Afif Safieh - The Palestinian Question & International Law
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s recent comments to the powerful Israel Lobby meeting in Washington has left a firestorm of criticism and disbelief at Canada’s violations of its obligations under international law and its complicity in supporting the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.Baird, in an unannounced message to the AIPAC annual conference, threatened that Palestinians will feel “consequences” from Canada if they seek to have international law implemented and pursues Israel at the International Criminal Court over illegal settlements in the West Bank.Senior-most Palestinian Ambassador Safieh articulately rejected Baird’s threats to the Palestinian people should the international community meet its obligations to bring Israel to account on its illegal settlement policy, a blatant violation of the IV Geneva Convention. He expressed surprise that this would be of concern to the Canadian government rather than “the daily Israeli blatant daily violation of international law and the sadistic behavior vis-a-vis my society, the Palestinian society.” He noted Palestine, a UN recognized-state, has the right to self-determination and the obligation to non-violently achieve this through diplomatic and legal actions. In a recent interview with Evan Solomon on CBC’s Power & Politics, Safieh identified himself as a Christian in denouncing the demonization of Islam and other groups. He further responded to Baird’s comments:“We the Palestinians, we are resorting to international law as we believe the international will should have a say on conflict resolution in the Middle East. What we did was extremely legitimate, going to the United Nations, to the concert of nations… The vote at the UN that took place in November was the following: It gave us the recognition of the principle of Palestinian statehood. It gave us the boundaries of that Palestinian state, the ’67 boundaries, and East Jerusalem as the capital of that state. I believe that international involvement, negotiations to come, which I hope will occur tomorrow, should be on how to implement those and not to discuss the desirability and the legitimacy of those principles that have already been recognized by the last 40 years.”
List of media interviews with Ambassador Afif Safieh
CBC's Power & Politics - Palestinian Aid in Question: Interview with Afif SafiehThe Star - Mideast Peace Hinges on Fair Land Swaps, saya Palestinian EnvoyRabble.ca - Veteran Diplomat on the Prospects for Palestine: Interview with Afif SafiehVoice of Palestine - Radio interview with Afif Safieh on his book, the Peace Process: From Breakthrough to BreakdownRadio Canada International (in Arabic)
Canadian Friends of Sabeel (CFOS) and the Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation of Canada (NECEF) hosted a four-city Canadian lecture tour by senior-most Ambassador of the Palestinian Diplomatic Corps and author Afif Safieh. Ambassador Safieh’s lectures, entitled "The Palestinian Question and International Law” focused on the current geo-political realities in Palestine.
Afif Safieh is considered the most experienced and skilled Palestinian diplomat having served in three politically significant capitals: London, Washington, and Moscow. During his service, he was involved in the Stockholm negotiations that led to the first official and direct American-Palestinian dialogue.
In his recent book, The Peace Process: From Breakthrough to Breakdown, "Afif Safieh is that rare combination of scholar, diplomat and humanist. There is much to be learned from reading his work - compelling and principled call for examination and engagement." (Sara Roy)
Below is a compilation of statements, reports and resolutions passed at the various national assemblies and conferences of the Christian Churches in the US and Canada, on issues connected to the Palestinian / Israeli conflict.
United Church of Canada - Resolution on Boycott of Settlement Products
On August 17, 2012, the General Council of the United Church of Canada (UCC) voted to approve comprehensive policy on Israel/Palestine, including the boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.
The policy also said the United Church policy would include “continue to identify the end of the occupation as necessary for peace in the region” and affirmed that “non-violent resistance to the occupation is justified and should be supported by all who seek and end to the occupation.”
It also calls for education and economic action directed against settlement products and directs “the Executive of the General Council to explore the wisdom of divesting in companies that are profiting from or supporting the occupation” and “requesting that the Canadian government ensure that all products produced in the settlements be labelled clearly and differently from products of Israel.”
You can read the full details of the resolution.
Below are a compilation of responses to the UCC Vote
Canadian Friends of Sabeel Open Letter: Response to the UCC Resolution on Boycott of Settlement Products (September 2012)
UCC has taken "The right course" by Khaled Mouammar (Calgary Herald)
Courage and integrity by Smadar Carmon (Ottawa Citizen)
Independent Jewish Voices commends United Church for finalizing stand against Israeli occupation
BIAC congratulates United Church of Canada on settlement boycott
Ramzi Zananiri's explains reaction of Palestinians to UCC vote
CFRA News Talk Radio interview with Rev. Bruce Gregerson (click on Aug. 23, 2012) (including call-in response from Rev. Robert Assaly of Canadian Friends of Sabeel and NECEF)
CIJA calls for boycott of United Church by Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf (Canadian Jewish News)
CIJA’S Outrage is Outrageous by Canadian Friends of Peace Now
CIJA's Response to UCC Report
Boycott of Israeli settlements would shatter United Church’s credibility by Shimon Fogel (CIJA)
United Church of Canada adopts resolution to boycott Israeli settlement products by Nora Barrows-Friedman (Electronic Intifada)
UCC abandons bible, turns against Israel by Joanne Hill and Zev Kalin (Jewish Tribune)
The United Church of Canada and Israel by Paul Merkley (The Bayview Review)
Israeli settlements and the United Church boycott: Responding to three common distortions by David Taub Bancroft (Rabble)
Israel’s critics apply their values selectively by Dow Marmur (The Star)
United Church reveals obsession with Israel by Paul Michaels (The Canadian Jewish News)
Responding to the United Church position on Israeli settlements by Rick Salutin (Rabble)
United Church of Canada marching with the hypocrites by Paul Schneidereit (Chronicle Herald)
From doubt to conviction: the United Church brings a difficult issue back into the mainstream by Peter Larson (NCCAR)
Presbyterian Church of Canada
Christian Zionism - Implication for Peace and Justice Between the Jewish and Palestinian Peoples (see page 289) (June 2012)
Economic Advocacy in Israel and Palestine (2008)
Presbyterian Church - USA
MRTI Report on Engagements with Corporations Involved in Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank (July 2012)
Methodist Church - USA
Methodists Vote Against Ending Investments Tied to Israel - New York Times (May 2012)
There has been a great deal of information circulating on Palestinian Christians in the last number of weeks in the media. This has all been spurred by the recent 60 Minutes segment "Christians in the Holy Land". We have compiled a number of resources - both video and articles - that have surfaced in response to this piece.
