Expulsion of Temporary International Presence Observers in Hebron

 

February 2, 2019

Dear Minister Freeland,

I am writing to you to express my grave concern with respect to the Israeli government decision to force the Temporary International Presence (TIPH) out of occupied Hebron and to urge you to take action to force Israel to reverse this decision.

Prime Minister Netanyahu accusing TIPH of being, “an international force that acts against us.” I cannot imagine anything further from the truth based on my time in Hebron five years ago as a human rights observer and my recent visit there. TIPH has brought a modicum of safety to Palestinians in that area. Palestinians, including very young children, face some of the most violent illegal settlers in the West Bank and an Israeli military that treats Palestinians, including children going to school, as something other than humans deserving dignity and respect for their human rights under international law.

Hebron Arrests

(Palestinian boys under the age of 12 arrested in Hebron while I served as a human rights observer.)

As I stated in my report to you dated, Jan. 16, 2019, “The situation in H2 has deteriorated from five years ago. Vendors in the market have seen a marked decrease in business as settlers continue to disrupt and harass them by throwing human excrement and household garbage from apartments above down on the market stalls.”

In my brief recent visit, I witnessed Israeli military personnel aggressively harass and search Palestinians who were leaving the Tomb of the Patriarchs. I also witnessed a Palestinian being beaten by Israeli military personnel when he offered minimal resistance to arrest in the streets of Hebron.

These incidents reminded me of five years ago when I stood on a quiet street corner near Shuada Street and noticed a small red dot appear on my chest that originated from an Israeli soldier aiming his rifle at me from across the street. At that time, the street was quiet and I believe his/her action was purely an intimidation tactic directed toward me as a human rights observer clearly wearing the vest provided by the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel.

 

(The Israeli sniper who targeted me was behind these concrete blocks. I stood on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street.)

 

During my recent visit, I encountered TIPH members doing a routine patrol in the market near a stall where bottles filled with human excrement were trapped in a net above them.  I cannot imagine what will happen to the level of violence that will be directed against Palestinians, including innocent children, in the area around the market and the Ibrahimi Mosque.

 

 

(Nets and tarps above market stalls used to stop containers filled with human excrement and household garbage from falling on vendors and customers in the Hebron Market in H2.)

 

Minister, I urge you to join the other international voices such as the Norwegian government to express concern over Israel’s decision to force out the TIPH.

 

Respectfully,

 

 

Rev. Steve Berube,

Chair: United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel.

 

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Is Donald Trump Welcome at St. Paul’s

Hi folks,

I know many people asked for a copy of my sermon, so here is the text. What I  realized as I compared my manuscript to the audio version is that because I usually work from notes rather than a full script there are some significant variances. Because of this, I have made a few edits. Also, it is really hard to figure out where there is humour involved. This is exacerbated even more because it is not on video. (An audio version will be going online shortly. There were technical problems with the video.)

Also, as clergy realize, usually the prayers and the music are meant to support the message. So the sermon is embedded in the service outline. Please note, the Call to Worship and Opening Prayer are modified slightly from a service developed by Saskatchewan Conference 2017 Affirming Ministries Service.

Now, I must send a note to Donald to let him know he is welcome and invite him out for a hamberder.

Steve

Call to Worship
All are equal before the Divine spirit of God.
We each have a spark of the Divine within us.

May we seek and find the spark of the Divine within us.
May we feel the presence of the Divine in others as we gather here and as we enjoy the gathering of our community this week.

May we seek and find the best in others with the help of the Divine.
May we seek and find our best selves with the help of the Divine.

*Hymn Draw the Circle Wide MV 145

Opening Prayer
God of Love, we come together as one yet we aren’t alike.
We don’t look, think or act alike.
We don’t all like the same things or the same people.
Despite our diversity we are all made in your image.
May we never forget it is your image that we reflect.
We pray for a welcoming & just church here and around the world.
Yet we don’t always like each other or the views others hold.
Open us to see that other good people can hold divergent views and
travel different paths.
Enable us to journey with dignity and value otherness.
Help us to seek good in everyone and strive for justice for all.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother, who taught us to pray and sing :
Our Father, in Heaven – Hallowed be thy name –
Your kingdom come, ¬– your will be done,
On Earth as in Heaven.
Give us today – Our daily bread. –
Forgive us our sins – As we forgive those – Who sin against us. ¬–
Lead us not – Into temptation – But deliver us – From evil –
For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours –
Now and forever. – Amen. – Amen. –
*Sign of Peace
The peace of Christ be with you all.
And also with you.

