Israel-Palestine Working Group of NEYM 2018-2019 Report

All ten members of NEYM’s Israel-Palestine Working Group (IPWG) recognize significant challenges in our efforts to: educate monthly meetings, open Friends’ collective hearts, and seek justice in the constantly shifting political landscape of Palestine-Israel.

Whose voice, in any conversation about Israel-Palestine, do Friends hear in our monthly meetings? Is it the voice of the colonizers or the colonized, the occupier or the occupied, the oppressor or the oppressed? Who do we accompany?

Israeli elites, who hold power in Israel today, are children and grandchildren of displaced European and north African Jewish refugees to a land where Palestinians lived. Descendants of those Palestinians now live, largely, in Gaza, West Bank, East Jerusalem and overseas as refugees exiled from their homes in 1948 and again in 1967. Israeli Jews and exiled Palestinians live with the moral injury of the Holocaust and the Nakba. This is not a conflict of equals despite the message our media relay: Israel’s government imposes its massive power asymmetrically upon the “other”.

NEYM has access to Friends United Meeting’s wealth of experience and understanding through 150 years of service in Palestine as Ramallah Friends School celebrates its founding in 1869. Another resource is Charles Friou, who shares photographs he took in 1949-50 in Gaza while working with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) with Palestinian refugees whom Israelis had expelled from their nearby homes in what had just become Israel.

Our goal as a working group is to help Friends untangle threads of antisemitism, Islamophobia, Zionism, and colonization. Once again, at summer sessions, we hope to:

  • welcome visitors with Palestinian and Israeli heritage;
  • join other racial justice related working groups’ efforts in NEYM;
  • organize outdoor displays, lunch talks; workshops and an indoor photography exhibit;
  • engage monthly meetings with AFSC’s current projects: “End the Blockade” and “No Way to Treat a Child”;
  • support campaign against Israel’s training U.S. police;
  • circulate Burlington MM’s Minutes for Gaza and Deadly Exchange.

Several members have served on New England Network for Justice for Palestine (NENJP), Quaker Palestine Israel Network (QPIN), and AFSC committees and staff. One member assisted planning AFSC’s eight-city tour (including his speech at Harvard) of Ahmed Abu Artema—Gazan poet whose writing inspired the weekly nonviolent Right of Return March to the separation barrier between Gaza and Israel. We sponsored the “Promised Land Exhibit” at Cambridge Meeting House and Northwest quarterly meeting at Hanover.

Our long-term goals are ambitious: establish a memorial fund in Sandy and Nancy Isaacs and Joyce Rawitscher’s memory to promote education about Israel/Palestine, organize NEYM delegations to visit Palestine-Israel in coming months and years (IPWG members, who have visited Palestine-Israel numerous times, know how much monthly meetings will learn by sending members there), expand links with neym-ip.org, and develop social media activity.

Invite us to your monthly meeting as you struggle to discern how to accompany the colonized and the colonizer, the oppressed and the oppressor.

NEYM Israel Palestine Opportunities poster-2018

Restoring Faith: AFSC organizes a U.S. tour with Gaza nonviolence activist Ahmed Abu Artema

(By Jennifer Bing, staff, Chicago office of the American Friends Service Committee)

During our month-long U.S. tour with Gaza nonviolence activist Ahmed Abu Artema, I was reminded how many people stand with Palestinians – and are struggling for freedom for all.

One of the last things Ahmed Abu Artema told me before he boarded his Chicago flight back to the Middle East was that his tour in the United States restored his “faith in humanity.” AFSC had brought Ahmed to speak to audiences for our “Hashtags to Headlines: the Great March of Return” tour, which reached thousands of people in cities across the U.S. and many, many more online.

In these challenging times, when it can be hard to see the good in a country and a world so full of oppression and division, being on tour with Ahmed restored my faith, as well.

