May 2000

At every turn, the principle of justice must be upheld. Unless justice is
rendered and security is achieved, the solution must be rejected because it
will not endure. A just solution must include an equal measure of justice
and security for both sides to make it viable. Otherwise it will not lead to
a permanent peace.

This is where Sabeel takes its stand. We will stand for justice. We can do
no other. Justice alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation
and a life of security and prosperity to all the peoples of our land. By
standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace; and
working for peace makes us children of God.

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God."
(Matthew 5:9)

May 15, 2000



"Seek Peace and Pursue it." (1 Peter 3:11)

In pursuit of peace and out of our faith commitment, Sabeel Ecumenical
Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem has formulated a set of principles by
which we, as Palestinian Christians, feel a just, secure, and lasting peace
can be achieved.


Our faith teaches us that,

  1.. God, creator and redeemer, loves all people equally (John 3:16, Acts
  2.. God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security, or
reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of
justice will not disappear; and the struggle for justice must be pursued
diligently and persistently but non-violently (Jeremiah 9:23-24, Isaiah
32:16-17, Romans 12:17-21).
  3.. The Holy Land is God's gift to Palestinians and Israelis. They must
live justly and mercifully and be good stewards of it (Micah 6:8).
  4.. "Love your neighbor as yourself" is an inclusive principle that must
be honored and sought after (Mark 12:31). The Golden Rule continues to
apply, "Do to others what you want them to do to you" (Matthew 7:12).
  5.. Faithfulness to God obliges us to work for justice, peace,
forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing (Matthew 5:9, 43-45).

  1.. We aknowledge the sufferings and injustices committed against Jews by
the West, especially those inflicted in the holocaust. Nevertheless, they do
not justify the injustices committed against Palestinians. Justice claimed
by one people at the expense of another is not justice.
  2.. Since Israel has, by force, displaced the Palestinians, destroyed
their villages and towns, denied them their basic human rights, and
illegally dominated and oppressed them, it is morally bound to admit its
injustice against the Palestinians and assume responsibility for it.
  3.. Since Israel acquired by force 77% of the land of Palestine in 1948,
approximately 20% more than the United Nations had allotted, and established
its state there, it is moral and right for Israel to return the whole of the
areas captured in 1967, i.e. the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East
Jerusalem, to the millions of Palestinians who need their own small
sovereign state.
  4.. Israel's 'Law of Return' which allows any Jewish person to immigrate
to Israel while denying Palestinians the right of return to their homeland
is immoral and discriminatory.
  5.. Sharing the sovereignty of Jerusalem is imperative to a moral and just
  6.. The ideology of militarism as well as the stockpiling of weapons of
mass destruction are morally wrong. They sabotage the spirit and viability
of peace and will not provide security either.
LEGAL BASIS: International Legitimacy

The following principles have been affirmed and repeatedly reaffirmed by the
international community:

  1.. Palestinian refugees have the right of return -- UN General Assembly
Resolution 194.
  2.. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are
occupied territories and the Israeli forces must withdraw from them -- UN
Security Council Resolution 242 and 338 based on the international principle
of the inadmissability of the acquisition of territory by force.
  3.. The Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including
East Jerusalem, are illegal. Moreover, it is illegal for the occupying power
to transfer its population to, or to change the status of, the occupied
territories -- Fourth Geneva Convention.
  4.. East Jerusalem is occupied territory. Israel's unilateral actions to
alter the status of Jerusalem are illegal and invalid -- UN Security Council
Resolutions 252 and 478.
  5.. Violations of human rights such as home demolitions, land
confiscation, torture, revocation of residency rights, restriction of
movement, closures, and the monopolization of resources are an insult to the
dignity of human beings and contravene international law -- United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The people of the region--Palestinians and Israelis--both need and deserve a
lasting peace, and security. With peace and security in place, bonds of
acceptance and friendship can grow. It is no service to either community to
promote a peace which flouts international law, ignores justice, and
ultimately cannot endure since this will lead to continued bitterness and

The following principles are therefore, based on international legitimacy.
The international community has a responsibility to see that they are
fulfilled. Once achieved, the strongest international guarantees must be
given to ensure that the people of Palestine and Israel will live in peace
and security.

