Israeli heavy equipment loads an olive tree after it was uprooted to to make way for the controversial separation barrier in the Cremisan Valley in Beit Jalla, West Bank, Sept. 3. CNS photo/Debbie Hill

Harper called on to help find solution for Palestinan farmers cut off by security wall

  • October 1, 2015

OTTAWA - Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, in one of his last duties as president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, has asked the prime minister to use his influence with Israel to prevent its security wall from cutting off Palestinian families from their farmland.

Written Sept. 17, two days before the Gatineau archbishop ended a two-year term bishops’ conference president, and released Sept. 25, the letter concerns the Cremisan Valley between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The proposed security wall there would cut off 58 Palestinian Christian families from their agricultural lands.

The letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asks the Canadian government to “call on the Israeli authorities to find a just resolution” to a decision this past July by the country’s Supreme Court that now will permit the building of the wall.

Durocher said the wall means the families “will lose their agricultural lands and subsequent livelihood, and the local Catholic Salesian monastery as well the Sisters’ convent will be severely restricted in their educational services to 450 disadvantaged children — girls and boys, Muslims and Christians — from the surrounding towns and villages.”

Palestinian families have been fighting the proposed location of the wall in the courts for the past eight years. In April, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the planned location of the wall and “invited the military authorities to find alternatives less destructive to the local populations,” said outgoing CCCB general secretary Msgr. Patrick Powers in a Sept. 25 news release. In July, however, the court reversed the decision.

Durocher, noting he was writing “In communion with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and with the conferences of bishops of Europe, the United States and South Africa,” said he is “greatly disappointed with this latest development.” He asked Harper, given his “good relations with the Government of Israel,” to “raise this question… to find a just resolution to the problem in the Cremisan Valley, a resolution that will show leadership and compassion.”

The archbishop expressed sadness the Israeli authorities “agreed to begin uprooting the olive trees on this property already on Aug. 17, only days after the Palestinian families had appealed the Supreme Court of Israel’s July decision.”

Durocher visited the Cremisan Valley earlier this year as part of the annual Co-ordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land.

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