Church in the Middle East

Irish bishops: Israel must lift restrictions on Palestinians

.- Catholic Bishops in Ireland are questioning the commercial ties between their country and the EU with Israel.  The bishops said in a statement yesterday, that Israel has made the Gaza Strip "little more than a large prison" for Palestinians.

"Where there is evidence of systematic abuse of human rights on a large scale, as in the Occupied Territories, there are questions that must be asked concerning the appropriateness of maintaining close business, cultural, and commercial links with Israel," Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Field of Dublin wrote in a statement Tuesday.

Bishop Field, who is chairman of the Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs, said he would raise the issue at his meeting with Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern that day.

The bishop called for an end to restrictions on Palestinian travel and family reunification as well as an end to “humiliating treatment of people at checkpoints.” He described the restrictions as "injustice."

Restrictions also make it difficult for Christians to worship at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  Israelis say these restrictions protect them against Palestinian attacks.

"While we welcome cooperation between the EU and its neighboring countries, nevertheless such cooperation should not be at the expense of a large segment of the indigenous population - in this case the Palestinians," he said.

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