The United Church stands in solidarity with Israeli and Palestinian partners in condemning the recent violence against the unarmed protestors in Gaza.
On May 14, 2018, at least 55 unarmed demonstrators (including six children) were killed by Israeli soldiers during protests along Gaza border, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The Ministry also stated that 1,204 Palestinians were shot and wounded, while 1,200 others suffered other types of injuries. Just as in the Biblical account of Rachel weeping for her children (Jeremiah 31:15), the people of the United Church mourn with the families of those killed in Gaza, and pray for the recovery of the injured and traumatized.
In a May 16th statement, Prime Minister Trudeau stated that Canada is “appalled” at the loss of life in Gaza and called the reported use of excessive force and live ammunition “inexcusable.” Trudeau called for an end to the violence, an immediate, independent investigation, and a two-state solution that is mutually agreed upon by Palestine and Israel. The United Church is encouraged that Trudeau’s comments go further (in content and tone) than previous statements on violence in Gaza, and is heartened by Canada’s pledge to assist in the investigation that will address this serious situation.
As the violence took place, the United States celebrated the opening of its newly relocated embassy in Jerusalem. This is a “cynical, dangerous celebration of annexation,” according to a United Church advocacy network United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI). A Globe and Mail editorial stated “this inhumanity is staggering,” and called the events “a combination of tragedy and farce.”
May 15, 2018 marks the 70th annual observance of the Nakba (the word means “catastrophe”), when 750,000 Palestinians fled, or were violently expelled from, their homes in 1948 with the establishment of the state of Israel. “The celebration of annexation, even as Palestinians—the vast majority of whom are refugees—are being gunned down simply for protesting for their basic rights…could not illustrate more clearly the continuing catastrophe that Israel is imposing on Palestinians,” says Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. “Still worse, it’s doing so with the full collusion of the US.”
The impact that United Church people who seek justice can have is clear. Press your elected representatives to act urgently for the sake of justice.
- Pray for Gaza, and for peace with justice. You may wish to use the Prayer for Peace with Justice in Israel/Palestine or this Sabeel Wave of Prayer.
Write to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to
- affirm his May 16th statement—the condemnation of excessive force and the call for an immediate, independent investigation.
- ask him to call on the Israeli government to end the blockade of Gaza—a form of collective punishment and a violation of international humanitarian law. Under international law, Israel (as the occupying power) is responsible for the well-being of Palestinians in Gaza, including humanitarian relief and development.
- ask him to ensure Canada takes a leadership role within the international community to negotiate a just and lasting peace in the region, using international law as its guide.
- Share this Take Action on your social media networks. Use the hashtags #UCCan, #Gaza, #Palestine, #Israel, and #ChoosePeace. On Twitter, tag Global Affairs Canada.
The United Church of Canada has a long history of working with partners to seek peace and justice in Israel and Palestine. This work is rooted in our gospel mandate to be peacemakers, and in response to the calls of Palestinian and Israeli partners. Violent acts such as the killing of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians, the Israeli police and army’s use of excessive force against protesters, extrajudicial killings, and collective punishment are all obstacles to a just and lasting peace.
“We were shocked about the number of innocent casualties and the hundreds of people injured as they protested non-violently on the Gaza border,” said The Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) of the Middle East Council of Churches (a long-term Mission & Service partner). “The current siege on the Gaza Strip must end,” says the DSPR. “A people that is under control is not a free people.” Additionally, seventeen Israeli human rights and civil society organizations have jointly called on Israel “to immediately refrain from the use of lethal force against unarmed civilians,” saying that, for years, Palestinians living in the Gaza strip have “lived on the verge of a humanitarian crisis.”
According to the Association of International Development Agencies, the eleven-year blockade has imposed direct and severe damages upon the entire population of the Gaza Strip. Israel controls the borders between Gaza and the outside world, and keeps them closed most of the time. This prevents the passage of people and goods, in contravention of agreements signed by Israel. The siege of the Gaza Strip is a form of collective punishment and a violation of international humanitarian law. Imposed upon every resident of the Strip, the blockade denies its residents access to work, vital goods, and medical care, as well as basic human rights.
The United Church is an active and ongoing advocate on this issue. We continually ask the federal government to live out its stated policy on Palestine and Israel. Doing so requires Palestine and Israel to adhere to international law without exception.
For more information about the United Church’s current activities, see Unsettling Goods: Choose Peace in Palestine and Israel.
Send your letters and e-mails to:
The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
E-mail: justin.trudeau [at] parl.gc.ca
Send copies of your letters and e-mails to:
The Hon. Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
E-mail: chrystia.freeland [at] international.gc.ca
The Hon. Erin O’Toole
Conservative Party of Canada
E-mail: erin.otoole [at] parl.gc.ca
New Democratic Party
E-mail: helene.laverdiere [at] parl.gc.ca
Green Party of Canada
E-mail: elizabeth.may [at] parl.gc.ca
E-mail: luc.theriault [at] parl.gc.ca
For more information contact: