UNJPPI Statement On Canada’s Decision to Fund UNRWA

November 17, 2016

The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau
Minister of International Development
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Email: Marie-Claude.Bibeau@international.gc.ca

Dear Minister Bibeau,

The United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI) wishes to commend the Canadian government for the decision to restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

As you are aware, the Nakba created 750,000 Palestinian refugees in 1948. Their ancestors lived in the region for thousands of years prior to the war that created the state of Israel. Since the Nakba, individuals and families have been denied the right to return to their homes as guaranteed under the 4th Geneva Convention. Their suffering and that of their descendants has escalated over time.

Many UNJPPI members have visited Palestinian refugee camps. Because of this experience, we recognize the urgent need that exists to provide humanitarian support to Palestinian refugees who are among the poorest and most vulnerable in the Middle East and who are in desperate need of the assistance.

On a personal note, as a human rights observer who served in Bethlehem in 2013, I grew weary of apologizing to many informed Palestinians for the policies of the previous Canadian government with respect to Palestine and Israel.

Your government has taken a positive step to help improve stability and offer a ray of hope in a situation that continues to deteriorate for more than five million Palestinian refugees.

Rev. Steve Berube,

Co-chair: United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel

Cc:         Justin Trudeau
Stephane Dion
Rona Ambrose
Thomas Mulcair
Rheal Fortin
Elizabeth May

See also a Press Release by Palestinian General Delegation in Ottawa


Webinar “Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb – Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem”

Monday, December 12, 2016 12:00 PM New York

Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb

The Webinar will focus on the situation of the Palestinian Christian community, their denominational composition, numbers, and challenges they face today. Issues related to identity, political and social involvement will be highlighted. The emergence and development of a Palestinian contextual theology will be another highlight.

The Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb is pastor of the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, and President of the Diyar Consortium. He is the preeminent Palestinian Christian contextual theologian and is author of several books including, most recently, Faith in the Face of Empire.
Register for the webinar.

Saskatchewan and Climate Change: looking at the government’s plan

For many years, our church has offered theological, scriptural and moral reasons for reducing use of fossil fuels. We Canadians are, after all, the highest per capita carbon emitters in the world.

Here’s some recent recommended reading for SK people on this question; the SK Environmental Society has released a paper looking at the provincial government’s climate change plan.

They write, “The Saskatchewan government released their Climate Change White Paper on October 18th, 2016.  The paper is positioned as an “alternative approach to Prime Minister Trudeau’s national carbon tax”. It is no secret that the Saskatchewan government is strongly opposed to a national carbon price. In the press release accompanying the report Premier Wall asserts, “Make no mistake – a carbon tax will harm Saskatchewan.”

But will it? This paper examines that claim.



Report of the UNJPPI Annual Gathering

Pathways Forward to Justice and Reconciliation: Stories from Canada, Palestine, Israel

The Fifth Annual National Gathering of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI)    Saskatoon, SK, September 23–25, 2016.   [Print PDF]

Our national gathering this year brought together 61 members of UNJPPI from across the country along with many friends and allies who are also working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.  Our home for the weekend was the tranquil Queen’s House Retreat and Renewal Centre on the bank of the South Saskatchewan River.

Things kicked off Friday evening with registration followed by a delicious dinner at the Centre.  We then carpooled to Grace-Westminster United Church for a public screening of Canadian-Israeli filmmaker Lia Tarachansky’s documentary On the Side of the Road, which explores Israelis’ collective amnesia of the events of 1948 in Palestine.  A lively Q / A period followed during which Lia was joined by Palestinian human rights lawyer Jonathan Kuttab, Professor Priscilla Settee of the University of Saskatchewan, and the Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell, Moderator of the United Church of Canada.

Our Saturday program began with Ethel Ahenekew welcoming us to Treaty 6 land and the land of the Cree, Assinobian, and Saulteaux people and the homeland of the Métis.  Esther Epp-Tiessen of the Mennonite Central Committee then spoke on the spirituality of advocacy — “We need to listen with our hearts if we want to be allies with those who suffer.” After a break, Priscilla Settee and Jonathan Kuttab facilitated two sessions on the experiences of the indigenous peoples of Palestine and Canada with a focus on colonization, land, and human rights.

