Jewish, Palestinian, and Quaker voices come together to explore the question “Why do Quakers care about Israel Palestine?” A QuakerSpeak video with a Quaker call to action on Israel-Palestine: Jennifer Bing, AFSC Middle East Program Director; Rabbi Brant Rosen, former AFSC Midwest Education Director; Ayah Bashir in Gaza; and Tamara Tamimi, Jerusalem
Jean Zaru is a Palestinian Quaker from Ramallah Friends Meeting. In 2019, she sent this video message to Annual Sessions.
Chris Jorgenson traveled twice to the region, most recently in early 2020 to volunteer at the Ramallah Friends School
Carole Rein explored the region in 2018 and has spoken about her experiences to numerous Quaker meetings in New England.
Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution by Human Rights Watch (April 27, 2021)
About 6.8 million Jewish Israelis and 6.8 million Palestinians live today between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River, an area encompassing Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the latter made up of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Throughout most of this area, Israel is the sole governing power; in the remainder, it exercises primary authority alongside limited Palestinian self-rule. Across these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.
Several widely held assumptions, including that the occupation is temporary, that the “peace process” will soon bring an end to Israeli abuses, that Palestinians have meaningful control over their lives in the West Bank and Gaza, and that Israel is an egalitarian democracy inside its borders, have obscured the reality of Israel’s entrenched discriminatory rule over Palestinians. Israel has maintained military rule over some portion of the Palestinian population for all but six months of its 73-year history. It did so over the vast majority of Palestinians inside Israel from 1948 and until 1966. From 1967 until the present, it has militarily ruled over Palestinians in the OPT, excluding East Jerusalem. By contrast, it has since its founding governed all Jewish Israelis, including settlers in the OPT since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, under its more rights-respecting civil law….
Israeli border police arrest a Palestinian youth for throwing stones at their checkpoint in Ras al-Amud neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Friday Sept. 23, 2011, just hours before their president, Mahmoud Abbas, was to deliver his widely anticipated request to the UN. Photo by Mahfouz Abu Turk
Northwest Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, March 7, 2021: No Way to Treat a Child
We recognize our own involvement in the incarceration of children and youth, most of them black and brown, here in the United States. Whether in prisons or cages for recent immigrants, this is no way to treat children. We ask New England Yearly Meeting to begin to join in this work.
Spirit leads Northwest Quarterly Meeting to ask New England Yearly Meeting to engage wholeheartedly with American Friends Service Committee’s No Way to Treat a Child campaign “which seeks to challenge and end Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by exposing widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system.” This rights-based effort to halt ongoing infringement of children’s human rights stems from Friends’ belief that no child should be denied due process or tortured.
NEYM Minute 2019-36 urged monthly and quarterly meetings to live into Minute 2017-46, particularly as it applies to Gaza and the West Bank. Consequently, Northwest Quarter requests that New England Yearly Meeting embrace No Way to Treat a Child by calling upon Friends everywhere to endeavor to end these violations of children’s human rights by:
Learning how placing children in military prisons violates international law and impedes the right to a childhood;
Talking with members of Congress to co-sponsor the bill that replaces H.R. 2407 – “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under the Israeli Military;
Writing letters in local newspapers as one of many ways of How Quakers can join No Way to Treat a Child;
Accompanying American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)—as led locally, nationally, and internationally—in that Quaker organization’s effort to end “the Israeli occupation of Palestinians by exposing the systematic ill treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention;”
Connecting what Friends learn about settler colonialism, here in the States, transnationally with Israel Palestine.
—Approved Northwest Quarterly Meeting March 7, 2021
While urging Friends everywhere to engage wholeheartedly with American Friends Service Committee’s No Way To Treat A Child program, Quakers in northwestern New England—originally Abenaki/Pennacook land—committed themselves to address systemic racism within our own meetings and communities in Vermont and western New Hampshire: “We recognize our own involvement in the incarceration of children and youth, most of them black and brown, here in the United States.”
The March 7th decision followed earlier approval that Northwest Quarterly Meeting had given No Way To Treat a Child when it convened in Middlebury on December 8, 2019 and again in Burlington on March 8, 2020. This month’s expanded endorsement was an essential and courteous “assist” to New England Yearly Meeting’s presiding clerk who is preparing for Quaker’s upcoming annual meeting in August 2021.
Friends recognized that it is important work that could not wait for three months until their next Quarterly Meeting to continue. The path to their March 2021 decision began 15 months earlier when Northeast Kingdom Quaker Meeting urged Northwest Quarterly Meeting to endorse AFSC’s rights-based campaign, No Way to Treat a Child—“which seeks to challenge and end Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by exposing widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system.”
Consequently, Friends acknowledged the enlargement of what we had already approved a year ago by including five action steps. One of these urges local Quakers to apply what they are learning about settler colonialism here in the States, transnationally with Israel Palestine.
Earlier the yearly meeting’s presiding clerk, Bruce Neumann, had urged Northwest Quarter Friends to be as specific as possible—while waiting for the new House Resolution that replaces HR 2407— about naming steps that describe how Friends can “endeavor to end these violations of children’s human rights” as AFSC has urged for a number of years.
From a review by Steve Chase in Friends Journal, February 2021, of two new books about Palestine-Israel, Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique by Sa’ed Atshan, and The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017, by Rashid Khalidi
Adding to the complexity of the current situation, Sa’ed Atshan’s book embraces a post-colonial vision of equality for all people in Israel–Palestine but explicitly includes attention to the rights of queer Palestinians. I remember hearing Atshan speak at Pendle Hill study center in Wallingford, Pa., several years ago. His personal story moved me. He shared his challenges of growing up Palestinian under Israeli military occupation and growing up gay in occupied Palestinian society. In his book, he tells his story in more detail and sheds light on how “social movements are able (or not) to balance struggles for liberation along more than one axis at a time.” As he says, “queer Palestinians face systems from all directions of marginalization, policing, and repression of both Zionism and homophobia.”
