Nearly 70 people joined a Pax Christi zoom meeting on Monday night to say #NoToAnnexation. Many were Pax Christ members from places around UK such as Lancaster, Shrewsbury, London, Nottingham, Leicester, and Cambridge. Others were Pax Christi friends and partners in Palestine - from the Wi'am Conflict Transformation Centre in Bethlehem, Presentation Sisters in Bethlehem, and Comboni Sisters in Bethany. There was even a Pax Christi member from Uruguay.
The meeting was chaired by Pax Christi Chair Ann Farr from Coventry, who has been an Ecumenical Accompanier in Palestine. She introduced by saying the Israeli Government is planning to extend their occupation by annexing huge parts of Palestine, in violation of international law. The proposed start to this is 1 July 2020.
The first speaker was Usama Nicola of Wi'am, who explained what the threat of annexation is about. "After annexation, Palestinians will be in a big prison with no resources" he said. "There will be a lack of freedom in many areas of life, such as travelling around to areas like the Jordan Valley." Israel is threatening a takeover which many feel will lead to a real apartheid system with more segregation, and it goes completely against international law. Usama thanked people around the world "for continuing to keep us hopeful", saying that "international advocacy is vital".
Zoughbi Alzoughbi of Wi'am said: "it is uplifting to see Pax Christi continue to be with us." He felt the Palestinians "belong to the land and are not leaving, but absence of international presence on the ground at this time while the world is busy with the virus is very dangerous for us". In his view the world has been silent over the annexation of East Jerusalem. He regretted that some have said little because of fear of being labelled anti-semitic. He complimented Pax Christi for having "a spirituality of resistance" and called for Churches, political leaders and people who care for justice everywhere to exert pressure to end Israeli occupation of the West Bank and #SayNoToAnnexation. He felt the zoom was a virtual international presence.
Other speakers included Joseph Hazboun, Regional Director for Palestine and Israel for the Pontifical Mission, based in Jerusalem. He reported that the situation in general looks bleak, with the latest announcement of annexing the Jordan Valley. The Israeli authorities also appear to have reduced water to Bethlehem. Emergency support is being given to families who have lost their income during the virus period.
Nora Carmi, a Palestinian Christian who works with the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum-World Council of Churches said, "we cannot be blind that Israel is an apartheid state". She felt "this land should be an example of co-living". She saw hope in the "grassroots movements mobilised around the world against this annexation". One of these was the Women in Black groups and another the international Pax Christi movement. She hoped prophets would emerge in the Israeli State who will prevent Israel from acting outside international law. We saw a little of that in the 'Teens against Annexation' group that has surfaced in Israel and involving around 400 teenagers.
Ann Farr reminded the group of the UN's Declaration of Human Rights, in this year that the UN is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The UN has made clear that annexation violates international law. In fact, the occupation, in which Israeli settlements in the West Bank are expanding all the time, is completely illegal. Statements from Bishop Declan Lang of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales and Pax Christi International against annexation were read out. The solidarity on the ground offered by Ecumenical Accompaniers was especially valued. One of them spoke about work in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists.
Participants were asked to write to their MPs or elected representatives:
Express your opposition to the annexation.
Ask them to take action to urge the Government to:
· stop the annexation;
· take action to call the Israeli Government to account if the annexation takes place;
· end the occupation of Palestine and the siege on Gaza
And to contact Church leaders and ask them to:
· express solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis who oppose annexation, occupation and the blockade of Gaza;
· speak out in opposition to Israel's illegal and unilateral plans for annexation at this crucial moment;
· urge dioceses to ensure that they do not invest in the occupation of Palestine and invest all funds ethically.
There were prayers for the safety of Pax Christi partners in the West Bank and for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land. At the end all the participants held up posters to their screens, #NoToAnnexation.
Pax Christi has links to more information at: https://paxchristi.org.uk/campaigns/israel-and-palestine/resources-and-documents/
Pax Christi International Statement and call for action at:
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