JERUSALEM – We publish the letter from “Justice and Peace commission” of the Assembly Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land to the US President Obama for his first visit in Israel, West Bank and Jordan. Barack Obama will arrive in Israel on Wednesday, his first visit as US president.
14 March, 2013
The President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We, the heads of the Catholic/Christian Churches in Jerusalem, welcome you wholeheartedly on your forthcoming visit to Israel and Palestine. On this occasion we would like to draw your attention to some major problems that deeply affect the Christian presence in these countries.
In this year, the Palestinian people are living for 46 years under Israeli military occupation. The plight of the Palestinian Christians is the same as that of the Palestinian People as a whole, and as a consequence everything that affects the Palestinian people also affects the Christians.
In the occupied Palestinian territories, among the numerous violations of international law by the Israeli authorities we mention only a few: illegal Israeli settlements, a permit regime which restricts severely access to the Holy places for Muslims and Christians alike, expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land for settlement expansion and the construction of the separation barrier (like in the present case of the valley Cremisan), etc.
Statelessness, endless family unification procedures and the rejection of the registration of children as well as the limited possibilities to expand due to few granted building permits in East Jerusalem violate basic human rights of the Palestinians and force them into displacement, migration and exile.
The majority of the local Christian population being part of the Arab population in Israel, they are as such subjected to an ongoing, hidden policy of discrimination and are treated as second class citizens in the fields of education, job opportunities, property ownership, local municipal services, etc.
Though the Christian Palestinian presence plays an important role in this Holy Land: it gives a large contribution in the fields of education, healthcare and social services, their absence will have catastrophic consequences especially with the rise of the fundamentalists on both sides. Thus every effort should be made to preserve the Christian presence in the Holy Land, and to have it flourish in the future so that hope is not lost. The oppressive and discriminatory policies by the Israeli government constitute a violation of the protection of a religious minority which is specifically underlined by international law.
We urge you, in your position as President of the United States of America, to require from the State of Israel to respect international law and to stop all illegal policies targeting the Palestinian population of the Holy Land; this would be the best way of contributing to preserve and protect the Christian presence in the Holy Land.
On behalf of the Justice and Peace Commission