  a.. Israel must admit that it has committed an injustice against the
Palestinian people and must accept responsibility for that. This means that
reparation must be paid to all Palestinians who have suffered as a result of
the conflict since 1948 whether they are Palestinian citizens of Israel,
Palestinians living on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or Palestinians
living in the Diaspora. The road to healing and reconciliation passes
through repentance, forgiveness and redress.
  b.. The Palestinians must have their own sovereign, independent, and
democratic state established on the whole of the Gaza Strip and West Bank,
including East Jerusalem. Israel must withdraw to the June 4, 1967 borders.
No solution is acceptable if it does not guarantee the Palestinians' and
Israelis' right to self-determination, independence, and sovereignty.
  c.. Jerusalem's sovereignty must be shared by the two states of Palestine
and Israel. The city must remain open for Palestinians, Israelis, and all.
East Jerusalem can be the capital of Palestine while West Jerusalem can be
the capital of Israel. Any agreement must protect the sanctity of the holy
places and guarantee the rights of the three religions, Christianity, Islam,
and Judaism on an equal basis. All illegal confiscation of land or expansion
of areas by Israel within the walled city of Jerusalem since 1967 must be
  d.. The right of return to Palestinian refugees must be guaranteed
according to international law. All refugees must be fully compensated.
  e.. All Israeli Jewish settlements on the Gaza Strip and West Bank,
including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law. All the
settlements built on Palestinian soil since 1967 must be part of Palestine.
  f.. Once the principles of an acceptable justice are applied, a peace
treaty must be drawn up between the two states of Palestine and Israel
guaranteeing the full sovereignty and territorial integrity of each
including recognized borders, water rights, and other resources.
  g.. Furthermore, both states must fully guarantee the respect and
protection of the human rights of all their citizens, including freedom of
religion, in accordance with all international conventions.

In 1948 a grievous injustice was committed by the Zionists (forerunners of
the state of Israel) against the Palestinian people. The Zionists acquired
by force 77% of the land of Palestine and displaced three quarters of a
million Palestinians. Consequently, the state of Israel was declared as a
Jewish state. Since then, most of the displaced Palestinians have lived in
refugee camps and their national rights have been denied. Despite UN
Resolution 194, passed in December 1949 and reaffirmed annually by the UN,
Israel has adamantly refused the right of return of Palestinian refugees to
their homes. The 150,000 Palestinians who remained within that part of
Palestine which became the state of Israel were given Israeli citizenship.
However, they have been discriminated against and have been treated as
second class citizens.

In 1967, the state of Israel acquired by force the rest of the country of
Palestine (the 23%) further displacing approximately 325,000 Palestinians.
The Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank came under
Israeli military rule. The occupation has been oppressive, brutal, and
dehumanizing. Palestinian land has been systematically confiscated, human
rights violated, and people systemically humiliated, as documented by a
number of international, Israeli, and Palestinian human rights
organizations, such as Amnesty International, B'tselem, LAW and Al-Haq.
Furthermore, Israel assumed control of Palestine's water supply (unfairly
restricting water to Palestinians and charging them exorbitant prices),
began building exclusively Jewish settlements on Palestinian land and,
through hundreds of military laws, persisted in its oppression of the
Palestinians. As to East Jerusalem, Israel annexed it and, in 1993, closed
it and cut it off from the rest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, thus
denying Palestinians the right of access to it. Consequently, even the right
to worship in its churches and mosques is obstructed. Moreover, Israel
enacted a policy to limit the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem to 27% of
the city's population, through demolition of homes, confiscation of land,
revocation of Palestinian residency rights as well as other means.

In 1991 at the end of the Gulf War, the peace process was initiated by the
United States and Russia. In spite of its initial promise in the Madrid
Conference to achieve a just peace, it became, in its Oslo form, an
instrument for furthering the injustice. As it evolved, certain portions of
the occupied territories were returned by Israel to the Palestinian
Authority. By the end of March 2000, only 18.2% of the area of the West Bank
has been returned to full Palestinian Authority; 24.7% is under Israeli
security and Palestinian civil control. The remaining 57.1% of the West Bank
is still under full Israeli control. The areas that have been returned to
the Palestinians are not geographically linked together. The Israeli Army
controls the highways and major roads throughout the occupied territories,
as well as everything below the ground and sky above. It is important to
note that in the Gaza Strip, only 60% of the land is under Palestinian
control where over a million Palestinians live; while Israel controls the
40% of the Strip for the benefit of 6100 Jewish settlers. Furthermore, some
of the 194 Israeli settlements (166 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and 28
in East Jerusalem - - all illegal under international law) have expanded to
sizable towns. It is estimated that the number of settlers, including those
who live in the settlement ring in and around Jerusalem, is approximately

The two sides, Israelis and Palestinians, have more recently been engaged in
the final status negotiations which include the thorniest issues, namely,
Jerusalem, borders, refugees, water, and settlements.

We feel we are standing at a most important juncture in our history. The
United States Government has been working to broker a peace agreement
between Israel and Syria as well as to keep alive the negotiations between
the Palestinians and the Israelis. Many of us are afraid that what might
ensue in Palestine is an unjust peace. We at Sabeel feel we have a Christian
responsibility to speak our mind for the sake of a lasting peace that will
bring an acceptable justice to the Palestinians and security for all the
peoples of our region. We fear that the Palestinian Authority might be
forced to accept an unjust peace which will be attractively packaged by the
state of Israel and the United States Government. We are, however, sure that
an unjust peace will only be temporary and will inevitably plunge our region
into greater violence and bloodshed. We will not be silent. We lift our
voice prophetically in pointing to the pitfalls of injustice. The following
points comprise the different scenarios. We would like to present them
clearly with their probable consequences.

