STATEMENT BY CHURCH-RELATED EUROPEAN & CANADIAN AGENCIES
From 27 September till 16 October 2000, we, the Middle East representatives
of Bread for the World (Germany), Christian Aid (UK), Church of Sweden Aid,
DanChurchAid (Denmark), EZE (Germany), ICCO (Netherlands) and InterChurch
Action (Canada), visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories.
We visited the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Arab-populated areas in
and spoke extensively with partner organisations, members of churches and
church-related organisations, members of Palestinian and Israeli human
rights organisations, medical personnel who were eye-witnesses to the
violence, as well as victims of the violence.
The most vivid impression was the fear we observed in ordinary
people. They fear the excessive violence of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF)
and they fear violence from armed Israeli settlers and civilians under the
protection of the Israeli army and border police - directed not against
street protests but against people going about their daily lives.
We witnessed the impact of the violence on Palestinian children
numbers of children killed or injured but also the psychological after
effects. Many of our partners are preparing counselling sessions for
children to cope with nightmares and traumatic experiences.
The portrayal of these events in the media fails to reflect many aspects
what we witnessed and heard. By demanding a Ścease-fire¹ the impression is
created that there are simply two armed parties that receive orders to fight
and that can also be ordered to stop. This is not the case, on one side is
the sophisticated Israeli army and on the other, predominantly Palestinian
civilians and some police and militia members with small arms. However,
partners also expressed their concerns about some specific acts of violence
carried out by Palestinians, specifically the destruction of Joseph¹s Tomb
and the mob deaths of two soldiers in Ramallah. Partners highlighted the
negative impact such actions have on world opinion, making it possible for
the media to talk about violence on both sides and equate what has happened
to the Israelis with the vastly greater violence done to Palestinians.
We met with Israeli partners who are committed to peace, equality
justice. We stand by them at a time when they are facing isolation within
Israel and even direct threats against them. They are encouraging us to
taken an active role in advocacy to promote the idea that peace can only be
achieved through respect for international law.
We share with our partners their uncertainty for the future of their
on-going economic and social development work. Once again long term
programmes aimed at improving the lives of those most in need of new
prospects and stabililty have been thwarted by yet another crisis. We must
remain open to providing support as it is most needed by local partners as
they adapt to the present situation, including providing emergency funds,
changing project goals or redirecting resources.
In our view, the present events mark a turning point in terms of the
process. It will be impossible to return to the Oslo framework. We are
convinced that at the core of a just peace must be self-determination and
independence for all Palestinians. We also stress the need to continue
working alongside our Jewish and Palestinian Israeli counterparts as they
work to build a more equitable democratic state.
Since the violence began, the IDF has been deploying excessive and totally
disproportionate force against street demonstrations comprising mainly
unarmed Palestinian civilians. The IDF crossed the line from controlling
demonstrators - for which it could have used teargas, water canons, or
avoiding direct confrontations to prevent violence - to waging war using
sharpshooters, tanks, helicopter gunships and naval bombardment.
The most urgent need is to stop the killing and give protection to the
Palestinians. The unequal forces involved are reflected in the number of
deaths and injured on both sides. While a total of 5 Israelis have died in
the violence 4 of them soldiers as of 19 October, a total of 97
Palestinians were killed including 29 children under the age of 15, and 4044
injured including 1148 children. Most casualties have injuries to the head
and other upper parts of the body, demonstrating a Śshoot-to-kill or do
maximum harm¹ policy of the Israeli army. Many of the injuries are serious,
involving the loss of eyes and limbs and brain damage.
A further dangerous escalation of the violence is the attacks being
out by armed Jewish settlers and Jewish-Israelis on Palestinian homes and
Palestinian civilians including children. Several Palestinians have been
killed by Jewish settlers. The perpetrators are Israeli citizens and the
Israeli government should be held accountable for their actions.
Palestinians in the occupied territories are asking for a normal life
freedom from fear. The seven years of the Oslo process have not brought this
normality. Israel has continued to dominate in most spheres of life and to
impede freedom of movement. Only 11 per cent of the West Bank and 60 per
cent of the Gaza Strip have been transferred to full Palestinian control.
Since 1993, Palestinians have witnessed the inexorable expansion of illegal
Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. As of last year, there were
158 settlements in the West Bank, at least 16 in East Jerusalem and 19 in
Gaza with a total population of 364,000.
