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August 15, 2001
World Council of Churches says occupation violates International law



Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
10 August 2001

Deal with root causes of Middle East violence, says ecumenical leader
By Stephen Brown

Geneva, 10 August (ENI)--The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Konrad Raiser, has described continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory as a "clear violation of international law". Speaking after a major consultation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict organised by the WCC at its Geneva headquarters this week, Dr Raiser said that Israel was in a situation of "impunity" where violations of international law were not being followed up by effective sanctions. Dr Raiser was interviewed by ENI yesterday (9 August), before the news of the attack by a Palestinian suicide bomber on a Jerusalem restaurant and Israel's subsequent retaliation against Palestinian targets. The WCC consultation brought together more than 40 participants from around the world, including representatives of Jerusalem's churches and members of Israeli human rights groups. A press release issued by the WCC after the gathering spoke of the "urgent need for the churches to move from affirmation to action in solidarity with the Palestinian people". It added that the consultation was intended to strengthen ecumenical support for a "comprehensive peace, based on justice and security for the Palestinian and Israeli people". The consultation had before it the report of a seven-person ecumenical delegation sent to the region by the WCC at the end of June, which made a series of proposals for developing an "international ecumenical response to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict".

These included the need to:

  • address and condemn the Israeli military occupation and affirm the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance to injustice and foreign occupation;
  • condemn violence against civilians and support non-violent resistance;
  • insist on the "application of international law as it applies to the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian right to resist that occupation, and all efforts for a negotiated peace settlement";
  • address the right of Palestinians to "self-determination on a sustainable sovereign state, side-by-side with Israel".

    The delegation also called for pressure to be exerted both on Israel to end the occupation and on other governments, "particularly the United States, to compel Israel to end the occupation". Dr Raiser rejected the idea that the WCC might be seen as being uncritically one-sided in advocating the Palestinian cause. To speak of the "legitimacy of Palestinian protest and resistance is meant to draw attention to the root causes of the conflict", Dr Raiser told ENI, and to avoid being a "party to attempts to cover up root causes by simply pointing to the violence of one side or the other". He said that it had been "the consistent position of the WCC not to be drawn into the advocacy of any particular position but to underline the fundamental importance of agreed norms of international law and agreed norms of human rights," He added: "There is no doubt to all those who share this ethical, moral and legal approach that Israel's continued occupation, continued [Israeli] settlements [in the occupied territories], even the expansion of settlements, is a clear violation of international law to which Israel is a signatory." It was also agreed this week that the WCC, together with the churches in Jerusalem and the Middle East Council of Churches, should consider establishing a permanent presence or office in Jerusalem to co-ordinate future ecumenical action. This would strengthen the work of local churches, Dr Raiser told ENI, whose energy was concentrated on dealing with "immediate problems for the small Christian community".

    The WCC has 342 member churches from around the world, representing most Christian traditions apart from the Roman Catholic Church.

    Ecumenical News International
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