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PC(USA) partner condemns recent violence in the occupied Palestinian territories

Churches for Middle East Peace condemns escalating violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank and calls on the US government to engage

by Churches for Middle East Peace | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Manny Becerra via Unsplash

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) condemns the violence and attacks being reported [in recent] days in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). We grieve the loss of both Israeli and Palestinian lives and call on the U.S. government to do everything possible to bring an end to the violence. Unless the core causes of the conflict are addressed, violent acts perpetrated by both sides will continue.

On Jan. 26, the Israeli military conducted a raid in Jenin which resulted in the deaths of at least nine Palestinians. According to the The New York Times, the raid “was aimed at apprehending members of an Islamic Jihad group” who had planned attacks against Israelis. The Palestinian Authority has called the killings a massacre and has threatened to cut off security coordination with Israel. One of the Palestinians killed was a 61-year-old woman. Another Palestinian, Jawad Bouaqneh, was shot and killed as he attempted to give first aid to one of the alleged militants. These deaths have brought the Palestinian death toll at the hands of the Israeli military in January to 30 people, including at least five under the age of 18. This all comes after 2022 was the most violent year against Palestinians since 2008.

On Jan. 27, a Palestinian gunman opened fire and killed seven Israelis who were observing Shabbat near an East Jerusalem synagogue. Five men and two women were killed, making this one of the deadliest attacks on Israelis in years. The gunman was shot and killed by Israeli police. The Israelis responded and arrested 42 people in “connection with the deadly shooting.”

In addition to these incidents, escalation between Israel and Gaza included rocket fire from Gaza and airstrikes from Israel. As of the evening of Jan. 28, no deaths had been reported.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had meetings in Israel. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) condemns the recent violence and expects the U.S. government to start addressing ongoing core contributions to this conflict, including, but not limited to, the decades-long occupation of the Palestinian people in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. The U.S. cannot afford only to respond when violence occurs but instead must call on Israel to stop their policies that limit the human rights and dignity of Palestinian people within their borders and in the oPt. The U.S. government must also acknowledge the exponentially disproportionate power dynamics between Israeli state violence and Palestinian resistance.

CMEP’s executive director, the Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, says, “I am absolutely horrified by the news of these most recent tragic events. I cannot imagine what the families of those who’ve lost loved ones must be going through. May these events be a wake-up call to the Biden administration. I hope the U.S. government stops ignoring what’s happening in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The U.S. can no longer keep its head in the sand and remain disengaged from this conflict. Violence will only continue until the core causes of the conflict are addressed.”

CMEP calls on the Biden Administration to not just respond with words but to lead in efforts of de-escalation. The Middle East will not stay silent until human rights abuses and other oppressive policies are addressed, including, but not limited to:

  • The decades-long occupation of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza
  • The continued annexation of Palestinian land and the ongoing expansion of settlements on land designated to become the future state of Palestine
  • The more than 16-year blockade of more than two million people living in Gaza
  • Collective punishment targeting associates and family members of individuals accused of attacks against Israelis
  • The discriminatory treatment and repressive laws toward Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians living in the oPt.

The U.S. has a responsibility to engage because of our extensive investment in Israel, including the billions of dollars invested in military support and foreign aid. The Biden Administration should also press the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take responsibility, engage in legitimate human rights cooperation and protection, and condemn the recent attacks on Israelis. If the Biden Administration does not take action in response to recent and ongoing violence, including Israeli state violence against Palestinians, they will be de facto offering their blessing to continued escalations.

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of more than 30 national church communions and organizations working to encourage U.S. policies that actively promote just, lasting and comprehensive resolutions to conflicts in the Middle East. Members include the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church.

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