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.
Why PIAG protests Israel’s Occupation From its earliest inception the Religious Society of Friends has placed rejection of war as basic to our understanding of God’s will. We believe that human beings are capable of solving conflicts through reason, an empathetic understanding of the other’s point of view, and the courage to take principled, nonviolent action in the face of injustice. In this spirit, the Palestine Israel Action Group of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting protests the Israeli government’s military repression of the Palestinian people and occupation of their lands, a process of control that contravenes international law, the Geneva Convention, and United Nations mandates. Domination through violence engenders further violence in a tragic cycle that causes suffering to Israelis as well as Palestinians. Such repression cannot assure a nation’s security.
What we have to share PIAG has produced Educational Resources and Tools for Activists that can be used by religious and secular organizations locally, nationally, and internationally. We invite readers to adapt these materials for use in their own communities and Contact Us with additional ideas or suggestions. Besides our educational materials, PIAG’s Recommended Actions suggest a variety of ways to engage in economic pressure against Israel’s Occupation. Individuals and groups can also support positive economic engagement by purchasing Palestinian olive oiland handcrafts and selling them at public events.
Should Quakers endorse divestment? For decades, Friends have called for independence, security, and a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. This call has been voiced widely by others working for peace, including Israelis, Palestinians, and Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and secular peace groups in the United States and worldwide. This call, however, has gone unheeded. Our own government in fact continues to fund and support much of the Israeli repression. The Occupation and suffering continue.
As a result, religious and secular peace groups are using economic leverage to make a stronger moral and political statement. They are engaging with U.S. corporations that sell arms, bulldozers, and other products sustaining Israel’s occupation. They are refraining from economic support for such companies and avoiding exports from illegal West Bank settlements. These measures are not meant to bankrupt or destroy Israel, but to pressure Israel’s right-wing government to respect international law, ease its stranglehold on Palestinians, and begin to bargain in good faith.
PIAG believes that economic engagement is one of many non-violent ways to express a commitment to justice. We are inspired by an earlier Quaker activist, John Woolman, who refused to use the postal service because of the suffering of young post-boys who rode the pony express, and who counseled Friends to avoid supporting the evils of economic exploitation and slavery. Heeding George Fox’s message to “let your life speak,” we encourage Friends and others to actively oppose Israel’s occupation through a variety of economic measures ranging from dialogue with corporations that supply military equipment to Israel, to shareholder resolutions, to institutional and personal divestment from U.S. and Israeli companies that support the Occupation.
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.
Friends can strengthen their opposition to caging children by joining the No Way To Treat A Child campaign. Spirit continues to lead Northeast Kingdom Quaker Meeting to explore, discern, and season our support of No Way To Treat A Child over a year whenNorthwest Quarter (comprising Friends from Vermont and western New Hampshire) supported passage of Rep. Betty McCullum’s H.R. 2407: Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under the Israeli Military Occupation Act. Friends in Maine and New Hampshire—Belfast, Midcoast, and Hanover Monthly Meetings—recently sought our help to learn more about this effort to prohibit U.S. taxpayer funding for the military detention of children by any country.
Friends agree that no child should be tortured and no child should be denied due process. AFSC’s campaigns for justice in Palestine and Israelreflect a rights-based approach. Since HR 2407 died in the last Congress, a new “House Resolution” is likely to come forward during the opening months of this current 117th Congress. We urge Friends to engage with your members of Congress to become co-sponsors of legislation supporting the rights of children.
Reminding us that “there are 200,000 young people under 18 years old in prisons throughout the United States” AFSC’s Healing Justice Coordinator Lewis Webb asserts that America’s criminal justice system targets black and brown children in the same way that the Israeli military occupiers target Palestinian children. Monthly Meetings can respond to New England Yearly Meeting’s Two Calls to Action transnationally by examining settler colonialism both here in the States and in Israel/Palestine. Join AFSC’s effort to defend immigrant rights and broadcast how enforcement, detention, and deportation is, as Kristin Kumpf calls it, a “cycle grounded in violence.”
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….
