U.S. Church leaders appealed to their
government to support the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion
on Israel’s separation barrier. The court said earlier today that it is
against international law for Israel to build its barrier in the occupied
territories and that it should be dismantled. For nearly a year, the U.S.
churches that work together through Churches for Middle East Peace have
advocated for the United States government’s intervention to stop Israel’s
building of the barrier beyond the 1967 “green line” on occupied land in
the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

“We are grateful that the humanitarian consequences for the Palestinian
people of this massive barrier are no longer being ignored,” was the
response of Episcopal Bishop Barry Howe of the Diocese of West
Missouri. Howe was part of a delegation of seven U.S. Episcopal bishops
who viewed the barrier on a trip to Palestine and Israel in May. “The
International Court opinion as well as that of the Israeli Supreme Court
ruling on June 30 emphasizes the humanitarian dimension as well as that of
the rule of law.” Recognizing that the Israelis argue that they needed
the barrier for protection from violent terrorist acts, Bishop
Howe continued: “The security that Israel seeks, and deserves, will
be found in resolving the conflict through a negotiated solution with all
concerned and the establishment of a Palestinian state with peace and
security for all in the region.”

Franciscan Sister Florence Deacon, director of Franciscans International
(an NGO at the United Nations in New York), noted that Franciscans have had
custody of Christianity’s traditional Holy Land shrines for 800 years. She
appreciated the Court’s emphasis on the role of the United Nations in
negotiating a just and lasting peace in that land sacred to all the
children of Abraham. “For the past 50 years, the United States has been a
trusted friend of the state of Israel while also caring about the
Palestinian people’s welfare, and more recently their political rights. Our
government needs to use these historic ties to push both sides toward
serious negotiations without further delay.” She urged the United States
“to be a partner with the global community and work within the United
Nations’ system to bring security to both peoples. We cannot have two sets
of standards for upholding international law.”

Dennis Frado, director of the Lutheran Office for World Community at the
United Nations, said, “All Members of the United Nations should respect
today’s advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice. This is
a particularly important principle for all of the parties seeking an end to
the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” Referring to the
Lutheran churches’ historical involvement with Namibia, he said, “We recall
the ICJ’s opinion in 1971 that South Africa was illegally occupying
Namibia. That dispute unfortunately continued to take too many lives and
cause unnecessary hardships on both sides before it was resolved. The
religious community is called to redouble our efforts for peace with
justice in this region as well.”

Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington based program of the
Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian
Orthodox Archdiocese, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s
Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the
Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America, Franciscan Mission Service, Friends Committee on
National Legislation, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee,
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, Presbyterian Church
(USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association
of Congregations, United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church
(GBCS & GBGM). For more information see http://www.cmep.org



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