The executive committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has issued a powerful appeal to the Israeli government demanding that they “stop and reverse the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.
The “construction and location” of the Israeli wall on occupied Palestinian territory is a “violation of the Charter of the United Nations and fundamental principles of international law”, says the WCC executive committee in a statement adopted during its 17-20 February 2004 meeting in Geneva.
It also calls on all member churches and ecumenical partners to “condemn the wall as an act of unlawful annexation”, which “should not be recognised by any state”.
The statement “strongly condemns the violations of human rights and humanitarian consequences” of the barrier. The resulting obstacles in accessing workplaces, farmland, health services and schools among others, constitute a violation of the rights to liberty of movement, work, adequate standard of living including housing, health care, education and equality before the law.
Welcoming the hearing of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, the WCC executive committee calls the attention of the Court to the “immense human costs paid by the Palestinian people and its long-term consequences on peace and reconciliation”. It also expresses its “deep concern to the ICJ to consider if the construction of the wall affects the status quo of the Holy Places in any way”.
The creation of this “new political boundary”, which extends “Israeli civilian and military presence inside Palestinian territory”, undermines “all peace-making efforts and most importantly the whole concept of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state established side by side by the state of Israel”, says the committee.
The WCC executive committee statement acknowledges that “Israel has serious and legitimate security concerns” and recognises Israelï¿½s “right and duty to protect its people against attacks and suicide bombers inside the state of Israel, without contravening international law and jeopardising longer term prospects for peace”.
It also acknowledges “Palestinian people’s right to resistance against the Israeli occupation inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories, without resorting to terror and creating indiscriminate fear among civilians” inside the state of Israel.
The WCC executive committee reaffirms its “strong conviction that non-violent means of resistance and peaceful negotiations are the only way to achieve a lasting, viable solution to the Arab- Israeli conflict”.
The WCC statement is based on eyewitness reports from volunteers within the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and pleas from the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem, WCC member churches and councils of churches.
Statement on the Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
and Israelï¿½s Annexation of Palestinian territory
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (Eph. 2:14)
The WCC Executive Committee, meeting in Geneva from 17-20 February, 2004 guided by the teachings and Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility and by his death and resurrection has promised one new humanity on the foundation of faithful witnesses for people of every race; having received an updated report on Israelï¿½s construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and in and around East Jerusalem, since April 2002, which is in departure of the Armistice Line of 1949 ( Green Line) and is in contradiction to relevant provisions of international law is;
Gravely concerned about the fundamental violations of human rights of the Palestinian people, the confiscation and destruction of their land and resources, the disruption of the lives of thousands of protected civilians and the de facto annexation of large areas of territory and in particular its devastating humanitarian consequences on the life and dignity of innocent Palestinians,
Recalling the WCC Central Committee minute of September 2003 and relevant WCC policy statements on Israel-Palestine,
Noting the alarming statements and reports from the Heads of Churches of Jerusalem, WCC member churches and councils of churches, the Holy See, Ecumenical Accompaniers, the Secretary General of the United Nations, relevant United Nations agencies and independent human rights organisations,
Respecting the established principle of international law on the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force contained in the Kellog-Briand Pact of 1928 and Article 2, paragraph 4 of the Charter of the UN; the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions to the OPT, including East Jerusalem and the Hague Convention respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land of 1907,
Recalling also all relevant United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions,
Strongly condemning all forms of violence and attacks perpetrated by the State of Israel and its Defence Forces inside the OPT and by Palestinian armed groups against innocent civilians inside the State of Israel,
Recognizing Israelï¿½s right and duty to protect its people against attacks and suicide bombers inside the State of Israel, without contravening international law and jeopardising longer term prospects for peace,
Acknowledging the Palestinian people’s right to resistance against the Israeli occupation inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories, without resorting to terror and creating indiscriminate fear among civilians,
Reiterating our belief that all people have the right and duty to struggle against injustice and oppression,
Reaffirming its strong conviction that non-violent means of resistance and peaceful negotiations are the only way to achieve a lasting, viable solution to the Arab- Israeli conflict,
Noting that the route of the wall and the scope of its construction give no indication that it is either a temporary measure or dictated solely by security needs,
Concerned that this act could prejudge future negotiations and make a two-state solution physically impossible and become a major obstacle to a just and sustainable peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples;
The WCC Executive Committee,
Acknowledges that Israel has serious and legitimate security concerns and that the construction of a wall on its own territory would not have been in contravention of international law,
Considers, nevertheless, the construction and location of this wall in grave breach of international humanitarian law as enunciated inter alia by the Fourth Geneva Convention and the State of Israel in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and fundamental principles of international law: the prohibition on the forcible acquisition of territory and the right to self-determination as well as application of universal human rights principles and standards,
Strongly condemns the violations of human rights and humanitarian consequences as a result of this act, in particular the restrictions on access by Palestinians to the closed area between the wall and the Green Line and the limited passage through the wall, violating right to liberty of movement; The resulting obstacles to access to workplaces, farmland, health services and schools, demolition of houses and uprooting of trees for the construction of the wall violating the right to work, the right to adequate standard of living including housing, the right to health care and the right to education; the different requirements for Palestinians and Israelis to obtain permits to be granted access to and remain in the closed area violating the right to equality before the law,
Rejects the creation of a new political boundary that defines enclaves in which the Palestinians will be confined, extending Israeli civilian and military presence inside Palestinian territory, undermining all peacemaking efforts and most importantly the whole concept of a viable and contiguous Palestinian State established side by side the State of Israel,
Demands that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including in and around East Jerusalem, which is in departure of the Armistice Line of 1949 and is in contradiction to relevant provisions of international law;
Calls on the Israeli Government and its defence forces and as well as all Palestinian armed groups to give up their strategy of mutual killings and terror, in order to achieve lasting peace,
States that only through an end of the Israeli occupation and a just, comprehensive and lasting peace settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242(1967) and 338 (1973) can security of both Palestinians and Israelis be assured,
Supports a two-state solution ï¿½ Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security within secure and recognized borders, as called for by the UN Security Council in resolutions 1397 (2002) and 1515(2003).
Welcomes the hearing of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to provide its advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the construction of this wall and wishes to draw the attention of the Court as well as all States of the immense human costs paid by the Palestinian people and its long-term consequences on peace and reconciliation,
Expresses its deep concern to the ICJ to consider if the construction of the wall affects the Status Quo of the Holy Places in any way,
Calls on all WCC member Churches, Ecumenical Councils of Churches, Christian World Communions and specialized ministries of churches to condemn the wall as an act of unlawful annexation in the language of Security Council resolutions 478 (1980) and 497 (1981) which declare that Israelï¿½s actions at the annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are ï¿½null and voidï¿½ and should not be recognized by any States.
Requests the ecumenical fellowship to intensify their advocacy efforts against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories since 1967, in particular the creation of the wall, and support peacemaking initiatives, such as the Geneva Initiative, always in coordination and cooperation with one another and the WCC.
Encourages Christians world wide to continue their prayers for justice, peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land for the breakdown of the dividing wall of the hostility between people.
The WCC Executive Committee recognizes and reaffirms the work of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, its sponsors and coordinators and prays for the courageous Ecumenical Accompaniers who volunteer to represent the ecumenical fellowship in solidarity and active non-violent presence with the Churches, Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories, including Jerusalem.