US bishops oppose re-routing of Israel-Palestine separation wall

Palestinian Christians attend Mass in the Cremisan Valley February 8 2013 to protest the route of Israels barrier Credit Labour2Palestine via Flickr CC BY 20 CNA 5 8 13 Palestinian Christians attend Mass in the Cremisan Valley February 8, 2013 to protest the route of Israel's barrier. | Labour2Palestine via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

The U.S. bishops have criticized an Israeli plan to re-route a separation wall through the Cremisan Valley in the West Bank, claiming such a move would harm both Christian families and religious orders.

Protesting "in the strongest terms" and in "solidarity with our brother bishops in the Holy Land," Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, voiced his opposition to an Israeli tribunal's decision to move the wall and confiscate the surrounding area.

Bishop Pates, who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a May 6 letter.

He warned that the "Cremisan Valley is a microcosm of a protracted pattern that has serious implications for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

The Cremisan Valley is located in the West Bank, near Bethlehem. A recent decision by the Israeli Special Appeals Committee has approved a proposal to move the Israeli-Palestinian separation wall through the valley.

Bishop Pates wrote that re-routing the wall would harm the Christian community in the valley, separating a Salesian monastery from its sister convent. Both will be parted from their lands, which will be confiscated for the barrier.

"At the same time the route will harm 58 Christian families whose livelihoods depend on these lands," the bishop added.

He explained that continuing with the re-routing "will cut families off from agricultural and recreational lands, other family members, water sources and schools – including depriving Christian Palestinian youth of fellowship with their peers."

Reiterating the U.S. bishops' support for "a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Bishop Pates called for a reversal of the Cremisan Valley decision, as well as other policies "that undermine a just resolution of the conflict."

Re-routing the wall, he cautioned, would "put Israeli citizens at risk and weaken initiatives for reconciliation and peace."

The bishop explained that moving the wall "and disassociating Palestinian families from their lands and livelihoods will incite more resentment against the State of Israel among residents of the West Bank, not less, increasing the frustrations that can lead to violence."

"As the wall moves and constricts more communities in the West Bank, the possibility of a future two-state resolution becomes less likely," he warned.

Bishop Pates' comments echoed those of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who has responded to the Israeli decision by saying that "the expropriation of lands does not serve the cause of peace and does not strengthen the position of the moderates."

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