World Council of Churches
7-12 June 2017
Doc. No. 12 (final)
Public Issues Statements
The document is available in Arabic.
Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. (Leviticus 25:10)
This year, 2017, marks several historic anniversaries of great importance to the history and development of the situation in Israel and Palestine and to the ecumenical community’s response to this situation – including 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, 50 years since the Six Day War of 1967, and 10 years since the 2007 WCC International Peace Conference "Churches together for Peace and Justice in the Middle East" in Amman, Jordan.
In the Balfour Declaration of 1917 – later incorporated in the British Mandate for Palestine – the British Government expressed its support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and committed to “use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” Unfortunately, as history has demonstrated, the rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine have not been protected as envisaged in the declaration.
Indeed, these very days during which the WCC executive committee is meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, mark fifty years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. During the past five decades, the World Council of Churches has always recognized the State of Israel and its legitimate security needs as well as those of the Palestinian communities of the region. It has consistently appealed for non-violent approaches and denounced the use of armed force and violence by whosoever committed. And it has repeatedly called for an end to the occupation, and continuously advocated and acted in support of peace with justice for both Palestinians and Israelis. The WCC has also launched numerous initiatives for a just peace in the region, including the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) and the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF).
However, half a century after the 1967 war, there is still no peace and no justice among the inhabitants of the land of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories continues without any political solution on the horizon. On the contrary, its matrix of control – in particular through the ever growing web of illegal Israeli settlements – is increasing rather than diminishing. The occupation strangles hopes for a jointly agreed political solution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, for a sustainable peace for both peoples, for justice and equal human dignity and rights for all, and for the realization of legitimate Palestinian aspirations for self-determination. And it is recognized in a recent United Nations report as being the main cause of humanitarian need in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The WCC believes that, as much as the on-going occupation is a tragedy for the Palestinian occupied, it is also disastrous for the Israeli occupiers – negatively impacting democracy and human rights in Israel, the State of Israel’s moral standing in the community of nations, and the conscience of the Israeli nation.
After so many unfulfilled UN resolutions, agreements and promises, the occupation is also an indelible stain on the conscience of members of the international community, whose support or quiescence has encouraged and enabled the Israeli occupation to become effectively a permanent colonization. This is a betrayal of all the solemn commitments to achieving a viable two-state solution, the best hope of achieving a just peace and securing peaceful coexistence for the two peoples and three religions of the region. We urge all those responsible to act to correct this situation and to justify the hopes and expectations created by those commitments.
The WCC executive committee, meeting at the time of this sad anniversary, reiterates the many appeals and recommendations that have been made by the WCC over the years based on our trust in a shared commitment to peace, justice and equal dignity and rights for all people. In the face of fifty years of evidence of the lack of adequate mutuality in that commitment, we – together with WCC member churches in the region and around the world – offer up our prayers and our hopes to God, who leads us on the pilgrimage of justice and peace, and who makes all things new.
We pray that hearts hardened by hatred and violence and eyes narrowed by power and fear of the other will be opened for new paths to peace, in which the God-given dignity and value of every human being can be equally recognized and respected. We pray for a day in which Israelis and Palestinians will live side-by-side in peaceful co-existence, with neither oppressing nor being oppressed by the other. We pray for the churches of Palestine and Israel, that they may be strengthened and empowered in their role as witnesses to the peace of God. And we call for all churches and people of good will around the world to hold fast to this vision, not to despair, but to renew their commitment to speaking and acting in support of justice and peace in Palestine and Israel, against all the obstacles and barriers set up by human powers and principalities.
God of Life, lead us to justice and peace.