The afternoon’s offerings began with two rounds of workshops. Topics included: Palestine and Israel: How did it Come to This?; An Introduction to UNDRIP; Exercising our Influence Effectively with Members of Parliament; Ending Occupation Through Non-Violent Resistance; Christian Zionism; and The Situation of Indigenous Children in Canada and Palestine — Are There Parallels?”

After a break we gathered for a session on Progressive Social Change, during which we watched the documentary Reserve 107.  It recounts how a First Nations’ land claim in Laird, Saskatchewan, provided an opportunity to create new friendships and right the wrongs of the past. In small groups we discussed how change comes about, and what it means to be allies.

Our evening gathering focused on the Boycott / Divest / Sanction movement (BDS) and exploring what it is and isn’t.  Dimitri Lascaris, former Justice Critic in the Green Party of Canada’s Shadow Cabinet, spoke about his experiences authoring a controversial boycott resolution that was adapted at the Green Party’s recent national convention.

The long day ended with a time of refreshments and socializing.

On Sunday we joined the congregation of Third Avenue United Church for worship where the Right Reverend Jordan Cantwell spoke on Isaiah 58: 6-12, “Called to be a People of Hope.”  After a communal lunch that was generously provided by Langham UCW, we headed into a strategy session facilitated by UNJPPI co-chairs Marianna Harris and Steve Berube.  Highlights of this time were short presentations by Christi Neufeldt and Wendy Gichiru of the Central Council office, Jonathan Kuttab, Dimitri Lascaris, Joanna Hiebert Bergen of MCC, and Harold Shuster of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV).

By mid-afternoon we were beginning to say our goodbyes.

What were the strengths of our time together? The quality and depth of the programming must be near the top of the list.  Passionate and informed speakers such as Lia Tarachansky, Jonathan Kuttab, Priscilla Settee, and Dimitri Lascaris provided us with a range of thoughtful perspectives.  In addition, they were generous with their time, engaging with attendees over meals and between and after the official sessions.  We also benefitted from the representatives of our allies in advocacy — MCC and IJV in particular — and learned more about their activities.  And of course, we all got to know each other better, sharing experiences and forging relationships that will contribute to more effective advocacy.

The success of the gathering was due in large part to the members of the planning committee — Marianna Harris (chair), Brenda Curtis, Debbie Hubbard, Donna Wilson, Helen Allen, Jim Wicks, Julie Graham, Kathy Bergen, and Vicki Obedkoff.  We also have to mention Rev. Donna Wilson and the staff at Third Avenue United Church for their hospitality and support, which went a long way to making the conference possible.  A huge thanks to you all and everyone else who contributed their time, energy, and expertise.

Several United Church conferences and presbyteries demonstrated their support for UNJPPI’s mandate by helping fund the gathering.  These include B.C. Conference, General Council, River Bend Presbytery, Saskatchewan Conference, and Toronto Southeast Presbytery.  Thank you.

UNJPPI is a network of mainly United Church of Canada people working toward the goal of a just peace in Palestine and Israel by calling for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and equal rights for all who live in Palestine/Israel through education and advocacy.

Resignation of UNJPPI Staffperson – Kathy Bergen

October 28, 2016

Dear Member of the UNJPPI Coordinating Team:
Marianna, Steve, Curtis, Karen, Pat, Dianne,

I will not attend the meeting on November 13 and 14.  The time seems right to take a break from working with UNJPPI as staffperson and reassess how I want to spend the next years of my life.

Thank you for the opportunity I had in working with UNJPPI.  I wish you and others who will be working to formulate a strategy for the work of UNJPPI much wisdom and strength for this important work.

Kathy Bergen

October 30, 2016

Dear Kathy:

We want to thank you, Kathy, for your contributions to UNJPPI and to the struggle for the realization of human rights for the Palestinian people.   You did an amazing job of organizing the Jeff Halper tour of Canada in 2015.  It certainly helped to build the understanding of Canadians as to what was happening in Palestine and brought teams of people together as they worked on the tour.

Your suggestions of speakers for the UNJPPI conferences in 2015 and 2016 were inspired and allowed us to learn so much.  And we appreciate your encouragement which resulted in so many Mennonites coming to Saskatoon – they added so much to our time together.   We hope to continue working with them as they plan ways to grow a BDS campaign.

You have such a great commitment to creating change for the Palestinian people and we are grateful for what you have contributed to the life of UNJPPI.   We wish you well as you discern your future plans.

Marianna and Steve, co-chair UNJPPI