Refrain There Is Room For All MV #62
There is room for all, in the shadow of God’s wing;
There is room for all, sheltered in God’s love.
And I rejoice and sing, “My refuge and my rock, in whom I trust.”
There is room for all, there is room for all. (x2)

Time with Our Children

Centering Music Words and music by Bruce Harding (1999)
Shine upon us, like the morning sun rising in the eastern sky.
Shine upon us, may the radiance of your love and comfort fill our lives.
God, we wait for your light; guide us to your way of peace.
May our darkness disappear! From all sorrow may we find release. 2x
Shine upon us. Shine upon us. Shine upon us.

Listening for God’s Word

Gospel Luke 19: 1-10
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.

Gospel Matthew 23: 23-28, 33
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.

Anthem

Sermon:  The All Inclusive’s Hidden Costs!
(Embracing Your Inner Trump on Your Birthday!)

I want to begin by thanking Art and his unindicted co-conspirators.

 

The title I was given by Art was, The All Inclusive’s Hidden Costs! (Embracing Your Inner Trump on Your Birthday!)

It has morphed into: Is there a place for Donald Trump at St. Paul’s.

Lots of emails, messages on Facebook, texts, calls – even late last night while I was at the hockey game with my father-in-law.
Some were helpful.

One of the suggestions said it was easy,
Ask the congregation if there is anyone without sin to please raise their hand; when no one puts up their hand drop the mic and walk away. Not a bad idea in some ways.

There are a couple of problems with that. Getting the headset off is never easy and it would muss up my hair.

The other problem is that Jesus tells woman to go away and sin no more. The sin no more thing is the problem.

I know what would be said in response, “But Steve, doesn’t Jesus say that we are supposed to be limitless in our forgiveness?

Jesus does say to Peter that we are to forgive not 7 times but 7 times 70.
Well there are a couple of problems with this too:
– In Luke’s version of this story, Jesus also talks about repentance – change – transformation.
Second thing – math was never my strong suit.
According to the Washington Post, five days ago, Trump has uttered 8,158 false or misleading statements in his first two years in office – a little better than 11 a day.

Friends, I’ve never been great at math but that is even more than 70x7x7.

So this all leads up to that reading by Art; it is one of the harshest condemnations in the scriptures. He is in a confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees, the leading religious authorities of the day, a group he has spoken with on many occasions, a group who refuses to change their perspective – their narrow understanding of God, a group that exercises power and control over the people and Jesus condemns them,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tax mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?”

Not exactly meek and mild. He actually calls them a bunch of snakes and a brood of vipers. You don’t have to be from the Middle East to realize this is a pretty serious insult. He knew them, he named their sins and why they were serious.
– All too often we have sort of sanitized Jesus. This is the side of Jesus who is willing to speak truth to power – even at the risk of his own life.

But again, this isn’t the simple answer. We need to remember who we are and whose we are.

I know there are some of you who don’t like ministers to touch on subjects that involve politics – idea of separation of church and state.

The separation of church and state does not mean that the church should not talk about justice. In fact, it allows the church or the mosque or synagogue to speak clearly about society and how we are governed since the earliest recordings in the Bible.

Walter Brueggermann, one of the most and maybe the most influential Biblical scholars of the last several decades has said, “the public agenda is not an add-on for gospel faith, but it really is the core business of the Gospel. Most of us are hung up on private matters. So we put all of our energy into questions about sexuality and abortion and gays and all that kind of stuff — which is not unimportant, but those are not the core issues of scripture. The core issues of scripture are public, political and economic justice. Justice is central to Jesus’ ministry; it is central to the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament; and it is central to the Torah tradition that lies behind the prophetic tradition.“

Because I take the Bible seriously, I will stand with Brueggermann and with a couple of other preachers who I respect and admire, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu. Justice is at the heart of the Gospel and we need to cry out for justice.

That is what has driven the United Church since our inception:
Not only do we believe in justice, in peace and in inclusion we have lived it out faithfully.

