World Council of Churches Office of Communication

Press Update
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: ka@wcc-coe.org

17 October 2000
[By way of Sam Bahour]

WCC  encourages  objective  investigation  of  Israeli  practices
affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people

cf. WCC Press Update of 10 October 2000
 

The World Council of Churches (WCC) today submitted the following
written statement to the Fifth  Special  Session  of  the  United
Nations Commission  on  Human  Rights  presently  being  held  in
Geneva, Switzerland.

SHARING THE LAND, THE TRUTH AND THE PEACE Written  submission  by
the Commission of the Churches on International  Affairs  of  the
World Council of Churches,  a  non-governmental  organization  in
General Consultative Status with ECOSOC

Justice delayed, justice  denied.  The  resolutions  and  reports
relating to the rights and duties of  Israelis  and  Palestinians
adopted by or submitted to the  General  Assembly,  the  Security
Council and this body since the Partition of  Palestine  and  the
creation of the State of Israel in 1948 fill volumes. Israel  has
most often either ignored or openly violated those related to its
practices,  thus  delaying  and  often  denying  justice  to  the
Palestinian people, both in the Occupied Territories  and  within
Israel.

In the post-Oslo period Israel has continued and even accelerated
its unilateral practices of changing "facts on the ground." These
have included:

a.. the confiscation over the past three years  of  an  estimated
2,200  Palestinian  identity  cards,  some  900  in  1999  alone,
affecting in all nearly 2,500 citizens;

b. the continuing issuance and  execution  of  demolition  orders
against Palestinian houses in the occupied territories -  Israeli
Municipality of Jerusalem issued 141 demolition  orders  in  East
Jerusalem alone and carried out 19 in 1999 and demolished another
three by the end of August 2000;

c. continuing  harassment  and  interference  with  the  work  of
Palestinian institutions providing essential  human  services  in
East Jerusalem despite promises to desist;

d. continuing expansion  by  Israel  of  illegal  settlements  in
territories occupied  since  1967  and  denial  of  Palestinian's
exercise of their right to return;

e. repeated closures restricting  movement  of  Palestinians  and
their access, inter alia, to the Holy Places in Jerusalem.

The Special Rapporteur on the Question of the violation of  human
rights in the  occupied  Arab  Territories,  including  Palestine
inferred in his last report, and events following the provocative
visit on 28 September to Al-Haram Al-Sharif have again shown that
the consequence of this repeated defiance of  international  law,
of continuing systematic violations of  human  rights,  including
the application of collective punishments, has been to incite  to
violence and to deny peace and security to both peoples. Israel's
particularly harsh response through the use  of  excessive  force
against  its  own  Palestinian  minority  in  recent   days   has
contributed to their further vulnerability and alienation and  to
a deeper polarization of Israeli  society.  In  a  letter  of  10
October to  Secretary-General  Kofi  Annan,  Dr.  Konrad  Raiser,
General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC)  offered
support and prayers  for  the  success  of  the  mission  he  has
undertaken to the region. Dr. Raiser said there:

Both sides have suffered from this renewed violent confrontation.
But  once  again  it  is  the  Palestinian   people,   especially
Palestinian youth, who pay by far the greater price in  God-given
life as a result of the disproportionate use of  armed  force  by
Israel. We pray that Prime Minister Barak  and  President  Arafat
and all those  caught  up  in  the  terrible,  rising  spiral  of
violence will respond to your initiative and to  the  appeals  of
governments and peoples around the world by  stepping  back  from
the brink before they and the region as a whole  are  cast  again
into the abyss of full-scale war.

This is not a time for ultimatums or threats of more violent acts
of retribution, but the hour to  join  together  in  declaring  a
truce and days of public mourning for the victims of the violence
on all sides.

Sharing the land. Most Israelis and Palestinians fervently desire
peace, but many also despair at the lack of progress towards  it.
Jerusalem - home to  Arabs  and  Jews,  and  considered  holy  by
Christians, Jews and Muslims alike - has  been  regarded  as  the
most complicated and difficult issue and has repeatedly been left
to  the  end  of  the  negotiation  process.  Believing  that   a
resolution of this question could open the way to  agreements  on
equitable sharing of the land and  resources  in  Palestine,  the
last WCC Assembly (Harare, 1998) called upon the parties  not  to
postpone further but to  include  final  status  negotiations  on
Jerusalem as an  integral  part  of  negotiations  on  a  general
settlement of the wider Middle East conflict. In fact an approach
along these lines was taken during the most recent talks in  Camp
David.  For  the  first  time,  both  sides  tabled  constructive
proposals for shared sovereignty in Jerusalem. Recent events have
cut short this  hopeful  process.  Once  again  the  exercise  of
peoples' rights to peace and  sovereign  development  has  fallen
victim to the enemies of peace. Sharing the  peace.  It  was  not
surprising that these  confrontations  began  in  Jerusalem,  the
nerve center of the conflict.  In  a  resolution  adopted  on  29
September the WCC Executive  Committee  nevertheless  shared  the
conviction expressed by Their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and Heads
of Churches and  Christian  Communities  in  Jerusalem  in  their
statement of 26 September 2000 that a  successful  conclusion  of
final status negotiations on Jerusalem would  contribute  greatly
to "true peace with  true  justice  and  security  for  the  'two
peoples and three  religions'  of  this  land  -Palestinians  and
Israelis, Jews, Christians and Muslims alike." The WCC is  firmly
convinced that God intended the Holy  City  to  be  a  source  of
peace, stability and coexistence rather than of the division  and
conflict that destroy human dignity and hope. We  hope  that  the
present special session of the Commission on  Human  Rights  will
draw on the spiritual resources God offers through Jerusalem  and
contribute constructively to this end.

