Statement adopted by the Standing Conference of  Middle Eastern Christian & Muslim Religious Leaders
Meeting in Englewood, New Jersey on Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Signed by:
The Most Reverend Metropolitan PHILIP, Chairman Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
The Right Reverend Bishop Stephen Doueihi Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn
The Most Reverend Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America
Imam Fadhel Al-Sahlani Imam AI-Khoei Islamic Center, Jamaica, NY
The Most Reverend John A. Elya  Eparch of Newton, Melkite Diocese of Newton
Very Reverend Chorepiscopus ]ohn Meno, For The Most Reverend Archbishop Cyril Aphrem Karim - Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church for the Eastern United States
Sheikh Sami T. Merhi, Chairman The Druze Council of North America
Sheikh Hamad Ahmad Chebli Islamic Society of Central New Jersey

 
The recent wave of violence in the Middle East is of grave concern. We condemn the violence, especially the excessive use of force by Israeli forces that has resulted in the killing of over 150 and the injury of 3,000 Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including Jerusalem.

The demonstrations and protests that have been taking place in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, represent the collective expression by the Palestinian people against the long years of occupation and the difficulties of their daily lives under Israeli occupation. The protests have been an expression of deep frustration with the failure of the peace process to bring about better living conditions and a final peace settlement, including the long-awaited establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

They have been an expression of their determination to protect their holy places. They have been an expression in defense of their inalienable rights and their land. Regrettably, the Palestinian people continue to be denied the ability to restore even their minimum rights as a people, including the right to self-determination. We express our solidarity with the Palestinian people, who have been the victims of a long and unjust military occupation, and we call for the realization of their rights.

We express our deep concern and strong feelings regarding the sacred religious sites in Occupied East Jerusalem. We stress the importance of Jerusalem and the need to ensure respect for all holy sites. Any final solution must ensure the freedom of access and of worship for all believers of the three monotheistic religions. Any solution must also ensure Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

We believe that what is required now is an immediate cessation by Israel of the excessive, indiscriminate and unjustified use of force against the Palestinian people. The Israeli siege on the Palestinian people and the Palestinian land must be terminated. To restore calm, the understanding reached at the Sharm El-Sheikh Summit must be implemented. Only then can there be any true resumption of the peace process between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides. Such a process must require a sincere desire for peace and a full commitment on the part of all parties to its realization.

We believe that in order to resolve this tragic conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the UN Resolutions 242, 338 and 425 (concerning the farmlands of Shib'aa Lebanon) must be fully implemented because they express the will of the international community. In addition, we strongly believe that Resolution 194 and the Geneva Convention of 1949, namely Article IV, give the Palestinian refugees, whether they are in Lebanon or Syria, etc. the right to return to their homes and land which they have inhabited from time immemorial. The right of refugees to return home is a most sacred right and it should be respected.

As for the role of the United States in the Middle East peace process, we stress our disappointment with the adoption by our American Congress of the very unfair and very biased resolution //426 against the leadership of the Palestinian people. We demand a more balanced American position reflective of American traditions and the wishes of more than five million Arab-Americans in support of human rights, justice and international law. Such a position would enable the United States to play a truly objective and supportive role as a sponsor of the peace process.

In conclusion, our support for the Middle East peace process is unwavering. Our support for the rights of the Palestinian people and their efforts to realize those rights, including their right to an independent state, is unwavering as well. The time has come for justice and peace to prevail in the Holy Land and the realization of the rights of the Palestinian people as well as security for all states in the region.