Susiya Home Demolition Update

Beth Baskin, Program Coordinator, Social Analysis and Congregational Engagement, The United Church of Canada, shares the following Take Action request.

Susiya’s lawyer is writing with urgency:

  • The Government of Israel gave notice on Jan. 10th that they intend to demolish 15 homes and structures in the Palestinian village of Susiya.  According to the High Court decision days earlier, this triggers a 15 day clock.
  • Advocate Mishirqi Assad, attorney for Susiya, has until this Wednesday to oppose.
  • Then it is up to the High Court to issue an injunction against demolition to stop the bulldozers now set to demolish on January 23rd.

Many of you have spoken to the Canadian Government already, but we are asking you to do it again. The impact that ordinary people who seek justice can have when they take action is clear. Demolitions have been postponed thus far. Contact your elected representatives, asking them to act urgently for the sake of justice for the people of Susiya.

Write to the Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and your member of Parliament:

  •  Ask Minister Freeland to call on the Israeli government reverse the decision to demolish the villages of Susiya.
  • Ask Minister Freeland to urge Canada to call on the Israeli government to immediately freeze all settlement activity and demolition orders.
  • Request that your MP call on Minister Freeland during question period to ask what actions Canada is taking to press the Israeli government to reverse the demolition orders.
  • A sample letter is available on the United Church Take Action webpage.
  • Share this Take Action on your social media networks. Use the hashtags #UCCan, #Susiya, #Israel, #Palestine.
  • Urge Minister Freeland to request that Canadian diplomatic missions in Palestine and Israel visit Susiya immediately. We have contacted the office in Ramallah asking them to make a visit. In 2015, European Union representatives visited the village of Susiya, which was then also threatened with demolition. International publicity from this visit was vital in halting the planned demolitions at that time.

You have already written, then give Minister Freeland a call at 343-203-1851 and your MP too. You can find your MPs contact information through this link. I trust that you all have your own words, since many of you have done this before, but you can modify the sample letter from our earlier Take Action as is helpful to you.

As noted in the Haqel press release found on Rebuilding Alliance website, Adv. Quamar Mishirqi-Assad, legal counsel to the village of Susiya and and Co-Director of Haqel, states:

“The demolition of 20% of the structures in the village will create a grave humanitarian disaster leaving at least 100 residents without shelter in harsh winter weather. The State’s intention is nothing less than a lack of good faith and testifies to the lack of goodwill and the absence of any genuine intention to regulate the village as required in accordance with international law.”

Don’t get discouraged – please send your emails and call again now. You are doing this in concert with concerned people in numerous places worldwide.

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100 Years of Balfour Declaration is Not Something to Celebrate

MP Sponsored Petition to Government calls Canada to live up to obligations to UN Resolutions

On November 2, 2017, it will be a century since the road for colonization of Palestine was set.

Recognizing a century since the Balfour Declaration, 70 years since the Partition Plan and approaching 70 years since the Nakba, 50 years of occupation of the territory taken in the 1967 set-back, and 10 years seize on Gaza, we are pleased that Alexandre Boulerice, MP to Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, NDP, Quebec has sponsored the following petition to the government of Canada.

It will be posted until January 27, 2018.   Please sign and share through your networks.  A majority of Canadians have said they support sanctions against Israeli war crimes (EKOS 2017).  This is our chance to have Canadians express we expect our government to uphold its own international obligations under United Nation Resolutions, and fulfill its responsibility under Article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which requires the convention to be respected in all circumstances.

Sign by clicking here.

The PETITION TO THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA reads:
Whereas:

  • The Balfour Declaration, November 1917 proclaimed “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”;
  • Today over 7 million Palestinians continue to be denied the right to return under United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948) which has been reiterated annually (most recently by UN General Assembly Resolution 71/91, 2016) — a right provided to all other refugees irrespective of country since 1950;
  • The colonization of the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, continues in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 446 (1979) and 465 (1980), although these resolutions remain aligned with Canada’s official foreign policy, the Canadian government has not spoken out to condemn the recent aggressive legislation and actions by the Israeli government which further contravene these resolutions as well as the recent UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016);
  • This colonization continues 50 years later, in contravention to numerous clauses of the Fourth Geneva Convention; and
  • Canada is a high contracting party to the Fourth Geneva Convention which obliges all parties to ensure respect for the Convention by other parties “in all circumstances.”

We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to live up to its role as a peacemaker and honest broker by upholding its own international obligations related to United Nations GA 194 (1948), and UNSC 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 465 (1980) and 2334 (2016); and fulfilling its responsibilities as a UN member state and signatory of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Sign by clicking here.  Share  WIDELY.  

YouTube Video of 2017 James Graff Memorial Lecture with Professor Michael Lynk

Professor Michael Lynk,
UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine spoke on

“50 Years and Counting:
Legality of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.”

