An Open Letter to
The Most Reverend David Malloy, Bishop of Rockford, Illinois, Chair
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:11)
Jerusalem September 8th, 2020
We read your statement (August 13) that shows your satisfaction with the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE. We would like, as Christian Palestinian movements for justice and peace, to send you some of our observations on this issue.
People who think that any mutual recognition between an Arab country and the state of Israel is a step forward towards peace are mistaken. It would be a step towards peace if this accord were accompanied by the resolution of the core of the conflict: the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian land.
Establishing peace relations between Israel and Arab states starts by ending the Israeli occupation and granting the Palestinians their rights, including the right to self-determination. Any other path is a false way to peace. Isolating then cornering the "poor" to kneel before the powerful is surrender, not peace. Moreover, if the Arab regimes will recognize Israel, their peoples will refuse to normalize with the Israelis, as long as the Palestinians remain under oppression. True peace doesn't start with forging peace agreements with Arab countries but rather with the Palestinians. True peace should start in the hearts of the Palestinians, and this is in the hands of Israel to recognize a Palestinian state on the 22% left from historic Palestinian land. It is a question of the equality between peoples, all of whom have been created equal by God.
You condone the agreement because it delayed the annexation of more than 30% of what is left of Palestinian land. But this delay is in words only. In fact, on the ground de facto annexation is an ongoing process, day after day, through daily cruel and destructive actions of the army and the settlers against Palestinian farmers, including the constant stealing of Palestinian land and building of settlements. Netanyahu himself declared that the annexation was not cancelled but postponed.
Some people call this accord the Abraham agreement. Here we say, enough exploiting of God and God's prophets to side with the powerful. If we call on God and the prophets in this matter, we must then observe God's commandments and the equality God has given to all peoples - including Israelis and Palestinians. Justice to all. Now on the ground, as the "powerful" take what is theirs and what is others, they are even supported by many churches. The weak are deprived of their rights while the powerful and the churches respond with words, but no action.
You speak about direct negotiations. They took place for 30 years and Israel kept saying "no" to the minimum requirements of the Palestinians. Going back to negotiations with the same disposition of the powerful is insane. But if the powerful show more equity towards the other party (regarding Jerusalem and acknowledging the equality of all), negotiations will make sense.
Finally, Palestinians rejected Trump's deal of the century because it did not answer to the minimal requirements of the Palestinians described in UN resolutions and international laws. Trump's plan has declared Jerusalem only as Israel's capital. His plan has taken away what belongs to the Palestinians and given it to Israel. It is a perpetuation of the long injustice imposed by the Israelis upon the Palestinian people.
Real peace is to support the "poor" and to say "no" to the injustice inflicted by the "powerful" on the weak. In this way, churches should lobby their governments to put an end to this prolonged tragedy of the peoples of the Holy Land.
With our best fraternal wishes and regards.
- H.B. Michel Sabbah, Patriarch Emeritus
- Mr. Rifat Kassis, Coordinator of Kairos Palestine
- Mr. Fuad Giacaman, Coordinator of NCCOP & Director of Arab Educational Institute
- Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, President, DIYAR
- Mr. Omar Harami, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
- Mr. Nader Abu Amsha, The East Jerusalem Rehab. Program & Beit Sahour YMCA
- Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, Director, Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability, Bethlehem University
- Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, Director of Christ at the Checkpoint conference
- Mr. Nidal Abu Zuluf, Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI)