Sabeel, Canada

Dear Councilors,

I have heard of your courageous stand in the face of the inevitable opposition; I want you to know that I represent many in my organization, Canadian Friends of Sabeel, who are likely among others around the globe proud of your effort to sanction Israel’s apartheid. I am a Canadian priest, formerly Director of the Middle East Council of Churches Jerusalem office and Anglican Vicar of Gaza.

Sabeel, the ecumenical organization of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank, Israel and Gaza just completed its International Conference; their statement of earlier this week is below (also, sabeel.org where a video of Sabeel International Patron Archbishop Desmond Tutu can be found). The conference included several Australians. Palestinians call on you to support “boycott and divestment as non-violent tools for justice, peace and security for all.” And they plead for your support for the Kairos Palestine document: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of the Palestinian suffering ( http://www.kairospalestine.ps/?q=content/document; our response at sabeel.ca), the cry to the international community by Palestinian Christians endorsed by all the churches of Jerusalem, for solidarity and support, and explicitly participation in BDS.

The ethnically-based injustices under Israeli military occupation are unthinkable until they have been experienced. People are prevented from worshipping, going to school, visiting Jerusalem, celebrating weddings with family in nearby villages, accessing places of work and hospitals for one reason: they are identified on their mandatory I.D. Cards as “non-Jew.” Jews, not necessarily Israelis and definitely not Palestinians, on the other hand living on stolen land in illegal settlements next door not only have no such restrictions, but are even subsidized. In 1996 we celebrated the opening of our Anglican parish in Gaza on the grounds of the Anglican hospital. In 2003, it was decommissioned by a helicopter-launched laser guided missile — the hospital was damaged too.

In 2009, the Australian and Canadian supported church-operated mother and child clinic in Gaza was blown up by Israel. Despite the investment of your tax dollars and ours, and the letters of our church leaders, neither of our governments so much as raised a peep. The Director of the church organization running the clinic and the largest NGO in Gaza prior to the PA was recently on tour in Australia and commented on this. He also explained the human engineered calamity of the illegal blockade on the 1.6 million civilians.

At a time when the world is finally supporting the cries of Libyans and other Arabs for freedom from tyranny and violence, Israel must not be permitted to single itself out as an exception to the international requirements, specifically the IV Geneva Convention and other instruments of international Law which apply to the requirement of protection of civilians in Occupied Territory by Israel.

Your stand in taking decisive action to non-violently challenge ethnically-based injustice, in the face of a strong counter-lobby, is being noticed. Congratulations!

The Rev. Robert C. Assaly
Chair,
Canadian Friends of Sabeel

Sabeel 8th International Conference Statement

To Our Friends and All People of Conscience

As the margins of Empire began to crumble in the Arab world, Sabeel’s Eighth International Conference convened in Bethlehem inside the prison walls of imperial rule. We, the participants,300 people from 15 countries, met from 23rd to 28th February, 2011, to discuss “Challenging Empire: God, Faithfulness and Resistance,” surrounded by the unavoidable and cruel effects of empire’s rule on the Palestinian people and their land.

We heard how Jesus resisted the arrogance, violence and repression of Empire and became a model for us when he drove out the money changers and confirmed the people’s independence from Caesar. Jesus helps us overcome fear and stand in solidarity against Empire. We must follow his example and pray for his courage to resist imperial power, aligning ourselves with the poorest and most oppressed.

We met the victims of Empire in refugee camps, at check-points and in their homes, where they courageously persist in the face of unrelenting oppression. We saw them resist the theft of their homes, fields and water, challenging us to confront Empire in our own countries and in the Holy Land.

We support the Kairos Palestine document and encourage all Christians to read it and act on it. Confronting the root causes of the conflict, this document urges all Christians and people of conscience to help end the military occupation that deprives Palestinians of their rights and condemns both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, to a distortion of their humanity. We see boycott and divestment as non-violent tools for justice, peace and security for all. We say to the churches: come and see. You will know the facts and the people of this land, Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Our word to the international community is to stop the double standards, and insist on the enforcement of international law and U.N. resolutions regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict.

As we depart this conference we hold the United States responsible for the obstacles it has placed in the path of peace, including its veto of a U.N. resolution that condemned Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, contrary to U.S. policy stating that settlements are illegal.

We will carry all that we have seen and learned here to our homes and families, our churches and governments, along with the challenges we have accepted for ourselves and our communities.

Bethlehem, Palestine
28 February, 2011

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