, and to avoid being a "party to
attempts to cover up root causes by simply pointing to the
violence of one side or the other".

He said that it had been "the consistent position of the WCC not
to be drawn into the advocacy of any particular position but to
underline the fundamental importance of agreed norms of
international law and agreed norms of human rights,"

He added: "There is no doubt to all those who share this
ethical, moral and legal approach that Israel's continued
occupation, continued [Israeli] settlements [in the occupied
territories], even the expansion of settlements, is a clear
violation of international law to which Israel is a signatory."

It was also agreed this week that the WCC, together with the
churches in Jerusalem and the Middle East Council of Churches,
should consider establishing a permanent presence or office in
Jerusalem to co-ordinate future ecumenical action.

This would strengthen the work of local churches, Dr Raiser told
ENI, whose energy was concentrated on dealing with "immediate
problems for the small Christian community".

The WCC has 342 member churches from around the world,
representing most Christian traditions apart from the Roman
Catholic Church. [593 words]

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