ECAJ Responds to Church Criticism

June 13, 2010 Agencies
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Queensland Churches Together [QCT] published  a media release condemning Israel’s actions in the Gaza Flotilla Incident. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry answered their criticism.This is the statement released by the group which represents

The Anglican Diocese of Brisbane
The Antiochian Orthodox Church
The Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane
The Greek Orthodox Church
The Lutheran Church of Australia, Queensland District
The Queensland Congregational Fellowship
The Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod

Queensland Churches Together (QCT) deplores the violence that left at least nine activists dead and many injured by Israeli elite forces that intercepted a ship carrying humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza on 31st May. The violence took place in international waters.

QCT supports the United Nations Security Council’s call for an impartial investigation into the violence.

In a media release of 1st June Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA), also called for “a full investigation and a decisive response from the United Nations Security Council”.

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has called on Israel to undertake a comprehensive and independent inquiry into the incident and provide its findings to the UN Security Council. QCT supports the call for an independent inquiry but believes that any investigation instigated by Israel could not fulfil the condition of impartiality demanded by the Security Council and would thus be inadequate.

Immediately following the incident Israeli sources began publically to link some of the activists on the Turkish ship with terrorist groups. This is a serious allegation, one which could have major repercussions not only for the activists but also for Israel. The organizers have emphasized repeatedly that the aims of the exercise were to bring humanitarian assistance and highlight the plight of the people of Gaza. It is impossible at this stage to tell whether among the hundreds of non-violent activists there were a few who were prepared to use violence. Only a full and independent international investigation can uncover the real picture.

CT stresses that no matter what the outcome of this investigation, the use of force by the Israeli interceptors in international waters is a matter of extreme concern.

QCT supports the position of Act for Peace in calling for an end to the blockade of Gaza: “The Australian government must denounce the United States (US) and European Union EU)-supported blockade of Gaza and take up the issue with their US and EU counterparts. As a policy designed to restrict Hamas’ capacity to function after its election win three years ago, it has utterly failed and cause a humanitarian crisis in which Palestinian civilians bear the brunt… The 3-year blockade of Gaza has left 70% of Gazans living on less than $1 a day, with many  urgent humanitarian items either delayed or banned altogether” (Executive Director of Act for Peace, Alistair Gee).

The incident occurred during an international “World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel” promoted by the World Council of Churches.

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The ECAJ response:

We deplore the statement issued on 4 June 2010 by Queensland Churches Together (QCT) in connection with the Gaza flotilla incident.

All loss of human life is distressing.  To pre-judge who is responsible for that loss before all the facts are known, as the QCT has done, is appalling.  Whilst the purpose of the QCT statement is ostensibly to call for an “independent” enquiry into the incident, the statement lacks credibility because of its one-sidedness.

The statement deplores “violence…by Israeli elite forces” against “activists”, but is hypocritically silent about the video evidence of a mob of those same “activists” attacking Israeli forces with knives, clubs, bars, concussion grenades and firearms.  In the video, Israeli soldiers are seen being clubbed, stabbed, and in one instance thrown off the deck.  There is no evidence of any use of live ammunition by any Israelis until after they were attacked and their lives were at stake.

Israeli soldiers suffered serious wounds, including gunshot and stab wounds and at least one soldier, who was flung from an upper deck some 30 feet to a lower deck, suffered a severe concussion.  At least one soldier jumped overboard to save his life. Those attacking the Israeli soldiers were not non-violent peace “activists” and should not be permitted to hide behind that description.

Nor does the statement acknowledge that violence occurred on only one of the six ships in the flotilla.  This was the ship under the control of the so-called Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties, and Humanitarian Relief organization (IHH), which has known links to al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups.  On the other five ships, there was no violence by the protesters, no firearms were discharged and no-one was killed or wounded.

The most disgraceful aspect of the QCT statement is its completely unsubstantiated claim that “any investigation instigated by Israel could not fulfil the condition of impartiality”.  This is a slur directed not only at the Israeli government but also against Israel’s independent judiciary.  Israel has shown a far greater willingness and ability to conduct independent judicial inquiries into military and security matters than many other democratic countries.  Israel conducted the Agranat Inquiry into the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria, the Kahane Inquiry into the 1982 Lebanon war and the Winograd Commission following the 2006 Lebanon war, each of which had far-reaching adverse political consequences for the government of the day.

We commend the Australian government’s call for an independent inquiry to be conducted by Israel.  Israel has its own internationally-recognized legal experts in the relevant fields of law, including retired Supreme Court presidents Aharon Barak and Meir Shamgar and international law professors Yoram Dinstein and Ruth Lapidoth.  The QCT statement implies that widely respected Israeli legal figures such as these have no integrity and could not be trusted to be impartial, an appalling defamation.

In the wake of the Goldstone Committee Report, whose conclusions were pre-determined and incorporated into the Committee’s terms of reference by the UN Human Rights Council before its inquiry even commenced, the United Nations has forfeited all moral authority with regard to Israel.  Neither the UN nor any of its agencies are fit and proper forums for conducting any kind of impartial investigation with regard to Israel.

The QCT falsely claims that there is a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.  In one week in mid-May, 637 truckloads, consisting of 14,069 tons of food, medical supplies and humanitarian aid arrived in Gaza via Israel.  In addition, 781 medical patients and accompanying individuals from the Gaza Strip crossed into Israel to receive treatment in various hospitals and 191 staff members of international organizations crossed into the Gaza Strip, and 202 crossed back from Gaza.  This was a typical week.

It is the height of irresponsibility for the QCT to call for the end of the blockade of Gaza without calling for the adoption of a credible system to monitor what goes into Gaza and to verify that all aid will be used for the benefit of Palestinian civilians rather than being diverted by Hamas for its own uses, as has occurred in the past.  What the QCT is advocating would simply lead to the rearmament of Hamas and other groups dedicated to the pursuit of Israel’s violent destruction, a renewal of rocket attacks against civilian population centres in Israel and another round of blood-shed.

This flotilla tragedy emphasizes again the need for new momentum in the peace process leading to an end of the conflict. It is shameful that the QCT statement contains not a word about the urgency of this need or about the inhuman decision of Hamas to deny any Red Cross or other access to Gilad Shalit.

Comments

One Response to “ECAJ Responds to Church Criticism”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    Pope Benedict also publicly condemned the Gaza incident at a time when he was in dialogue over concessions for the churchs in Israel, which I thought a little in-opportune in the circumstances.

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