Sept. 23, 2017
The Hon. Chrystia Freeland,
Minister: Foreign Affairs – Canada
Dear Minister Freeland,
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 to stop the imminent demolition of the Palestinian villages of Khan Al Ahmar and Susiya in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that all 42 homes and businesses in Khan Al Ahmar received demolition orders on February 19, 2017. The village has taken their case before Israeli courts. Final court hearings for the communities are due on September 25 (for Khan Al Ahmar) and October 1 (for Susiya) during which the judges are expected to authorise the demolitions, which could take place as soon as the next day.
In 2013, I served as a human rights observer in Palestine and Israel on behalf of the World Council of Churches. On one of my visits to Khan Al Ahmar in 2013, I was privileged to take the First Secretary at our embassy in Tel Aviv, to meet some of the people in the village.
Khan Al Ahmar survives without water, electricity and other basic infrastructure in “third world” conditions. Meanwhile water, gas and electrical lines for a nearby illegal Israeli settlement living in “first world” conditions are immediately adjacent to the village as shown in my photo below.
Demolitions and forcible displacement of Khan Al Ahmar, Susiya and similar communities are a gross violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention:
– This forced relocation is a form of collective punishment in violation of Article 33.
– Article 49 prohibits all forcible transfers of civilian populations by an occupying power.
– Article 50 obligates the occupying power to ensure the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children. The demolition orders also target schools in these villages. For your information, beyond these villages, Israel has recently demolished three other schools in the occupied Palestinian territory.
– Article 53 prohibits 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. This is prohibited under the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid: Article II (d).
Beyond the legalities, demolitions of entire villages leave hundreds of children, like the ones in the pictures from Khan Al Ahmar, and their families homeless.
According to Haaretz, Israeli authorities have confirmed that this widespread issuance of demolition orders is unprecedented, and is a declaration of intention in advance of an attempt to evacuate the entire village.
Morally and ethically, this action by the state of Israel is reprehensible, repulsive and repugnant. Our government, as a High Contracting party to the Fourth Geneva Convention is obligated to do all in its power to prevent this violation of international law. Further, this action flies in the face of SC 2334 by the Israeli government. This represents yet another major obstacle to the peace process .
As Minister of Foreign Affairs, you speak eloquently and frequently about the need to protect and defend human rights. Based on our treaty obligations and as a nation that supports international peace, I believe you are duty bound to publicly support the human rights of Palestinians in this instance.
I urge you to send representatives of the Canadian diplomatic missions in Palestine and Israel to visit Khan Al Ahmar and Susiya immediately. It is worth noting that in 2015, European Union representatives visited the Palestinian village of Susiya, which was threatened with demolition. International publicity and diplomatic pressure from this visit was vital in halting the planned demolitions at that time.
Please take urgent action to stop this imminent violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and to uphold Canada’s tradition of supporting human rights. On behalf of especially the children who welcomed me in Khan Al Ahmar and members of UNJPPI, I look forward to your response.
Rev. Steve Berube: UNJPPI Chair
404 Cleveland Ave.