Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec, looks through a fence at the Cremisan Valley from the Salesian Sisters' convent in Beit Jalla, West Bank, Jan. 13. Bishop Gendron is part of the Holy Land Coordination visit for bishops from Europe and North America. CNS photo/Francois Gloutnay, Presence

Frustrated bishops send blunt message to Israel regarding settlements

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  • January 25, 2017

OTTAWA – After years of seeing little progress toward peace in the Holy Land, Catholic bishops decided to send a more blunt message following their annual pilgrimage to the region.

In marking 50 years of occupation, the bishops from three continents used their Jan. 19 communiqué from the five-day Holy Land Coordination meeting to press for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, and for Israel to halt its expansion of settlements on the West Bank.

The vice president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Que., one of the bishops who signed the communiqué, said some of the bishops who have participated in the pilgrimage for 10 or 15 years had become “tired” of encountering the same problems and decided to focus on the occupation and the settlements.

The communiqué also called for non-violent resistance, based on Pope Francis’ message Jan. 1 for the World Day of Peace that spoke of how non-violent means had “changed the situation in many countries,” said Gendron upon his return from the Holy Land Jan. 24

Though Israeli occupation after the 1967 war was “supposed to lessen and disappear, that has not happened,” Gendron said. “It has not happened because of the violence from Palestinians.”

“But occupation provokes a reaction,” he said. “Often, if rights of people are not respected, some of them become violent.”

A spokesman for B’Nai Brith Canada said the communiqué seems to blame Israel for lack of progress on peace in the Holy Land.

“We’re disappointed that the communiqué seems to ignore important issues dealing with the conflict in Israel, including such important issues as ongoing Palestinian incitement to violence and the fact the PLO and Hamas Charters both continue to call for the destruction of the State of Israel,” said Michael Mostyn, the Chief Executive Officer of B’Nai Brith Canada. “While we all wish for peace in the region, it is important to acknowledge the very serious security concerns that Israel faces on an ongoing basis and when communiqués such as this ignore security issues, it is not helpful.”

Mostyn said he would be writing to the CCCB to outline B’Nai Brith’s concerns.

Gendron said blaming Israel was not their intent.

“We truly wanted to show the occupation as it is problematic not only for the Palestinians but also for Israelis,” he said.

Gendron said the bishops’ message was also influenced by the Dec. 22 United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the building of illegal settlements in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a violation of international law. For the first time, the United States abstained rather than vetoed such a move, he noted.

Mostyn objected to the bishops’ reference to the UN resolution. “When the Security Council of the United Nations calls even the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem occupied, and the United Nations attempts to remove the Jewish history from even areas such as the Western Wall and Temple Mount, this has caused widespread outrage within the Jewish community worldwide,” Mostyn said. “Re-writing history is not the pathway forward to peace.”

The communiqué makes no mention of the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem prior to 1967 during which Jewish inhabitants of the ancient Jewish quarter were banned from living there, he said.

“There is no question that any future peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians will involve a certain exchange of land and this will be a result of direct negotiations between the two parties,” Mostyn said. “However, so long as incitement to violence is not roundly condemned by the worldwide community, then unfortunately, it will be very difficult to find a Palestinian peace partner.”

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The so-called American government can stop all Israeli settlement building and human rights abuses with just three words: "No more aid." Sadly, that is not likely to happen, as the pro-Israel lobbies are boss in Washington D.C.

Chris Phillips
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