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March 10, 2013

A holly mission: a just peace for the people of Palestine/Israel

Scott Stockdale

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A year after the United Church launched a national network of concern for Palestine/Israel, called "The United Network for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel" (UNJPPI), they're continuing to recruit new members, as numerous people across Canada would like to see a just peace for the people of Palestine/Israel: something they've been denied for three generations.

The UNJPPI Mission Statement is as follows:

In discipleship of Christ, and in solidarity with churches and other partners in the Middle East as well as globally and in Canada, this Network covenants to engage, consolidate, nourish, and channel the energy in the United Church of Canada toward the goal of a just peace in Palestine/Israel, primarily through calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and for equal rights for all who live in Palestine/Israel, by facilitating education, promoting partnerships, coordinating advocacy, advancing policy and encouraging action.

UNJPPI secretary Karin Brothers said the network was established to bring together the various groups across Canada who are concerned about justice in Palestine/Israel.

“There are a lot of groups across Canada that are concerned about justice in the Middle East, but we want to establish a Canada-wide network.”

UNJPPI co-coordinator Reverend Brian McIntosh said the network began with a meeting of 50 people last February, including both members of the United Church and others who are not church members. After discussing UNJPPI's proposals at some of the 12 conferences the United Church held across Canada in May and June 2012, UNJPPI's proposals were accepted by the United Church General Council, in August.

“Our mandate is to seek justice and peace in Palestine/Israel and end (Israeli) occupation of Palestinian land pre 1967,” Reverend McIntosh said.

“We've organized study tours to Palestine/Israel and established partnerships with Jewish groups and other church groups that are against the occupation, both here and in Israel.”

He mentioned Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and Not In Our Name (NION) among the Jewish groups that are supporting UNJPPI.

As well as lobbying the United Church General Council, Reverend McIntosh said UNJPPI hopes to educate the Canadian public about the situation in Palestine/Israel.

“The UN declared the occupation illegal. If Israel wants to relieve itself of the international pressure it's under, it must stop annexing Palestinian land and building settlements on it. When you look at how much land is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, it's very little compared to with the land designated to Palestinians by the UN. The international community has declared Israeli occupation of Palestinian land illegal and immoral.”

He added that the Canadian government has, on its books, declared the occupation illegal but the recent Canadian government has done nothing to convey this to the Israeli government.

For those who continuously trot out the refrain that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, Reverend McIntosh said the Palestinians living in refugee camps and watching Israeli soldiers demolish their homes don't feel like they're in a democracy.

“They have no say over the control of their lives,” he said.

Reverend McIntosh feels UNJPPI can put pressure on Israel and its allies to cease and desist occupying Palestinian lands and denying them their basic human rights in the same way that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement continues to increase pressure on Israel.

“The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has been growing since it began in 2006. Everyday countries pull out investments and refuse to have academic exchanges with Israel and many artists are refusing to perform in Israel.”

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