The World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) strongly condemns the attacks by the Israeli security forces on those worshipping at the al-Aqsa Mosque.
These actions during the time of Ramadan, at the third most holy site of the Islamic community, are a violation of the basic human rights of the people of Palestine. Further, the WCRC also condemns the planned illegal evictions from the nearby Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.
In attacks involving rubber bullets and grenades, in the al-Aqsa precinct, around 200 Palestinians were injured. The attacks were in response to the growing anger and protests over the Sheikh Jarrah evictions. This recent threat of evictions is part of the ongoing suppression of human rights of Palestinians and a denial of their right to life and livelihood.
Chris Ferguson, WCRC general secretary, called for peace in the present moment as well as justice for the Palestinian people. He said, “The present actions by security forces in Jerusalem need to immediately cease and peace be restored. The status of Jerusalem as a Holy city and a site for all religious traditions must be maintained while justice is pursued for the Palestinian people.”
District court orders to proceed with a forced eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah have been postponed for 30 days by another court order.
The Sheikh Jarrah district is made up of refugees who were expelled from their towns and villages during the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948. In 1956, the Jordanian government along with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reached an agreement to settle these families in East Jerusalem in return for their UNRWA documents. Approximately twenty-eight families were provided housing by the Jordanian state with the stipulation that after three years they would receive ownership of the property; this was completed in 1959.
Since 1967 and the occupation of Jerusalem, the eastern part of the city has been brought under Israeli control, and Jewish communities have registered ownership of the land. A number of cases for eviction have been brought to the Israeli courts. These cases are considered discriminatory since East Jerusalem is regarded an occupied territory under international law, and an occupying state cannot forcibly evict residents.
While the situation in Jerusalem continues to be tense, international leaders and the United Nations have called for restraint in the present circumstances. European leaders have also voiced alarm at the impending evictions. Further the situation in Jerusalem has escalated the situation between Israel and Palestine in Gaza, resulting in 26 people dead in Gaza, including nine children.
The WCRC calls for the cessation of armed conflict on both sides of the border and the immediate return to status quo and the respect of human rights and international law.
The WCRC calls on its member churches and the ecumenical movement’s attention to the situation in Jerusalem and calls for its churches to pray and mobilize international attention for this issue.
Photo: Barbed wire around the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Courtesy of Albin Hillert/WCC