International Council of Christians and Jews Statement on Middle East Crisis (April 25, 2002)

Heppenheim. The International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ), umbrella of 36 organisations worldwide engaged in dialogue between Christians and Jews and increasingly also including Muslims is pained and deeply distressed by the continuing suffering of the people in Palestine and Israel.

The ICCJ renews its appeal to the responsible political and religious leadership in the region and elsewhere to exert its influence to bring to an end the destructive violence in the Middle East and help to create conditions that will enable negotiations aimed at finding a just solution to restore civil life to the people in Israel and Palestine. The ICCJ welcomes the various statements of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders who have clearly pointed at the inseparable correlation of peace and justice.

Concerned with the ramifications of the unresolved conflict in the Middle East and the growing re-emergence of antisemitism in particular in Europe the ICCJ states:

We support the continuing endeavours of our member organisations in the Middle East engaged in dialogue between members of the protagonists to the present conflict in order to achieve peace and justice.

We reject the abuse of religion as a means to legitimise terror. We welcome the statements of leading Islamic clerics that suicidal assassinations contradict the teaching and values of Islam.

We call again upon the government of Israel to bring to a halt all military activity in the occupied territories to prevent any further bloodshed among the Palestinians.

We call upon the Palestinian leadership and all responsible people among the Palestinians to combat and end terrorism and its infrastructure.

We urge the Palestinian leadership as well as the Israel government to bring about an immediate solution to the occupation of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem and to ensure that no harm is done to the nuns and monks held in the Church.

Legitimate actions taken against the terror endangering Israel must not ignore the need to secure a political perspective for the future of the Palestinian people. To that end cooperation between those in responsible positions in Israel, in the Palestinian Authority, in the neighbouring countries, in Europe and the USA is of foremost importance.

We categorically reject all unilateral attempts to apportion blame and responsibility for the present tragedy solely to one party to the conflict and to expect it to be solely responsible for finding a solution to the present crisis.

We call upon both the Israeli and the Palestinian leadership to cooperate with a UN Jenin commission to clarify background and events in the refugee camp.

We hope and pray that the efforts of the USA to secure an effective cease-fire will be successful. We are aware that such success depends on its support by Israel and the Palestinians. The European states are also urged to bring all possible political influence to bear upon the parties to the conflict to end the grim spiral of violence and find new ways of seeking a secure future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

It is with grave concern that in the wake of the unresolved conflict in the Middle East we witness in Europe but also elsewhere attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions. All people of good will are challenged to counteract this frightening wave of antisemitism, the worst in Europe since 1945.

At this time the ICCJ and its member organisations affirm our solidarity with the Jewish communities throughout the world.

We condemn every effort to use criticism of policies of the present Israel government as legitimisation of antisemitic attitudes and actions.

We urgently appeal to responsible politicians, to the Churches and Muslim congregations and to all social groups to denounce and stop every manifestation of this newly fomented antisemitism.

We call upon all Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities to support at all levels and with all possible means the increasingly necessary endeavours for encounter and mutual understanding among the three religions.

We are convinced that our joint Abrahamic heritage obliges us to do all in our power to overcome prejudice, ignorance, enmity and violence.

An end must be made to the damaging abuse of religion to legitimise hatred and violence. The religions must not allow extremists to destroy their manifold possibilities to further civil and peaceful coexistence. It is incumbent upon the religions to lead the way towards peace and justice.

25 April 2002