“Great openings” appear as this spring’s massive protests make visible the many connections among oppressed communities seeking justice. The Israel Palestine Working Group (IPWG)—activists nurturing comprehension of shifting realities—asks Friends during 2020 sessions to affirm that the Equality Testimony is universal. Let us embrace our awareness of unity among all who seek justice both nationally and globally.
Can we unite, now, when asked to accompany the oppressed? There was no discussion last year when Friends heard internationally renowned Palestinian Quaker lecturer and author Jean Zaru challenge NEYM to make a decision about whom we are accompanying—the oppressor or the oppressed?
IPWG’s major emphasis this year is AFSC’s No Way To Treat A Child campaign. Northwest Quarterly Meeting’s Minute 202038 asks Friends, at 2020 sessions, to support HR 2407: Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under the Israeli Military Occupation Act. This national effort invites us all to 1) Educate folks about Palestinian children incarcerated in Israeli military prisons and H.R. 2407; 2) Write an op-ed in support of H.R. 2407; 3) Lobby Congress on behalf of H.R. 2407, as an individual or group.
IPWG coordinated an endorsement of AFSC’s call for Israel to release all children from military prisons with the Racial Social Economic Justice Committee; together with RSEJ, we also asked Friends to work for the release of those most vulnerable to Covid-19 in U.S. prisons.
One of our 2019 lunchtime discussions focused on the paucity of Monthly Meeting and Yearly Meeting connections with AFSC’s efforts to achieve justice in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Another looked at Jewish Voice for Peace’s Deadly Exchange campaign to end Israeli military training of police across the United States. More HERE.
In another 2019 business meeting, the presiding clerk asked Skip Schiel to speak about his 17 years of activism in Palestine: a witness that was visible in an exhibit of Skip’s photographs from his two-month journey last spring. He answered questions about “The Ongoing Nakba” during a dinner presentation.
IPWG makes available The Promised Land Exhibit, a set of traveling panels from The Jewish Museum of the Palestinian Experience. Monthly meetings find it to be helpful as they search for the meaning of antisemitism, colonization, Islamophobia, racism, and Zionism.
In other developments this year: Cliff Bennett attended the Third Conference of Scientists for Palestine at MIT; Northeast Kingdom MM approved a travel minute for Scott and Susan Rhodewalt; and Palestine Museum in Woodbridge, Connecticut featured Skip Schiel’s The Ongoing Nakba photographic project exhibit.
Our WEBSITE is a resource for Friends to discern who to accompany in seeking justice. Knowing that “an injury to one is an injury to all” we remember “there is no justice until there is justice for all.”
*George Fox used the phrase “Great Openings“ many times in his journal to refer to revelations and discoveries of the spirit, as in this passage, “great openings concerning the things written in the Revelations.”
Skip Schiel, Clerk
Scott Rhodewalt, Recording Clerk
NEYM 2020 sessions will be ONLINE. Our working group’s plans include two webinars, The Promised Land Exhibit with Steve Feldman, its founder, and Max Carter, former faculty member of Guilford College, and long time activist for Palestinian rights; and discussion of the annexation of major portions of the West Bank and Jordan Valley, possibly with four American Friends Service Committee staff, Dilit Baum, Sahar Vardi, and Mike Merryman-Lotz, Dawood Hammoudeh, and Jehad Abusalim.
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
At a Glance: Events at UCC’s 2005 General Synod convinced a few activists of the need for a grass-roots organization to promote justice for Palestinians and to support Global Ministries partners in Palestine and Israel. This concern led to the founding of the UCC Palestine/Israel Network in 2012. The effort was supported by staff from UCC’s Wider Church Ministries as well as Justice and Witness Ministries.
What We Do
At a Glance: Our work is aligned with our mission statement. We initiate resolutions of witness for consideration by various settings of the UCC; support implementation of adopted resolutions; develop educational materials for use throughout the UCC; publicly state, support and endorse pro-justice positions; and cooperate with allied groups working toward a just peace and recognition of Palestinian human rights.
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)
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.”
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.
Dear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman,
We, members of Other Voice — residents of the Western Negev who live close to the border with the Gaza Strip — are writing to you, yet again, in our call for a long-term political program to end the hostilities with Gaza.