Ahmed is the visionary Palestinian writer whose words inspired the Great March of Return in Gaza. He has lived his whole life under military occupation, a refugee in his own land. His family came from the Ramle district in present-day Israel, resettling in Rafah, Gaza in 1948 when 750,000 Palestinians were displaced due to the war. Ahmed’s family suffered dislocation again after the Camp David accords, when Egypt and Israel divided the town of Rafah by a new border fence. His mother’s family resides on one side of the fence, his father’s family on the other.

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Recent and current violence in and around Gaza (May 6, 2019)

The Occupation is a Crime of Aggression: Gazans React After 25 Palestinians, 4 Israelis Die

Palestinian leaders in Gaza report that they’ve agreed to a cease-fire with Israel to end a deadly two-day escalation of violence. Here, a Palestinian girl stands in front of a building on Monday that was destroyed during Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City over the weekend.

Leaders in Israel and Gaza have reportedly reached a ceasefire agreement after an intense three days of fighting left 25 Palestinians and four Israelis dead. Palestinian authorities said the dead in Gaza included two pregnant women, a 14-month-old girl and a 12-year-old boy. The latest round of violence began on Friday. According to the Washington Post, Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian protesters taking part in the weekly Great March of Return which began 13 months ago. Palestinians then reportedly shot and wounded two Israeli soldiers near the border. In response, Israel carried out an airstrike on a refugee camp killing two Palestinian militants. The heaviest combat took place on Saturday and Sunday as militants in Gaza fired about 700 rockets into Israel while Israel launched airstrikes on over 350 targets inside Gaza. The weekend has been described as the heaviest combat in the region since the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza. Residents in Gaza fear the ceasefire will not last. We go to Gaza City to speak with Raji Sourani, award-winning human rights lawyer and the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. We also speak with Jehad Abusalim, a scholar and policy analyst from Gaza who works for the American Friends Service Committee’s Gaza Unlocked Campaign….

Ashdod, Israel, May 6, 2019

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From Susan Rhodewalt, member of Northwest Quarterly Meeting in Vermont, a note she sent to her Monthly Meeting after discernment about a minute about violence in Gaza.

Friends Fiduciary Corporation divests from companies working in Israel

Old news but worth repeating so many know. From The Times of Israel (October 2012)

JTA – A Quaker group has removed a French and an American company from its financial portfolio due to what it calls the companies’ involvement in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.

Friends Fiduciary Corporation will drop the French multinational corporation Veolia Environment and the US-based Hewlett-Packard from its portfolio following requests from Quakers concerned about the companies’ involvement in the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands.

FFC has investments of more than $250,000 in HP and more than $140,000 in Veolia, according to the We Divest Campaign. The money is part of an overall $200 million in assets and investments for more than 250 Quaker meetings, schools, organizations, trusts and endowments around the US.

The Quaker group does not issue public announcements about such moves, but did send a letter confirming the information, according to Anna Baltzer, a spokesperson for the We Divest Campaign.

“It’s not private; it’s public information and they’ve written a letter to the Friends Meeting in Ann Arbor, Mich. that raised the issue,” she said. The Ann Arbor group did not return JTA’s call for this article.

However, Jeffrey W. Perkins, the FFC’s executive director, said in a press release issued by We Divest that HP provides information technology consulting services to the Israeli Navy, and Veolia Environment is involved in “environmental and social concerns” with the Israeli military,

This decision comes a few months after the FFC dropped shares in Caterpillar Inc. because Caterpillar “would neither confirm nor deny the extent or type of modifications to equipment sold to the Israeli military,” according to the release.

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Friends Fiduciary Trust investment screen

 

 

 

American Friends Service Committee investment screen

In The Jewish Times:

Space to Play

West Bank refugee camps are facing a crisis of safety and square feet.

Play is a human right for children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), essential to healthy brain and body development. But how can children in Arroub play when all the spaces available to them, public or private, put them at risk of becoming witness or victim to damaging events?