– We ordained Lydia Grunchy, a woman, in 1936. (Some denominations still don’t.) Some left the denomination because of this.
– We decided that sexual orientation was not a barrier to ministry for gays and lesbians in 1988. We lost about 1/3rd of our members because of this.
– This congregation was one of the first in this region to agree to marry gays and lesbians.
– Now, as we move toward being formally recognized as an Affirming Church we are about to start a study centered around an Unfinished Dollhouse, the story of a families transition with a transgender child.

– In 1986, our denomination apologized to First Nations people for the way we imposed our beliefs on them and their ancestors and how we failed to recognize their beliefs in the sacred could help us more fully understand our Creator in a good way. – – – There were many who believed using the word apology would cause a financial catastrophe for us.
– We continue to walk with them and work with them so they receive justice and so we all learn and grow.
– We believe in human rights so much so that we are willing to partner with Palestinians in their struggle for recognition of their rights with the Israelis.

– We believe in science and we believe that as the scriptures tell us we are stewards of the world and we need to act to end global warming.

– We believe that there is no reason why poverty should exist in Canada.

Much of what I believe and what the UCC stands for can be summed up in Cornel West’s comment, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

So, now let me get around to the subject at hand Donald Trump
Trump is a liar, greedy, hedonistic, he is a misogynist, narcissist, megalomaniac and is xenophobic.

He doesn’t believe in science or climate change.
He doesn’t understand that “trickle down” economics doesn’t work. And – he doesn’t get diplomacy.

He likes some of the most dangerous “strongmen” in the world:
Putin, Duterte, Kim Jong Un, Mohammed Bin Salman, Netanyahu.

Breath, Steve, breath. Steve, maybe, you should go a little easier. That is what many said to Tutu, to King, to the suffragettes, to Nellie McClung, to Jesus and to the prophets before him.

What he is doing is harming people.

I was having a serious conversation with one of my American friends about health care. He is probably a Republican. He looked at me and said, “He is trying to kill my child.” It became very real and personal for me.

I’ve also seen the havoc he has caused in Palestine and I know that the funding cuts he has put in place, according to doctors there, is killing people.

That is why I want to cling to that reading from Matthew and Jesus encounter with the scribes and Pharisees.

But then there is that other story that Michelle read for us about Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus was not a nice person. He was someone who would have been hated by his fellow Jews. He betrayed them, he was in league with the Romans who as occupiers were in the business of sucking as much money as they could out of the people. As a result, he became rich.

Some of you remember the old song about him. (I won’t be singing for you.)
Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
A wee little man was he.
He climbed up in the sycamore tree,
The Savior for to see.

I don’t know why he wanted to see Jesus so desperately.
Jesus knew who he was when he saw him up the tree and he called up to him. “Zacchaeus get down out of there! Tonight, I will be hanging with you!” In that moment, he was transformed. Forever changed.

I’ve seen many people who have been transformed;
– those who believed that gays and lesbians were different and should be excluded,
– those who believed immigrants and refugees were a burden,
– those who believed that might makes right,
– those who believed there is no hope for reconciliation with family or friends,
– those who believed that human rights didn’t matter in other parts of the world,

I’ve seen many;
– who have been touched by God’s grace and God’s love and who have found a new way.
– who have had the scales drop from their eyes,
– who have seen the light of God’s love.

President Obama was fond of speaking about, “finding our better angels.” Today, it seems today as if there is someone who is appealing not to our better angels but to our darker ones has made so many things that were once unacceptable – normal.

Dr. King, once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Is there room for all? Of course there is.
But in that, I also know that I must continue to be transformed. I must continue to be transformed by the power of God’s light and love that comes from God that flows through you. I know that our church and our denomination has been transformed by the power of God’s light and love that flows through you also. I know that there is room under God’s sheltering wings, God’s healing wings, where light can come in, where the love that is needed can change each of us and can change the world.

I know I need to continue to be transformed – as we all do to become more fully human, to become more fully the people God created us to be. I need to become more open to the light that comes from God and so does the church. We need to remember who Jesus was in all aspects of his ministry and teaching. We as individuals, as people of faith need to be transformed through love.

We must move beyond our own blind acceptance of our own beliefs and perspectives. We need to be transformed in terms of our own accountability.

I believe our church is transformed by each of you and your light. Your light that reflects God’s love

Thanks be to God – for the light and the love that we know.
Thanks be to God for the transformative power that helps all to find healing.
Thanks be to God for the light and the love that gives us the strength to reach out as God’s people to proclaim God’s justice and God’s love and God’s mercy. Amen.

