EAPPI News February 2011
"Peace in Israel and Palestine is inseparable from international peace. The conflict affects stability and security in the Middle East and in other regions."
Across the Middle East and North Africa, the year 2011 has begun in dramatic fashion. Unprecedented protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen have shown the depth of peoples’ desire for justice and freedom in a region that has seen decades of political oppression and violence.
While media coverage has focused on unfolding events in Egypt, the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory has not been static. Israeli forces and settlers have killed several Palestinians, announced major land confiscations, and demolished dozens of Palestinian homes.
"Where will we sleep?"
Ecumenical Accompaniers were among the first internationals to arrive in Dkaika, a village in the South Hebron Hills, on the morning of 12 January, when the Israeli army destroyed 9 residential structures and a classroom serving 15 pupils. Fifty people, including 30 children, were left homeless.
"Two policewomen stopped me when I wanted to go in to the house and take out the furniture and our things before they demolished it. They would not let me," said Hamdah Najadah, a local woman.
"They destroyed everything, even the coffee, sugar and flour. Where will we sleep? It is winter, and bad weather is coming. God be with us!"
In occupied East Jerusalem, the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel by Israeli authorities in order to build an illegal settlement on the site drew international criticism. The international community considers Israel's unilateral building of settlements in East Jerusalem illegal and a threat to a negotiated agreement over the city's future status.
In An Nu’man village near Bethlehem, Israeli bulldozers destroyed the home of a young couple, Raed and Siham (see photo, above). The army only gave them a few minutes to remove some of their furniture. The bulldozers actually started to tear down the house while they and their three little children were still in it - violating Israeli law. We have visited the family twice a week since the demolition. The family now lives with their neighbors who also have a pending demolition order.
The United Nations reported that in 2010, the Israeli authorities destroyed over 430 Palestinian-owned structures, including homes, animal shelters and even water cisterns, throughout the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. This represented a 60% increase in home demolitions compared with the previous year. Human Rights Watch has released a report showing that Israel operates a two-tier system for the two populations of the West Bank in the large areas where it exercises exclusive control.
On Thursday, January 27, an Israeli settler shot and killed Uday Maher Qadous, a young man from the village of Iraq Burin, which Ecumenical Accompaniers regularly visit. The incident was one of several recent attacks by settlers in the West Bank, which have included murders and arson attacks. On one occasion, settlers shot a pregnant 16 year old girl in the foot.
Yousef Ikhleil, 17, died hours after being shot in the head by settlers from an illegal settlement near Hebron on 28th January. Dozens of mourners were hurt when Israeli forces attacked his funeral with live ammunition and tear gas. The army also announced that it planned to confiscate around 148 acres of land near Yousef’s village, Beit Ummar, where EAPPI has a regular presence.
News and campaigns
Christians around the world have marked the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2011, which this year focused on the Christians of Jerusalem. The Palestinian Christian community experiences many of the joys and sorrows of the early church; its injustice and inequality, and its divisions, but also its faithful perseverance, and recognition of a wider unity among Christians. EAPPI accompaniers were present at several services in Jerusalem to mark the week.
Amnesty International has launched a campaign urging the UN Human Rights Council to seek justice for the victims of the fighting in 2008-9 in Gaza and southern Israel.
It is hard to ignore the role of foreign governments in the Middle East. Thirteen leaders of American churches have written an open letter to the Obama Administration, asking it to support a pending UN Security Council resolution calling on Israel to stop illegal construction of settlements in the territories over which it gained control in 1967, including East Jerusalem. Their letter reflects a similar statement by Churches for Middle East Peace.
Many foreign corporations are deeply involved in, and profit from, the occupation. The findings of the second international session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine were released in February, detailing corporate complicity in Israel's violations of International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, War Crimes. The findings can be read in full here.
This reminds us of the call of the World Council of Churches:
"The WCC encourages member churches to avoid investments or other economic links to illegal activities on occupied territory, and to boycott settlement products."
New countries join EAPPI
In December we welcomed our 38th group of Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs), including our first Austrian. You can read about them here. In 2011 we are looking forward to welcoming EAs from Uruguay, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia and the Philippines.
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The Editor's Pick...
Ecumenical Accompaniers are now blogging in several languages. You can find links to their blogs at the current group page of our website.
Here is a brief sample of the best new material by Ecumenical Accompaniers:
Muawya, unser Taxifahrer, möchte so gerne am Strand sitzen und den Wellen zusehen. „Das wäre Erholung und Entspannung.“ Das letzte Mal war er mit 7 Jahren am Meer.
Beit Sahur is a picturesque town, but also a hub of creativity - mostly directed at non-violent resistance to the occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers met up with some of its veteran leaders.
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