APRODEV and CIDSE, two church-related organizations, have condemned in a recent statement the forced displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank, which they say is “uprooting any chance of a just peace”. They urge the European Union (EU) to address systematically issues of property destruction and forced displacements, to protect the rights of Palestinians. This stance is endorsed by the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The statement released on 7 April was drafted by the APRODEV, an association of European development agencies related to the WCC, together with the CIDSE, an international alliance of Catholic development agencies. Both organizations are networks of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.
APRODEV and CIDSE welcome the specific attention the EU has devoted to issues of demolition and displacement and express their hopes to see stronger and more effective actions in future to counter such illegal policies.
APRODEV and CIDSE encourage the EU to review its aid projects so that they do not recognize unlawful Israeli policies driving forcible transfer and settlement expansion. They also ask the EU to advocate for the transfer of planning authority to Palestinian institutions, in line with international humanitarian law.
APRODEV, together with the CIDSE, have been instrumental in influencing decision-making processes in the EU institutions in order to promote justice and peace in Israel and Palestine.
The statement follows a recent resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) warning about business and financial activities in Israeli settlements. The resolution echoes concerns that many churches have expressed against human rights violations resulting from such trade-related activities.
The WCC’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) encourages such stances from the EU and the UN against demolitions and displacements in Area C, as contravening international law, said Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, the WCC’s associate general secretary for Public Witness and Diakonia.
She said the EAPPI volunteers have been providing protective presence to vulnerable communities in the occupied territory, reporting human rights abuses and supporting Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace, since 2002. Upon returning home, these volunteers campaign for a peaceful resolution to Israeli and Palestinian conflict, appealing for an end to the occupation, respect for international law and implementation of UN resolutions.
The EAPPI helps in mobilizing actions from the churches, ecumenical organizations and religious leaders to work for peace in Israel and Palestine, added Phiri.
Wendy Gichuru, regional coordinator for the Middle East, from the Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations Unit of the United Church of Canada (UCC), said that “churches have a moral obligation to put their faith into action and work for a just peace.” They must ensure that their actions do not knowingly support and maintain injustice. This includes using their economic power as consumers and investors to work towards this goal, she added.
Such positions have been taken by WCC governing bodies in advocating for peace in the region, including a statement related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory adopted in 2009.