World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

"Week of Impunity" in the Middle East

WCC calls international attention to situation in the Middle East

14 December 2006

WCC calls international attention to situation in the Middle East, 14 December,

The World Council of Churches would like to call international attention to three
telling events in the Middle East this week. All involve denial and great danger.

First came the denial of permission for Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and
a United Nations delegation to enter Israel to investigate why 19 members of one
Gaza family were killed by an Israeli army artillery shell last month. Next it was
the staging of an international conference in Teheran questioning the Holocaust.

Finally, it was an interview in which Israel's prime minister referred to his country
as if it was among the world's legitimate nuclear powers.

Preventing an international investigation of killings in Gaza is deeply disturbing
because, when put under pressure, the Government of Israel announces its
own investigations for some of the deaths it causes in neighbouring populations,
but continues to carry out illegal, violent and disproportionate attacks against its

The current Iranian Government has also been asked - politely, pointedly and
persistently after a series of irresponsible and hateful stratagems - to honour rather
than deny the history and the rights of its neighbour, Israel.

Finally, regardless of whether Prime Minister Olmert's admission was an inadvertent
breach in a policy of nuclear denial or an unplanned moment of honesty,
Israel's nuclear weapons are an immensely destabilizing factor in a fragile region.

The weapons give cover for Israel's neighbours and others also to act outside the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which is designed to provide security to all
states including Israel.

These three actions are cases of where impunity - pretending one is exempt from
the harmful consequences of one's actions - prevails over responsibility and accountability.

Their authors add to the region's endemic volatility at an especially dangerous
time. Denial of responsibility for one's neighbours makes a travesty of
state-craft, a corruption of religious precepts and an impossibility of peace.

Communities across the Middle East need progress in all three areas.

Clement John
Acting Director
International Affairs