December 18, 2000
His Excellency David Ivry
Ambassador of Israel
3514 International Drive
Washington, D.C. 20008
A few weeks ago, I sent you a statement issued by the Catholic bishops of the United States at our General Meeting. In our message, we called for an end to the current violence and a renewal of the peace process. We are convinced that a return to the peace process "is impossible amidst an escalating cycle of provocations, threats, violence, excessive force, and reprisals, all of which compound injustice and inflame hatred and fear."
The current violence stems, in large measure, from deep resentment about unfulfilled promises and unmet expectations. That fact only reinforces the need to revive a process that will lead to speedy implementation of relevant UN resolutions and international norms, respect for Israel's right to exist and flourish within secure borders, and the establishment of an internationally-recognized Palestinian state.
In that spirit, I write to you to ask you to convey to your government leaders two aspects of their response to the violence which are morally troubling and which risk hindering a revival of the peace process.
First, there are numerous reports of military attacks on civilian areas. While protection of Israeli citizens and of Jewish settlements is your government's responsibility, we share the concerns of many independent observers that current Israeli actions represent a disproportionate use of force that unnecessarily threatens innocent civilians. Some of these actions have been against areas with significant Christian populations, such as Beit Jala and Beth Sahour. These actions, in particular, undermine the efforts of Christian leaders who, like many of their Muslim and Jewish counterparts, are encouraging non-violence in their communities. Christian leaders in the area also fear that these actions will contribute to what your own Foreign Ministry has projected will be further emigration of an already dwindling Christian population.
Second, your government's policy of isolating Palestinian towns and imposing harsh economic measures on Palestinian areas is causing grave suffering among ordinary Palestinians. This policy is unhelpful in that it perpetuates a cycle of underdevelopment and marginalization that feeds extremism and complicates efforts to achieve a lasting and just peace. I appreciate your government's recent decision to ease some of these restrictions. I hope this decision will be followed quickly by a complete end to these harsh measures.
The bishops of the United States share your government's stated desire for a prompt end to the violence. We pray that your government will reexamine its actions so as to ensure that every effort is made to avoid harm to civilians and to halt actions that further exacerbate the cycle of violence.
I am grateful, your Excellency, for your attention to these urgent matters.
Bernard Cardinal Law
Archbishop of Boston
Committee on International Policy
U.S. Catholic Conference