Originally issued April 5, 2002.

The terrible situation in Israel/Palestine this week is a bitter testimony to the utter failure of increased violence as a means to end violence. Pax Christi USA unequivocally condemns the recent suicide bombings by Palestinians in Israel as well as the brutal escalation of violence against civilians in the Occupied Territories being carried out by the Israeli Defense Forces. This cycle of violence must end. Pax Christi USA stands in solidarity with those on both sides of the conflict who have rejected the destructive and fruitless cycle of violence that now engulfs that land.In particular, we support the efforts of the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, Archbishop Michel Sabbah, President of Pax Christi International, and other religious leaders in the Holy Land who have offered to mediate an end to the standoff in Bethlehem. We call upon the Israeli Defense Forces to allow this delegation of religious leaders access to Bethlehem in order to facilitate the evacuation of wounded civilians and negotiate a nonviolent resolution to the siege of the Church of the Nativity.

Our prayers go with US Secretary of State Colin Powell as he travels to the region this week. We are however, deeply troubled by the US position over the past 17 months that a cease-fire in the current conflict must precede efforts at a political settlement. Moreover we are concerned over ongoing US support for the Israeli occupation, support which sustains Israel’s ability to, as Pope John Paul II pointed out this week, impose “unjust conditions and humiliations” upon the more than 3 million Palestinian people living under occupation. It is clear that Israel has engaged in widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure in the Occupied Territories, subjected civilians to round-the-clock curfews, denied them access to food, water and medical services and engaged in summary executions. All these are grave violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. US financial aid and political support for Israeli activities in violation of international law must end. The US will never be an effective force for peace while it continues to support the forces of occupation.

The occupation is itself an ongoing and pervasive violence perpetrated against all Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. Secretary Powell’s efforts must include concrete US commitments to end support for the occupation and full implementation of United Nations’ Security Council Resolutions 242. 338 and 1402. Pax Christi USA calls upon the Administration and Congress to immediately restrict all US military aid to Israel from being used in the Occupied Territories. The United States cannot be a credible partner for peace while US made weapons continue to be turned upon Palestinian civilians.

Pax Christi USA affirms the call of Pope John Paul II for Sunday April 7th to be a Day of Prayer for Peace in the Middle East and urges all our members, supporters and friends to participate in a Chain of Prayer and Light from April 8-15 as called for by Pax Christi International.

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