Hymn Deep in our Hearts MV#154

Responding in Gratitude and Faith
Community at Prayer

Offering

*Offering Dedication What Can I Do? Paul Rumbolt
What can I do? What can I bring?
What can I say? What can I sing?
I’ll sing with joy. I’ll say a prayer.
I’ll bring my love. I’ll do my share.

Going Out to Love and Serve

*Hymn Go, Make a Diff’rence MV 209

*Commissioning and Benediction

Postlude

The Call to Worship and Opening Prayer are adapted from the Saskatchewan Conference 2017 Affirming Ministries Service.

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Trump’s UNRWA Cuts

Trump has decided to cut all funding to UNRWA. This puts in jeopardy schooling and health care for Palestinian children. It was reported this morning that UNRWA schools will run out of funding at the end of September.

Meanwhile in Gaza, hospitals have been stretched beyond their limit as a result of the excessive force used by Israel during the peaceful March of Return. During the six weeks of protests earlier this year at least 135 Palestinians have been killed. Shockingly more than 13 were children. Also, the deaths included some who were clearly marked as medical personnel and reporters. More than 16,700 Palestinians have been wounded, the majority severely, with some 1,400 struck by 3-5 bullets. Many of those wounded were hit with live ammunition using expanding butterfly bullets designed to kill from 800 m but hitting most Palestinians at 200-500 m with such high energy that it turned bone into biological shrapnel tearing soft tissue and leaving immense exit wounds. Imagine the effect on your local hospital if these types of injuries occurred in your city let alone in Gaza where the infrastructure is compromised. On the Israeli side, only 1 soldier was lightly wounded and the fence had not been breached.

We are at a critical juncture in the world. The Americans elected a narcissistic, megalomaniac who seems intent on disrupting world order. I envision Trump rubbing his hands in glee while smirking similar to that of the Grinch created by Dr. Seuss.

trump-as-grinch-christmas

Unfortunately, there are real people paying the price for the actions of this ignorant man. The question becomes will other governments in the world step up their assistance? I hope and pray they will.

Palestinian School

Below is a letter to the Canadian Cabinet ministers responsible for foreign relations written a couple of days ago.

September 2, 2018

Dear Minister Freeland and Minister Bibeau,

I write to you on behalf of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI), a network of members and friends of the United Church of Canada, to ask that the government increase funding to UNRWA as a result of the decision by the Trump administration to cut all funding to this agency.

I and many members of UNJPPI have visited various UNRWA refugee camps where we have personally witnessed the important work of the UN in supporting this group of refugees who have suffered the most as a result of the creation of the state of Israel. What is of special concern is the basic health and education of children in the camps who are especially at risk because of this callous and heinous move by the Trump administration.

Palestinians have waited for 70 years to have their legitimate rights restored. Still, Israel refuses to comply with their obligations under the terms of the Geneva Conventions. It is increasingly important for your government to pressure Israel to negotiate a fair and just peace for Palestinians and an end to Israeli violations of international law.

We trust your government will follow the lead of the Germany in offering additional support to UNRWA so they can continue their good work of supporting this seemingly forgotten community of refugees.

Peace, Paix, Salaam, Shalom,

Rev. Steve Berube,

Chair: United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel

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For Everything There Is a Season : Today I Mourn, Tomorrow

For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to mourn. . . . Ecclesiastes 3

Today, I mourn. I mourn with the people of Gaza where there were at least six children who were killed and at least 60 have died from the excessive force used by the Israeli military yesterday.

Today, I mourn. I mourn with all Palestinians who 70 years ago were forced off of their land where they and their ancestors have lived since. . . . forever. Over 700,000 Palestinians became refugees when 600 villages and towns by Israelis were attacked and many destroyed by Israelis. They and their descendants are still refugees living in conditions that are deplorable.

Today, I mourn. I mourn with the land that is Palestine, a land called Holy. As it was in the time of; Jeremiah and Isaiah, Micah and Amos, Jesus and Peter, it is a land that is occupied. Occupiers, then and today, treat the people of the land with disdain and as second class citizens subservient to those who wield power.

Today, I mourn. I mourn because there are those like Netanyahu and Trump and Kushner who blame the victims for the deaths and injuries they have caused. Who say it is a great day while the fields nearby are covered with blood.

Today, I mourn. I mourn because of politicians who call for calm and who refuse to demand accountability even in the face of evidence. These calls benefit only the aggressor.