Atshan requests we support these two entwined struggles as a moral and strategic imperative. One of the most eye-opening observations in Atshan’s book is the complex way homophobia has been weaponized in the service of the oppressive, U.S.-backed Israeli system of apartheid. On the one hand, the existence of significant Palestinian homophobia has allowed Israeli security forces to entrap queer Palestinians for years and coerce them into being informants and collaborators against the Palestinian national liberation movement by threatening them with exposure. This has, in turn, hardened homophobic attitudes among some Palestinian rights activists, who have come to see LGBTQ Palestinians as traitors to the cause of freedom. On the other hand, the Israeli government has also made strategic use of “pinkwashing” in promoting some real advances on queer rights in Israel, as well as encouraging international LGBTQ tourism to Tel Aviv, in an ongoing effort to brand Israel as a modern and progressive society, while deflecting criticism of its settler colonial policies of dispossession, occupation, and discrimination against Palestinians.
The rise and growth of an organized Palestinian LGBTQ liberation movement in Israel–Palestine since 2002, which Atshan chronicles in this book, has courageously expanded “the spaces for joy, pleasure, and love” for queer Palestinians and holds the promise of disarming the two-pronged weaponization of homophobia the State of Israel uses to oppress all Palestinians. Yet Atshan also documents how the movement “reached a plateau in 2012” and “has neither grown nor retreated” since then. Several of the book’s chapters offer a deep dive into the many social forces, which he collectively calls “the empire of critique,” that have inhibited the movement’s growth and long-term impact by relentlessly “gauging, judging, and critiquing the words and intentions of queer Palestinians and their allies.” His nuanced analysis includes the Israeli state, its Zionist supporters, Palestinian political institutions like Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, religious prejudices and cultural mores, and even the hypercritical perspectives of some transnational solidarity movement activists and some radical academics.
The goal of Atshan’s sensitive “critique of critique” is fostering a “transforming activism with loving energy” that helps the Palestinian LGBTQ movement start to grow again and reach its full potential. His long-term hope is “that Israelis and Palestinians, straight and queer, can all live together as equals.” My hope is that all Friends will seek to find ways to help achieve this healing vision, especially Friends from the United States and the United Kingdom.
Recently, I came across a bold quote on the “Quakers engage to end racism” Facebook group; it had originally been posted by the Palestine Project’s page and then shared by Jewish Voice for Peace. The quote, from Yara Hawari of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, began, “It is time to stop lecturing Palestinians and to start listening.”
Having just read two new books by Palestinians, I agree. The first is The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University’s Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies. The second is Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique by Quaker author Sa’ed Atshan, assistant professor of peace and conflict studies at Swarthmore College. Read together, these books offer a compelling and complementary perspective of great value for Quakers trying to clarify their thinking (and action) on the human rights situation in Israel–Palestine.
I bought Khalidi’s book after his author talk in Washington, D.C., last February. There, he described the ongoing conflict as a colonial war initiated by the European Zionist movement in partnership with the British Empire from 1917 until 1948, and then continued by the newly established State of Israel, now backed by the United States. According to Khalidi, the U.S. government’s longstanding support for Israel’s policies of ethnic cleansing, military occupation, illegal settlements, and racist discrimination has been obscured by high-sounding rhetoric but is profoundly oppressive and destructive. This is a harsh reckoning, but the overall argument in his book is convincing. The historical research done by Khalidi is extensive and well-documented.
The book opens with Khalidi sharing the 1899 correspondence between Khalidi’s great-great-great uncle, Yusuf Diya al-Din Pasha al-Khalidi, then the mayor of Jerusalem, and Theodor Herzl, a prominent European Zionist leader. In his letter, Yusuf Diya expresses his respect for Herzl’s literary work, his sympathy for the intense problem of antisemitism in Europe, and his recognition of the cultural affinity of Jews with historic Palestine. He goes on, however, to say that the creation of an ethno-nationalist Jewish State in Palestine that displaces and discriminates against Christian and Muslim Palestinians is not a just solution to the problem of European antisemitism. He closes with the plea, “in the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.”
Herzl wrote back reassuringly that Zionism only sought the immigration of a limited “number of Jews” from Europe and would not harm Palestinian lives, lands, and livelihoods, or seek to displace a single Palestinian. Unfortunately, reports Khalidi, Herzl lied. Four years before, he wrote in his diary about Zionists colonizing Palestine with Great Power support and needing to displace and dispossess Palestinians to create their envisioned “Jewish State.” Moreover, in the corporate charter Herzl co-wrote for the Jewish-Ottoman Land Company, he specifically included the goal of displacing Palestinians to “other provinces and territories of the Ottoman Empire.”
Other early Zionist leaders were more honest about their objectives, even naming one of the main organizations the Palestine Jewish Colonial Association. In addition, Russian Zionist leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, boldly stated in 1925 what Yusuf Diya suspected in 1899: “Zionism is a colonizing venture and, therefore, it stands or falls on the question of armed forces.” Why? As Jabotinsky explained:
Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonised. That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of “Palestine” into the “Land of Israel.”
