Statement of Thomas Merton Center on Violence in Israel and Palestine

This statement from the Thomas Merton Center Board of Directors was approved at their May 21 board meeting.

The Thomas Merton Center, together with the United Nations community, condemns the lethal use of violence by the Israeli Defense Forces against Palestinian protesters who were protesting the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and the U.S. declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The United Nations position is that the status of Jerusalem will only be resolved through negotiations by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The Merton Center upholds the right to peaceful protest without armed authorities using lethal force. Violence has terrible consequences. More than 106 protesters have been killed and more than 1,800 wounded at the Gaza border with Israel during the 70th anniversary of the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their home. The wounded include an 8-month old baby, children, Palestinians with disabilities, and journalists. Hospitals in Gaza have been unable to cope with the casualties.

Turkey has recalled its ambassadors to Israel and the U.S., and South Africa has recalled its ambassador to Israel. There have been demonstrations across the world, including Arab and Muslim nations which see this most recent violence against Palestinian protesters as yet another demonstration of Islamophobia. The Trump administration’s actions to ban Muslim travel to the U.S., refusal to admit Muslim refugees, declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moving the U.S. Embassy there are all seen by many Muslims and others as a pattern of behavior by the Trump Administration that is anti-Muslim and anti-People of Color.

This is the time of Ramadan, a month of fasting in which faithful Muslims pray and remember the poor who hunger. This should be a time for prayer and family gatherings. Our Palestinian brothers and sisters must now bury their dead and care for their wounded without adequate medical resources during this sacred holy month.

The Merton Center deplores the U.S. veto in the UN Security Council to prevent an investigation into the violence in Israel/Palestine. This veto follows the U.S. veto in December 2017 of a UN Security Council resolution which condemned the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the U.S. intention to move its embassy there. The U.S. goes against the will of most other UN Security Council and UN General Assembly member states that work for a more even-handed approach in protecting Israel while also protecting Palestinians and the right they have to live in peace on land internationally recognized as theirs.

Today, the people of Palestine are deeply wounded. We call on the United States and Israel to acknowledge their wounds and work toward a humane resolution instead of engaging in further violence.

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