The situation in our region and in the Gaza Strip is unthinkable, unbearable and unacceptable. The deep hostility, the never-ending rounds of violence, the mortar and rocket attacks, the tunnels, the kites — all of these have made our lives a living hell. And on the other side of the border, the people live with 3-4 hours of electricity a day; they have no potable water; the sewage runs in the streets and into the sea; their health system is collapsing and they have soaring numbers of unemployment. Two million people are living without hope that they will have a sustainable future.
The government is trying to persuade us — the Israeli public, and mainly the residents of the region surrounding Gaza — that the Gazans are our enemies. We see them, however, not as our enemies, but as our neighbors.
The Hamas regime is tyrannical and has caused great harm, mainly to its own people. We neither justify nor legitimate its behaviors and its decisions. Nevertheless, it is the authority in Gaza — whether we like it or not — and so we have to find a way to speak to its members.
We call upon you to change direction. Instead of more rounds of violence, instead of another war, we need to reach a long-term ceasefire. We need to put into place a political program that will promise the people in Gaza electricity for 24 hours a day, potable water, employment, freedom of movement, air to breathe and removal of the blockade.
Israel is the strong side in this equation. We have the power and the ability to reverse this unacceptable and unbearable situation, and to create a situation in which life and hope blossom on both sides of the border. The disaster that has been going on for too long is not a natural — it is human-made. We created it and we can change it. We want to live in peace with our neighbors in Gaza. We need to live in peace with them.
Members of Other Voice
An Open Letter to Hamas’ Leadership
Dear Yahya Sanwar and Ismail Haniyeh,
We are your neighbors to the east; we live in Israeli communities that share the border with the Gaza Strip. Our peoples have been at war for decades, and as the years go by, the hostilities and hatred have deepened — on both sides. This state is toxic both for your people and for ours.
We have been, and remain, enemies. But this can, and must, change. We are also neighbors — we live just a few kilometers away from one another. This tragedy that has befallen both of our peoples is not a natural disaster — it is a human-made one. We created it and we can change it.
Enough hatred. Enough revenge. Enough showing strength through rockets, mortars, tunnels and arson kites.
We have written Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin – the leaders on the Israeli side. We have written them what we have written you. Our message to them is that it is time to reach a long-term ceasefire, make and implement a political plan, end the blockade, help rehabilitate the Gaza Strip, help make sure that every person in Gaza has full access to electricity, clean water, enough medicine, air to breath and freedom of movement and rights.
We do not know if you will read this letter, or toss it into the waste basket. We are writing in hopes that you will read it and think about what an opportunity this is — to completely change what has been, and to bring hope to your people. Hope and a good life for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip also means hope and a good life for Israelis, on our side of the border.
We are not your enemies. We are your neighbors. We want to live as neighbors, at the very least, in co-existence.
We know that we can do this. We can make this happen. You have the power to make a huge difference on your side. We have also demanded from our leaders to do the same here.
We are not your enemies. We are your neighbors, and we want a life of dignity and peace for all people – in the Gaza Strip and in the Western Negev.
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)
Once again, the Israeli military has turned its guns on Gaza — this time on unarmed protestors, in a series of shootings over the last few weeks. Gaza’s already under-resourced hospitals are straining to care for the 1,600 protesters who have been injured, on top of 40 killed.
The violence is getting some coverage in the news. But the conditions in Gaza that have pushed so many to protest remain largely invisible. So do their actual demands.
The Great Return March was organized by grassroots groups in Gaza as a peaceful action with three key demands: respect for refugees’ right to return to their homes, an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Seventy years ago, Palestinians were expelled from their homes en masse when their land was seized for the state of Israel. Many became refugees, with millions of people grouped into shrinking areas like Gaza. Fifty years ago, the rest of historic Palestine came under Israeli military occupation.
While these refugees’ right of return has been recognized by the international community, no action has been taken to uphold that right. Meanwhile, the occupation has become further and further entrenched.
For over a decade, the people of Gaza have lived under a military-imposed blockade that severely limits travel, trade, and everyday life for its 2 million residents. The blockade effectively bans nearly all exports, limits imports, and severely restricts passage in and out.
