URGENT ACTION: Threat of Demolition in Khan Al Ahmar

This appeal for urgent action has been issued by The United Church of Canada.
Please respond as you soon as you are able. 

This short video from United Church solidarity partner B’Tselem, a human rights organization, shows Israel’s civil administration and police serving stop-work orders in this small village in the occupied West Bank on February 19.  Khan Al Ahmar was given only five days to object to the stop-work orders, and demolitions could occur at any point after.  A court case, scheduled for February 23, could be the beginning of a much longer process.

The people of Khan Al Ahmar have lived as refugees for 50 years. Although the village is located 10 minutes from Jerusalem, its households have no running water and no electricity.  Now Khan Al Ahmar, situated in an area earmarked for future expansion of the Israeli settlement Ma’ale Adumim, is targeted for demolition and its people for forcible transfer.

In the film Nowhere Left to Go, an elderly resident of Khan Al Ahmar states: “We have an empty life.  We have no land, no home.  And now they’re threatening to transfer us—what can we do?”  In 2016, 12 dwellings in this same community were demolished with 60 residents left homeless (including 35 children).

Take Action

Write to your elected representatives, asking them to act urgently for the sake of justice for the people of Khan Al Ahmar.
1. Write to The Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and/or your member of Parliament:

  • Ask Minister Freeland to urge Canada to call on the Israeli government to immediately freeze all settlement activity and demolition orders
  • Urge your MP to call on Minister Freeland during question period to ask what actions Canada is taking to press the Israeli government to reverse the demolition orders on Khan Al Ahmar

A sample letter is attached.

2. Share this Take Action on your social media networks. Use the hashtags #UCCan, #KhanAlAhmar, #Israel, #Palestine.

Background

The United Church of Canada has a long history of working with others to seek peace with justice in Israel and Palestine. This work is rooted in the gospel mandate to be peacemakers and in response to the calls of Palestinian and Israeli partners.

The repeated demolitions of Bedouin Palestinian villages are a violation of international law. As the occupying power, Israel is bound by international humanitarian law to protect the Palestinian civilian population and administer the territory for their benefit. International law also prohibits the destruction of private property and the forced transfer or displacement of civilians.

According to Canadian policy, all Israeli settlements, including Ma’ale Adumim, are illegal. Demolitions and forcible displacement of Khan Al Ahmar and similar communities are a serious violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and leave hundreds of people homeless.

Khan Al Ahmar was given only five days to object to the stop-work orders, and demolitions could occur at any point after. A court case, scheduled for February 23, 2017, could be the beginning of a much longer process.

For more information about current activities, see Unsettling Goods: Choose Peace in Palestine and Israel.

Send your letters and e-mails to:

The Hon. Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
E-mail: chrystia.freeland@international.gc.ca

Peter Kent
Conservative Party of Canada
Email: peter.kent@parl.gc.ca

Hélène Laverdière
New Democratic Party
Email: hélène.laverdière@parl.gc.ca

Elizabeth May
Green Party of Canada
Email: elizabeth.may@parl.gc.ca

Luc Thériault
Bloc Québécois
E-mail: luc.theriault@parl.gc.ca

Send copies of your letters and emails to:
Christie Neufeldt
Program Coordinator, Public Witness and Advocacy
The United Church of Canada
E-mail: cneufeldt@united-church.ca

When Law Enforcement is a Crime, by Amos Gvirtz

This is no provocation, although saying that in certain cases law enforcement is a crime might place me in dangerous waters – I find this discussion important.

History has seen cases where the enforcement of certain laws was a crime in itself: the Nurnberg laws against the Jews of Germany, South Africa’s apartheid laws, and the racist laws of the southern states in the US. All of these were laws that impacted people because of their belonging rather than their actions. The injured parties could do nothing to prevent their fate.

Here in Israel things are somewhat more complicated. Over the years of my human rights activity, and especially regarding the right to shelter, in Israel and in the Occupied Territories, I face the claim to legality of home demolitions. Indeed, a modern state cannot exist without planning and construction laws. Unlike criminal laws – that give legal validity to moral values (no stealing, no killing, etc.) – these laws in themselves have no moral significance, only planning considerations. Importantly, these laws characteristically enable politicians and ministry officials to rule what is legal and what is not. The government of Israel has decided not to recognize the Bedouin villages that existed in the Sayag zone (south of the West Bank) even prior to the founding of the State. The very government that transferred Bedouin tribes from their lands into the Sayag zone refrained from legalizing and recognizing the villages it created. The Israeli government decided to declare most of the Sayag lands exclusively cultivable land, thus criminalizing any Bedouin seeking to realize his right to shelter in his village!

Behind these facts hides policy. Note that Israeli governments continued to expel Bedouins from the State until 1959. Beside expulsion, they concentrated the remaining Bedouins inside the Sayag zone and stole their lands. Since the 1960s the Bedouins have been assigned to dwell in government-built towns. In other words, these are citizens in whom Israel’s governments are consistently not interested (just as in all of the State’s Palestinian citizens). Since they can no longer be expelled, the State attempts to reduce their living space as much as possible, while stealing nearly all of their lands. This is a nationalist-racist policy that impacts people only because they have been born Palestinian-Arabs in the Jewish state. Naturally the official establishment must not utter such things explicitly, so a false discourse of law enforcement is created. After all, people cannot be simply expelled from their homes and villages for no reason. So the State plants forests and to that purpose enforce the law upon villages that they wish to evacuate. This is what happened in Tawayel Abu Jarawal situated near the town of Laqia, and at present replaced by a JNF forest planted on its ruins. Thus Al Arakib has already been demolished over 100 times because the State “must” complete planting the Ambassadors’ Forest on its ruins. Thus the government has ruled to build Jewish Hiran precisely at the site of the Bedouin village of Umm Al Hiran.

Thus, too, in the Occupied Territories: homes are demolished to make Palestinians leave, or to limit the expansion of their localities. Israeli Policemen inside Israel and soldiers in the Territories are told that they are enforcing the law. They are not told that such law enforcement is conducted on behalf of a policy that is not to be openly discussed.

Rabbi Kahane’s “Kach” political party was outlawed because it openly and loudly declared what it wanted to do and did, the unutterable. The political party “Moledet” was defamed for the same reason. Headed by a retired army general, however, it could not be outlawed.

If any country in the world would dare do to Jews what Israel is doing to its own Bedouin citizens (and its other Palestinian citizens), or to the Palestinians living under its occupation, we would name that country’s law enforcement anti-Semitic. When a legal situation is created whereby citizens cannot realize their human right to shelter, because they have been born Palestinian Arabs under Israeli rule, the enforcement of the planning and construction laws is criminal!

A letter from UCC Moderator to Minister of Foreign Affairs

A Letter from UCC Moderator Jordan Cantwell to Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, concerning Israel’s retroactive legalization of settlements. Additional comment by Be’tselem

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland P.C.,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
House of Commons,
Ottawa K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Freeland:

Warm greetings to you from The United Church of Canada General Council Offices in Toronto.

The United Church of Canada wishes you every success in your new role as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and looks forward to working with you. We believe Canada can and should make a valuable contribution to a more peaceful and prosperous world. To this end, I request an opportunity to meet with you to discuss how Canada can “intensify and accelerate its international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East”. Together with partners in the region, United Church members across the country are ready to support the federal government in this task.

I am writing today specifically regarding the Israeli Knesset approval yesterday of legislation that retroactively legalizes illegal Jewish outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land. The United Church of Canada believes the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a major contributor to the violence in the region. A just and negotiated end to the occupation on the basis of international law and UN resolutions is a necessary condition for peace. This conviction arises from the relationships that The United Church has maintained over the years in Israel and Palestine and from first-hand witness to the injustices of the occupation. This morning we received the statement of one United Church partner, B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories regarding the action of the Knesset February 6, 2017:

The law passed by the Knesset today proves yet again that Israel has no intention of ending its control over the Palestinians or its theft of their land. Lending a semblance of legality to this ongoing act of plunder is a disgrace for the state and its legislature. Passing the bill mere weeks after UN Security Council Resolution 2334 is a slap in the face of the international community. While enshrining the dispossession in law is a new development, in practice it is another facet of the massive land grab carried out openly for decades by declaring “state land”.

We welcome your Government’s commitment to restoring Canada’s international leadership in peacemaking and multilateralism. We urge the Canadian government to demonstrate this by publically denouncing the Knesset action as the flagrant violation of international law that it is.

This would reflect a Canadian commitment to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 which, among other things, calls on all member states to reaffirm that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

We look forward to your response.

Grace and peace to you in the important leadership you give.

The Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell
Moderator/Moderatrice

Cc The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Peter Kent, Foreign Affairs Critic, Conservative Party of Canada
Hélène Laverdière, Foreign Affairs Critic, New Democratic Party
Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada
Rhéal Fortin, Leader, Bloc Québécois

———————————————————————

2.6.2017
Press release – for immediate publication

B’Tselem’s response to Regulation Bill: a semblance of legality to ongoing plunder 

The law passed by the Knesset today proves yet again that Israel has no intention of ending its control over the Palestinians or its theft of their land. Lending a semblance of legality to this ongoing act of plunder is a disgrace for the state and its legislature. Passing the bill mere weeks after UN Security Council Resolution 2334 is a slap in the face of the international community. While enshrining the dispossession in law is a new development, in practice it is another facet of the massive land grab carried out openly for decades by declaring “state land”.

UNJPPI Writes to Minister Freeland

UNJPPI writes to Minister Freeland about the action by the Knesset to retroactively legalize under Israeli law over 4,000 settler homes and the ability to seize privately owned Palestinian land for settlement expansion and/or the creation of new illegal settlements.

 

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland P.C.,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
House of Commons,
Ottawa K1A 0A6

February 8, 2017

Dear Minister Freeland:

Congratulations on your appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs. As Canadians, we are proud of our traditional international role of honest broker and peacemaker. We look forward to your leadership and trust these values will guide you as you help to set Canada’s foreign policy.