Today, I mourn. I mourn because of journalists who slant the truth to support the narrative of the aggressor and who refuse to ask the difficult questions that can allow the people to have their eyes opened.

Today, I mourn, for it feels like what I do matters as much as a drop of rain in an ocean.

Tomorrow, I will work for peace and justice for one cannot exist without the other and that is all God truly asks of me and of you.

Below is my letter sent to Prime Minister Trudeau around mid-day on May 14 in Canada’s capital.

May 14, 2018
Dear Prime Minister,
Over 50 Palestinian protestors, including at least four children, have been killed by the Israeli military already today in Gaza; over 1,200 have been wounded. There are reports that the Israelis have used tanks to fire upon protestors. Meanwhile, there have been no reports of any Israelis being harmed.

I write to you as the Chair of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel, a network of members and friends of the United Church of Canada (UNJPPI), to plead with you to contact Prime Minister Netanyahu and demand that Israel cease and desist from their ongoing gross violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention in responding to protests in Gaza.

UNJPPI condemns any and all violence. We fear that the excessive use of force by Israel will surely feed the level of anger and mistrust toward Israelis by Palestinians. Israel’s disproportion use of force is unjustified and in violation of international law. This aggressive use of force serves as yet another massive blow to any hope for peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

We urge you to speak with members of your caucus who recently visited Palestine and who witnessed firsthand the reality of the illegal occupation of Palestine; from 12 year old children who are subjected to military tribunals, to inhumane treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, to the theft of Palestinian natural resources including and especially water, to separate roads and schools that have lead people like Nobel prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu to declare that the situation for Palestinians is worse than it was for blacks in South Africa under apartheid.

Canadians are proud of our historic role as defenders of peace and human rights globally. Your government by not taking a public stand serves as tactic approval to Israel’s excessive and deadly use of force. Therefore, we urge you to contact the Prime Minister of Israel to cease and desist. Also, that you register Canada’s strong condemnation of the excessive use of force against children, women and men who were exercising their rights as protected under international law.

Peace, Paix, Salaam, Shalom,
Rev. Steve Berube
Chair: United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel

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Khan Al-Ahmar Threatened Once Again.

An open letter to PM Trudeau.
May 7, 2018
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
I am writing to you as chair of the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI), a network of members and friends of the United Church of Canada, to ask you to urgently apply diplomatic and public pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu to stop his Israeli government from demolishing the Palestinian village of Khan Al Ahmar in the occupied West Bank. If Israel follows through with the demolition orders, it would be in violation of several clauses of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Canada as a High Contracting Party is obligated to ensure respect for the Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Israel. Therein, we ask that you insist that Israel cease and desist from any demolitions in Khan Al Ahmar and other Palestinian villages in occupied territory. Further, that you urge Israel to respect its obligations under international law.

The Israeli government is threatening to destroy the homes and forcibly displace 173 people including 92 children so they can expand the illegal Ma’ale Adumim settlement. This action would constitute gross violations of the following articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention:
– Article 33 prohibiting collective punishment.
– Article 49 prohibiting all forcible transfers of civilian populations by an occupying power.
– Article 50 obligating the occupying power to ensure the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children. The demolition orders target the “Rubber Tire” school in this village that serves the children of the village and 150 children from neighbouring villages.
– Article 53 prohibiting the destruction of personal property by an occupying power unless it is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.

Further, this action can be construed as an act of systematic oppression by the Israeli government committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one ethnic group over a different ethnic group which is prohibited under the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid: Article II (d).

UNJPPI stands in solidarity with Israeli human rights groups in supporting the statement of B’Tselem that the forcible transfer of an entire Palestinian community in the occupied Palestinian territories would be “virtually unprecedented” since the Israeli military occupation began in 1967.

I would further note that the current situation in Khan Al Ahmar exemplifies the level of contempt for Palestinians by the Israeli government. I visited the village with the First Secretary of the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv. Embassy officials can testify that infrastructure to support a nearby illegal Israeli settlement is located in a fenced area adjacent to the village. Yet, the Israelis have not provided the Palestinians with access to either electricity or running water. This means Palestinians live in third world conditions while a few hundred meters away is an illegal settlement with modern infrastructure found in any city in a developed nation.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, said the following on Feb. 27, 2018:
“Few issues are as important as those that relate to human rights and freedoms.

