From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WCC NEWS: Gaza withdrawal - how to evaluate it
"WCC Media" <Media@wcc-coe.org>
Mon, 22 Aug 2005 14:19:12 +0200
World Council of Churches - News Release
Contact: +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 firstname.lastname@example.org
For immediate release - 22/08/2005
TO EVALUATE GAZA PULLOUT, SAYS WCC,
LOOK FOR SIGNS OF PEACE IN THE MONTHS AHEAD
To fully evaluate the Gaza pullout, it is necessary to watch for a number
of "signs of peace" in the months ahead, according to the international
affairs unit of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
Whether the Gaza withdrawal, which involves "high personal costs for those
involved", enhances prospects for peace cannot be understood in isolation,
an information brief to WCC constituencies says.
Signs of peace will include the opening of secure land, sea and air links
from Gaza to the outside world, how many of the people evacuated from Gaza
are resettled within Israel's pre-1967 borders, and whether from now on
decisions affecting both parties to the conflict are negotiated equitably
between the two sides.
Events in Jerusalem are critical, the WCC brief says. Noting consolidation
of controls there and elsewhere while international attention has been
focused on Gaza, it says "any good that comes out of the Gaza withdrawal
will pale in the long term unless current trends in and around Jerusalem
The message recognizes the "high personal costs" of the withdrawal for
those involved. It invites churches to "watch, pray and act for peace"
based on the "legitimate rights and well-being of both Israelis and
> The full text of the WCC information brief follows:
CCIA Background Information on International Affairs
TO EVALUATE THE GAZA PULLOUT LOOK FOR SEVEN SIGNS OF PEACE
This brief provides information to help churches discern what is happening
in Israel and Palestine now and in the months ahead. It is also an
invitation for member churches and ecumenical partners to watch, pray and
act for peace guided by the deep commitment within the WCC fellowship to
the legitimate rights and wellbeing of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Our purpose in writing is to assist with evaluation of the pullout of
settlers and soldiers from Gaza, an event that cannot be understood in
isolation. Below are seven signs to watch for - in Gaza and other conflict
zones - that will indicate in the months ahead whether the withdrawal
enhances prospects for peace.
Sign One: Life for the residents of Gaza improves, including human rights.
After the pullout, some 1,400,000 people in one of the most densely
populated places on earth are to receive a small increase in physical,
psychological, political and economic space. About 8,000 more privileged
people, the settlers, are being moved. Thankfully, it was done in a manner
that respects their dignity. To monitor this sign, watch Gaza to see if:
· Vacated land is used for the benefit of needy Gazans.
· Land, sea and air links open to the outside world, especially to the
West Bank, with international oversight to ensure proper functioning as
well as fair and effective security measures.
Sign Two: The people evacuated from Gaza are resettled within Israel's
pre-1967 borders. Where the settlers from Gaza are relocated will be one
of the clearest indicators of overall prospects for peace. Their new
locations will be physical evidence of future intentions toward other
occupied land, the issue at the heart of the conflict. What to watch for:
· How many Gaza settlers will resettle within Israel's pre-1967 borders?
(Reports indicate that about half the evacuees will be moved from Gaza to
other still-occupied territory.)
Sign Three: From now on, decisions affecting both sides are negotiated
equitably between the two sides. Equitable negotiations would be an
undeniable sign for peace. They would send a vital signal that the use of
violence by either side will no longer determine the course of events.
Equitable negotiations would also lend much-needed credibility to
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a leader taking political risks for
peace with little to show for it so far. Equitable negotiations on core
issues are long overdue, including:
· The route of the Israel's barrier versus Palestinian land and water
· The final status of Jerusalem. Sign Four: Both sides treat Jerusalem
as a shared and open city. This sign would show whether Jerusalem is to be
home for both its peoples. Palestinian residents of greater East Jerusalem
would again be able to live there, work there, travel in their own
communities, reach their holy sites, receive visitors from the West Bank
and visit the West Bank in return. The sealing-off of greater Jerusalem,
an old plan, is now nearing completion and with it these everyday options
have all but disappeared for most of East Jerusalem's Palestinian
citizens. Churches of Jerusalem are suffering along with their neighbours.
As an indicator for peace, any good that comes out of the Gaza withdrawal
will pale in the long term unless current trends in and around Jerusalem
are reversed. Positive evidence for this sign would include:
· Palestinians have free access to their communities in East Jerusalem
while Israel assures the security of its citizens in accordance with
· Construction stops on the barrier wall, Israeli settlements and Jewish
neighbourhoods in greater East Jerusalem and their future is negotiated.
Sign Five: Palestinians in the West Bank are able to travel between their
communities and to Gaza. Freedom of movement is necessary for a viable
society and economy, and is a basic human right. It also spurs hope. If
occupation controls of movement are lifted and people can again reach
jobs, schools and hospitals, conditions of everyday life would improve,
daily humiliations would disappear, extremism would lose its power, and
moderates could slowly regain their footing and influence. What evidence
to watch for here?
· The hundreds of checkpoints and barriers within the occupied territories are removed.
Sign Six: The international community meets its obligations to bring
peace. The world's leading nations bear central responsibility to enforce
international law and have the essential third-party role of ensuring
progress toward peace. When the US, for example, has spoken specifically
and forcefully against unilateral actions that violate the Geneva
Conventions, it has been effective. Others, including churches, also have
considerable capacity for promoting international law as the basis for
peace. One positive indicator to watch for here:
· The US administration uses its authority to focus Israeli and
Palestinian leaders on issues such as sharing Jerusalem, trading land for
peace, and adhering to international law as the basis for peace.
Sign Seven: Israelis become more secure. Good faith and concrete measures
like those above may well be the only sustainable security policy for
Israel. If abuses related to the occupation are corrected, injustices that
fuel conflict would decrease and popular confidence in a negotiated peace
could be regained. After years on the margins, people on both sides
committed to non-violent, law-based solutions could again be in a position
to take the political initiative.
· Cease-fires hold; they are repaired whenever they break down.
· Both sides handle violent acts as criminal acts, under the law.
It is important to note what these seven future signs of peace have to do
with the pullout from Gaza now.
First, they all address serious threats to peace that have intensified
while international attention has focused on Gaza. If the occupation ends
in one place but is being strengthened in many other places, the overall
situation has actually become worse. Second, the policy of encouraging
people to settle on occupied territory has caught people up in a policy of
control and conquest that will not bring peace. The Gaza withdrawal -
affecting less than two percent of the settlers - dramatically demonstrated the high personal costs for those involved in this political strategy.
The signs above turn attention now to the other 98 percent of the people
Finally, the essential legal framework for resolving the conflict is the
same in Gaza and the other places mentioned. It is the body of international law that deals with foreign occupations, especially the Geneva Conventions and relevant United Nations resolutions.
In such a long and bitter conflict we must not turn our back on any
initiative that could help bring peace, like the Gaza pullout, but nor can
we turn a blind eye to actions that perpetuate injustice in the name of
peace and security. We believe that unilateral actions conceived to
promote the interests of one group over another will never bring peace.
The biblical prophets warn us of those who cry 'Peace, peace, where there
is no peace'. We are convinced that, by replacing unilateral actions with
negotiations under international supervision and the rule of law, a just
peace agreement can be concluded. Then all who live in Gaza, Jerusalem,
the West Bank and Israel, and all of us, will see real signs of peace.
Commission of the Churches on International Affairs
Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 347, in
more than 120 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian
traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works
cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly,
which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally
inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by
general secretary Samuel Kobia from the Methodist church in Kenya.
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