The United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI) is a network of members and friends of the United Church of Canada who long for peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Many of our members have direct experience in Palestine and Israel. Several have served as Human Rights observers in the West Bank. We believe a just and negotiated end to the occupation on the basis of international law and UN resolutions is a necessary condition for peace and stability throughout the Middle East.

We are writing to express our grave concern regarding actions taken by the government of Israel since the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334. The Israeli government is deepening its 50-year long occupation of Palestinian territory and is demonstrating newfound contempt for its responsibilities as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

There are three key issues we wish to bring to the attention of your government:

  1. The action by the Knesset to retroactively legalize under Israeli law over 4,000 settler homes and the ability to seize privately owned Palestinian land for settlement expansion and/or the creation of new illegal settlements.
  2. The approval of over 6,000 new homes in illegal settlements.
  3. The Prime Minister has promised to build a new settlement.

These actions are not only impediments to peace and also shows distain for the action of the Security Council and for International Human Rights and Humanitarian Laws.

Credible Israeli and international human rights organizations as well as reputable media sources have collected stories and data over decades that make it obvious that the Israeli government has no intention of following international law or living up to its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as long as certain countries do not hold the government to account.

UNJPPI has publicly congratulated your government on the partial restoration of UNRWA funding and the appointment of Deborah Lyons, a highly respected civil servant, to serve as Canada’s Ambassador to Israel. Through these actions, it is apparent that your government is moving back toward Canada’s traditional position regarding Palestine and Israel.

Further, your government has stepped forward on the international stage and has claimed the role of honest broker and a nation committed to human rights and the rule of law. Therefore, will you take a stand against this action by Israel as you have against similar actions by Russia in the Crimea and Ukraine?

We look forward to your response.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

Rev. Steve Berube                                          Rev. Marianna Harris
Co-chairs: United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel

Cc.

  • The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
  • The Honourable Peter Kent, Foreign Affairs Critic, Conservative Party of Canada
  • Hélène Laverdière, Foreign Affairs Critic, New Democratic Party
  • Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada
  • Rhéal Fortin, Leader, Bloc Québécois

    Print PDF 

Take action for refugees: increase sponsorships and end the Safe Third Country Agreement

On Friday, January 27th US President Trump signed an Executive Order that temporarily halts all resettlement of refugees to the US, halves the number of refugees to be resettled in the current year, and bars Syrian refugees and discriminates against refugees of Muslim faith or background. The Order also imposes a temporary ban on the admission of nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Over the past year, United Church people have welcomed thousands of refugees into their communities.  As people of faith, the church continues to ask and respond in this time and place to Jesus’ question: “And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you?” (Matthew 25).

Take action
There are positive, immediate steps Canada can take to respond to this crisis, but our government will need to hear that message from us.  Please contact your Member of Parliament and the Minister of Refugees, Citizenship, and Immigration. (Contact info below). Include your own thoughts, and whichever of the points below you feel you can support.

We call on the Canadian government to respond by:

  • Increasing Canada’s refugee resettlement targets and by opening the door to more refugee sponsorship applications. The government is planning to bring just 7,500 Government Assisted Refugees and 16,000 Privately Sponsored Refugees in 2017. We can do more; our churches and communities have already proven that.
  • Offering to resettle, on an emergency basis, all refugees who were approved for resettlement to the US but are now denied entry to the US, over and above Canada’s refugee resettlement targets for 2017.
  • Withdrawing from the Safe Third Country Agreement with the US, which closes the door to most refugee claimants applying at Canada’s land border. This Agreement, signed in 2004 over major protest from Canadian civil society and faith communities, disallows a majority of refugees in, or traveling through, the US to make a refugee claim in Canada. Why? On the grounds that the US is safe for refugees.

But the decisions taken by President Trump over the past weekend demonstrate anew what has always been the case: the United States is not automatically a safe place for refugees. Withdrawing from the Agreement would mean that those needing Canada’s protection could apply in an orderly way at the border, rather than being forced, as now, to cross the border irregularly, putting themselves at physical danger (as we’ve already seen in Manitoba) and promoting opportunities for smugglers. See this joint Canadian and American open  letter from Amnesty International for a fuller explanation.  See also more information from the Canadian Council for Refugees here. (The United Church is a member of the Council.)

Contact information
Write to your Member of Parliament or call your MP’s office; since you will likely have to leave a message, prepare a short script for yourself if you choose this option, and be sure to leave a phone number and the name of your community.

Find your Member of Parliament by postal code.

Send a print letter free of charge.

Search by name; this service gives you full phone, email, and mailing information for your Member of Parliament.

To contact Minister Ahmed Hussen:
Minister@cic.gc.ca 
Telephone: 613-954-1064
Fax: 613-952-5533
Mail: The Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen MP
365 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1L1

Please CC your responses to Christie Neufeldt, Program Coordinator: Church in Mission cneufeldt@united-church.ca