Jerusalem & Gaza: End this violence that is quickly spiralling out of control

Responding to the violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory that is escalating, with rockets being fired out of Gaza, William Bell, Christian Aid’s head of Middle East, said:

“The images of violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the region are shocking and tragic. This is a situation that has the potential to spiral out of control very quickly, not least due to the lack of coherent political leadership across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. We call upon all to pull back from the brink of horrific life-threatening violence. We condemn any violence from any side that targets civilians indiscriminately.

“But what makes this a truly shocking situation is that it was entirely predictable. Since 2014 when violence in Gaza claimed so many lives, Christian Aid has warned the international community that the solution to the violence would not be found in Gaza. After decades supporting some of the poorest and most marginalised Palestinian communities throughout the Middle East, we are clear that Palestinian dispossession and displacement coupled with a lack of political will to challenge the impunity of Israel as an occupying power, guarantees an ever-deteriorating situation. Add a lack of effective Palestinian political leadership with its democratic deficit and it becomes almost impossible to imagine how the cause of a just peace will be served.”

“The world may be distracted by a pandemic and violent conflict elsewhere, but that has not made this situation disappear. In fact, it has become more toxic, as the scenes in Jerusalem testify to.

“Take, for example, Sheikh Jarrah, a district of east Jerusalem in which more Palestinian families are being targeted with eviction.  Under Israeli law, Jews who can prove ownership from before the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s creation can claim back their Jerusalem properties. An equivalent law does not exist for Palestinians who lost their homes in the west of the city. According to UNOCHA, in 2020, at least 218 Palestinian households in East Jerusalem, including the families in Sheikh Jarrah, have eviction cases filed against them, placing 970 people, including 424 children, at risk of displacement.

“Our partner, the YWCA of Palestine sent us this clear message which we hope this time will be listened to. They call ‘upon the international community to hold Israel accountable for its continued violations of human rights in accordance with international laws and the relevant international conventions’.

“We know the UK Government is aware of the situation in Sheikh Jarrah and that they consider east Jerusalem to be illegally annexed by Israel. We know that church leaders here regularly hear pleas for support from the churches in Jerusalem. The time for condemnation is over. If we are serious about a just peace then we need to recognise both Israel and Palestine as equals. We don’t need to hate one side and love the other. But we do need to be prepared to hear and learn some uncomfortable truths. There is a future for all in that place where all can be who they are and feel secure. But only if we respect the rights and dignity of all.”

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