Standing for justice through nonviolent means.

This week members of the United Church of Canada are discerning how best to ‘stand’ for justice, in response to invitations from partner organizations within Canada and globally. As an Ecumenical Accompanier (EA) with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), I choose to stand in ways that are consistent with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. 

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One way that Canadians, collectively, might stand for a just peace in Palestine and Israel is through the boycotting of products produced in illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. All Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal according to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The Israeli government is an occupying power and it is violating international law.

Engaged citizens can protest such violation through boycotting. Jean Zaru observes that, “Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions are nonviolent means for individuals, churches, academic institutions, cities, and corporations to make a difference and to highlight the need for adherence to international law and the rapid achievement of a just peace” (Zaru, 2008, p. 73). The United Church of Canada is considering an initial collective step through this boycott action of products produced in illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. This would be a step that says, “no”, to economic structural violence.

“Structural violence is silent. It does not show. Television captures the direct violence and most often the violence of the powerless and the hopeless, and it is headlined as terror. One basic weakness in most conceptualizations of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the basic assumption of symmetry, which views contending parties in conflict as being equal. After all, the conflict is there because we are unequal. We are unequal in access to power, media, and influence. But we insist that we are not unequal in our rights” (Zaru, 2008, p. 62). For additional information, click here.

Silent, economic structural violence (e.g., an unjust and unbalanced access to resources in occupied territories) is occurring in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Through such violence, Palestinian society and Israeli society in Jerusalem are being torn apart. Ending this occupation and finding a just peace is critical for future co-existence.

Jean Zaru also offers this: “As Palestinians and as women our struggle to achieve these ideals [of justice, equality, and freedom] continues today. It has been a long struggle, waged on so many fronts. It has been a long walk, and a long road to freedom still lies ahead. On the way, we often get tired, confused, and frustrated; we sometimes lose direction; we find ourselves at an impasse or headed down a one-way or a no-entry or even a dead-end. But this has not discouraged us or made us give up our journey with others and for others. In fact, the difficulties of our journey have made the issues of the struggle even clearer and have revealed to us the interconnectedness of unjust structures, the web of oppression, and the various struggles for liberation” (Zaru, 2008, p. 105).

Reference: Zaru, Jean. (2008). Occupied with Nonviolence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks. Foreword by Rosemary Radford Ruether. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. Click here.

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