All this sounds very different from the common stories about Zionism and the birth of Israel that many of us have grown up with, but Khalidi notes that this is only because “once colonialism took on a bad odor in the post-World War II era of decolonization, the colonial origins and practice of Zionism and Israel were whitewashed and conveniently forgotten in Israel and the West.” His book restores this understanding and focuses on “six turning points” in the settler colonial war against Palestine, from the British government’s imperial Balfour Declaration in 1917 to the far-right military and diplomatic alliance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former U.S. President Donald Trump. It chronicles this multi-phased war of aggression and the Palestinian national liberation movement’s often confused mix of diplomacy, terrorism, armed struggle, and nonviolent civil resistance. I would hope Friends, as seekers of truth, would all be willing to at least consider Khalidi’s detailed historical narrative and concluding reflections on how to nonviolently dismantle “the supremacy of the colonizer in order to make possible a true reconciliation” offering full equality to all in Israel–Palestine.
On Dec. 14, 2020, 17 U.S. churches and Christian agencies, including the American Friends Service Committee, sent a letter to the incoming Biden administration outlining areas of hope and concern regarding the situation in Israel/Palestine, and urging the Biden administration to take steps to work toward peace and justice.
The letter notes that, “Over the last four years U.S. policy has moved in directions that have alienated the U.S. from many of its international partners and supported the deepening of Israel’s occupation while undermining long term efforts to realize a just and lasting peace. If the U.S. remains committed to realizing peace with justice in Israel and Palestine there is a need for an immediate change in policy and approach when your administration enters office.”
Specifically, the letter asks the incoming Biden administration to work in six areas to:
1. Ensure that all parties are respected and included in negotiations towards a just and lasting peace based on international law;
2. Restate the U.S. position that settlements are illegal under international law and take action to ensure that any further Israeli settlement construction and growth results in political consequences;
3. Resume funding to the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and other U.N. and humanitarian actors working in the West Bank and Gaza;
4. Ensure accountability;
5. Reiterate the U.S. position that territory controlled by Israel as a result of the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, are occupied territories subject to international law and are not recognized parts of Israel; and
6. Make clear that criticism of Israel, including support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions actions, is protected and legitimate speech.
July 14th is the Bastille day–the day in which the Bastille fell, and that has come to symbolize the French revolution. This year, on this highly symbolic day, a steady, years old anti-corruption movement in Israel morphed itself into something else completely. By the end of that night, more than 50 protesters –including myself–were led to a police station soaking wet after hours of water cannons trying to disperse the hundreds of protesters blocking roads all around Jerusalem.
The background to these protests is a combination of a prime minister who has been indicted and currently stands on trial on multiple charges of corruption, an “emergency coalition government” formed to respond to the COVID crisis after three elections in which Israeli politics were at a complete deadlock, a complete failure of the government to address the spread of the “second wave” of COVID in the country, and the failed economic response to COVID giving symbolic blanket payouts on the one hand while failing to actually address the needs of those who lost their jobs and incomes….
Over 100 Minnesota law enforcement officers attended a 2012 conference organized by the Israeli consulate in which Israeli police trained them. Israeli forces often use the knee-on-neck restraint on Palestinians…
Israel has been training law enforcement officers around the US for many years, despite the fact that Israeli forces have a long record of human rights violations…
The neck technique taught by Israeli trainers was in the Minneapolis police manual…
Meanwhile, Congress is poised to pass a bipartisan $38 billion package to Israel…
Everyone knows that the police officers who killed George Floyd never would have been fired or arrested if a courageous black girl had not filmed the incident on her phone and posted it to social media.
Ending US-Israel Police Partnerships, Reclaiming Safety (A campaign directed by Jewish Voice for Peace)
And here from Jewish Voice for Peace about foregrounding racism in the United States.
And here from the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
An opportunity to deeply investigate the connections between the security forces of Israel and the United States—Beyond Connecting the Dots, July 18, 2020, 12-7:30 pm (East Coast USA time)
BTW: How interesting that the police officer who murdered George Floyd is named Chauvin. Most people now know the term “male chauvinism,” but “chauvinism” without “male” predates that term by about two centuries. Nicolas Chauvin, a French soldier, was a passionate admirer of Napoleon. His name is enshrined in the word chauvinism, which came to mean extreme nationalism, hatred of minorities and other nations, and endorsement of militarism, imperialism, and racism. Whether or not officer Derek Chauvin is descended from Nicolas Chauvin, he seems to be his philosophical heir. It is a philosophy that we are better off without.
Palestinian prisoners sit during visiting hours at Israel’s Gilboa prison (AFP)
Friends’ compassion for those who are imprisoned (about 2.3 million) leads us* to call for monthly and yearly meetings throughout this nation to support:
American Friends Service Committee’s call for compassionate release of elderly people and others who are medically vulnerable; (AFSC)
Palestine’s request that Israel “take immediate action to release all Palestinian child detainees in Israeli prisons due to the rapid global spread of the COVID-19 virus” as this is No Way To Treat A Child. (DCIP)
Quakers’ legacy of being imprisoned offers us empathy for all who face the current pandemic while detained in intrinsically unsanitary and crowded conditions. Incarceration during the time of plague is genocide. Consequently, the Israel Palestine Working Group and the Racial, Social, and Economic Justice committee of NEYM urge all Friends to work for the release of the vulnerable.
*The Israel Palestine Working Group and the Racial, Social, and Economic Justice Committee of New England Yearly Meeting
Inmates at California’s Chino State Prison sit inside a metal cage in the hallway as they wait to be assigned permanent housing or for medical, mental health, counselor or other appointments. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Quakers in Britain and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (UK & Ireland) have joined many UK-based humanitarian, development, human rights and faith organisations to robustly defend the rights of the Palestinian people.They say a sustainable peace for Palestinians and Israelis can only be built on the foundations of international law.
