Statement on Imminent Annexation of Palestinian West Bank by Israel
25 June 2020
Issued by the office of the SACC General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana.
The South African Council of Churches (SACC) is appalled at the latest developments in Israel, with the coalition government set to take decisive steps to kill off any prospect for a just peace with Palestine. While the nations of the world are self-absorbed, battling COVID19, the final chapter on the nightmare tale of Palestinian existence is being written in Israel with a new unity government with a not so new but bolder policy of the annexation of parts of the West Bank, already illegally occupied by Israel. This will make the already illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank, to become “official” Israeli State territory. Such an annexation would unquestionably be in gross violation of international law.
This new reality facing the people of Palestine condemns to the scrap heap any prospect of a Palestinian State in the two-State solution under UN Resolutions, and all humanitarian protocols and humane considerations for justice and peace. In anticipation of this act of effectively abrogating of international law, the illegal Israeli settlers on the West Bank are already executing acts of violence against Palestinian citizens and destroying their olives and livestock. This goes against the best prophetic tradition and teachings of both Judaism and Christianity.
In a sombre statement on May 7, 2020, the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of the Holy Land Churches said:
As a result of the stagnation of the Peace Process in the Middle East between the Israelis and Palestinians, an array of plans for Israel to unilaterally annex West Bank land, backed mainly by right-wing factions, raises serious and catastrophic questions about the feasibility of any peaceful agreement to end the decades’ long conflict, one that continues to cost many innocent lives as part of a vicious cycle of human tragedy and injustice.
The Patriarchs further called for “a time-delimited and phased Peace Initiative in line with International Law and United Nations resolutions on the matter, in order to guarantee a comprehensive, just, and long-lasting peace in this part of the world that is considered Holy by the three Abrahamic Faiths.”
Speaking on the planned annexation of the West Bank in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz (May 5, 2020) the Catholic priest Jamal Khader and Lutheran pastor Munther Isaac both of Bethlehem, said:
“The plan transforms the Holy Land into a ‘Zionist fairyland’ for the enjoyment of extreme Christian evangelicals and Jews, while the local Christian population remains subjugated under Israel’s coercion. In fact, the plan maintains a cruel and artificial separation between two cities with key Christian holy sites – Bethlehem and Jerusalem.”
All United Nations Resolutions on Israel/Palestine referred to by the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of the Holy Land Churches, from UN 181 to SC 2334 affirm the necessary commitment to the two-state solution to the conflict. The latest resolution SC2334 of 2016, condemned “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions”.
The international community, and all reasonable people in the world recognise that the only path to justice and peace is for a viable Palestinian State, side by side with the State of Israel with security for all. The proposed annexation of the West Bank will render Palestinians as non-citizens in an Israel State that governs them with apartheid principles – no civil rights, no democratic voice, and legal protection – a dispensation long declared a crime against humanity.
The annexation would leave the Palestinian people with even less rights than the disgraceful South African Bantustan – an unquestionable violation of international law and the premises of international humanitarian law. This cannot be countenanced in 2020, and it is morally reprehensible. The State of Israel should not be allowed to continue acting as an exception in terms of international law. The international community must be required to treat Israel like all other members of the international community and compel it to respect international law and the rights of all of humanity.
A Christian leader in Ramallah has cried out: “Now everyone is bleeding; we Palestinians are bleeding physically. Israel is bleeding morally.” A careful reading of Jesus as Lord of history leaves no doubt that He would be the first to say an emphatic No to the atrocities of the State of Israel.
The South African Council of Churches calls on the World Council of Churches and the Vatican:
- To approach the United Nations Security Council as a matter of priority, to act against this imminent act of flagrant aggression on a defenceless people, and what is left of their territory.
- To send a message of encouragement and support to the Christians of the Holy Land, the ones whose faith became the evangelical source of the Christian Faith in the world.
- To appeal to the people of Israel and the Israeli Knesset to give a chance to a lasting peace and security that a well-crafted two-state solution can bring.
- To urge the Palestinian leaders, as the Holy Land Church Leaders have said, to resolve their internal disputes for “a unified front dedicated to achieving peace and the building of a viable State that is founded upon pluralism and democratic values”.
- To urgently work towards a new initiative of the Abrahamic faiths referenced by the heads of Holy Land Churches for whom the Holy Land is holy, for a Holy Peace, that reflects the principles of Holiness Code of Leviticus 19:11, 13a. “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another”; and “Do not defraud or rob your neighbour.” Such an initiative of Abrahamic Faith representatives to include the leadership of the churches in the Holy Land.
- The current crisis requires nothing less than a decisive international censure of the imminent annexation of more Palestinian lands. We call on the international community to consider comprehensive sanctions against Israel should they continue with the illegal annexation of Palestinian land.