The United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI)[i] stands in solidarity with the people of Gaza who are facing an overwhelming military attack by Israel. The Israeli rockets and bombing in Gaza, while claiming to be strategically directed to military targets in Gaza, are killing many civilians as well as destroying essential non-military infrastructure. The tragic loss of lives of children is particularly heart-wrenching. The support of the US and other western powers, including Canada, for Israel’s action puts the onus unfairly on Hamas and the Palestinians for ending the violence. The Palestinian people have been living under the oppressive Israeli occupation of their lands since 1967. We believe that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Land is the major contributor to the injustice that underlies the violence that has erupted in this conflict and that an end to the occupation is necessary for peace.
The devastating loss of lives on all sides is tragic. As friends of the Palestinians in Gaza as well as the West Bank, and in solidarity with our friends in the vibrant Israeli peace movement, we recognize the frustration and desperation that they experience from living in what has been called “an open-air prison” created by the illegal Israeli occupation and blockade. We hear the pleas of Israelis who live in fear in villages near the Gaza border for an end to the oppression that provokes the rocket attacks from Gaza. Our tears flow as we hear the cries of parents for the loss of their children. We call for an end to the violence that is resulting in the tragic loss of civilian lives, including children and women.
We are concerned about the imbalance in the media reports. The international condemnation of the rocket attacks from Gaza and support for Israel’s right to defend its citizens is the predominant tone of many media reports. While we condemn the rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza, we are aware that the humanitarian situation of the population in the Gaza Strip is unbearable. Balance in media reporting and political analysis must recognize that life is precious, and loss from bombs or starvation, is equally tragic. In the words of an Ecumenical Accompanier currently in Palestine, “Are not the lives on the receiving end of the bombs in Gaza as precious as those on the receiving end of the rockets in Israel?” Peace requires restraint. We urge that both sides cease the attacks, but as Rabbi Arik Ascherman (Rabbis for Human Rights) an Israeli Rabbi, notes, “With our greater power comes greater responsibility.”
With the people of Gaza, we have many questions. Our fear is magnified by the threat of Israel’s warning of increased retaliation and support from Western leaders. When will it end? When will the international community stop justifying Israel’s right to protect itself at the expense of innocent civilians in illegally occupied territories? When will Canadians say, “Enough is enough?”
What can we do? Ecumenical Accompanier Dawn Waring quotes Palestinian author Sami Al Jundi who puts it poignantly: “My children will be safe only when your children know safety, and your children will be safe only when my children know safety ... but actually there’s no such thing as my children and your children. There’s only our children.” ~ And Dawn concludes: “Will you lend your voice to the cause of justice and peace ~ for all our children?”
In support for the action of the United Church’s General Council, we ask members to urge the Canadian government to provide leadership among nations advocating for the end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza in order to facilitate a solution for peace with justice for all people in Israel and Palestine. May our prayers for peace join with the prayers of our friends in Palestine and Israel who are committed to working in non-violent ways for a just peace even in this critical moment. May God’s Spirit of peace be over all.
[i] UNJPPI Mission Statement
In discipleship of Christ, and in solidarity with churches and other partners in the Middle East as well as globally and in Canada, this Network covenants to engage, consolidate, nourish, and channel the energy in the United Church of Canada toward the goal of a just peace in Palestine/Israel, primarily through calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and for equal rights for all who live in Palestine/Israel, by facilitating education, promoting partnerships, coordinating advocacy, advancing policy and encouraging action.
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