Full text of the statement follows:
Last May, a group of UK-based humanitarian, development, human rights and faith organisations working to support the rights and welfare of the Palestinian people raised the alarm over President Trump’s so-called ‘peace plan’. Since then, we have witnessed only further devastating human impacts of occupation: increasing rates of demolition of Palestinian structures and the displacement of families, obstruction of access to healthcare and education, and the chronic deterioration of the Palestinian economy which is leading to unemployment and destruction of livelihoods.
There is a major risk that the so-called ‘peace plan’, set to be released imminently, will lead to the formal annexation of Palestinian land, perpetual Israeli occupation, and the negation of Palestinians’ collective right to self-determination. Such an outcome will only deepen poverty and polarisation.
Palestinians are already losing their land with creeping de-facto annexation of the West Bank, forcing them to become perpetually aid dependent despite abundant natural resources.
A sustainable peace for Palestinians and Israelis can only be built on the foundations of international law. We are deeply concerned that the basic human rights and civilian protections guaranteed to the Palestinian people are now in even greater danger.
We therefore reiterate our urgent call on the UK government, parliamentarians and civil society organisations to reaffirm their commitment to the principles of international law and justice at this critical time, and uphold their respective legal and moral responsibilities to robustly defend the rights of the Palestinian people.
The UK has repeatedly stated that annexation of part of the West Bank “would be contrary to international law, damaging to peace efforts and could not pass unchallenged.” Now is the time for the UK to outline what form such a challenge would take, and how it will work with other states to support the Palestinian people to attain their fundamental right to self-determination.
There is a possible path to sustainable peace if we listen, learn, and bring more voices to the table. Peace should be rooted in the recognition of the human rights and dignity of all Palestinians and Israelis, as well as a firm foundation in international law.
Statement endorsed by the following 16 agencies:
Care International UK
Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)
Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu)
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel – UK & Ireland (EAPPI UK & Ireland)
Embrace the Middle East
Friends of Birzeit University (Fobzu)
Friends of Nablus and the Surrounding Areas (FONSA)
In April 2020, the Freedom Bus will get back on the road! Since 2011, we have called on friends and comrades from around the world to come together in Palestine for its annual Freedom Ride – an initiative organised through The Freedom Theatre in partnership with popular struggle committees across Occupied Palestine. After a three years break, we are now once again calling on you to join us in bringing cultural resistance back to the streets!
The 2020 Freedom Ride will offer a gathering point for artists and activists engaged in diverse movements around the world. Palestinians and people from abroad will come together to stand in defiance of the oppression and share experiences and ideas, build alliances and participate in discussions on topics such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the role of international civil society and resistance through art. Together we will engage in mutual exchange through storytelling, discussions, teach-ins, community work, interactive theatre and other cultural actions in some of the key areas of oppression and resistance within Occupied Palestine.
ITINERARY The 2020 Freedom Ride will commence in Jenin on 11 April. We will then travel to the Jordan Valley and stay there for several days before moving on to Hebron and the South Hebron Hills. The ride will end in Bethlehem on 20 April. A more detailed description of the itinerary will be provided to participants nearer to the ride.
CONDITIONS The Freedom Ride is focused on financially impoverished communities and living conditions during the ride will be very simple. Some host communities lack basic services including electricity, telephone lines, running-water, sewage systems, schools and clinics. Accommodation will be simple, in shared rooms or communal spaces. Showering facilities will not always be available and in some places we will be using outdoor toilets.
In short, this ride will require a high tolerance level and you should be prepared for what may be perceived as stressful situations, and be willing to deal with them in a calm, supportive way. In return, you will get a completely unique, first-hand experience of life in Occupied Palestine and get to participate directly in the movement towards freedom and justice in Palestine!
COST Palestinian participants: 700 NIS.
Non-Palestinian participants: 600 US Dollars.
HOW TO JOIN If you want to be part of the Freedom Bus 2020, please send an emailto firstname.lastname@example.org. Places on board of the Freedom Bus are limited, so we advice you to register early. Deadline for registrations is 15 February.
Find more information about the Freedom Bus project here.
I (Skip Schiel) rode this bus in 2015, struck by the comparisons with the Freedom Bus rides in the US; I highly recommend this adventure as one of the best methods to understand the situation—with lots of examples of nonviolent struggles for Palestinian rights.
(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.
The Occupation is a Crime of Aggression: Gazans React After 25 Palestinians, 4 Israelis Die
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….
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.’
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….
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.”
Quakers in Britain has today become the first church in the UK to announce it will not invest any of its centrally-held funds in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine. (November 19, 2018)
The decision, made by the church’s trustees in consultation with Meeting for Sufferings – the national representative body of Quakers – fits into a long Quaker history of pursuing ethical investments. It follows decisions not to invest funds in, among others, the fossil fuel industry, arms companies, Apartheid South Africa, and – going even further back – the transatlantic slave trade.
Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said:
“Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.
“With the occupation now in its 51styear, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.
“We know this decision will be hard for some to hear. We hope they will understand that our beliefs compel us to speak out about injustices wherever we see them in the world, and not to shy away from difficult conversations.
“As Quakers, we seek to live out our faith through everyday actions, including the choices we make about where to put our money.
“We believe strongly in the power of legitimate, nonviolent, democratic tools such as morally responsible investment to realise positive change in the world. We want to make sure our money and energies are instead put into places which support our commitments to peace, equality and justice.
“We hope that by announcing our refusal to profit from these companies it will encourage others to think about their own investments, and help challenge the legality and practices of the ongoing military occupation.
Ingrid Greenhow, clerk of Quakers in Britain trustees, said:
“While we do not believe we currently hold investments in any company profiting from the occupation, we will now amend our investment policy to ensure this remains the case in future.
“This includes companies – whichever country they are based in – involved for example in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in occupied Palestine, and the construction and servicing of the separation barrier and Israeli settlements.