THE GREATEST CONCERN: A bantustan state

Taking a good look at the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, it is clear that
Israel's eye is focused on the West Bank which includes East Jerusalem. The
confiscation of Palestinian land, the building and expansion of the
settlements have never stopped. Israel continues to insist that the
settlements will remain under Israeli rule. If this is done, Israel will
maintain its military presence on the West Bank while allowing the
Palestinian Authority to have autonomous rule over its own people. The areas
under Palestinian rule will be called Palestine. They will have the
semblance of a state but will exist under the suzerainty of Israel and will
not enjoy genuine sovereignty. What we are witnessing, therefore, is a
bantustan-type state, home rule, just like what was proposed by the former
apartheid government of South Africa to its black citizens. From all
indications, this is the picture which is emerging on the ground.

If pressured, Israel may even concede the Gaza Strip, where it currently has
only 6100 settlers and controls approximately 40% of the land and one third
of the water. It might withdraw totally from the Gaza Strip, which now has a
damaged aquifer and a serious lack of usable water, and allow the
Palestinians to have their sovereign state there. That area will be small
and contained in one corner of Palestine and, from Israel's perspective,
will, presumably, not pose any serious threat to Israel. On the West Bank,
however, the Palestinians will only be given autonomous rule, a homeland, in
the guise of a state yet void of actual sovereignty.

This we believe is an unnatural, unhealthy, and unjust scenario and will
only lead to a bloodier conflict. History teaches us that oppressed nations
will not give up their struggle for freedom and independence. Under this
scenario, Israel will not achieve the security it seeks because the forced
and unjust peace settlement cannot be permanent.

Sabeel rejects outright this peace formula or any variation of it and warns
that its imposition will be ultimately catastrophic for both peoples.

THE GENUINE HOPE: Two sovereign and fully democratic states

This scenario envisages the total withdrawal of Israel from all the occupied
territories including East Jerusalem according to United Nations resolutions
242 and 338. The Palestinians will establish their sovereign state on the
whole of the 23% of the land of Palestine. One way to redeem the settlements
is to make them the new towns for the returning Palestinian refugees. This
can constitute a part of Israel's reparations to the Palestinians. Israel
must compensate the owners from whom the land was confiscated. The Jewish
settlers who choose to remain in Palestine can become Palestinian citizens
and live under Palestinian sovereignty.

As to Jerusalem, it will have to be shared. The city must remain open to
all. A peace treaty will be drawn up and the two countries will become
inter-dependent economically and will help each other develop their
resources for the well being of both their peoples.

This is the formula which the Palestinians have been hoping and working for.
Indeed, it is not the ideal solution, but it carries within it an acceptable
justice which most Palestinians are willing to live with for the sake of
peace and prosperity. Furthermore, as this scenario agrees with United
Nations resolutions since 1967, it will ensure the support of the
international community of nations. This formula gives the Palestinians a
state as sovereign as Israel, rids them of the Israeli occupation, and
restores to them the whole of the occupied territories of 1967. Indeed, a
state within the West Bank and Gaza, composed of only 23% of Palestine
instead of the 43% allotted by the UN in 1947, is already a very signficant
compromise by the Palestinians. The Palestinians would have to give up their
right to most of historic Palestine. Obviously, Israel, with the help of the
United States and the international community, will have to compensate the
Palestinian people.


Our vision involves two sovereign states, Palestine and Israel, who will
enter into a confederation or even a federation, possibly with other
neighboring countries and where Jerusalem becomes the federal capital.
Indeed, the ideal and best solution has always been to envisage ultimately a
bi-national state in Palestine-Israel where people are free and equal,
living under a constitutional democracy that protects and guarantees all
their rights, responsibilities, and duties without racism or discrimination.
One state for two nations and three religions.


At every turn, the principle of justice must be upheld. Unless justice is
rendered and security is achieved, the solution must be rejected because it
will not endure. A just solution must include an equal measure of justice
and security for both sides to make it viable. Otherwise it will not lead to
a permanent peace. This is the basic principle that must be upheld and used
as the measure for every one of the above points.

This is where Sabeel takes its stand. We will stand for justice. We can do
no other. Justice alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation
and a life of security and prosperity to all the peoples of our land. By
standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace; and
working for peace makes us children of God.

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God."

(Matthew 5:9)

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
P.O. Box 49084 Jerusalem 91491
phone 972.2.532.7136 fax 972.2.532.7137
website email