We make a point of promoting and defending the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and doing everything in our power to protect all people against all forms of abuse to ensure that everyone fully benefits from the fundamental rights and freedoms proclaimed in the declaration.
In 1948, representatives from many countries, including Canada, came together and drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.”

We are encouraged by Minister Freeland’s statement and believe that Canada must take a principled leadership role in the international community and hold other governments to account – including Israel.

Based on Minister Freeland’s comments, your government’s silence on the killing of 45 Palestinians including 5 children and the wounding of over 5,000 during the peaceful March of Return in Gaza is disconcerting especially in light of comments made by the European Union nations.

I urge you as a leader who trumpets Canada’s role as a supporter of human rights to call Prime Minister Netanyahu and express Canada’s concerns with Israel’s plan to demolish Khan Al Ahmar and its disregard for the human rights of Palestinians. Further, that you insist Israel abide by the international treaties that both Canada and Israel have signed.

I look forward to your response.

Peace, Paix, Salaam, Shalom

Rev. Steve Berube
Chair: United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel

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Gaza 3.0

For the third consecutive Friday, tens of thousands of Palestinians exercised their right, under international law, to protest.  The “March of Return” focuses on their rights, guaranteed under the Geneva Convention, to return to the land their ancestors have inhabited since before recorded history.

For the third consecutive Friday, Israelis violently attacked Palestinian protestors. More than 30 Palestinians have been killed, including two minors, and hundreds have been injured by Israeli forces. There is video evidence of Palestinians being shot in the back and of others shot while bowed in prayer.

Gaza April 13

For the third consecutive Friday, Israelis blamed Palestinians for the violence. Yet, there have been no reports of any Israelis being harmed. Nor have any Palestinians crossed the fence from Gaza into Israel.

The roots of the “March of Return” go back to 1948, when faced with terrorist attacks by Israeli forces, 750,000 Palestinians fled some 600 villages and towns. Many ended up in Gaza where today 1.3 million of Gaza’s 2 million people are refugees.

Gaza has become known as, “the largest open air prison in the world.” The Palestinians who live there do not have adequate hospitals. Also, the water is undrinkable, electricity  is available for only a few hours a day and raw sewage is being pumped into the Mediterranean. This is mainly because much of Gaza’s vital infrastructure was destroyed by Israel in 2012 and 2014.gaza

The Gazan economy is in collapse because of the 11-year long blockade by Israel and its ally Egypt. A few supplies are allowed in but it is insufficient for the needs let alone rebuild after the destruction in 2014. Unemployment is around 50 percent.

International groups are pleading with governments to send medical supplies to hospitals in Gaza that are severely under stocked.

Israeli human rights groups have joined international groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, in condemning the current harsh response from the Israeli military. B’Tselem said Friday that the open-fire policy was “manifestly unlawful.” Breaking the Silence issued a statement by five former Israeli snipers who said they were “filled with shame and sorrow” over the recent attacks on protestors. They also stated, “Instructing snipers to shoot to kill unarmed demonstrators, who pose no danger to human life, is another product of the occupation and military rule over millions of Palestinian people, as well as of our country’s callous leadership, and derailed moral path.”

Even the New York Times, one of the most pro-Israel newspapers in the world, has called for an independent investigation into the Israeli response to what have been peaceful demonstrations.

Israel is about to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its creation. It has much to be proud of. But, it also seems to have forgotten its roots within Judaism where the Biblical prophets focused on the call of God for the people; to beat their swords in ploughshares, to do justice, to care for the foreigner and for all in need. Israel continues to dehumanize Palestinians and it ignores the rule of international law and uses violence against the Palestinian people.

The demonstrations will continue until the middle of May.

It seems there is little I and others can do except to contact our respect governments, the governments of Israel and of Palestine to express concern the violence being directed against Palestinians and the long term injustices Palestinians have faced for 70 years including the right of return.

Also, for Christians, I encourage you to pray for Palestinians who were the first followers of Jesus. And for all people of faith, I encourage you to pray that God’s peace with justice may prevail across the entire world and especially in the land many of us call Holy.

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Good Friday and Gaza

The most solemn day for Christian’s is Good Friday, the day when a brutally oppressive occupying force executed Jesus under the pretense that he was a threat.