“We look forward to the publication of the UN Business and Human Rights Database which will list companies involved in settlement-related activities in occupied Palestine. We recognise the help this – and others including the Investigate database compiled by the American Friends Service Committee – will give our investment managers in implementing this new policy.”
In their minute, the trustees said, “We hope this policy might be useful to [Quaker] area meetings interested in adopting a similar approach”.
In their minute, Meeting for Sufferings reaffirmed their 2011 decision to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine “until such time as the Israeli occupation of Palestine is ended.”
Meeting for Sufferings added that, “[W]e continually pray for both Israelis and Palestinians, keeping them together in our hearts, and looking forward to a future of loving and generous co-operation.”
Join the American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker Palestine Israel Network, and Pendle Hill for a weekend of exploring what it will take to realize a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel.
From Dec.14 to 16, we’re holding a conference titled “Whatdoesjusticelooklike? Moving towards a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel.” We invite you to join us for this exciting opportunity to learn more about Israel and Palestine and what you can do to bring change.
AFSC and Quakers have engaged in Palestine for over a century and worked for peace with justice since 1948. After decades without change, we want to open up a conversation about what’s needed for a just future.
It has been 70 years since the 1948 war, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced and the State of Israel was born. It has been over 50 years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, gaining control of all of historic Palestine. And it has been 25 years since Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn at the start of the Oslo Peace Process.
But 25 years after the start of what was intended to be a five-year peace process, we must question that framework. Why hasn’t peace yet been achieved? What paradigm shifts are needed to bring change? What are the historic injustices that need to be righted, and what might it looklike to address these issues today? What actions can people outside of the conflict take to promote change?
As international attention on Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians—occupation and blockade—increases, our Israel-Palestine Working Group produced the following program at our annual five-day New England Yearly Meeting (NEYM) Sessions:
Outdoor displays: photos from Gaza and a pin wheel display memorializing the recent dead in Gaza
Workshops: Building a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel with John Reuwer and Laurie Gagne, plus Moving our Meetings to Take Action on Israel-Palestine with Minga Claggett-Borne and Jonathan Vogel-Borne
Informal lunch chats
Photographic exhibition: Gaza Awaken by Skip Schiel
A special visit and presentation by a colleague from Gaza, Dr. Mustafa El-Hawi
(Click here for more info and here for photographs of Sessions)
However, we failed to bring our annual report to meeting for worship with the intention of business, a staple of this Yearly Meeting. Click Talking Points (Word)for our report’s talking points, with illustrations.
ONE CAN look at events in Gaza through the left or through the right eye. One can condemn them as inhuman, cruel and mistaken, or justify them as necessary and unavoidable.
But there is one adjective that is beyond question: They are stupid.
If the late Barbara Tuchman were still alive, she might be tempted to add another chapter to her groundbreaking opus “The March of Folly”: a chapter titled “Eyeless in Gaza”.
THE LATEST episode in this epic started a few months ago, when independent activists in the Gaza Strip called for a march to the Israeli border, which Hamas supported. It was called “The Great March of Return”, a symbolic gesture for the more than a million Arab residents who fled or were evicted from their homes in the land that became the State of Israel.
The Israeli authorities pretended to take this seriously. A frightening picture was painted for the Israeli public: 1.8 million Arabs, men, women and children, would throw themselves on the border fence, break through in many places, and storm Israel’s cities and villages. Terrifying.
Israeli sharpshooters were posted along the border and ordered to shoot anyone who looked like a “ringleader”. On several succeeding Fridays (the weekly Muslim holy day) more than 150 unarmed protesters, including many children, were shot dead, and many hundreds more severely wounded by gunfire, apart from those hurt by tear gas.
The Israeli argument was that the victims were shot while trying to “storm the fences”. Actually, not a single such attempt was photographed, though hundreds of photographers were posted on both sides of the fence.
Facing a world-wide protest, the army changed its orders and now only rarely kills unarmed protesters. The Palestinians also changed their tactics: the main effort now is to fly children’s kites with burning tails and set Israeli fields near the Strip on fire.
Since the wind almost always blows from the West to the East, that is an easy way to hurt Israel. Children can do it, and do. Now the Minister of Education demands that the air force bomb the children. The Chief of Staff refuses, arguing that this is “against the values of the Israeli army”.
At present, half of our newspapers and TV newscasts are concerned with Gaza. Everybody seems to agree that sooner or later a full-fledged war will break out there.
THE MAIN feature of this exercise is its utter stupidity.
Every military action must have a political aim. As the German military thinker, Carl von Clausewitz, famously said: “War is but a continuation of politics by other means.”
The Strip is 41 km long and 6 to 12 km wide. It is one of the most overcrowded places on earth. Nominally it belongs to the largely theoretical State of Palestine, like the West Bank, which is Israeli occupied. The Strip is in fact governed by the radical Muslim Hamas party.
In the past, masses of Palestinian workers from Gaza streamed into Israel every day. But since Hamas assumed power in the Strip, the Israeli government has imposed an almost total blockade on land and sea. The Egyptian dictatorship, a close ally of Israel and a deadly enemy of radical Islam, cooperates with Israel.
So what does Israel want? The preferred solution is to sink the entire strip and its population into the sea. Failing that, what can be done?
The last thing Israel wants is to annex the Strip with its huge population, which cannot be driven out. Also, Israel does not want to put up settlements in the Strip (the few which were set up were withdrawn by Ariel Sharon, who thought that it was not worthwhile to keep and defend them).
The real policy is to make life in Gaza so miserable, that the Gazans themselves will rise and throw the Hamas authorities out. With this in mind, the water supply is reduced to two hours a day, electricity the same. Employment hovers around 50%, wages beneath the minimum. It is a picture of total misery.
