Pax Christi International outlines segregation and inequality in Israel

A Palestinian returns an Israeli tear gas canister during a protest marking Land Day Ramallah, West Bank, March 30. (CNS photo/Mohamad Torokman, Reuters) A Palestinian returns an Israeli tear gas canister during a protest marking Land Day Ramallah, West Bank, March 30. (CNS photo/Mohamad Torokman, Reuters)

Pax Christi International has called for a new peace process to end violence among Israelis and Palestinians and assure fundamental human rights as defined by international law.

Saying that adherence to international law is critical for a peaceful world, on Dec. 1 the Catholic peace organization urged Israel and Palestine to return to negotiations and "begin a dialogue rooted in mutual respect for human rights and the dignity of the other."

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Pax Christi added that recognition of the full equality of Palestinians would be a strong step toward securing long-term peace.

Marie Dennis, co-president of the Catholic peace organization, told Catholic News Service that the time has come "when we all need to find a way to start supporting what is a very difficult but critically important process."

Pax Christi's leadership is concerned that Israel's actions—including the continued occupation of Palestinian land, expansion of settlements in the West Bank, demolition of Palestinian homes, continued work on the separation barrier and limits on the use of water—violate international law and must stop, Dennis said.

"We included in the statement our own sense of recognition of the unevenness of the process, of the extremely difficult conditions within which the Palestinian people are living," Dennis said. "We absolutely believe (in) stopping the violations of international law, by all sides, of course, but there is a tremendous amount of inequality with what's happening between Israel and Palestine."

The statement acknowledged that both parties have legitimate grievances and that both sides are responsible to stop violence perpetrated against the other. However, Pax Christi also said "we cannot ignore the gross imbalance of power and resources in favor of Israel."

The 1993 Oslo peace process, which set a goal of achieving a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine and eventual Palestinian self-determination, has "failed and negotiations are at a standstill," the organization said while pushing for a new political strategy to achieve peace.

"The solution to this struggle is political, not military," Pax Christi International said.

The statement also described the Israeli occupation of Arab lands taken in the 1967 Six-Day War and the building of Israeli settlements and separation barriers on those lands as violations of international law.

Pax Christi expressed concerned that such actions have led to segregation and inequality along with the forced displacement of Palestinians, limits on access to basic health care, water and electricity, diminished opportunities for education and employment, and harm to agriculture and economic infrastructure.

Israeli's air and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip, an area on the Mediterranean coast, has "led to a dire human rights situation" and led to a warning from the United Nations that, if current conditions continue, the area will be uninhabitable by 2020.

The seven-page statement urged Israel to allow for the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were displaced in 1948 with the formal establishment of Israel or compensation for Palestinians "as prerequisites for a just and legal peace agreement."

Pax Christi offered support for nonviolent actions, including boycotts, divestment and sanctions of companies that profit from the occupation, and said such steps are designed to "pressure Israel to meet its obligations under international law." At the same time, the statement added, the punishment of people defending human rights who support boycotts, divestment and sanctions must end.

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