|DISCIPLES CALL UPON ISRAEL TO TEAR DOWN BARRIER
For Immediate Release
The 2005 General Assembly called upon Israel to tear down the barrier fence it is building across Palestinian territory to shield itself against terrorist attacks. Assembly representatives approved the resolution first by majority voice vote and then by standing. The amended resolution 0522, was entitled, “Breaking Down the Dividing Wall.”
The resolution calls upon the Israeli government to cease the project to construct the barrier, tear down the segments that have already been constructed, and make reparations to those who have lost property and homes among other things. The resolution also calls upon the U.S. government to engage actively, fully, and fairly in a peace process that will lead to the peaceful coexistence of both Israel and a Palestinian state.
The resolution drew the attention of the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation in Los Angeles, Calif. Foundation representatives handed out flyers attacking the resolution the first four days the General Assembly met in Portland and lobbied delegates within the Oregon Convention Center.
Those speaking for the resolution told the General Assembly the wall has severely disrupted the daily lives of 30 percent of the Palestinian population, dividing them from family, workplaces, hospitals and schools.
“We must on this new Jubilee of our church be serious about seeking peace,” said Wm. Chris Hobgood, outgoing general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) after the vote. “The time is here for Disciples to speak against violence…whether it is state sanctioned or committed by suicide bombers. There must be no more violence, violence no more.”
Rula Shubeita, of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, attended the Assembly as an international guest of Global Ministries and also spoke in favor of the resolution’s adoption.
“As a Christian Palestinian, I can speak to the concerns of the wall,” said the representative of the Sabeel Center, which is one of 160 Global Ministries partners. “Because of the wall, I cannot see my brother, who lives three miles away on the other side of the fence. I now must drive 14 miles to see him. “The wall has prevented me from going to my church, and has affected the employment opportunities of so many people.”
Prior to the vote, several resolution opponents said the barrier seeks to stop suicide bombers and Israel has the right to protect itself from terrorist attacks.
Ken Britton, of Cloverdale Christian Church in Cloverdale, Ind., emphasized that Israel has a right to exist. “If we vote for this resolution, we are going to tell Israel we don’t care about you and that we don’t care about terrorism, and that you have no right to exist.”
Disciples Peace Fellowship spokesman Tom Quigley added that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) continues to support a “two-state solution” in which both Israelis and Palestinians can have secure, viable and recognized borders within which they can live in peace. “The General Assembly has an opportunity to contribute to the genuine work of peacemaking.”
TEXT OF AMENDED RESOLUTION
AMENDED NO. 0522
BREAKING DOWN THE DIVIDING WALL
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. (Ephesians 2:14)
A central tenet of our Christian faith is the possibility for reconciliation among peoples. This human reconciliation through God’s love was demonstrated by Jesus Christ, and reported to the people of Ephesus by Paul. We are called to be people of reconciliation and called to engage in the act of reconciliation. Barriers to reconciliation exist in many forms and in many places. When barriers are constructed, hostility that exists becomes exacerbated. Differences between peoples can only be addressed through bringing them together, not by adding further divisions. By breaking down walls that separate, we actively seek peace and reconciliation in the world in an attempt to follow Jesus’ example. In doing so, we seek an end to hostility.
In June 2002, the State of Israel began an ambitious construction. Construction of a separation barrier—also known as the “security fence” and as the “Wall”—commenced and continues to this day.
According to Israeli plans, the barrier will be over 400 miles (650 kilometers) in length, at a cost not less than $1.6 million per mile ($1 million per km), and will exceed $1 billion for the entire project. The main barrier takes on many forms, including 8-meter high cement walls, 3-meter high electric and barbed-wire fences, and a combination of the two. The infrastructure of the barrier that also includes a buffer zone on both sides, surveillance cameras, trenches, and observation posts compounds what Israeli human rights activist Jeff Halper calls the “matrix of control” of settlements, by-pass roads and checkpoints.
The barrier violates multiple international conventions, agreements, and resolutions, including article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter (prohibiting the use of force to violate territorial integrity), the Fourth Geneva Convention (prohibiting the destruction of land or property and the practice of collective punishment), and both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economical, Social, and Cultural Rights (defining rights of movement, property, health, education, work, and food). The barrier also is contrary to UN Security Council resolution 242 which calls for the “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent  conflict.”
