2005 General Synod Resolution: Tear Down the Wall

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Tear Down the Wall - Resolution of Witness
Submitted by: Wider Church Ministries

THEOLOGICAL RATIONALE

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.  (Ephesians 2:14)

A central tenet of our Christian faith is the possibility for reconciliation among peoples.  This human reconciliation through God's love was demonstrated by Jesus Christ, and reported to the people of Ephesus by Paul.  We are called to be people of reconciliation and called to engage in the act of reconciliation.  Barriers to reconciliation exist in many forms and in many places.  When barriers are constructed, hostility that exists becomes exacerbated.  Differences between peoples can only be addressed through bringing them together, not by adding further divisions.  By breaking down walls that separate, we actively seek peace and reconciliation in the world in an attempt to follow Jesus' example.  In doing so, we seek a death to hostility.

BACKGROUND

IN June 2002, the State of Israel began an ambitious construction.  Construction of a separation barrier—also known as the "security fence" and as the "Wall"—commenced and continues to this day.

According to Israeli plans, the barrier will be over 400 miles (650 kilometers) in length, at a cost not less than $1.6 million per mile ($1 million per km), and will exceed $1 billion for the entire project.  The main barrier takes on many forms, including 8-meter high cement walls, 3-meter high electric and barbed-wire fences, and a combination of the two.  The infrastructure of the barrier that also includes a buffer zone on both sides, surveillance cameras, trenches, and observation posts compounds what Israeli human rights activist Jeff Halper calls the "matrix of control" of settlements, by-pass roads and checkpoints.

The barrier violates multiple international conventions, agreements, and resolutions, including article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter (prohibiting the use of force to violate territorial integrity), the Fourth Geneva Convention (prohibiting the destruction of land or property and the practice of collective punishment), and both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economical, Social and Cultural Rights (defining rights of movement, property, health, education, work and food.)  The barrier also is contrary to UN Security Council resolution 242 which calls for the "Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent [1967] conflict."

The barrier encroaches into the occupied Palestinian territories from along the entire perimeter of the West Bank, frequently abutting or intersecting Palestinian villages, while leaving agricultural fields, shops, and family members on the opposite, Israeli-claimed side of the border.  In places like Qalqilya, the barrier loops prominently into the West Bank, enveloping entire Palestinian villages and creating ghettos with a single, narrow checkpoint guarding the entrances to these villages.  It will result in Israel's effective annexation of roughly half of the West Bank, displacing and disconnecting Palestinians from their homes, families, neighbors, and fields.  It is this encroachment and the resultant humanitarian crises that the Israeli Supreme Court addressed in its June 30, 2004 ruling, even as it found the motivation for the barrier, based on security concerns, justified.

In a more broad-reaching ruling on the barrier, the International Court of Justice ruled on the barrier's legality in a July 9, 2004 verdict.  In sum, the decision rendered the construction of the barrier contrary to international law, recommended that the State of Israel end its construction and dismantle existing segments and that Israel pay reparations to those who have suffered loss as a result of the construction, and instructed the United Nations to pursue necessary means to address the illegality of the barrier.  Both Israel and the U.S. disregarded this ruling and thereby dismissed the relevance of international law.  The U.S. continues to provide more aid to Israel than to any other country in the world.

The impact of the visually, physically, psychologically and spiritually offensive barrier on the Palestinian people has been more devastating than abstract facts can convey.  Homes have been demolished, water supplies have been cut off, fields have been razed, villages divided, and access to the other side has been cut off.  Farmers have lost their fields or lost access to them. Faith-communities—including Palestinian Christians—have been denied access to houses of worship.  Families have been split.  According to UN estimates, 680,000 Palestinians (30% of the West Bank population) are directly affected.  The Sabeel Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem reports that "Palestinians have been separated from their places of employment, their farmlands, hospitals, schools, places of worship and their families.  In the first phase of the wall alone, 100,000 trees have been uprooted; 35,000 meters of irrigation networks have been destroyed; and 75% of teachers and students living in the construction areas have had difficulty arriving at school."  These effects further deteriorate the quality of life of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories.

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS the ongoing violence has created fear, whittled away trust; and both Israel and Palestine have been deeply wounded politically, economically, physically, spiritually, socially, and psychologically; and

WHEREAS the Israeli government, as part of its de facto policy of settlement and colonization, continues to construct the separation barrier, also known as the security fence and the wall, and plans to extend it to approximately 400 miles (650 kilometers) at a cost not less than $1.6 million per mile ($1 million per km), thereby rendering the internationally-endorsed Road Map for peace and other proposals for a negotiated two-state solution unachievable; and

WHEREAS  the wall unilaterally changes an international border without direct negotiations between partners, effectively annexes nearly 50% of Palestinian West Bank land and destroys the contiguity of Palestinian life and land, rendering a Palestinian state unviable; and

WHEREAS, the barrier succeeds in confiscating Palestinian agricultural fields, water, and other natural resources, contributes to unemployment and cuts populations off from such essentials of life as employment, education, health care, worship and family; and

WHEREAS history demonstrates that walls build barriers and limit the opportunity for people in conflict to be in contact with each other and reconcile their differing points of view, and the U.S. has previously demanded that walls of separation be torn down;

THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Twenty-fifth General Synod of the United Church of Christ calls upon the Israeli government to cease the project to construct the barrier, tear down the segments that have already been constructed, and make reparations to those who have lost homes, fields, property, and/or lives and health due to the barrier and its effects as security for both peoples can best be achieved through an end to the occupation and efforts to encourage access and contact, rather than restricting and denying it; and

LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Twenty-fifth General Synod of the United Church of Christ urges the U.S. government to persuade the Israeli government to abide by international law and agreements and withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories; and

LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Twenty-fifth General Synod of the United Church of Christ calls upon the U.S. government to engage actively, fully and fairly in a peace process that will lead to the peaceful coexistence of two states: Israel and a future Palestine; and

LET IT BE RESOLVED that the Twenty-fifth General Synod of the United Church of Christ encourages its members at all settings of the United Church of Christ to engage in prayer, study, and dialogue about the barrier and to raise diligently with their governmental officials these concerns.

Funding for this action will be made in accordance with the overall mandates of the affected agencies and the funds available. Wider Church Ministries is responsible for developing the strategy and program designed to implement this resolution.

 


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