In over 20 visits to Gaza over the last 10 years, I’ve watched infrastructure degrade under both the blockade and a series of Israeli bombings.
Beautiful beaches are marred by raw sewage, which flows into the sea in amounts equivalent to 43 Olympic swimming pools every day. Access to water and electricity continually decreases, hospitals close, school hours are limited, and people are left thirsty and in the dark.
These problems can only be fixed by ending the blockade.
As Americans, we bear direct responsibility for the horrific reality in Gaza. Using our tax money, the U.S. continues to fund the Israeli military through $3.8 billion in aid annually.
A group of U.S.-based faith organizations has called out U.S. silence in a statement supporting protesters and condemning the killings: “The United States stood by and allowed Israel to carry out these attacks without any public criticism or challenge,” they said. “Such U.S. complicity is a continuation of the historical policy of active support for Israel’s occupation and U.S. disregard for Palestinian rights.”
The signatories include the American Friends Service Committee, where I work, an organization that started providing humanitarian aid to refugees in Gaza as far back as 1948.
While the U.S. does give money to the United Nations and international aid groups working in Gaza, it’s barely a drop in the bucket compared to our support of the military laying siege to the territory.
As my colleagues in Gaza have made clear, what they need isn’t more aid. That humanitarian aid is needed because of the blockade. What they need is freedom from the conditions that make life unlivable — like the blockade itself — and a long-term political solution.
Ignoring the reasons Gaza is in crisis only hurts our chances to address this manmade humanitarian horror.
Mike Merryman-Lotze has worked with the American Friends Service Committee as the Palestine-Israel Program Director since 2010.
We forget where we came from. Our Jewish
names from the Exile give us away,
bring back the memory of flower and fruit, medieval cities,
metals, knights who turned to stone, roses,
spices whose scent drifted away, precious stones, lots of red,
handicrafts long gone from the world
(the hands are gone too).
Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. (Isaiah 59:15b)
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it. (Luke 19:41)
We the undersigned, a group of Palestinian-American Christians from several church traditions, call on all faith communities to:
Denounce the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Lift up, in your places of worship, the plight of Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike, recognizing that Israeli policies of occupation and apartheid are leading to the virtual extinction of the indigenous Christian population in Palestine.
Recognize the urgency of ending Israel’s genocidal siege and attacks on the entire Palestinian hostage population of the Gaza Strip.
Continue to use economic pressure as well as other nonviolent means to compel Israel to end its apartheid practices and policies against the Palestinian people.
We express deep concern at the increasingly hostile direction of Israeli policies and actions, emboldened by the equally aggressive foreign policy stance of the Trump administration toward the Palestinian people. President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is the final nail in the coffin of the so-called “peace process,” which has now been unmasked as a farce, exposing the United States not as an “honest broker” but as Israel’s unquestioning advocate. There is little doubt that the Trump administration’s Jerusalem decision, although condemned by the overwhelming majority of the international community, will encourage Israel to act with even greater impunity.
The Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, as well as the rest of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights, is now in its fifty-first year, the longest military occupation since the end of the nineteenth century. Palestinian Christians and Muslims are calling on the church to use its influence to end the occupation.
Since its occupation of Arab East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has consistently followed a policy aimed at confining the city’s Palestinian population to ghettos surrounded by a ring of expanding Jewish settlements. It annexed the city and its suburbs into a much-expanded “greater Jerusalem,” and isolated it from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. This separation of Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank has resulted in grave economic and social consequences for all Palestinians in the occupied territories, because East Jerusalem has been the economic and spiritual heart of the Palestinian territories. Even the U.S. State Department recognized in a 2009 report that “many of [Israel’s] policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.” Palestinian Jerusalemites complain that conditions are far worse now.
