May 15, 2020
"Everyone is Bleeding"
Christian Leaders in Europe appeal to the EU on Israeli Annexation
Earlier this week we reported on three European Kairos groups that issued challenges to their governments to take action against Israel's planned annexation of more Palestinian land in the West Bank. Today, May 15, the foreign ministers of EU member countries are meeting, with the existing and planned Israeli annexation of Palestinian land the main topic. Church and other civil society leaders from three member countries have appealed directly to the EU or through their foreign ministers in support of direct action by the EU in response to Israel's illegal taking of occupied territory.

"Will the European Union now take actions, putting sanctions on Israel to stop the annexation of the West Bank and restore International Law?" -- demand the four Swedish church leaders in their open letter to the EU. We share this letter and those from Denmark and Germany.
Christian leaders in Sweden to EU: Stop Israeli Annexation

The full text of this letter is shown here. A link following provides a download .

“Now everyone is bleeding”, says renowned Christian leader and nonviolence activist Jean Zaru in Ramallah, trying to describe the situation in the holy land. She continues: 

“We Palestinians are bleeding physically. Israel is bleeding morally.”

Yet another voice of despair comes from Nora Carmi in Jerusalem. For many years, she has been part of the Christian movements Sabeel and Kairos Palestine, in a relentless strive for a just peace between Israel and Palestine. The agony can be heard in her voice as she concludes:

“From a human point of view, the Palestinian project has come to an end. When the annexation of the West bank starts there is only one other ‘two state solution’ – Israel and the Gaza strip.”

Tomorrow, Friday May 15 2020, may be the day when the future of Jean Zaru, Nora Carmi and the Christian community of the holy land is decided upon, as the foreign ministers of the EU gather to discuss the future of the Palestinian people. What is at stake is how the European Union will respond to the Israeli plans to annex large parts of the West bank, starting July 1. 

Around the world, voices are raised, calling on the EU to forcefully condemn the annexation by implementing far-reaching sanctions and restrictions against Israel, in line with those enforced against Russia in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Annexation would be the final nail to the coffin of any two-state solution; the vision of two independent and peaceful states – Israel and Palestine - alongside each other in line with International Law and United Nations resolutions. International Law and UN resolutions (from Resolution UN 181 to SC 2334) forms the basis for both the state of Israel and the state of Palestine.

Annexation of the West Bank will turn the Palestinian people – including fractions of Palestinian Christians and other groups intrinsic to the community – into a people without legal protection, without access to fundamental civil and democratic rights. The name for such a system, in Afrikaans and in International Law, is apartheid. Such a system is a crime against humanity and demands the intervention of the international community.

Israel’s annexation comes as the world is focused on ending the Corona pandemic. But the annexation also has the unprecedented and vital backing of the USA, consenting to Israel’s breach of International Law. The Christians of the holy land have time and again exposed Trump’s so-called ‘peace plan’ for what it is – a plan that takes neither International Law nor the Christian community in to account.

In the most recent statement from May 7 ( www.lpj.org ) the thirteen Heads of Churches in Jerusalem once again point to how the Palestinian Christians are completely absent from the plans, demanding compliance with International Law and calling for peace, justice and safety for all. In that statement the Christian leadership further calls for unity among its own Palestinian political leadership - in order to present a unified front dedicated to achieving peace.

In the Israeli daily Haaretz (May 5 2020) the Catholic priest Jamal Khader and his Lutheran colleague Munther Isaac both living in Bethlehem, describe what they see ahead of them if the annexation is carried out: ”The plan transforms the Holy Land into a "Zionist fairyland" for the enjoyment of extreme Christian evangelicals and Jews, while the local Christian population remains subjugated under Israel's coercion. The plan maintains a cruel separation between two cities with key Christian holy sites – Bethlehem and Jerusalem.”

There are moments that are forever carved into history, years when devastating decisions with disastrous consequences were taken. The Berlin Conference of 1884-85 is such a moment, still profoundly impacting the continent of Africa. Another is May 16 1916 when France and Great Britain drafted, with the support of Russia, a plan for the division of the Middle East after WW1. Will the silence of the world turn 2020 into yet another bleak year, now in the history of the holy land? Will this be the moment when the plans of the extremist settler movement were not challenged, and the state of Israel chose apartheid?

