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. 

Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani was one of 19 volunteer medical professionals shot on May 14 while delivering emergency medicine to protesters on the Gaza Strip. He believes he was targeted.

“It is imperative that we establish the facts of what happened in Gaza, especially given the shooting of Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stated on May 22. “That is why Canada is calling for an independent investigation to ascertain how the actions of all parties concerned contributed to these events, including reported incitement by Hamas.” Moderator Jordan Cantwell wrote a letter to Minister Freeland on May 24 supporting Canada’s pledge to take part in an independent investigation and asking that Canada provide leadership in realizing a just and negotiated peace in the region.

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.”

Take Action

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Write to Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Ask that Canada and its international partners adhere to the following principles in their independent investigation:
    • a commitment to transparency to ensure that the investigative process remains free of all political influence or interference, and that its findings and recommendations be made public.
    • a commitment to fighting and ending impunity for grave international crimes.
    • a commitment to accountability, should an investigation find that grave international crimes have been committed in Gaza.
    You may wish to use the Moderator’s May 24th letter as a guide.
  3. Share this Take Action on your social media networks. Use the hashtags #UCCan, #Gaza, #Palestine, #Israel, and #ChoosePeace. On Twitter, tag Global Affairs Canada.

Background

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 Hon. Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
E-mail: chrystia.freeland [at] international.gc.ca

Send copies of your letters and e-mails to:

The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau
E-mail: justin.trudeau [at] parl.gc.ca

Conservative Party of Canada

Andrew Scheer
E-mail: Andrew.scheer [at] parl.gc.ca

The Hon. Erin O’Toole
E-mail: erin.otoole [at] parl.gc.ca

New Democratic Party

Jagmeet Singh
E-mail: jagmeet.singh [at] ndp.ca

Hélène Laverdière
E-mail: helene.laverdiere [at] parl.gc.ca

Bloc Québécois

Mario Beaulieu
Email: mario.beaulieu [at] parl.gc.ca

Québec Debout

Rhéal Fortin
E-mail: rheal.fortin [at] parl.gc.ca

Luc Thériault
E-mail: luc.theriault [at] parl.gc.ca

Green Party of Canada

Elizabeth May
E-mail: elizabeth.may [at] parl.gc.ca

Global Affairs Canada

Troy Lulashnk
Director General, Israel, West Bank and Gaza, Egypt, and Maghreb
E-mail: troy.lulashnyk [at] international.gc.ca

H.E. Deborah A. Lyons
Ambassador of Canada to Israel
E-mail: deborah.lyons [at] international.gc.ca

Douglas Scott Proudfoot
Representative of Canada to the Palestinian Authority
E-mail: douglas.proudfoot [at] international.gc.ca

The United Church of Canada

Christie NeufeldtProgram Coordinator Public Witness416-231-7680 ext. 4078
1-800-268-3781 ext. 4078
cneufeldt [at] united-church.ca

For more information contact:

Patti TalbotTeam Leader Church in Partnership416-231-7680 ext. 4018
1-800-268-3781 ext. 4018
ptalbot [at] united-church.ca