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Southern African Bishops’ Conference calls for solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Following a flare up violence between Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has issued a statement calling for a de-escalation of the current tensions and renewed commitment to dialogue as a “path to peace.” Spotlight.africa explains some of the factors behind the current conflict.

The international community has once again voiced its growing concern following Israel’s most recent airstrikes against the Palestinian territories in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The SACBC’s Justice and Peace Commission has added its voice, saying that it “cannot remain silent on the escalation of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Israeli airstrikes have killed 201 people and the UN estimates that 38,000 people have been displaced from their homes in two weeks of bombardment. The SACBC noted that continued aggression by Israel “obliterates a future of two states living side by side in peace and security.”

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex one. The state of Israel was created in the aftermath of World War II when the international community tasked Britain to find solution to the horrors of the holocaust. Unable to find a solution that was acceptable to the Palestinians and the Jewish leaders, the British left.

The SACBC noted that continued aggression by Israel “obliterates a future of two states living side by side in peace and security.”

The Jewish leaders the declared the creation of the state of Israel.  However, in doing so, the Palestinian people were displaced from their land, leaving them only with small portions of land in Gaza and the West Bank. Over time, Israel continued to occupy the Palestinian territories, in what many have described as “apartheid,” the same state-sanctioned system that kept millions of South Africans oppressed for nearly half a century.

Israeli occupation thwarts peaceful solution to Palestinian conflict

The SACBC statement carefully avoids the word “apartheid,” but cites an 11 May communiqué by the Middle East Council of Churches which assets that at a “fundamental level, decades of occupation of Palestinian territories remain at the heart of the issue.”

The international community, headed by the United Nations, continues to call for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, a solution that appears increasingly elusive as tensions between the two sides continue to simmer.

This most recent round of bombardments began on 10 May following weeks of protests and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces over the eviction of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem.

Recognizing the trigger for the current tensions, the SACBC Justice and Peace declared that the “planned evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem must cease.”

“Planned evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem must cease.”

SACBC Justice and Peace Commission

The statement also expressed solidarity with the Palestinians by recognizing “the decades of pain and suffering,” but simultaneously cautioned that a “disproportionate response to violence will not bring about a sustainable solution to the current impasse.” The SACBC, therefore, called for prayer and dialogue as “a path to peace.”

Click here to read the full statement by the SACBC’s Justice and Peace Commission.

Airstrikes convenient for embattled Israeli prime minister

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that Tel Aviv is merely responding to rocket attacks from Hamas, the Palestinian military wing. He has vowed to employ “full force” and “for as long as necessary to restore calm and quiet to you, Israel’s citizens.”

Tel Aviv’s bombardment comes at a time when Netanyahu faces growing opposition at home.  He has been struggling to form a government after a 23 March election failed to yield a clear winner. The country’s political parties have been arguing about the constitution of the new government. The main issue is whether the new government will include Netanyahu, who is also facing fraud and corruption charges. If found guilty, he could face a long jail sentence.

Tel Aviv’s bombardment comes at a time as Netanyahu faces growing opposition at home.

Several analysts speculate that this most recent conflict with the Palestinians serves to deviate attention away from Israel’s political problems and could help Netanyahu to improve his public image at home, especially if he is seen to crush the latest Palestinian uprising.

The international community has called for an immediate de-escalation of the current conflict, but until Israel and the Palestinian authority can find a way to engage in meaningful dialogue about their common future, cyclical flare-ups are likely to continue, with devastating losses on both sides.

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.

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