We, the authors of this call, have heard the prophetic voice of the Palestinian Christianity, a voice that cannot stay silent when immoral plans are carried out. In Israel the settler movement and the right-wing political agenda is no longer at the periphery. More and more it eats into society, affecting everyone. Demolishing a house here. Killing a little girl there. Yet another olive-pit torn out and destroyed. Yet another nightly incursion, anywhere, everywhere.
The plan is set to be implemented by December 2024. But to this, the Christians in Palestine refuse to be passive bystanders. They are a part of a growing nonviolent movement that is diligently requesting support from the international community, but rarely get it - most definitely not from the West.

Will the European Union now take actions, putting sanctions on Israel to stop the annexation of the West Bank and restore International Law?
 
Sune Fahlgren, Rev.Dr., Uniting Church in Sweden

Anna Karin Hammar, Rev.Dr., Church of Sweden

Kjell Jonasson, Rev. Church of Sweden

Lena Lönnqvist, member of Uniting Church in Sweden

Publ. in Swedish at Dagen, May 14, 2020.

Denmark Friends of Bethlehem: "Consider concrete measures."

The full text of this letter includes a link to a letter from the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of churches to EU foreign ministers.

Att. Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod,
Re.: Israeli annexation of occupied territories

Dear Jeppe Kofod,

We have followed with great concern the most recent developments in Israel with the formation of a coalition government between the Likud and Blue-White parties, and the possibility this opens for an imminent legislation in the Knesset about annexation of occupied Palestinian territories on the West Bank.

Friends of Bethlehem have been approached by our Christian partners in Palestine, Kairos Palestine, with a statement that expresses great concern about the situation, which is seen as a threat not only to Palestinian society, but also to international law and conventions. And they point out the parallel between Russia’s annexation of The Crimean Peninsula, where the EU immediately responded with sanctions. And they appeal to us, that similar consequences are drawn here. The situation is serious if we want to avoid a de jure apartheid situation in Israel/Palestine, with all that that entails in terms of oppression of the Palestinian population’s welfare and citizen’s rights.

We therefore appeal to the Government of Denmark to consider concrete measures that can put pressure on Israel, so that Israel abstains form further annexing Palestinian and Syrian territories.

Denmark and the EU have over time condemned Israel’s behavior in the occupied territories as breaches of UN resolutions, international law and the Geneva Conventions. But we need more than words of condemnation, that have not had a great effect. We need action in terms of concrete sanctions. And the rapidly growing 10-year old global network, Kairos Palestine, now appeals that protests are followed up by direct BDS action, from businesses, organisations and governments.

We are aware that there is a EU meeting on May 6, 2020 where the question of Israel’s possible annexation of occupied territories will be discussed. We appeal to you that Denmark also at these meetings applies pressure on the other EU countries in order to come to an agreement about concrete measures to be taken with respect to Israel’s policies of occupation.

Rev Vita Andreasen, chairperson

German Solidarity Groups: "A blatant violation of international law."

Three Palestine solidarity groups in Germany have appealed to t he High EU Representative for Foreign Affairs and the Foreign Ministers of the EU member states to take immediate steps to condition support for Israel on its compliance with international law and human rights in the light of the recent coalition agreement to clear the way for more annexation. Click for full text.

" T he annexation will create an apartheid state. Fifty six former members of the Knesset have warned against this: "Annexation would mean a fatal blow to the possibility of peace, and the establishment of an Apartheid State . "

"Instead of repeated expressions of concern or verbose protests without consequences, the European governments and the EU must take effective steps to ensure that the State of Israel finally respects international law and grants human rights to the Palestinians. Israel's insistence on occupation, expansion of settlements and annexation not only violates international law, but also makes a peaceful future between the two peoples impossible ." 

"We therefore call upon the European Union and the EU member States in the event of an annexation:
  • to end military cooperation with Israel, including the arms trade;
  • to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement;
  • to ban imports of Israeli settlement products;
  • to enact a trade ban for companies that have business relations with Israeli settlements or that benefit economically from settlements and monitor compliance with that ban. 

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