Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Representing Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, and Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Israel/Palestine: Violence escalates

The following article, published in the November-December 2015 NewsNotes, details the alarming surge in deadly violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and calls for nonviolence. 

Recent attacks on Israeli citizens by Palestinian teenagers with knives have been widely condemned, while the shooting deaths of dozens of unarmed Palestinian protesters by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have received less media attention. Since early October more than 50 Palestinians and at least 10 Israelis have been killed.

Daily demonstrations in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank often turn violent – Palestinians throw stones and Molotov cocktails and the IDF responds with live fire. Israeli human rights organizations have denounced “shoot to kill” tactics sometimes endorsed by Israeli government officials. 

The madness of violence has spiraled out of control with an Israeli mob killing a migrant from Eritrea who they mistook for a terrorist, and a masked settler attacking Arik Ascherman, the founder of Rabbis for Human Rights, on October 26, with a knife. Churches for Middle East Peace points out that the rhetoric of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, especially his claim that a Palestinian religious leader suggested the death camps to Hitler (a claim immediately denounced by Holocaust scholars), is fanning the flames of fear and hatred among Palestinian youth who see no prospects for the future.

In a video message in mid-October, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged Palestinians and Israelis to deescalate the tensions. “To the youth of Palestine I say: I understand your frustration. I know your hopes for peace have been dashed countless times. You are angry at the continued occupation and expansion of settlements. Many of you are disappointed in your leaders and in us, the international community, because of our inability to end this conflict. [You should turn your frustrations into] a strong, but peaceful, voice for change,” Ban said.

The following statement was released on October 19 by Pax Christi International, the Catholic peace movement, of which Maryknoll is a member:

“Pax Christi International is deeply distressed at the scenes of escalating violence in Palestine and Israel.

 “Pax Christi International has worked for many years with Palestinian and Israeli human rights and peace organizations to support their work for a just peace in the Middle East based on human rights. Around the world our members and partners are praying for all those whose lives are being destroyed by violence. We are convinced that nonviolent, legal and political solutions are the only way to stop the violence.

 “We believe the painstaking work to build confidence and peace between people is totally compromised by this current rise in violence. Palestinian youngsters who attack Israeli civilians play an important role in this, and so do the Israeli security forces that exacerbate the violence and do not protect Palestinian civilians.

 “In these days we have seen the Israeli Defence Forces and police officers using excessive force in a ‘shoot to kill’ policy against Palestinian civilians, resulting in injury and death and provoking counter-violence from the Palestinian community. If crimes are committed they must be dealt with as crimes and not as acts of war according to the rules of law enforcement. Perpetrators should be arrested.

 “More must be done to defuse a culture of fear and hatred. The Israeli Government and the Israeli Defence Forces are inciting and provoking extremists on both sides of the conflict in attempts to escalate violence and justify further military action. Such actions must be challenged.

 “Through our years of partnership in the region we have witnessed time and again the deep frustration and oppression of Palestinians who have lived with 49 years of illegal occupation. This is an unresolved injustice for more than four million people and we plead with the international community, including the EU and the United Nations to renew its resolve to address the root causes of the conflict. The cost of failing to do so is too great to contemplate and undermines the security of both Israelis and Palestinians. International protection for Palestinian civilians has emerged as a key need in this present phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The occupation should be ended in order for peace to be achieved.

 “We also urge the EU and the United Nations to work more closely with peace and human rights groups on the ground, including the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Arab Educational Institute, Wi’am, B’Tselem, Rabbis for Human Rights, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Stop the Wall, The Israeli Committee against House Demolition and Kairos Palestine. They and other Palestinians and Israelis seeking a nonviolent resolution of 49 years of injustice need support, encouragement and accompaniment and are essential partners in any peace process.