Since everything that reaches Gaza must come through Israel (or Egypt), supplies are often cut off completely for days as “punishment”.
Alas, history shows that such methods seldom succeed. They only deepen the enmity. So what can be done?
THE ANSWER is incredibly simple: sit down, talk and come to an agreement.
Yes, but how can you sit down with a mortal enemy, whose official ideology totally rejects a Jewish State?
Islam, which (like every religion) has an answer to everything, recognizes something called a “Hudna”, which is a lasting armistice. This can go on for many decades and is (religiously) kept.
For several years now, Hamas has been almost openly hinting that it is ready for a long Hudna. Egypt has volunteered to mediate. Our government has totally ignored the offer. A Hudna with the enemy? Out of the question! God forbid! Would be terribly unpopular politically!
But it would be the sensible thing to do. Stop all hostile acts from both sides, say for 50 years. Abolish the blockade. Build a real harbor in Gaza city. Allow free trade under some kind of military inspection. Same for an airport. Allow workers to find employment in Israel, instead of importing workers from China and Romania. Turn Gaza into a second Singapore. Allow free travel between Gaza and the West Bank by a bridge or an exterritorial highway. Help to restore unity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
WHY NOT? The very idea is rejected by an ordinary Israeli on sight.
A deal with Hamas? Impossible!!! Hamas wants to destroy Israel. Everybody knows that.
I hear this many times, and always wonder about the stupidity of people who repeat this.
How does a group of a few hundred thousand “destroy” one of the worlds most heavily armed states, a state that possesses nuclear bombs and submarines to deliver them? How? With kites?
Both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin pay us homage, the world’s fascist dictators and liberal presidents come to visit. How can Hamas pose a mortal danger?
Why doesn’t Hamas stop hostilities by itself? Hamas has competitors, which are even more radical. It does not dare to show any sign of weakness.
SOME DECADES ago the Arab world, on the initiative of Saudi Arabia, offered Israel peace under several conditions, all of them acceptable. Successive Israel governments have not only not accepted it, they have ignored it altogether.
There was some logic in this. The Israeli government wants to annex the West Bank. It wants to get the Arab population out, and replace them with Jewish settlers. It conducts this policy slowly, cautiously, but consistently.
It is a cruel policy, a detestable policy, yet it has some logic in it. If you really want to achieve this abominable aim, the methods may be adequate. But this does not apply to the Gaza Strip, which no one wants to annex. There, the methods are sheer folly.
THIS DOES not mean that the overall Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is any more wise. It is not.
Binyamin Netanyahu and his hand-picked stupid ministers have no policy. Or so it seems. In fact they do have an undeclared one: creeping annexation of the West Bank.
This is now going on at a quicker pace than before. The daily news gives the impression that the entire government machine is now concentrating on this project.
This will lead directly to an apartheid-style state, where a large Jewish minority will dominate an Arab majority.
For how long? One generation? Two? Three?
It has been said that a clever person is able to extricate himself from a trap into which a wise person would not have fallen in the first place.
Stupid people do not extricate themselves. They are not even aware of the trap.
Americans are grappling with the incarceration of 10-year-olds and the concept of “tender age detention centers” while morally bankrupt politicians wring their bloodied hands. As courts begin to respond, many folks across the political spectrum are wondering, “What happens to the children caught in this catastrophe?” Interestingly, there is much we can learn from research in the US and from the Israeli experience with regard to children and prisons. The US and Israel both perceive themselves as enlightened “western democracies,” yet both have high incarceration rates, particularly for children of color, sometimes involving the same global prison industries. In both countries, these kinds of children are perceived as the “other,” the “enemy,” the “invading hordes ready to destroy America,” the “Muslim terrorists seeking to kill Israelis.” They are presented as less human and less deserving than white and/or Jewish children and less likely to evoke an empathic reaction….
….The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children should not be deprived of liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily and that arrest, detention, or imprisonment should only be used in extreme circumstances for the shortest period of time. Ironically, the US is the only country in the world that has not signed the treaty as reported by the ACLU.
But signing the treaty is clearly not enough. According to Defense of Children International-Palestine, last year an average of 310 Palestinian children were imprisoned for “security offenses” each month, with 60 children 12 to 15 years of age. An estimated 700 children are prosecuted each year in military courts with a 99+% conviction rate. The most common charge is stone throwing which can result in up to 20 years in prison. There have been multiple reports of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse during arrest and interrogation, with 74.5% of children reporting physical violence during arrest and 62% reporting verbal abuse, intimidation and humiliation. Solitary confinement during interrogation has been documented, with an average period of 12 days. The Israeli military courts also put children in administrative detention for months, basically imprisoning them without charges or trial.
To be absolutely clear on this, if a Jewish Israeli child was caught throwing stones at a PA security officer or a Palestinian farmer harvesting his olives, he would not end up in detention. Indeed, if he was from certain Jewish settlements, he would be celebrated as a hero. Such is the justice under military occupation. Jewish children live under civil law and of course are not viewed as the enemy….
On March 30th, 2018 tens of thousands of Palestinians marched peacefully in Gaza in the Great Return March, beginning a six-week tent city protest along the Gaza/Israel border from Land Day, March 30th, to Nakba Day, May 15th.
The Nakba (“Catastrophe” in Arabic) refers to the forced displacement of approximately 750,000 Palestinians that began with Israel’s establishment in 1948, and that continues to this day.
The #GreatReturnMarch, organized by civil society and grassroots activists, called for an end to the siege of Gaza and the right of return for Palestinian refugees according to international law.
