CMEP Calls on the Biden Administration to Oppose Palestinian Displacement in Al-Walaja
On March 30, 2022, the Israeli Supreme Court heard an appeal from residents of the Palestinian village of Al-Walaja located outside of Bethlehem and on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Al-Walaja’s legal counsel requested more time for the residents to acquire approval of a master city plan, which will be the basis for building permit approval. This hearing extended demolition order freezes on 38 homes housing approximately 300 Palestinians until the next hearing on November 1, 2022.
Since 2018, Al-Walaja residents have been appealing to the Israeli Supreme Court in hopes of approval of a master city plan and the prevention of home demolitions. Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) calls on the Biden Administration and Congress to support fair and equitable urban development opportunities for Palestinians and to ensure the displacement of Palestinians in Al-Walaja does not proceed. Since 2020, Israel has demolished 25 buildings in the village based on a lack of permits. While Palestinian homes continue to be demolished and as Palestinians are displaced, Israel has continued to build illegal settlements in and around the West Bank, including adjacent to Al-Walaja.
CMEP’s Manager of Middle East Partnerships, Kevin Vollrath, commented, “Destroying homes is no way to build peace. It is heartbreaking to consider the possibility of another 300 Palestinians being displaced through unjust legal means. Yet today we are relieved that hope remains for Al-Walaja. We are grateful for everyone working toward this end.”
CMEP also affirms the congressional letter sent by over 50 Congressional members to Secretary Blinken on March 18, 2022. In the letter, the members asked Secretary Blinken to “work with the Israeli government to immediately halt demolitions in Al-Walaja” with particular urgency given the impending Supreme Court hearing.
CMEP reaffirms with urgency the recommendations communicated to the Biden Administration in October 2021, including supporting legislation preventing US government funds from being used for human rights violations, such as Rep. McCollum’s bill, H.R.2590, to prevent U.S. military assistance from being used for child detentions, further annexing Palestinian land, and demolishing Palestinian homes or structures.
Additional background: Al-Walaja is a Palestinian agricultural village in the West Bank, a portion of the village is in Bethlehem proper and the other portion is on the East Jerusalem side. More than half of Al-Walaja was annexed in 1949 and about half of its residents were forced to leave following the displacement of the Palestinian people in what they identify as Al-Nakba (The Catastrophe). In 1967, Israel occupied the remaining thirty percent of Al-Walaja and surrounded the village with settlements. Since then, the Israeli government has imposed its own laws on the town and has not provided the residents with proper urban planning. As such, Israel regards homes built in Al-Walaja as illegal and has subjected the residents to home demolitions over the past several years. Today, only around 2600 Palestinians still reside in Al-Walaja. The separation barrier surrounds the village on three sides limiting Palestinian access in and out of the village and to other parts of the West Bank. Once again, its Palestinian residents face the threat of displacement.
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 30 national church communions and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ are founding members. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.