Stated Clerk Statement on Gaza Blockade Incident (June 2, 2010)

Whether Jew, Muslim, or Christian, we share commandments of love for God and neighbor. Therefore, all violence in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank must stop. Whatever its stated justifications, we know from years of conflict in the region that the resort to violence inevitably leaves behind death, injury, fear, and deepened feelings of hostility. As the death toll and the numbers of those injured in Gaza continue to mount from the Israeli air assault and the ensuing ground war between the Israeli military and the fighters of Hamas, we call upon all parties involved to stop the violence and agree to an immediate cease-fire, under which the borders of Gaza can be opened to humanitarian aid and desperately needed medical assistance for the sick and wounded. To this end, it is imperative that the leaders of the international community, including the leaders of our own nation, step up and use their good offices to press the warring parties to bring an end to the killing.
The rockets that have long been fired from Gaza at Israeli communities must cease. They are not simply provocations, but undiscriminating instruments of fear and death. Suicide bombings also must be unconditionally condemned. Members of Hamas and other groups who continue to call for Israeli’s demise must stop their rhetoric of death.
By the same token, the massive destruction of an already crippled Gazan infrastructure by aerial bombardments must end. The virtual “lock-down” of Gaza for the last two years has paralyzed economic development and left public institutions unable to cope with the humanitarian emergencies they now face. Moreover, the growing deaths of non-combatants, even when they have sought shelter in legally protected United Nations facilities, must end. Any new cease-fire agreement must be honored, if necessary with the help of international monitors, so that there is neither the firing of rockets into Israel nor Israeli assassination raids into Gaza, both of which have brought fear and death.
Most importantly, while every effort must be made to bring an end to the immediate hostilities, we must recognize that this violence is only one symptom of the decades-long failure of the international community, the Israeli government, and the leaders of the divided Palestinian community in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem to make the wrenching commitments necessary to reach a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is imperative that our own government, current and future, move beyond rhetoric to forceful and active participation as an honest and impartial broker of a just and meaningful peace.
Finally, we recognize that no lasting peace is possible without the adherence of all parties to the rule of law, especially those laws upon which the international community has agreed. These include resolutions adopted by the United Nations that provide a basis for the future recognition of two states in the region, one Israeli and one Palestinian, in which the respective parties can live in peace, security, and freedom. They also include the Geneva Conventions. Our grief over the deaths of Palestinians and Israelis in the current conflict is exacerbated by the knowledge of how many non-combatants have died in recent days. It is a reminder that all nations are called to abide by the body of basic humanitarian law that requires the protection of non-combatants in any military conflict.
The 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), meeting in June 2008, reiterated long-standing benchmarks for a two-state solution in which both parties can live in peace and security. Most of those are reflected in “The Amman Call,” a declaration issued by the World Council of Churches International Peace Conference on the Middle East, June 19-20, 2007, and endorsed by the 218th General Assembly. They include the following:
5.1. That UN resolutions are the basis for peace and the Geneva conventions are applicable to the rights and responsibilities of the affected people.
5.2. That Palestinians have the right of self-determination and the right of return.
5.3. That a two-state solution must be viable politically, geographically, economically, and socially.
5.4 That Jerusalem must be an open, accessible, inclusive, and shared city for the two peoples and three religions.
5.5 That both Palestine and Israel have legitimate security needs.
5.6. That the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal and constitute an obstacle to peace.
5.7. That the “Separation Barrier” constructed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories is a grave breach of international law and must be removed from the occupied territory.
5.8. That there is no military solution for this conflict, Violence in all its forms cannot be justified whether perpetrated by Israelis or Palestinians.
5.9. That comprehensive regional peace is indivisible from a just peace in Israel and Palestine.
5.10. That the life and witness of local churches is at the center of worldwide church advocacy for a just peace.
As followers of the Prince of Peace, who has shown us that true victory comes only through non-violent reconciliation, we yearn for an end to sixty years of conflict, violence, and oppression, all of which have left scars on all parties regardless of ethnic, religious, or political identification and have contributed to wider uncertainty about global peace. It will require not only our fervent prayers, but a renewed commitment to action so that when a cease-fire is achieved, it is followed by a new commitment by all parties to the rule of law as the only path to justice, security, and freedom for all.