On the first day of the march, the Israeli military killed 19 Palestinians and wounded over 1,400. No Israeli soldiers were harmed. Videos show Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed Palestinians as they ran away from the gunfire and even as they prayed.
No one should be killed for taking part in a peaceful protest, and Jewish Voice for Peace and our members will not sit quietly while the Israeli military kills Palestinians for demanding their rights.
Here’s what you need to know about the what happened in Gaza during the #GreatReturnMarch and how you can support Palestinian protesters.
The Great Return March is an ongoing mobilization and we will be updating this page as the demonstrations in Gaza continue. Update, June 14th, 2018: Since March 30th, the Israeli military has killed at least 135 Palestinians and wounded more than 14,600 others.
It is estimated that as many as 250,000 Palestinians in Gaza have participated in the Great Return March since the nonviolent border protest launched March 30. Many are from a new generations of Palestinian refugees who are rediscovering the spirit of resistance manifested during the first and second intifadas. One of them was Abed El-Fattah Abed Elnaby, 18. He was my second cousin.
He was among the first martyrs—a number that since has grown to 49. One of nine shot and killed by Israeli snipers that first day, Abed El-Fattah achieved a kind of posthumous fame when what has now become an iconic photograph, taken moments before he was shot by Gaza photographer Mahmoud Abu Salama—appeared on the front page of the Washington Post. Here is the story behind that photo:
Abed El-Fattah was both the tallest and the youngest among the four sons in the family. (He also had five sisters!) He was known as a joker, but was a quick learner in school with a special aptitude for math. However, the boy left school when he was just 16 to help support his family. He trained as a plumber and put in additional hours at a baker, helping to pay one of his sister’s university tuition. Abed El-Fattah even bought his own clothes with his earnings.
Why did he decide to risk his life, meager as it was, to not only participate in the protest but approach the front lines? His family members tell me Abed El-Fattah yearned to see his family’s original village of Simsim (سمسم), located just 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) northeast of Gaza. On May 12, 1948, pre-state Israeli forces ran the villagers out of their town. The concept of a daily march to the border to call for Palestinians’ right to return to their ancestral homes captured his imagination, and he had been listening to the news every day.
On March 30, Abed El-Fattah woke up at 8 a.m. and worked at his brother’s falafel restaurant until around 2.p.m. Then he went home for his mother’s lunch, but didn’t eat much. Instead, he began preparing himself for the march, putting on new clothes he had purchased the day before. It was as if he wanted to look like a gentleman for what would become the day of his death. Dressed, he left home in a taxi. His friends next door (Zyed Abu Oukar and Yousef Masoud) and his brother Muhammad, with whom he was very close, followed shortly after.
Many of the protesters carried tires, which had become a symbol of the first and second intifadas. Tires were used at that time to block the vans driven by Zionist soldiers. But this time, many among the thousands gathered along the border began burning the tires to obscure the view of the Israeli snipers, who were targeting them with live ammunition.
According to Muhammad, Abed El-Fattah did not join them. However, when snipers began shooting at a younger boy carrying a tire close to the border fence, he darted toward and grabbed it from him so the teen could run faster. Both were running back toward the crowd of demonstrators when the Israeli snipers shot five bullets: One hit Muhammad, who was close by; he was spared only because the bullet was deflected by the mobile phone in his front shirt pocket. Another hit Abed El-Fattah in the head. He was rushed to a hospital, but he could not be saved.
“My soul was taken from me,” his father says.
How do you begin to describe such a loss? I could write about his grieving family and friends, who are haunted by his memory. Or I could describe the community mosque and his sister’s house he had helped build. Or I could interview Fadwa, an elderly woman in the neighborhood who can’t walk so is confined to a wheelchair. Abed El-Fattah knew she had no children to look after her, so became her surrogate son, bringing her food and helping her with chores almost every day. Now, she moans about how deeply she misses him.
“He is still with us, though, because he is in our hearts,” says his mother with tears in her eyes.
And despite their bottomless grief, his brothers continue to participate in the march with their father, in the hope that change will come, and that maybe, just maybe, they can see Simsim.
The strategy of The Great March of Return, Palestinians in Gaza demanding their right of return to their villages and towns, curiously parallels the nonviolent resistance methods taught by Mubarak Awad before Israel exiled him in 1988. (Posted two days before Memorial Day in the United States, a day dedicated to participants in violence, honorable people no doubt but perhaps misguided.)
Here’s part of an interview conducted in 2000:
An old man came to me whose land the Israelis had taken. He wanted it back. So I told him to get 300 or 400 people from his village—children, young people, old people—anybody who wanted to come.
The settlers had put a fence around the land. We could take the fence down and just sit there and if the Israeli military wanted to kill us, let them kill us. I told him, on one condition: Not a single person should throw a stone.
If we are all going to be massacred, let it be. And we did that; we took the land back from the settlers. That created an echo with a lot of Palestinians, who started coming to me at the Center instead of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Taking fear away from people and replacing it with courage is the essence of nonviolence.
Mubarak Awad is the founder of Nonviolence International. Meir Amor, an Israeli peace activist living in Canada, interviewed him.
In May 1988, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir ordered Awad arrested and expelled. Officials charged that Awad broke Israeli law by inciting “civil uprising” and helping to write leaflets that advocated civil disobedience that were distributed by the leadership of the First Intifada. No evidence was provided to support the charge and Awad appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The court ruled that he had forfeited his right to residence status in Israel when he became a U.S. citizen and he was deported in June 1988. (Wikipedia)
In this posting from the West Bank, Mazin Qumsiyeh speaks in a strong yet hopeful voice about Palestine. He self-identifies as a Bedouin, Professor, Director of Palestine Museum of Natural History Bethlehem University in Occupied Palestine. He works as a biologist preserving endangered plants, he writes with authority and he lives on the precipice.