The barrier encroaches into the occupied Palestinian territories from along the entire perimeter of the West Bank, frequently abutting or intersecting Palestinian villages, while leaving agricultural fields, shops, and family members on the opposite, Israeli-claimed side of the border. In places like Qalqilya, the barrier loops prominently into the West Bank, enveloping entire Palestinian villages and creating ghettos with a single, narrow checkpoint guarding the entrances to these villages. It will result in Israel’s effective annexation of roughly half of the West Bank, displacing and disconnecting Palestinians from their homes, families, neighbors, and fields. It is this encroachment and the resultant humanitarian crises that the Israeli Supreme Court addressed in its June 30, 2004 ruling, even as it found the motivation for the barrier, based on security concerns, justified.
In a more broad-reaching ruling on the barrier, the International Court of Justice ruled on the barrier’s legality in a July 9, 2004 verdict. In sum, the decision rendered the construction of the barrier contrary to international law, recommended that the State of Israel end its construction and dismantle existing segments and that Israel pay reparations to those who have suffered loss as a result of the construction, and instructed the United Nations to pursue necessary means to address the illegality of the barrier. Both Israel and the U.S. disregarded this ruling and thereby dismissed the relevance of international law. The U.S. continues to provide more aid to Israel than to any other country in the world.
The impact of the visually, physically, psychologically and spiritually offensive barrier on the Palestinian people has been more devastating than abstract facts can convey. Homes have been demolished, water supplies have been cut off, fields have been razed, villages divided, and access to the other side has been cut off. Farmers have lost their fields or lost access to them. Faithcommunities—including Palestinian Christians—have been denied access to houses of worship. Families have been split. According to UN estimates, 680,000 Palestinians (30% of the West Bank population) are directly affected. The Sabeel Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem reports that “Palestinians have been separated from their places of employment, their farmlands, hospitals, schools, places of worship and their families. In the first phase of the wall alone, 100,000 trees have been uprooted; 35,000 meters of irrigation networks have been destroyed; and 75% of teachers and students living in the construction areas have had difficulty arriving at school.” These effects further deteriorate the quality of life of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories.
WHEREAS, the ongoing violence has created fear, whittled away trust; and both Israel and Palestine have been deeply wounded politically, economically, physically, spiritually, socially, and psychologically; and
WHEREAS, the Israeli government, as part of its de facto policy of settlement and colonization , continues to construct the separation barrier, also known as the security fence and the wall, and plans to extend it to approximately 400 miles (650 kilometers) at a cost not less than $1.6 million per mile ($1 million per km), thereby rendering the internationally-endorsed Road Map for peace and other proposals for a negotiated two-state solution unachievable; and
WHEREAS, the wall unilaterally changes an international border without direct negotiations between partners, effectively annexes nearly 50% of Palestinian West Bank land, and destroys the contiguity of Palestinian life and land, rendering a Palestinian state unviable; and
WHEREAS, the barrier succeeds in confiscating Palestinian agricultural fields, water, and other natural resources, contributes to unemployment, and cuts populations off from such essentials of life as employment, education, health care, worship and family; and
WHEREAS,the Israeli Supreme Court has questioned the legality of the path of the separation barrier on humanitarian bases and the International Court of Justice has ruled that the barrier is, ipso facto, illegal; and
WHEREAS,the barrier has had devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians living in the occupied territories by destroying homes, fields, and mobility, severely obstructing health care, education, and even worship opportunities for Palestinians; and
WHEREAS, history demonstrates that walls build barriers and limit the opportunity for people in conflict to be in contact with each other and reconcile their differing points of view, and the U.S. has previously demanded that walls of separation be torn down;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), mindful of all previous General Assembly resolutions and all previous board resolutions and statements relating to the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and continuing to denounce violence on all sides, specifically affirms the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, fully supporting the right of Israel to exist in peace with its neighbors and protect itself within secure and internationally recognized borders and at the same time asserting the same right to national sovereignty in a secure, recognized and viable state for Palestinians, who would control their borders;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly calls upon the Israeli government to cease the project to construct the barrier, tear down the segments that have already been constructed, and make reparations to those who have lost homes, fields, property, and/or lives and health due to the barrier and its effects as security for both peoples can best be achieved through an end to the occupation and efforts to encourage access and contact, rather than restricting and denying it; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly urges the U.S. government to persuade the Israeli government to abide by international law and agreements and withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly calls upon the U.S. government to engage actively, fully and fairly in a peace process that will lead to the peaceful coexistence of two states: Israel and a future Palestine; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly encourages its members at all settings of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to engage in prayer, study, and dialogue about the barrier and to raise diligently with their governmental officials these concerns.
Common Global Ministries Board of the
United Church of Christ and the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
and Disciples Peace Fellowship
The Committee on Reference and Counsel recommends that the
General Assembly ADOPT Business Item No. 0522. (Debate time