60 Minutes segment: Christians in the Holy Land (aired April 22, 2012)
The last Christian village in the Holy Land - 60 Minutes Overtime Staff
Pushing for a boycott of Israel - Interview with Nora Kort
Palestinian Christians refute Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to US
Articles / Responses
Greetings, I am home safely in Canada. I understand from my father that many of you sent letters of support while I was in detention in Israel. This experience of detention and deportation was a quick but thorough educational glimpse into the injustices that Palestinians face daily. I was on my way to a Christian youth conference, hosted by Sabeel, and a couple of weeks research for which I was to receive college credit. As soon as I arrived at passport control at Tel Aviv airport I was segregated for interrogation. After 8 hours and innumerable questions on my Lebanese ancestry, my Arab name, my place of birth Jerusalem, even though I am a fourth generation Canadian, I was continually told that I wasn't who I said I was and that they were going to find out who I really was. Then I was taken by paddy-wagon to a jail 15 minutes from the Airport and locked up with other detainees from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. The jail cell had a solid steal door and a privy. Despite being repeatedly promised that I could make a phone call I was never allowed to do so. Friends and family eventually tracked me down and I was contacted by the Canadian consul. After 24 hours I was put on a plane to Athens, only recovering my passport when the pilot gave it to me upon deplaning. Despite having asked that my passport not be stamped it was returned with a "Denied Entry" stamp; furthermore I was advised that I've been banned for 10 years from my birthplace-also the spiritual centre of my faith. I was warmly welcomed by Greek border control personnel. I would like to thank all who wrote notes to my parents, who kept me in their thoughts and prayers, and mostly to Cathy and Asher for tracking me down in jail, notifying my family and even arranging hospitality for me in Athens with their friends. I thank you for all your support and ask you never to forget those who have it much worse in the Holy Land. Sincerely, Bishara Assaly
"Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32)To our brother priests, deacons, monks, nuns, consecrated persons, our dear lay faithful and all people of good will.Introduction1. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.The Synod of Bishops for the Middle East was for us a new Pentecost. “Pentecost is the original event but also a permanent dynamism, and the Synod of Bishops is a privileged moment in which the grace of Pentecost may be renewed in the Church’s journey” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at the Opening Liturgy, 10 October 2010).We have come to Rome, We the Patriarchs and Bishops of the Catholic Churches in the Middle East with all our spiritual, liturgical, cultural and canonical patrimonies, carrying in our hearts the concerns of our people.For the very first time, we have come together in a Synod, gathered around His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, with both cardinals and archbishops, who are heads of the various offices in the Roman Curia, presidents of episcopal conferences around the world, who are concerned with the issues of the Middle East, representatives from the Orthodox Churches and ecclesial communities and Jewish and Muslim guests.We express our gratitude to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI for his care and for his teachings, which guide the journey of the Church in general and that of our Eastern Churches in particular, especially in the areas of justice and peace. We thank the episcopal conferences for their solidarity, their presence in our midst during their pilgrimages to the holy sites and their visits to our communities. We thank them for guiding our Churches in the various aspects of our life. We thank the different ecclesial organisations for their effective assistance.Guided by the Holy Scriptures and the living Tradition, we have reflected together on the present and the future of Christians and all peoples of the Middle East. We have meditated on the issues of this region of the world which God willed, in the mystery of his love, to be the birthplace of his universal plan of salvation. From there, Abraham’s vocation was initiated. There, the Word of God, Jesus Christ, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. There, Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of life and the kingdom. There, he died to redeem humanity and free us from sin. There, he rose from the dead to give new life to all. There, the Church was formed and went forth to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the world.The primary aim of the Synod is pastoral. Thus, we have carried in our hearts the life, the pains and the hopes of our people as well as the challenges they need to confront each day “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rm 5:5). Dear sisters and brothers, we therefore address this message to you. We wish it to be an appeal to safeguard the faith, based on the Word of God, to collaboration in unity and to communion in the witness of love in every aspect of life.
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Canadian Friends of Sabeel7565 Newman Blvd.P.O. Box 3067Station LaPierreLasalle (Montreal), QC H8N 3H2
Canadian Friends of Sabeel (CFOS) is a national support network for Sabeel, Ecumenical Center for Liberation Theology in Jerusalem. Sabeel strives to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians and the wider Palestinian community, as well as their contemporary concerns. It encourages individuals and groups from around the world to work for a just, comprehensive, and enduring peace informed by truth and empowered by prayer and action.