Support peace with justice in Palestine and Israel
Urge President Biden to deliver a message to Israel: it must halt the illegal removal of East Jerusalem families from their homes and respect the Status Quo agreement and holy sites in Jerusalem.
Tensions in Jerusalem have risen dramatically in recent weeks due to the Israeli government’s condoning of the planned expulsion of Palestinians. This has been exacerbated by the use of Israeli security forces to both impede Muslims’ access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan and even to enter the mosque and attack worshipers under the pretense of taking security measures against so-called terrorists. All this has occurred in the context of inequitable vaccine distribution to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and disproportionate illness and death of Palestinians due to COVID-19.
The wider context is Israel’s 54-year occupation of Palestine, in which Palestinians daily face military incursions, restrictions on movement, physical harassment, dehumanization, land confiscation, home demolitions, expansion of Israeli settlements, and limited access to worship, health care, education, farmland, food, clean water and economic opportunities.
More than a dozen Palestinian families in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods risk being forcibly evicted from their homes as soon as this month, as part of “an alarming pattern to change the demography of the city,” according to a recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territory, occupied since 1967. If the evictions proceed as planned, these families will have nowhere to go.
In recent months, demolitions and seizures of Palestinian structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have intensified significantly. The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process reported on March 25 that since December, “325 [Palestinian-owned] structures were demolished or seized by Israeli authorities or demolished by their owners to avoid heavy Israeli demolition fees. These actions resulted in the displacement of 465 people, including 253 children and 105 women.”
The decades-old practice of Israelis demolishing or seizing Palestinian homes represents a flagrant violation of international law, specifically Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the forcible transfer of protected populations by an occupying power. It has also dramatically increased tensions between residents and Israeli extremists in East Jerusalem. Harassment and provocation of Palestinians by Jewish nationalist groups such as Lehava — including parades through Muslim areas, chants of “death to Arabs” and physical violence — have been curtailed by police at times but tacitly allowed at others.
Kairos Palestine, a Palestinian Christian ecumenical movement, issued an urgent call to the global Christian community on March 27: “Your sisters and brothers in Palestine implore you to resist the State of Israel’s impending eviction of 15 families from their homes in the Israeli occupied territory of East Jerusalem. … [W]rite to your governments, insisting that they intervene to stop this action on the basis of human dignity and international law.”
During Ramadan there have been attacks on Palestinians, including Israeli police actions around the Damascus Gate and Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount). The latter were ostensibly in response to Palestinian unrest (stone throwing, yelling, etc.) but have been called disproportionate escalation, deliberate provocation and collective punishment. Israeli forces have barricaded gathering spaces for Palestinian Muslims, blocked buses carrying Muslim citizens of Israel into Jerusalem to pray, and responded to protests with rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades that have injured more than 600 Palestinians, including women and children. They have brought tear gas and stun grenades into the Al-Aqsa Mosque itself, desecrating a sacred space. Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza and retaliatory actions by Israeli forces have also threatened civilians and have terrorized Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) stated on May 8 that these actions violate the Status Quo agreement that promises Jews, Christians and Muslims freedom of worship and access to their holy sites. Unequal restrictions on worship by Israeli police has also included the blocked some Arab Christians from the Old City during the Orthodox Easter holiday.
The Lutheran World Federation, in a statement issued May 10, called upon its member churches to 1) urge their respective governments to multilaterally work toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict; 2) continue to pray and advocate for the ELCJHL, the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem and their respective ministries; and 3) continue to pray and advocate for reconciliation and peace with justice, for Jerusalem and all its residents—Christian, Jewish and Muslim; Palestinian and Israeli.
Contact the White House today! Urge President Biden to deliver a message to Israel: it must halt the illegal removal of East Jerusalem families from their homes, originally scheduled for this month, and respect the Status Quo agreement and holy sites in Jerusalem. Send copies to your senators and U.S. representative.