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50th Anniversary of Six-Day War – intervention is critical

8 June 2017

By William Bell, Head of Middle East for Christian Aid.


Christian Aid’s first humanitarian response outside Europe was to the Middle East Council of Churches' request to help Palestinians in Lebanon who had fled or were forced to leave Palestine/Israel in 1948. Nearly 70 years later we are still responding to that same crisis, with each intervening year only taking us closer to breaking point: morally, politically, economically and psychologically.

Fifty years ago this week, Israel occupied the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza after the six-day war, and continues to control and appropriate that land for its own use today.

Israel appears content to maintain the status quo in the absence of any international pressure to do otherwise and the Palestinian political leadership is too politically divided to offer much hope. And with so many other parts of the Middle East consumed by violent conflict and sectarian power struggles, the international community have taken their eye off the ball. But the reality is that Palestinians and Israelis desperately need to see genuine efforts to achieve a just peace.

While peace for Israelis and Palestinians cannot be built and sustained from outside, principled, impartial and supportive intervention is critical.

If international law is consistently breached, then peace will remain out of reach, and violent conflict will continue to claim more innocent lives. Illegal Israeli settlements are only one aspect of this conflict, but they demonstrate the creation of facts on the ground that are inimical to peace and go effectively unchallenged.

Christian Aid believes that poverty and violent conflict in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) are not inevitable. Their causes are many but include: discrimination, impunity, occupation, ineffectual governance, insecurity and a lack of empathy towards those with different beliefs and ethnic backgrounds.

Accounts and narratives of 1967 will be repeated many times over; of the elation and the despair, of insecurity and fear, of courage and aspiration, but ultimately of loss. Because there are no winners when one group occupies and controls another against their will: history is replete with examples which demonstrate the moral bankruptcy that accompanies occupation.

This is why we are proud to stand with our Israeli partner organisations such as B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. At a time when such civil society groups are being publicly pilloried by their own government and accused by some of treason, it is critical their voices are not silenced.

Without them, the Israeli public will be unaware of what is done in their name in the OPT. They won’t hear of unchallenged settler violence. They will remain ignorant of the daily indignity that Palestinians suffer at checkpoints. They won’t know how settlements have restricted Palestinian access to land and water. But most of all they won’t appreciate the corrosive impact that such actions have on Israeli society. Without these voices the prospects for peace will wither.

It is also why we are proud to stand with Palestinian partners such as the YMCA, the Culture and Free Thought Association and the Al Haq. Against the odds, Palestinian civil society helps struggling communities to stay on their land in the face of expanding settlements, by supporting the development of viable livelihoods. Children in Gaza are helped to think beyond hopelessness and believe that they have a positive role to play in a future which isn’t marked by violence.

Ultimately, human rights will only be upheld when all in society are fully aware of what their rights are. Thus, promoting the rule of law is a critical role that civil society plays in holding both Palestinian administrations to account as well as addressing Israeli impunity in the West Bank and Gaza.

It is also why we realise that governments around the world, friends of both Israelis and Palestinians, must be pressured to redouble their efforts to give peace a chance to take hold and flourish.

Most of those recognise the obstacles to peace and potential prosperity. The UK Government, along with most in the international community, are also clear that settlements are illegal. Most supported UNSCR 2334 which reiterated the demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities and that they would not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including in east Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the two sides through negotiations.

However, very few are prepared to act in a way that presents Israel with a meaningful choice: carry on and feel the burden of that choice, or stop and comply with international law which is the surest way to ensure peace, justice and security.

The UN resolution rightly calls on both parties to desist from inflammatory language and incitement and prevent any acts of terror against civilians. But such statements become empty rhetoric if unlawful acts are gratuitously repeated without consequence. 50 years of occupation is enough.

We all need to recognise that occupation will never provide security, dignity and respect for all. It will only breed more prejudice, fear and humiliation. True friends would be candid with each other, not tacitly support their illegal and immoral acts.

It is time that Palestinians and Israelis felt friendship rather than receive endless platitudes that sustain the misery and despair of the status quo. 


Notes to editors:
 


1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. 

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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