Watch the lecture on YouTube at https://youtu.be/dxFxbbc52u8

On November 29th, 2017, Canadian Friends of Sabeel (CFOS) and co-sponsor Emmanuel College of Victoria University at the University of Toronto  hosted the annual James Graff Memorial Lecture to commemorate the UN declared International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

For more information, visit the new CFOS website: www.friendsofsabeel.ca

The Statement by The United Church of Canada on the Legal Settlement for Omar Khadr

The United Church respects the decision of the federal government to apologize to Omar Khadr   Published on July 12, 2017, accessed on Facebook

The United Church of Canada respects the decision of the federal government to apologize to Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, for its role in his ordeal that began with his detention by the United States in Afghanistan.

Since 2008, the United Church has written to the federal government on several occasions regarding the miscarriage of justice in the treatment of Omar Khadr, who was 15 years old when he was detained and considered a child soldier under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Canada is a signatory. At that time, the church requested that an independent review of the Canadian government’s involvement in Khadr’s detention be implemented.

In a unanimous ruling in 2010, the Supreme Court found Khadr’s human rights were being violated at Guantanamo Bay: “The deprivation of [Khadr’s] right to liberty and security of the person is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice,” the court ruled.

“The interrogation of a youth detained without access to counsel, to elicit statements about serious criminal charges while knowing that the youth had been subjected to sleep deprivation and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.”

There is much brokenness in this story. However, as followers of Christ, we find our hope in the power of restorative justice to mend deep divisions between individuals, peoples, and nations.

Church leaders must be willing to pay a price for Palestinian solidarity

The Christian community in Occupied Palestine has just called time on 70 years of world-wide Christian/Jewish collusion in their oppression and slow demise. In an open letter to the World Council of Churches, they’re demanding a different course of action from their Christian sisters and brothers because, they write, the situation is now “beyond urgent”.

The exasperation of the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine is understandable. The Church around the world has failed them.

They’ve seen year after year of Holy Land reports, theological reflections, pilgrimages, conference debates, and the occasional divestment commitment. But all this softly, softly solidarity has failed to improve their condition, let alone win their liberation.

Yes, there’ve been plenty of carefully worded and balanced calls for “justice” and “security” for Christians, Jews and Muslims. But no calling out of who has the power, who uses it to oppress, who allows it to continue, who excuses it, who remains silent.

Nor has there been much willingness to incur a collective cost to any Palestinian solidarity, either financially or reputationally from the leadership of Church denominations.

The Ecumenical Deal
Much of this comes down to what the Jewish theologian Marc Ellis long ago described as ‘the ecumenical deal’. It amounts to this: the unwillingness within formal Christian Jewish encounters to question Jewish support for Israel for fear of unpicking decades of inter faith reconciliation following the Holocaust.

Ellis, writing for the journal of Americans for Middle East Understanding back in February 1992 summed up how this has become an obstacle to justice:

“The foundation of the dialogue rests on Christian repentance for anti-Jewishness and acceptance of Israel as central for Jewish identity. Those involved in the dialogue know that it has essentially turned into what one might call the ecumenical deal: eternal repentance for Christian anti-Jewishness unencumbered by any substantive criticism of Israel. Substantive criticism of Israel means, at least from the Jewish side, the reemergence of Christian anti-Jewishness.”

The outcome of the ecumenical deal, Ellis went on to say, is that debate about the oppression of the Palestinian people by Israeli Jews, and its support by “commission or omission” by Jewish and Christian communities around the world is left unchallenged.

Despair
25 years of failed peace process, a wave of Palestinian terrorism at the turn of the century, three major Israeli assaults on Gaza and a Jewish Settler population of now more than half a million has done little to shift the interfaith dynamics that Ellis described a quarter of a century ago.

So it’s hardly surprising to see Christians in Palestine despairing of the endless “hiding behin78d the cover of political neutrality” and the unwillingness of Church leaders “to offend their religious dialogue partners.” In Palestine they learnt long ago that liberation doesn’t come cheap. What’s required from us they say is “costly solidarity” not “shallow diplomacy”.

And in practice that means:
“That you revisit and challenge your religious dialogue partners, and that you are willing to even withdraw from the partnership if needed”   So brace yourselves. Jewish-Christian dialogue is about to go through the wringer. And not before time.

The cost of Christian solidarity
To reset the Christian interfaith relationship with the Jewish Community will take boldness and courage on the part of Church leaders, local ministers and their congregants. It will take them far from their ecumenical comfort zone.

Long standing relationships with Jewish neighbours and clerical colleagues will deteriorate long before they can be rebuilt with new foundations.

But costly solidarity requires no less.

