The use of excessive force in Gaza is an abhorrent violation of international law.

Mother with her child after a violent protest in Gaza, May 2018
A Palestinian woman holds her child suffering from tear gas inhalation during a protest near Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018
Credit: Associated Press/Dusan Vranic
Published On: May 15, 2018

Thus says the Lord:
 A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.

—Jeremiah 31:15 (NRSV)

Just as Rachel wept for her children, the people of The United Church of Canada mourn with the families of those killed in Gaza, and pray for the recovery of the many injured. The United Church stands in solidarity with Israeli and Palestinian partners in condemning the recent violence against the unarmed protestors in Gaza. United Church people are encouraged to ask the Canadian government to call for an immediate end to the violence and Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and to take an international leadership role in negotiating just peace in the region.

In particular, the church lifts up the words of Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (a United Church partner): “We believe that violent actions against Palestinian civilians will hinder the potential for peace and reconciliation efforts between Israel and Palestine and will only lead to more violence and bloodshed."

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 during the 1948 Palestine war. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have engaged in a six-week period of protest, starting on March 30th and ending on Nakba Day by marching peacefully to the barrier between the Gaza Strip and Israel Gaza. The “March of Return,” organized by civil society and grassroots activists, calls for an end to the eleven-year Israeli siege of Gaza.

On May 14th, in contravention of international law, the Israeli military used live ammunition on protestors in Gaza, killing at least 55 people and injuring more than 2,400. Amnesty International called this action “a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be willful killings constituting war crimes.”

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 both content and tone) than previous statements on violence in Gaza. We are also heartened that Canada has pledged to assist in the investigation that will address this serious situation.

United Church people are urged to contact Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and their members of Parliament. Affirm Trudeau’s condemnation of excessive force and his call for an immediate, independent investigation. Ask Canada to take an international leadership role in negotiating just peace in the region.

In an April 6th letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the United Church called for an investigation into the violence on the Gaza-Israel border. The church cautioned that, unless Canada and other countries uphold international law and a rules-based international order, many more innocent Palestinians would be killed following the launch of the March of Return. The Near East Council of Churches, a Mission & Service partner in Gaza, predicted that, unless the international community acted to prevent it, a rising death toll would be inevitable given the Israeli military’s expressed intent to continue its use of lethal live ammunition.

The United Church of Canada has long-time relationships in Palestine and Israel. For over five decades, Canadian churches have supported Palestinian Christian groups in the occupied Palestinian territories, working to provide key services (such as medical care and job training), build up the civil society, and support non-violent efforts to end the occupation.

For more information, contact:

Christie Neufeldt
Global Partnership Program Coordinator
416-231-7680 x4078
1-800-268-3781 x4078

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