Last year, a Palestinian mass protest forced Israeli authorities to retreat from a decision to impose obtrusive “security measures” in the form of metal detectors at the entrances to the Muslim holy sites of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Christians joined their Muslim brothers and sisters in peaceful protest, some praying shoulder-to-shoulder in the streets surrounding the mosques. More recently, it was the turn of the Christian communities to experience a serious attack on their freedom to worship, in the form of debilitating Israeli taxes on church properties. A protest letter signed by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem strongly condemned this decision as a departure from the centuries-old tradition of tax exemptions for places of worship, under both Muslim and Christian rule. Church leaders closed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for several days in protest, marking only the second time to close this sacred site.
Palestinian protests and international pressure have since compelled Israeli authorities to suspend the legislation in question. However, Palestinians are rightly concerned that Israel will continue to find ways to weaken Palestinians’ control of their land and property. Many are concerned about Jerusalem as the birthplace of Christianity: will it become a city with Christian shrines and cathedrals but devoid of the native Christian population?
On Friday, March 30th, Israel committed a massacre in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians were engaged in a demonstration on Land Day. This annual event commemorates the killing, in 1976, of six unarmed Palestinians in the Galilee who were protesting against the confiscation of their lands. The Gaza demonstrators were protesting against the genocidal conditions that Israel has imposed on the territory of two million inhabitants over the past eleven years; most importantly, they were expressing their right of return to their lands and villages from which the Israeli forces expelled them in 1948. The peaceful protest was interrupted by the Israeli army, which used tanks and militarized drones as well as over 100 well-hidden snipers. Violence began by the Israeli forces who shot a farmer working on his land. This served as incitement to a few protestors—out of a total of about 30,000 peaceful demonstrators, to engage in throwing stones from behind a large, barbed wire fence. The unarmed Palestinians’ actions did not come anywhere close to endangering the Israeli forces. Eighteen Palestinians were shot dead and hundreds of men, women, and children were wounded.
These events occurred on Good Friday, when the Christian world was mourning the crucifixion of Jesus. As the injustices and human rights violations keep piling up against the Palestinian people, we call on all churches and faith communities to take bold steps to end these grave injustices. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step up even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Why Palestine Matters, The Struggle To End Colonialism, contextualizes the liberation struggle of the Palestinian people within other global justice struggles. With a foreword by Richard Falk, former UN Special Rapporteur of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, the book is grounded in international law and brings Palestine into focus through a lens of intersectionality, calling all those who struggle for justice against oppression to consider the challenge of seeing Palestinians in the context of other justice struggles. Why Palestine Matters demonstrates that the project of human emancipation is not limited to Palestine, but it also cannot proceed without Palestine. The book is a 108-page, full-color publication with visuals on every page, a discussion guide, and maps. A companion website features enhanced resources for study, including video clips and discussion guide: WhyPalestineMatters.org. Published by the IPMN.org, The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) whose General Assembly mandate engages them “toward specific mission goals that will create currents of wider and deeper involvement with Israel/Palestine.”
Two recent and alarming actions by the Trump Administration are destroying long-held hopes for a peaceful, secure future for many people in Israel/Palestine and are endangering lives. These actions represent irresponsible foreign policy for the United States.
works to end Israel’s occupation in acknowledgment of the fact that ending the occupation regime is the only way to forge a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all persons living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. While it is not B’Tselem’s role to choose between the various political options that can bring about this future, one thing is clear: none of them include continuation of the occupation.
The name B’Tselem, bestowed upon the organization by former Member of Knesset Yossi Sarid, literally means “in the image of” in Hebrew. It is taken from Genesis 1:27: “And God created humans in his image. In the image of God did He create him” and is also used as a synonym for human dignity. The name expresses the Jewish and universal moral edict to respect and protect the human rights of all people.
B’Tselem was founded in 1989 and until recently devoted most of its efforts to documenting human rights violations that come under Israel’s purview as occupying power. This included publishing statistics, testimonies, video footage and reports concerning human rights violations and their implications, in order to promote better living conditions for the occupied population – with the understanding that the occupation was to be a passing matter.
Yet after almost half a century of occupation, during which Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories have created profound changes that indicate long-term intentions, it is clear that this reality cannot be viewed as temporary. Therefore, B’Tselem continues to document and publicize human rights violations while also exposing the injustice, violence and dispossession that lie at the very core of this regime of occupation, challenging its legitimacy in Israel and abroad and helping to expedite its end.
