US bishops urge government not to withhold aid to Palestinians

 In a letter to Chairman Henry Hyde of the House Committee on International Relations, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski said aid should not be withheld from the Palestinian people because of the possible actions of their political leaders. Bishop Wenski is Chairman of the Committee on International Policy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). New realities in Palestine present challenges but they also offer opportunities for all parties to make a firm commitment to peace, said Bishop Wenski. "We strongly urge the Palestinian leaders to clearly and unequivocally recognise the right of Israel to exist within secure borders; that all parties renounce the use of terrorism and violence to achieve their political goals; and that all parties commit themselves to seek a viable two state solution, an aspiration shared by both Israelis and Palestinians as well as the international community. Likewise, we also urge all parties to respect human rights and religious freedom." "We continue to urge all leaders in the region to pursue 'the road map,' to commit to work toward two viable states living in peace and security and to not take actions which delay or threaten these goals," Bishop Wenski said. "Understanding that it will take some time for new governments to be formed and to clarify their policies, we believe it is essential that humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people be continued and that a decision about aid to the new Palestinian government not be made until the policies of the new government become clear." "Therefore, we do not believe it would be wise or just to withhold aid to the Palestinian people at large or punish them for the possible actions of their political leaders," the Bishop said. "Poverty and unemployment are still far too prevalent and a significant loss of funds for help for the Palestinian people can only add to their desperate plight and possibly lead to further unrest. We strongly urge the United States, the European Union and others to find appropriate and effective means to deliver needed aid to the Palestinian people." At a March 1 hearing on US policy toward the Palestinians, Rep Chris Smith of New Jersey asked that Bishop Wenski's letter be placed in the Congressional record. To read the full letter see:

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