Update from KAIROS’ Middle Eastern partners – “We will never surrender our belief in humanity”
KAIROS Canada and its member churches and agencies, condemn the current violence, against Israeli and Palestinian civilians, in Israel, Gaza, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and call on Canada to do everything in its power to support an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated solution.From the ecumenical statement on the escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel, grounded in the work of KAIROS’ partners for peace and human rights in Israel and the West Bank.
KAIROS has been in touch with its partners in Israel and Palestine since Hamas’ brutal attack on Israeli civilians on October 7, and the ensuing spiraling violence and mounting civilian death tolls in Gaza, the occupied territories and Israel. The following is based on updates from our partners, Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Centre in Bethlehem and HaMoked in Jerusalem.
Despite facing the devastating impacts of the escalating violence on the communities they accompany, the blockades, office closures and heightened security risks, these human rights and peace organizations continue to support civilians, call for an immediate ceasefire and advocate for human rights.
In the West Bank, KAIROS’ partner Wi’am continues to support the community with psycho-social programming, medical/legal accompaniment and mediation. This support is needed more than ever. Violence against women, including domestic violence, and income and food insecurities have increased exponentially. Wi’iam has also received increased calls for assistance to help meet medical, basic food baskets and other humanitarian needs.
Wi’am works with Palestinian women throughout the West Bank to help address violence, including domestic and gender-based violence, by providing counselling for women who are victims and survivors of abuse and offering employment and human rights training.
Wi’am has had to close its centre due to clashes and violence outside it, and it has had to curtail travel and limit work to local cities. The UN reports a surge in Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank including forcible displacement from their homes, destruction of land and crops, harassment and killings. As well, Palestinians partners face increased harassment from Israeli soldiers and an absence of protection from settler violence.
Despite the dangers, Wi’am is working around the clock to assist people.
One member of Wi’am writes:
The Palestinian people, like all people, love life and wish to live it, with dignity and freedom, enjoying all that this world has to offer. As such, we call for an immediate ceasefire first, followed by immediate provision of basic needs, including shelter, food, medicine, and services, an exchange of hostages, and an end to occupation. We also affirm every person and community’s right to security, and our basic interconnectedness, understanding that our security is also intertwined and must never come at the expense of another.
Another partner, HaMoked is an Israel based human rights organization with the stated aim of assisting “Palestinians subjected to the Israeli occupation which causes severe and ongoing violation of their rights.” Shaken by the events on October 7, they joined 30 other Israeli organizations in the joint public statement.
Hamas’ horrific crimes against innocent civilians – including children, women, and the elderly – have shaken us all, and we are struggling to recover from the unbearable sights and sounds. Some of us were in the Israeli communities on the Gaza border during the assault; many of us have family, friends, and colleagues who endured and are still in the midst of the harrowing events; and we all know people who were murdered, injured, or abducted. It will take time to fully understand the implications and consequences of Hamas’ heinous attack, for which there can be no justification.
They further called for “the immediate release of all hostages and an end to the bombardment of civilians in Israel and in Gaza.” They have also called for humanitarian aid to reach civilians, the security of places of refuge, and maintenance of water and electricity.
The statement adds: “We will never surrender our belief in humanity – even now, when doing so is more challenging than ever.”
Before October 7, HaMoked received 100 requests to trace loved ones arrested by Israeli forces. Now they receive between 100 and 200 phone calls daily asking for their assistance, including regarding Gaza Palestinians who were working in Israel prior to the war and people arrested in the West Bank.
HaMoked has written to Israeli authorities regarding several issues including the arrest of thousands of Gaza Palestinians who were working in Israel prior to October 7. HaMoked has petitioned the court to demand information on their whereabouts and legal status.
When asked, what is your message to Canadians, HaMoked writes:
Our message to Canadians and to the whole international community is to prioritize the protection of civilians on both sides: to work for the release of the Israelis (and Canadians) held hostage in Gaza, and for humanitarian assistance and restoration of fuel, water and electricity to Gaza civilians.
The universality at the heart of human rights necessitates unequivocal support for Israelis’ right to be safe, and the demand for accountability for the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7, and unequivocal support for these same rights – security and accountability – for the Palestinian civilians of Gaza.
The most important message is that there is no contradiction in working for all of this, exactly the opposite: it is in all of our interests to insist on universal humanity precisely at this time.
KAIROS will continue to be in touch with its partners in the region and provide updates.