Albert Einstein wrote in 1948 “When a real and final catastrophe should befall us in Palestine the first responsible for it would be the British [now Americans] and the second responsible for it the Terrorist organizations build up from our own ranks.”
From Palestine, I can only say thank you to all who work tirelessly for peace and justice. From over 200 emails a day, I learn of so many great actions. From 2000 people who gathered in Oslo, Norway, to show solidarity for the massacre in Gaza, and to lone individuals who wrote letters to editor or who sent a donation or prayed. Each of you lights candles in the darkness. We will not conquer darkness but we will at least see ourselves and fellow human beings in new light. For that we are deeply thankful.
To our Muslim friends who begin the fast of Ramadan, they know that the best and most difficult jihad is internal jihad: changing our hearts and minds. May they find this month a real blessed season of enlightenment. My wish is for more people to shed apathy. History and inner conscience will not be forgiving to those who do not act. You cannot be neutral on a moving train especially if you are Israeli, Jewish, or live in the Western Countries that helped keep tragedies going (USA, England, France etc).
There has been 70 years of ongoing Nakba, conflict and war since 1948 when Zionists ethnically cleansed hundreds of Palestinian villages. That experiment continues to cause unspeakable horrors (like those committed in Gaza). In 1948, on the other side of the world a remarkably different vision. In 1948, Costa Rica abolished its military and has reaped benefits since then (http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/bold.html ) Dare we dream of a demilitarized world and of living together (see my 2004 book “Sharing the Land of Canaan”)
Friday’s protests [March 30, 2018], which Israel estimated drew 40,000 people, were the first of six weeks of planned anti-Israel actions meant to dramatize the Palestinians’ plight as refugees. Israel said Sunday that Gaza militants used civilian demonstrators as cover as they fired at soldiers and tried to lay explosives near the border fence. Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the militant Hamas group that rules Gaza and sponsored the protests, called the killings a “massacre.”
Israel threatened to use greater force to quell violent Palestinian protests along the Gaza Strip border, rejecting allegations it used excessive firepower against demonstrations that left at least 16 Palestinians dead….
Book suggestion: Night in Gaza, by Mads Gilbert (2015)
A participant’s view by a Norwegian medical doctor in hospitals during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2014, Operation Protective Edge, with excellent photographs by the author. Israel has now banned him from entering the region for life.
Recently, the struggle for Palestinian human rights gained international attention surrounding a new icon of resistance–16 year old Ahed Tamimi.
While in the West Bank in late 2016, Abby Martin interviewed Ahed Tamimi about her hardships and aspirations living under occupation and it becomes clear why her subjugators are trying to silence her voice. Her brother Waad and father Bassem also talk about their experiences with Israeli soldiers harassing their village and targeting their family.
In this exclusive episode, Abby outlines the Tamimi family’s tragic tale and unending bravery in the fight for justice and equality in Palestine and how the story of their village of Nabi Saleh is emblematic of the Palestinian struggle as a whole.
Yesterday the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was included on a list of 20 organizations whose staff may be denied entry to Israel because of their support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Motivated by Quaker belief in the worth and dignity of all people, AFSC has supported and joined in nonviolent resistance for over 100 years. We answered the call for divestment from apartheid in South Africa, and we have done the same with the call for BDS from Palestinians who have faced decades of human rights violations.
Throughout our history, we have stood with communities facing oppression and violence around the world. In 1947 we were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in part for our support for Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust. We will continue our legacy of speaking truth to power and standing for peace and justice without exception in Israel, occupied Palestine, and around the world.
All people, including Palestinians, have a right to live in safety and peace and have their human rights respected. For 51 years, Israel has denied Palestinians in the occupied territories their fundamental human rights, in defiance of international law. While Israeli Jews enjoy full civil and political rights, prosperity, and relative security, Palestinians under Israeli control enjoy few or none of those rights or privileges.
The Palestinian BDS call aims at changing this situation, asking the international community to use proven nonviolent social change tactics until equality, freedom from occupation, and recognition of refugees’ right to return are realized. AFSC’s Principles for a Just and Lasting Peace in Palestine and Israel affirm each of these rights. Thus, we have joined others around the world in responding to the Palestinian-led BDS call. As Palestinians seek to realize their rights and end Israeli oppression, what are the alternatives left to them if we deny them such options?
Quakers pioneered the use of boycotts when they helped lead the “Free Produce Movement,” a boycott of goods produced using slave labor during the 1800s. AFSC has a long history of supporting economic activism, which we view as an appeal to conscience, aimed at raising awareness among those complicit in harmful practices, and as an effective tactic for removing structural support for oppression.
The 17th century Quaker abolitionist John Woolman spoke to the spiritual foundation of this work when he said, “May we look upon our treasures, and the furniture of our houses, and the garments in which we array ourselves, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions.”
The ban on entry to Israel for activists who support the Palestinian-led BDS movement is part of a larger effort by the Israeli government to silence and constrain human rights and anti-occupation activists. In recent months, more Palestinian activists have faced arrest, death threats, and imprisonment without charge or trial in response to nonviolent activism for human rights. In addition, organizations inside Israel have been denied funding and access to event venues and have faced threats of trial and imprisonment.
At a time when the Israeli government is moving to expand settlements, redefine Jerusalem, and annex portions of the West Bank, support for nonviolent activism that seeks freedom, equality, and justice is critical.
Therefore, as long as these and other human rights violations persist, we will continue to support Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions efforts as effective nonviolent tools for realizing political and social change. We hope one day to see Israelis and Palestinians live together in peace. This will only happen when the human rights of all are recognized and respected.