Israeli border police officers arrest a Palestinian demonstrator as they suppress protests in East Jerusalem, Friday, May 7. 2021 using the kneeling-on-neck technique that killed George Floyd last year. Two weeks ago, twelve high level Canadian Christian leaders representing many church denominations signed an open letter to Foreign Minister Marc Garneau demanding that Canada publicly condemn the evictions from, and demolitions of, Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. Read more….
CTIP has just become aware of a powerful letter sent by leading Canadian Christians to Foreign Minister Hon. Marc Garneau on April 20th demanding Canadian action.
If the Canadian and other western governments had acted on the recommendations in their letter sent two weeks ago (and before the Israeli attack on Muslim worshippers at the al Aqsa Mosque), it is possible that the dangerous situation currently existing might have been avoided. Once Israeli police attacked peaceful worshippers praying at one of Islam’s most holy sites, it was inevitable that there would be a powerful response from the Palestinians.
The Christian leaders’ letter
The letter reads in part:
Dear Minister Garneau,
We represent Christian denominations, church agencies, ecumenical organizations and networks who work with long-standing Palestinian and Israeli partners towards a just and lasting peace. Our concerns are based on our long-term engagement in the region, our many church-to-church partnerships, and our longstanding relationships with both Palestinians and Israelis working for peace.
We draw your attention to the urgent plight of Palestinian families facing imminent evictions from their homes, in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem. According to Geneva Convention IV (Part III, Section III), this is a clear violation of the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to their homes and lands.
The letter goes on to make three recommendations:
We urge that Canada:
- publicly condemn the evictions from, and demolitions of, Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and call on Israel to immediately reverse the rulings on the intended evictions and halt its settlements policy;
- live up to its obligations and commitments to protect and promote human rights and international law without exception;
- together with the international community, denounce this impunity and the ongoing human rights violations.
The full text of the forceful and principled letter can be found here: https://canadatalksisraelpalestine.files.wordpress.com/2021/05/ecumenicallettertoministergarneaupalestiniansevictionsinejerusalem20210420-3.pdf
The letter was signed by 12 leading Canadian religious leaders:
- The Venerable Alan T. Perry, General Secretary, the Anglican Church of Canada
- Rick Cober Bauman, Executive Secretary, Mennonite Central Committee
- Reverend Michael Blair, Moderator, United Church of Canada
- The Reverend Susan Johnson, National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
- Rula Odeh, Chair, Canadian Friends of Sabeel
- Lori Ransom, Executive Director (interim), KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
- Lana Robinson, Clerk, Canadian Friends Service Committee
- Sylvia Skrepichuk, Chair, Catholics for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land
- Byron Rempel-Burkholder, Chair, Mennonite Church Canada Palestine-Israel Network
- Jon Nofziger, Chair, Mennonite Church British Columbia Palestine-Israel Network
- Joanna Hiebert Bergen, Mennonite Church Manitoba Palestine-Israel, Working Group
- George Bartlett, Chair, United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine – Israel
The letter was also copied to representatives to all federal political parties and to Global Affairs Canada officials.
What was the follow up?
As of May 15th, Minister Garneau had not responded to the letter so it is not known what his response might be.
What IS known is that Canada did not do ANY of the things recommended by the religious leaders until AFTER the evictions had started, AFTER the worshippers at the mosque had been attacked and AFTER Palestinian rockets began landing in Israel.
In a rather weak statement made on Wednesday, May 12, Foreign Minister Garneau finally expressed concern over “the continued expansion of settlements, and the demolitions and evictions, including the ongoing cases in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.” Better too late and too little than nothing at all, perhaps but without any threat of consequences, the Minister’s words sound hollow.
Readers who agree with the Canadian Christian leaders’ letter can send an email to their own Member of Parliament expressing frustration with the lack of credible response from the government. They might get a response.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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