WCC protests over new Israeli army order

Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, has expressed dismay at a new Israeli military order that will categorize tens of thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank as “infiltrators” – ostensibly because they lack the proper permits – and give military officers sweeping control over their deportation.

Since 1969 the Israeli military defined an "infiltrator" as a person who unlawfully entered the occupied area. But in a recent amendment, the definition of "infiltrator" is "a person who entered the area unlawfully following the effective date, or a person who is present in the area and does not lawfully hold a permit".

"This amendment will affect tens of thousands of Palestinians and potentially confine them to their villages and towns creating an atmosphere of fear in the occupied territories," said Tveit. "This worsens the situation. Nobody, including the Palestinians, should be denied their basic human rights, that is, to be able to move and have a normal life."

It is a question of principle, Tveit said. "The Israeli government should immediately rescind this order because it is in contravention of the fourth Geneva Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a signatory to these international instruments Israel has a legal and moral responsibility to work within their frameworks."

He warned that "if the definition of 'infiltrator' is applied to Palestinians born in Gaza and living in the West Bank, the military will be removing people who are 'protected residents' from one part of the occupied territory to the other, in a clear contravention of the Article 49 of the Geneva Convention".

In a letter dated 11 April 2010, addressed to the Israeli defense minister, nine Israeli human rights organizations protested against this amended order arguing that it is ambiguous about what Israel considers a valid permit and say that it gives the military provisions to prosecute and/or deport thousands of Palestinians who could now be defined as "infiltrators".

In an alert released yesterday, the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum  called the order "a flagrant display of military arrogance" and one which will sever the Palestinians from vital economic, health, education, and social centers".

Tveit also expressed solidarity with the Christian group Kairos Palestine which emphasized that the order will "wrongly criminalize thousands of people". Kairos Palestine has called upon "churches worldwide to publically demand the revocation of the order" issued by the Israeli military authorities and "work to restore the justice that is both our calling and our right".

Addressing the assembly of the Christian Conference of Asia last week on the theme "Called to prophesy, reconcile and heal: an ecumenical perspective, Tveit said the December 2009 Kairos Document written by Palestinian Christians calls the church to stand against injustice, violence and occupation. Tveit underlined how "our prophetic witness needs to be expressed through our love for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis, as all parties need healing and reconciliation". Tveit urged all churches to be aware of how severe actions in the region can disrupt the peace process.

For more information see:

Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Forum www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=b69b436f8d605f6e00a5

Kairos Palestine statement: "New Military Order “Infiltrates” Palestinian Rights" www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=9259cdeba53f313d04b7

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness  and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of  churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant,  Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million  Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman  Catholic Church.

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