It means refusing to allow your local Jewish communal leadership to set the boundaries of permissible debate on Israel.
It means listening to the Christian voice under occupation before the Jewish voice living comfortably, with full equal rights, many thousands of miles from that same occupation.
It means refusing invitations to Balfour Declaration ‘celebrations’ this November.
It means you, not them, deciding what forms of protest are appropriate and fair.
It means you choosing to invest your funds in ethics not in companies profiting from Occupation.
It means your next pilgrimage to the Holy Land may be turned back at Ben Gurion airport.
It means you WILL be branded Israel haters.

You WILL be branded antisemitic.

And when that happens you should refuse to be bullied (because that’s what it is).
You must call the Jewish officials to your office. Ask them to clarify their position. Seek legal opinion. Demand an apology.  Insist that those that accuse you of ‘unfairness’ and ‘lack of balance’ make clear their own position.

What’s their view on the legality of the Occupation and Settlements? Do they recognize the inequality of political, civil and human rights in Israel itself and the Occupied territories? Can they confirm their commitment to freedom of speech in a democracy?

And do all of this publicly.

This is what costly solidarity will look like until things change.

Because silence and collusion on a great injustice of our time cannot be the basis of healthy interfaith dialogue.

But what about the Jewish side?
We still don’t have an accepted Jewish vocabulary or conceptual thinking that will enable us to recognize our complicity in Palestinian suffering. That makes the idea of Palestinian solidarity almost impossible for most Jews to contemplate let alone sign up to.

We’re still stuck in a mindset of powerlessness and victimhood that no longer holds true. The dilemma for Jews is that questioning the State of Israel within our Jewish communities risks unraveling the collective sense of who we are and what being Jewish means in the 21st century.

The recalibration on Israel required from Jewish communities around the world is now just as profound as the soul searching that took place within Christianity after the Holocaust. Just as Christians had to look Jews in the eye and ask for forgiveness so that Christianity could move forward, the same will be true between Jews and Palestinians. Again, this is ground well covered in the writings of Marc Ellis.

The future for Jews and Judaism itself is now entirely bound up with our relationship to the Palestinian people. However, we are still a very long way from being ready to confront this truth.

Costly Christian solidarity with the Palestinian people has the potential to speed up a change in Jewish attitudes. But it requires turning the tables over in the temples of ecumenical deal making.

I’m not underestimating how difficult this will be. The Jewish response to costly Christian solidarity with the Palestinians will be hostile and intolerant, at least to start with. The current Jewish leadership of our communities around the world is conditioned to react like this. They have no other language or thinking available to them.

But changing the language of interfaith dialogue is what needs to happen, and the sooner the better. Shallow diplomacy has had its day.

A new basis for Jewish/Christian understanding
So what should the new dialogue look like? How do we keep the good progress made over the last 70 years but throw out the politics of a silent collusion of injustice?

Perhaps a celebration of our creation mythology that makes clear that all humanity is equal in God’s eyes.

Maybe a common commitment to building communities where all faith traditions are respected and honoured.

How about a shared understanding that national chauvinism will always undermine building the Just and Righteous society that Jews and Christians pray for each day.

Or how about a firm belief that solidarity with the oppressed comes with a cost that’s always worth paying.

–Robert Cohen, July 8, 2017

Come and See The Holy Land

November 4 – November 14

This is an invitation to participate in a 10 day  pilgrimage to Israel/Palestine in November. It is an opportunity to see both the Holy Sites and the effects of the Occupation on all who like in that troubled land.

Travel this beautiful land of Palestine/Israel experiencing the places where Jesus lived and taught.  Visit the holy sites in Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and the Galilee.

Learn about the extraordinary resilience of the Palestinian people living under occupation.

Meet United Church of Canada partners-Jewish, Muslim, and Christian,
who are working non-violently for peace, justice and human rights.

Hear the stories of people whose families lived in this land for generations.

Ponder biblical passages in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Mount of the Beatitudes asking how they relate to us today.

Gaze down on Jerusalem as we consider those who have conquered this land over three millennia and how each has treated the inhabitants.

Led by:
Hope Rowsell, President of NL Conference, United Church of Canada
Patricia Mercer, returned EAPPI volunteer
(Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine/Israel)

Costs are estimated at $3900. to cover most expenses including flight
Deposit is $500 (part of the final costs.)

For more information or to receive a registration form contact:
Hope Rowsell (hrowsell@eastlink.ca) or
Patricia Mercer (pmercer@nl.rogers.com)

Sponsored by NL Conference and Partners in Mission,
United Church of Canada

Response to the 2017 Provincial Budget Saskatchewan Conference, The United Church of Canada

Saskatchewan Conference of The United Church of Canada is gravely concerned about the nature and impact of the provincial 2017 budget cuts announced March 22. (This statement was updated May 1 and May 15 to reflect recent developments.)

