30 JULY 2006
IRISH CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ COMMISSION FOR
JUSTICE AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS (ICJSA)
STATEMENT ON THE CRISIS IN LEBANON AND NORTHERN ISRAEL
“War against a sovereign country in response to terrorist
attacks can never be justified” – ICJSA
Commenting on the present conflict, Pope Benedict XVI states: “But neither terrorist
acts nor reprisals, especially when they entail tragic consequences for the civilian
population, can be justified.” (16/7/06)
* In this present conflict it is Hizbollah and its allies who are the aggressors and
the terrorist actions of Hizbollah and those countries which sponsor its activities
are to be unreservedly condemned
* The scale of the military response by Israel to the abduction of two of its soldiers
by Hizbollah cannot be justified
* There is a need to address the causes of terrorism in the Middle East which include
the multiple human rights abuses suffered by the Palestinian population and the grave
humanitarian situation that currently exists in Gaza and the West Bank.
* The Irish government must ensure humanitarian aid reaches those most in need
* The ICJSA unreservedly condemns the direct targeting of the UN post in south Lebanon
this week which resulted in the killing of four unarmed international observers, and
praises the contribution of the UN including the men and women of Ireland’s Defence
Forces for their efforts in working to bring peace and stability to Lebanon in the
Terrorism is both morally repugnant and, as bitter experience shows, politically ineffective.
In this context, the continuing terrorist actions of Hizbollah and those countries who
supplied Hizbollah with such sophisticated weaponry are to be unreservedly condemned.
To what end is this weaponry supplied? It is hard to argue with those who believe that
their aim is to threaten the very existence of Israel. In this context, any objective
moral evaluation must start by acknowledging that it is Hizbollah and its allies who are
the aggressors not Israel, and that Israel has a right to defend itself against acts of
aggression. However, given the appalling loss of life and the scale of the destruction
of the infrastructure of Lebanon, the original bombardment of Lebanon in response to the
abduction of two of its soldiers by Hizbollah and the continuation of this bombardment for
the past two weeks is also unacceptable. The recourse to what amounts to war against a
sovereign country in response to terrorists attacks can never be justified. As Pope John
Paul II, in the course of his message for the World Day of Peace in 2002 clearly stated:
There exists therefore a right to defend oneself against terrorism,
a right which, as always, must be exercised with respect for moral
and legal limits in the choice of ends and means. The guilty must
be correctly identified, since criminal culpability is always personal
and cannot be extended to the nation, ethnic group or religion to which
the terrorists may belong.
There are some in positions of power who falsely believe that modern military technology
used against a largely civilian population can be effective in achieving political goals.
Terrorism will never be overcome unless the causes of terrorism are both acknowledged and
addressed. As Pope John Paul II stated in the course of an address to mark World Day of
Peace, “it is essential that the use of force, even when necessary, be accompanied by
a courageous and lucid analysis of the reasons behind these terrorist attacks.” Unfortunately,
as of yet, there is little evidence that this lesson has been learnt. In this context,
It is of the first importance that one recognises that acts of terrorism whether from
Hizbollah or Hamas will never be defeated until one confronts the multiple human rights abuses
that the Palestinian population have suffered in the past and continue to suffer today and the
grave humanitarian situation that currently exists in Gaza and the West Bank. It must not
be forgotten that recognition of the state of Israel and the right of the citizens of Israel
to exist in freedom and with dignity also entails recognition of the state of Palestine
and of the right of Palestinians to exist with those same freedoms and dignity.
The United Nations has an honourable record in attempting to establish peace on the Israel/
Lebanese border and, in this context, it is appropriate to acknowledge the considerable
contribution of the Irish Defence forces to the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon for over twenty
years, one that was not without its cost in terms of lives lost in the course of duty.
Unfortunately, as the present tragic events graphically illustrate, the UNIFIL mandate
was insufficient to ensure success. In the face of the mounting civilian death toll in
Lebanon and Northern Israel, the deaths of four unarmed international observers and the
increasing evidence of humanitarian crisis the international community has a responsibility:
(i) to use its influence to bring about an immediate ceasefire; (ii) to act to ensure the
effective distribution of humanitarian aid including essential medical supplies to the
victims of the conflict; (iii) to do all in its power to enable the Lebanese government
to free its territory from the control of Hizbollah and those countries which sponsor its activities.
Finally, the ICJSA wishes to affirm its support: (i) for those religious leaders in the
Holy Land – Jews, Christians and Muslims – who have steadfastly proclaimed the imperative
for peace but whose voices are often unheard in this rush to war; (ii) for the recent appeal
(21/7/06) of the Pontifical Council ‘Cor Unum’ to assist a project being promoted by Caritas
Lebanon, the Custody of the Holy Land, the AVSI Foundation and other organizations present
on the ground, in order to supply materials for welcome centres (mattresses, blankets and
sheets), drinking water, food and hygiene kits, and medicines to help shelter the thousands
of displaced people in Lebanon.
In the face of a seemingly endless cycle of violence in the Middle East Pope Benedict XVI’s
recent appeal (16/7/06) invites us to join in a faithful and persistent prayer for peace:
May the Lord illuminate hearts and may no one evade their duty to construct
peaceful coexistence, recognizing that all [persons] are brothers [and sisters],
whatever the people to which they belong.
Notes for Editors
* Log on to www.catholicjustice.ie for more information on the Irish Commission
for Justice and Social Affairs (ICJSA).
* The ICJSA is a Commission of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. It was launched by
Dr Seán Brady the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland on 13 June 2005.
* The ICJSA is Chaired by Dr Raymond Field, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin. The Commission
is part of the Department of Social Issues and International Affairs of the Irish
Bishops’ Conference which is chaired by Dr Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin.
* The role of the ICJSA is to support the Irish Bishops’ Conference in promoting the
social teaching of the Church and to advise on issues of social concern both nationally
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)