Despite Israel being a signatory to the CRC, many refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza are examples of how Israel has failed to protect the rights of Palestinian children that it is obliged to ensure as an occupying power.

Palestinian children play soccer in the streets of Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank on May 11, 2017. (Photo: DCIP / Ahmad al-Bazz)

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On Our Way Home, a photographic project about internally expelled Palestinian refugees & their ancestral lands —by Skip Schiel

By Skip Schiel (March 11, 2019)

Click map to enlarge.

I have widened my 16 year Palestine-Israel photographic project by locating, interviewing, and photographing Palestinians living in yet another of their many diasporas, this one internal, meaning in the Occupied West Bank of Palestine. In the fall of 2018 I photographed 15 Palestinians, most first generation refugees, some second, third, and fourth generation. I’ve also photographed their original regions, their sites of expulsion where many had provably lived for multiple generations, now in Israel (or what’s called 1948 Israel to indicate the occupation). The first generation Palestinians suffered the Nakba in 1948, the Palestine Catastrophe, coincident with the formation of the Israeli state.

Palestinians are one of the world’s peoples longest colonized—since 1948 by Israel during the Nakba, later thru the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, and most recently by the blockade of Gaza in 2005—and living in external diaspora—Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Scandinavian countries, and elsewhere including the United States. Since 2003 I’ve photographed regularly in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel to depict their conditions. Now, responding to the worldwide refugee and immigration crisis, and with the help of many contacts and friends in the USA and Palestine-Israel, I have the opportunity to reach further with my photography and show more widely the consequences of colonization and immigration.

The project has 4 parts: black and white portraits, color photos of their current environments, color photos of their former regions, and black and white historic photos of their lives before and during expulsion. And possibly a fifth—videos and photos of current Israeli communities built on or near the original Palestinian sites. Along the way to a multi-platform book (videos, internet, etc.) I’ll produce slideshows and exhibits.

Palestine-Aida-refugee-IMG_1590
Jalila Al Azraq (Um Qasim), 80 years old, from the village of Al Qabu, now living in the Aida refugee camp, Occupied West Bank
aida-tree-palestine_israel-freedom_bus-aida_refugee_camp-bethlehem-3718
Aida refugee camp
Al Qabu, now in Israel, once the homeland of my Palestinians—Tap-click-push here for enlargement
Beit Jibrin

I plan to return in late spring, 2019, this time with others (the Alternatives to Violence Project, AVP) to enter Gaza and continue my work. I will work with the Palestinian organizations, Badil and Adalah, and the Israeli organizations, Zochrot and B’Tselem. I offer my efforts to amplify the Palestinian right of return.

Email

Website

Blog

Video

Phone: 617-441-7756 (home) — 617-230-6314 (mobile)

 

In photos: Israel’s war on nonviolent resistance in Hebron

BY Claire Thomas The Electronic Intifada Hebron (May 2016)

Issa Amro is committed to peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation in his native West Bank city of Hebron, despite frequent arrests, attacks by settlers and other unrelenting efforts to sabotage his work.

“Nonviolence is the best tool because it strengthens civil society and it gives a role to each person: the kids, the women, the elders and the youth. With nonviolent activities you get more international support and you neutralize the violence of the oppressor,” he explained….

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Israeli soldiers respond to a group of young Palestinian boys throwing stones from a nearby street.

Gaza march leader, Ahmed Abu Artema, to [Israeli] conscientious objectors: ‘Turn your words into weapons’

The leader of Gaza’s Great Return March holds a rare conversation with Israelis who refuse to serve in the army because of the occupation. ‘Those who refuse to take part in the attacks on the demonstrators in Gaza — they stand on the right side of history.’

