The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns has joined a broad spectrum of faith-based groups concerned with the situation in Israel and Palestine. These groups (*see below) have agreed to ask their constituencies to contact their Congressional offices on the third Thursday of each month by visit, phone call, letter, or email. It is hoped that such a diversity and concentration of many voices with unified timing may bring our Congressional offices to take more notice of the many issues of justice and peace involved in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A particular theme and issue will be the focus of each third Thursday action alert.
The issue for this Thursday, July 18, is forced displacement in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
On June 27, the Israeli civil administration in the West Bank issued 34 demolition orders against Palestinian homes and buildings in the village of Susiya. This follows the issuance of 52 demolition orders against structures in the village in August 2012. Every structure in the village is now under threat of demolition and the community’s 250 residents are all at risk of being forcibly displaced from their homes.
This is not the first time that the residents of Susiya have been in this position. In 1986 Israel declared the site of the original village a national park and forcibly displaced all of the village’s 400 residents from their homes. Villagers quickly resettled in caves, tents, and homes they built on land that they owned nearby. The Israeli military completely destroyed this new community in 2001, and mass demolitions of rebuilt homes and structures have occurred on several occasions since then. Nearly half of the village population has been permanently forcibly displaced from their homes and village as a result of these demolitions.
The forced displacement of Palestinians in Susiya is not unique. Nearby herding communities including Safai, Majaz, Tabban, Fakhit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba, and Hillet A-Dab are all threatened with demolition because the Israeli military has declared the area where they are located a closed military zone (known as Firing Zone 918). Palestinians in Fasayil, Jerusalem, Al-Aqaba, Beit Lahiya, Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah, and more than 100 other communities across the occupied Palestinian territory also live under the constant threat of being forcibly displaced.
Additionally, on June 24 the Knesset approved the first reading of the Prawar-Begin Plan which, if passed, would result in the destruction of up to 35 Negev area villages and the displacement of between 30,000 and 70,000 Bedouin from these villages into overcrowded and impoverished townships.
The forced displacement of Palestinians from their historic homes and villages in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel must end.
The United States must use its relationship with Israel to ensure that human rights are not violated, that Palestinians in these communities are not displaced, and that these communities’ rights to safety and basic services are fulfilled.
The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns asks that you urge your legislators to demand an end to Israeli government policies and practices which contribute to a coercive environment that forces Palestinians to leave their land their homes and to implement a full moratorium on demolition orders. (Use this link to locate your members of Congress.)
Suggested letter to Congressional offices:
I am writing to express my concern about the ongoing systematic forced displacement of Palestinians by Israel.
The Palestinian communities of Susiya, Safai, Majaz, Tabban, Fakhit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba, and Hillet A-Dab, which have all been in existence since the 1800s, are all threatened with complete demolition. If carried out, the demolition of these communities would result in the forced displacement 1,500 people. Demolition orders issued by the Israeli civil administration against Palestinians’ homes in Fasayil, Jerusalem, Al-Aqaba, Beit Lahiya, Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah, and more than 100 other communities leave at least 100,000 more Palestinians at risk of being forcibly displaced.
Additionally, the Prawar-Begin Plan currently under consideration by the Israeli Knesset would result in the destruction of up to 35 Negev area villages and the displacement of between 30,000 and 70,000 Bedouin from these villages into overcrowded and impoverished townships.
I urge you to take action by raising this issue with the State Department, within Congress, and with the Israeli government.
I ask that you demand an end to Israeli government policies and practices which contribute to a coercive environment that forces Palestinians to leave their land their homes and to implement a full moratorium on demolition orders.
I also ask that you support an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act (particularly regarding its use of Caterpillar bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes) which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations and limit the use of U.S. weapons to “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.”
Thank you for hearing my concerns.
*Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Methodist Church, National Council of Churches USA, American Friends Service Committee, Mennonite Central Committee US, Orthodox Peace Fellowship, Friends Committee on National Legislation, American Baptist Churches, USA, United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)