On March 22nd, the government of Saskatchewan released its 2017 “transformational” budget. Premier Wall had warned that “everything is on the table”, made necessary, he said, by the need to eliminate a $1.3 billion provincial debt, a debt caused mainly, we’re told, by the decline in the revenues from oil, gas, and potash.

As a Christian community which shares these treaty lands with diverse Indigenous and settler communities alike, we speak against the values that underlie this budget. A budget is, at heart, a statement about our collective values. This budget erodes community fabric, denies our communities full and respectful consultation, places exceptional burdens on vulnerable people, and violates Treaty relationships.  Our society is required to act with the compassion and justice that characterize the message of Jesus and that of the prophets and sages of every age. In this budget, the government has failed this test.

Taking action
The Local-Global Advocacy Network and the All My Relations Network ask that individuals, pastoral charges, and presbyteries discern which concerns they wish to address, with a focus on measures that will unnecessarily and unjustly cause hardship to many thousands of the province’s people, or which dishonour our Treaty agreements.  Please send a letter and/ or phone call to your MLA and to the Premier. Not sure who your MLA is? Look here. For full contact information, use this link.

Action options and a summary are now posted by the group Stop the Cuts.

Specific concerns about the 2017 Saskatchewan budget
Below we name just a few of the cuts implemented. We note with dismay that in almost every case, these cuts came with no warning and no consultation. How these cuts were arrived at is almost as damaging as the cuts themselves.

– The end of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC), and with it, the almost immediate elimination of the jobs of 224 staff. In the long term, this cut means the loss of the primary means of transportation for many citizens who have depended on the STC to get them to medical appointments, meetings, family visits, and so on. The disproportionate impact on low income people, the elderly, and rural and isolated communities will be enormous, and will eat away at our community fabric. A citizens’ Facebook group fro advocacy and education, Save STC, has been set up: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1256678351047292/

Major cuts to grants to public libraries: This has been reversed for now, after one of the biggest series of public demonstrations in SK’s history. However, long term funding is still in doubt.

Spiritual care. The government ended all base funding to the seven Saskatchewan members of the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care. These are highly trained professionals who provide holistic care for hospital patients and their families. Pastoral care in times of grief and tragedy is at the heart of our communities. What does this cut say about our values in this province? We are now the only province in Canada that does not fund spiritual care. For resources on addressing this with government, refer to this post on our Conference’s Faith Formation blog.

– Even before the budget was released, the government announced that the Saskatchewan Pastures Program that has long provided ranchers and others with access to Crown land will be phased out. Fifty-one pastures covering 170,000 acres will be put up for sale or lease. Unique prairie habitat may be put at risk. Please see this overview from Trevor Herriot, in which he reviews point by point the impact of this disturbing decision.

Saskatchewan Conference President Rev. Krystal Sheremata has written to Premier Brad Wall to express opposition to the provincial auction of Crown land.  Please see her letter here and share widely (PDF). The letter is also posted to the All My Relations Network blog. In March, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations protested the auction, noting “The Saskatchewan government is completely disregarding its Treaty Land Entitlement obligations by selling off Crown land to the highest bidder and not allowing the First Nations the time they need to weigh their options on the selection and purchase of Crown lands.”

A reduction or end to the Grants-in-lieu program for cities. This program has existed since the 1930s and was ended with absolutely no warning. Municipalities provide a very wide range of day to day services which are especially crucial to low income people. These cuts, and the way they were carried out, will pose a major problem for 109 communities across the province.

These grants take the form of money sent from federal government agencies, provincial Crown corporations and municipal utilities to Saskatchewan cities in lieu of these government agencies paying municipal property tax on infrastructure. The provincial budget eliminated grants-in-lieu from the provincial Crown corporations SaskPower, SaskEnergy and TransGas to municipalities throughout the province. A few days after the budget, some of the cuts were reduced; Saskatoon and Regina’s 100% cuts remain in effect.

The cuts to education, i.e., to school operating budgets, that were announced as 1.2% ($22 million) have turned out to be 2.9% (more than $54 million) once the difference in the province’s and the school system’s fiscal years are taken into account. These cuts, as the Teachers’ Federation has said, will have a serious impact on the classroom through cuts to staffing and provision of resources.

The Saskatchewan Conference All My Relations and Local-Global Advocacy Networks.

Further information
A commentary from Dr Howard Leeson on the values of this budget. http://leaderpost.com/opinion/letters/premier-wall-should-either-resign-or-call-an-election-on-the-budget

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) statement on the auction of SK Crown lands.

Government release about changes to Social Services: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/residents/family-and-social-support/information-on-social-services-program-changes.