B’Tselem has established a strong reputation among human rights organizations in Israel and around the world. It has received various awards, including the Carter-Menil Award for Human Rights, together with Al-Haq (1989), the Danish PL Foundation Human Rights Award, together with Al-Haq (2011), and the Stockholm Human Rights Award (2014). B’Tselem’s video project was granted the British One World Media Award (2009) and the Israeli Documentary Filmmakers Forum Award (2012), among others.
B’Tselem is an independent, non-partisan organization. It is funded by donations alone, from foundations in Europe and North America that support human rights activity worldwide and from private individuals in Israel and abroad.
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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.
It took just four days for a world famous singer to cancel her Tel Aviv show in response to her fans’ urging her to respect the international picket line.
Lorde’s decision on Christmas Eve to pull the Tel Aviv show from her world tour – remarking that booking the gig in the first place “wasn’t the right call” – completed a successful year for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
2017 saw artists, performers, athletes, politicians, cultural workers, faith-based organizations, students, academics, unions and activists grow the movement for Palestinian rights.
Israel has been taking notice, of course.
Early on in the year, key Israel lobby groups admitted in a secret report – obtained and published in full by The Electronic Intifada – that they had failed to counter the Palestine solidarity movement, despite vastly increasing their spending.
The report outlined Israel’s failure to stem the “impressive growth” and “significant successes” of the BDS movement and set out strategies, endorsed by the Israeli government, aimed at reversing the deterioration in Israel’s position.
Similarly, in March, Israel’s top anti-BDS strategist conceded that the boycott Israel movement is winning – despite the Israeli government’s allocation of tens of millions of dollars and the formation of an entire governmental ministry whose sole focus is to combat BDS.
Speaking at an anti-BDS conference in New York, Israeli ambassador Danny Danon stated that “the BDS movement is still active and still strong. Every day, academic and religious groups, student unions and investment firms are all falling prey to boycott calls.”…
Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old American peace activist from Olympia, Washington, who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on 16 March 2003, while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition.
Since her killing, an enormous amount of solidarity activities have been carried out in her name around the world.
The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice is a grassroots, 501(c)3 non-profit organization that conducts and supports programs that foster connections between people, that build understanding, respect, and appreciation for differences, and that promote cooperation within and between local and global communities. The foundation encourages and supports grassroots efforts in pursuit of human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice, which we view as pre-requisites for world peace. Continuing the work begun and envisioned by our daughter, Rachel Corrie, our initial emphasis has been on Israel/Palestine.
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity.
Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.
BDS is now a vibrant global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. Eleven years since its launch, BDS is having a major impact and is effectively challenging international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.
Jewish Voice for Peace is dedicated to working toward justice, dignity, and equality for all people, and to actively opposing all forms of oppression. Fighting antisemitism is an important part of our work for a more just world.
As a community rooted in Jewish traditions, we understand antisemitism as discrimination against, violence towards, or stereotypes of Jews for being Jewish. Antisemitism has manifested itself in structural inequality, dispossession, expulsion, and genocide, with the most well-known examples being in Europe, with the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, and the Nazi Holocaust in the 1940s. Antisemitism does not impact all of us who identify as Jewish in the same way. The experiences and histories of Jews of color and/or Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews are distinct from those of white, Ashkenazi Jews. Jewish communities around the world have had different experiences with discrimination, bigotry, and violence. In this statement, we will be focusing on two forms of antisemitism that resonate in the United States today: Christian antisemitism and racial antisemitism….
Among their issues: ending discrimination, building peace, defending immigrant rights, ending mass incarceration, and building economic justice.
Founded in the aftermath of World War I to serve conscientious objectors and provide humanitarian aid to those suffering the war’s results, the AFSC is a quasi-Quaker organization, meaning it operates along Quaker principles, has a largely Quaker board, and functions with a mixture of staff, some of whom are Quaker.
The AFSC shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 with the British Friends Service Council on behalf of Quakers worldwide for its humanitarian and advocacy work. Currently it takes a leading role in bringing peace, justice, and security to all parties in the Palestine-Israel conflict.