By Edo Konrad and Oren Ziv (January 2, 2019)

Israeli activists, including past and soon-to-be conscientious objectors hold a phone conversation with Gaza Return March leader Ahmed Abu Artema at the Hagada Hasmalit political space, Tel Aviv, December 19, 2018. (Oren Ziv)
Israeli activists, including past and soon-to-be conscientious objectors hold a phone conversation with Gaza Return March leader Ahmed Abu Artema at the Hagada Hasmalit, Tel Aviv, December 19, 2018. (Oren Ziv)

It is difficult to imagine today, but meetings between Palestinian and Israeli activists used to be routine. The younger generation of Palestinian and Israelis, however, were born into a world of walls, fences, and segregation, where even a simple conversation can be complicated, and at times, impossible.

That stark reality was on display two weeks ago when dozens of Israeli activists, including past and soon-to-be conscientious objectors held a rare conversation with Ahmed Abu Artema, one of the main organizers behind Gaza’s Great Return March. For many of the younger conscientious objectors, the Great Return March served as an inspiration for their personal reasons to refuse enlistment in the Israeli army….

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2019 New England tour

On February 26, 2019 at 7:15 pm, at Harvard University’s Kennedy School’s Starr Auditorium at 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge Massachusetts 02138.  

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s Insult to Angela Davis Has Boomeranged

Scholars, activists, and grassroots organizers have flocked to her defense, a testament to the growing strength of intersectional solidarity for Palestinian rights.

By Mairav Zonszein

JANUARY 15, 2019

Angela Davis speaking
Angela Davis speaks during her visit to the University of Michigan in Flint, Michigan, on February 19, 2015. (AP / The Flint Journal, Jake May)

It has been nearly two weeks since the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute walked back its decision to honor renowned scholar, civil-rights activist, and Birmingham, Alabama, native Angela Davis with its annual Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award, and yet the BCRI remains embarrassingly silent over what led to the withdrawal. It issued a statement on January 14 through an external PR firm, which is apparently handling all further media inquiries, in which it assumed responsibility and apologized for the poor handling of the award and its aftermath. “In hindsight, more time, conversation and consideration of diverse viewpoints should have informed our decision to rescind our nomination, and we were silent for too long afterward.”

Davis, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, and local reports all indicate the decision was largely, though not exclusively, due to pressure from Jewish individuals and organizations over Davis’s outspokenness on Palestinian human rights and vocal support for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel….

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The Promised Land Exhibit by the Jewish Museum of the Palestinian Experience

The Jewish Museum of the Palestinian Experience was founded to provide a Jewish perspective on the Israel/Palestine conflict. The Jewish perspective is rooted in Jewish values, to treat our neighbor as we would want to be treated.

An interactive exhibit of historical photographs and documents with links to audio and video materials, founded to provide a perspective on the Palestine-Israel conflict rooted in Jewish values of truth, justice, and peace to treat our neighbors as we would want to be treated.

Dr. Steven Feldman, founder of the Promised Land exhibit, is a dermatologist in Winston Salem, North Carolina. As a child, Steve collected dimes to help plant trees in Israel. Like most young Jewish boys, he believed that Jews had come to an uninhabited land of deserts and swamps and made the land bloom. But as an adult he saw United Nations data that showed that about 700,000 Palestinians became refugees during the fighting of 1948. “That seemed odd,” he says. “If we Jews had come to a land of empty swamps and deserts as I had been taught as a child, how did so many Palestinian men, women and children become refugees?”

Steve’s questions led to more research, finding many moral Jewish voices that have been advocating for peace for all people in Israel and Palestine. The Jewish-sourced materials and historical artifacts that he found are now on display in the Promised Land Museum exhibits as well as online at promisedlandmuseum.org. 

“You don’t have to be anti-Palestinian in order to love Israel,” he says. “Judaism, not to mention the Holocaust, teaches us to support peace, justice and security for all people.”

More information

About hosting the exhibit

Announcement about the reception, forum, and panel about the exhibit at the Friends Meeting at Cambridge (MA) February 3, 2019

Radio broadcast of panel discussion, February 16, 2019, WZBC-FM