In the current crisis, every village and town has been cut off, making
travel between regions impossible. This closure has a severe impact on the
health system, the transport of food and other supplies, and exacerbates the
high unemployment and economic stagnation that already characterise the
Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20 per cent of the total
population, have reacted with the shock and bewilderment at being fired on
by their own police force, leaving 13 dead and over 500 injured. They have
also been attacked by armed Jewish Israeli civilians. There have been
hundreds of arrests of Palestinian citizens who are being held without
charge or bail.
Palestinians everywhere have responded to this crisis with an increased
of unity, and especially greater mutual support between Palestinians in the
occupied territories, inside Israel and in Lebanon. This has become an
uprising for Palestinian independence, the implementation of the right of
return for Palestinian refugees and the creation of a Palestinian state
comprising of all territory of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Frequent visits to the region and discussions with our partners over the
years since 1993 led us to warn that the Oslo process was fatally flawed and
that it failed to address basic issues necessary to achieve a just peace.
The Palestinian people have expressed once again their frustration over the
ongoing occupation. The recent events have hardened the view among
Palestinians that all Israeli settlements must be completed dismantled.
A major danger is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over land and
could turn into a broader Western/Israeli Palestinian/Arab/Muslim conflict
or even war over religion that neither side could win, and that would
result in further and more widespread bloodshed.
The international community including Canada, the European Union and
member-states must share responsibility for the failure of the Oslo peace
process. They have allowed Israel to continue with its settlement policy and
have failed to put pressure on Israel to implement UN resolutions 194, 242
Palestinians genuinely desire peace but a new and broader framework
negotiations is needed.This includes a much more prominent political role
for the European Union and Canada since the US cannot be considered an
'honest broker' between the parties. The negotiations should focus on how to
implement UN resolutions and the outcome should not be dependent on the
balance of power between parties to the negotiations.
The key issues remain:
land for peace including East Jerusalem
compliance with key UN resolutions, especially UNGA 194 (the right of return
of refugees), UNSC 242 and 338 (Israeli withdrawal from occupied
an end to all Israeli settlements in the occupied territories
international protection for the Palestinians and internationally sponsored
investigation of the current violence
1. International investigation and international protection
The Sharm El-Sheikh deal will not lead to real independent investigation as
parties are requested to investigate their own misconduct meaning that there
is a need for real independent investigation based on the framework of the
4th Geneva Convention protecting the rights of civilians and aiming to:
a) investigate violations of the 4th Geneva Convention during this period
b) measures and mechanisms to protect the civilians in the immediate and
longer term future
2. Immediate need to address the real causes of the violence; the
impossibility of returning to the Oslo process, therefore the need for a new
framework based on:
a) implementation of UN resolutions 194, 242 and 338. The key question is
not if this should take place but how and when.
b) a new framework should not be brokered by the US only, as they have lost
credibility as an impartial mediator. Rather, other international bodies or
countries should play a fuller political role, such as Russia, the EU and
3. The EU member states and Canada must consider effective enforcement
measures of International HR law. In addition, the EU as body should ensure
that Israel complies with all aspects of the Association Agreement,
particularly Clause 2, which requires Israel to respect and protect HR.
Effective enforcement measures should include freezing existing economic
agreements between Israel and the EU.
European and North American governments¹ must be called to account
actions on two issues:
a) why they voted against the resolution of the UN Human Rights
Commission concerning ³grave and massive violations of the human rights of
the Palestinian people by Israel², agreed during its emergency session on
October 19th 2000
b) why EU member states (including Denmark, Germany, Netherlands,
Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Norway) as well as Canada abstained from a
recent UN General Assembly resolution condemning illegal Israeli actions in
occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Alison Kelly, Head of Middle East, Europe and Central Asia Team, Christian
Sue Turrell, Programme Manager Israel/Palestine, Christian Aid UK/Ireland
Harry Derksen, Desk Officer for the Middle East???, Netherlands
Corrie Roeper, Desk Officer Israel/Palestine, ICCO, Netherlands
Marjorie Ross, representative of InterChurch Action, Canada
Kjell Jonasson, Middle East Secretary, Church of Sweden Aid (Svenska Kyrkan)
Uffe Gjerding, Desk Officer??, DanChurch Aid, Denmark
Sieglinde Weinbrenner, Desk Officer???, EZE??, Germany
Jorg Isert, Desk Officer Israel/Palestine???, Bread for the World (Brot fuer
die welt), Germany.
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