This Good Friday, another brutally oppressive occupying force killed 18 and wounded hundreds of Palestinians under the pretense that they were a threat.   2018 Gaza Protest

Just as Jesus posed no real threat 2,000 years ago, there was no real threat to Israel this Good Friday as an estimated 30,000 Palestinians walked though farm fields to the militarized fence that separates the two peoples. A few threw stones and others lit tires and rolled them to the border but no one attempted to cross the fence. Meanwhile, the hundred plus Israeli snipers who had been deployed crouched on top of a berm waiting to be called into action. When the order came from their superiors, they opened fire on men, women and children. Other Israeli military forces shot tear gas into the crowd. Others just watched.

There is strong evidence that the Israelis were itching for the Palestinians to do something so they could retaliate. On Maundy Thursday, an Israeli tank fired on and killed a Palestinian farmer who was working in his fields near the border. An innocent man harvesting parsley, as he did every day, literally became cannon fodder for the Israelis. They knew his death would trigger violence at the protest the next day. The die was cast for this Good Friday just as it was when Judas kissed Jesus in the Garden the night before his execution.

It is known Israelis often try to provoke violence from Palestinians before major events. I witnessed how they choked off the flow of people at the checkpoint in Bethlehem the two weeks prior to President Obama’s arrival. Movement through the border ground to a slow crawl. The normal 90 minute crossing became three hours or more. I feared that out of frustration someone might do something that would trigger a major crackdown but they didn’t. Then two days before Obama’s arrival the international media started to pour in and everything changed at the border. It was like someone opened a spigot and the flow of people was faster than I had seen in the previous two months. Palestinians were clearing Checkpoint 300 in twenty minutes.

I was told Israeli politicians like to provoke Palestinians to the boiling point before major international events. If the Palestinians react with violence then the Israelis crackdown and claim that they are under constant threat and they are the victims.

The violence on Good Friday reminded me of 2014 when Israel shocked and dismayed the world by its brutal attack on Gaza. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless. Hospitals and schools were razed. Critical infrastructure including water, sanitation and the electrical system were destroyed.

More important, over 2,250 Palestinians were killed including 551 children and 299 women as well as seventy-one Israelis including one child. Over 11,200 Palestinians were wounded including 3,540 women and 3,436 children. About one third of these children now have a permanent disability and more than 300,000 children are in need of psycho-social support as a result of Israel’s actions.

Since then, Israel and its ally Egypt have maintained a chokehold on Gaza that has blocked many of the goods needed for rebuilding the Gazan economy and infrastructure from going into the enclave.

As with the violence of 2014, Israelis are not known for proportionality. As I look at the pictures from Friday, I am reminded that rocks are no match for rifles; burning tires are no match for tear gas; and protest signs are never a match for tanks.

International human rights organizations have condemned the attack on the protesters. Amnesty International called on Israel to immediately end its “heavy handed, and often lethal suppressions of Palestinian demonstrations.” Peace Now said that the casualties are “an intolerable result of trigger-happy policy.”

The Palestinians plan to continue their Friday protests until Nakba Day – May 15. Nakba means catastrophe. It is the day that commemorates their expulsion from their homes and their lands 70 years ago. It is also the day when Palestinians remember that under international law they are guaranteed the right to return to what is rightfully theirs.

The Palestinians have a right to protest and good reason. They are among the world’s most desperate people. Over 70 years ago, the Nakba occurred, Zionist forces used terrorist tactics to drive 750,000 Palestinians off the land where their ancestors had lived for thousands of years. Over 50 years ago, the state of Israel began its occupation of the rest of Palestine. Unemployment rates in Gaza are over 40%. There is not enough safe water to drink and the sewage system is in ruins. Families are limited to a few hours of electricity a week. At least the Roman occupiers provided safer water and waste disposal for the people they conquered.

The International Court of Justice, the UN Security Council and General Assembly have ruled that Israel is in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international Human Rights and Humanitarian laws. Israel responds by attacking the UN and claiming it is the victim.

Netanyahu seems emboldened by Trump and now more than ever treats Palestinians and their land as the Romans treated those who they conquered in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago.

As I think about the coming weeks and how the protests that will continue each Friday, I hope and pray that peace and justice might prevail. But, I am preparing for more death and devastation. I believe that until the last protest occurs on Nakba Day that Good Friday will continue for the people of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and like 2,000 years ago the skies will continue to darken as more innocent men, women and children die at the hands of the ongoing occupiers.

Soldiers

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