Sharing the truth.  Few  international  conflicts  have  been  so
marked by the dominant power's defiance of its obligations  under
the Charter to abide by decisions of the Security Council and its
treaty obligations such as those of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Here as elsewhere self-asserted claims to impunity pose  barriers
to peace and reconciliation between nations and peoples. Thus the
WCC welcomed the important decision of the  Security  Council  in
res. 1322 (2000) that stressed "the importance of establishing  a
mechanism for a speedy and  objective  inquiry  into  the  tragic
events of the last few days with  the  aim  of  preventing  their
repetition". Such an investigation  could  provide  an  essential
beginning to revealing, sharing  and  mutual  acceptance  of  the
truth  about  past  systematic  violations  of  peoples'  rights.
Without such a process there can  be  little  hope  for  justice,
peace or reconciliation  between  Israeli  Jews  and  Palestinian
Christians and Muslims  within  and  beyond  Israel's  legitimate
borders.

RECOMMENDATIONS The Commission of the Churches  on  International
Affairs of the World Council  of  Churches  therefore  recommends
that this Fifth  Special  Session  of  the  Commission  on  Human
Rights:

1.. Respond to Security Council res. 1322 (2000) by  contributing
within its mandate to a "speedy and objective  inquiry  into  the
tragic events of the last few days with the aim of  achieving  an
early  final  settlement  between  the  Israeli  and  Palestinian
sides;"

2.. Continue to support the work of the Special Rapporteur on the
Question of the violation of human rights in  the  occupied  Arab
Territories in  the  pursuance  of  his  mandate  to  investigate
Israel's violations of the principles and bases of  international
law, and the 1949 Geneva Conventions relative to  the  Protection
of Civilian Persons in Time of War in the Palestinian territories
occupied by Israel since 1967, and to propose means of compliance
with  relevant  resolutions  through  regular  reports   to   the
Commission;

3..  Encourage  the  Special  Committee  to  Investigate  Israeli
Practices affecting the Human Rights of  the  Palestinian  People
and Other Arabs of  the  Occupied  Territories  to  continue  and
intensify its work;

4.. Reiterate its demand that Israel cooperate fully  with  these
investigations, including the granting  of  full  access  to  the
occupied  Arab  Territories,  and  respond  to  the  content  and
recommendations contained in the reports;

5.. Encourage  the  Working  Group  on  Minorities  of  the  Sub-
Commission on the Promotion and Protection of  Human  Rights,  in
response to  the  appeals  of  Israeli  Palestinian  leaders,  to
investigate systematic violations of  the  human  rights  of  the
Palestinian minority in Israel particularly in  light  of  recent
official abuses and failure to provide protection;

6.. Reiterate its  demand  that  Israel  comply  fully  with  its
obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention;

7.. Follow up the work on impunity of the Sub-Commission  on  the
Promotion and Protection on Human rights with respect to  holding
states  and  individuals  suspected  of  having  committed   mass
violations of the right  to  life  accountable  for  their  acts.
Geneva, 16 October 2000  A  three-member  Palestinian  ecumenical
delegation is attending the Special Session of the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights.  The  delegation  is  hosted  by  the
Commission of Churches on International  Affairs  (CCIA)  of  the
World Council of Churches (WCC).

Delegation  members  include:  Archimandrite  Theodosios   Hanna,
representing His Beatitude  Patriarch  Diodoros,  Greek  Orthodox
Patriarchate, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of  Jerusalem  The  Rt.
Rev. Riah  Abu  El-Assal,  Bishop  of  the  Episcopal  Church  in
Jerusalem  and  the  Middle  East  Dr  Marwan  Bishara,   author,
journalist from  Nazareth,  research  fellow,  Ecole  des  Hautes
Etudes en Sciences Sociales

Father George Tsetsis, member of the WCC  Central  and  Executive
Committees,  will  accompany  the  delegation  along   with   WCC
International Relations staff.

Three other people are unable to join the  delegation  in  Geneva
due to the military closure of Palestinian territories: Ms.  Jean
Zaru,  Ramallah,  Quaker,  vice-chair  of  the  board  of  Sabeel
Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem Mr.  Constantine
El'Dabbagh, Gaza Strip, Department for Services  for  Palestinian
Refugees/Middle East Council of Churches  Ms  Nahed  Awwad,  Beit
Sahour, The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People

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For  more  information  contact:   Karin   Achtelstetter,   Media
Relations Officer tel.:  (+41  22)  791  6153  (office);  e-mail:
ka@wcc-coe.org Top of page 2000 press updates

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship  of  churches,  now
337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from  virtually
all Christian traditions. The Roman  Catholic  Church  is  not  a
member church but works cooperatively with the WCC.  The  highest
governing body is the assembly, which meets  approximately  every
seven  years.  The  WCC  was  formally  inaugurated  in  1948  in
Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general  secretary
Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.

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