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

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

By Mairav Zonszein

JANUARY 15, 2019

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

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

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

READ THE ENTIRE ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN THE NATION

Quakers will not profit from the occupation of Palestine (in Britain)

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)

sunset through coils of barbed wire
Sunset in Hebron. (Photo: Quakers in Britain)

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.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Britain Yearly Meeting minute of 2014 in response to the violence in Gaza

What the NGO Monitor Claims about the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

This is highly distorted view of the courageous work of our esteemed quasi-Quaker sister organization, the AFSC. A damning point of view—yet to me, ironically, an affirming catalog of its many campaigns including No Way to Treat a Child, and Gaza Unlocked. I strongly believe understanding the views of one’s adversaries helps us argue and work for the truth. Wikipedia reports that “The on-line communications editor of NGO Monitor, Arnie Draiman, was indefinitely banned from editing articles [on Wikipedia] about the Israeli-Arab conflict for biased editing, concealing his place of work and using a second account in a way that is forbidden by Wikipedia policy.[18]” Please check my links at the end for rebuttals to NGO Monitor. (Skip Schiel)

Some excerpts:

ACTIVITIES

  • Actively promotes boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel; accuses Israel of “apartheid against Palestinians”; and advocates for the “right of return,” meaning the end of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
  • Accuses Israel of “obvious violence in Gaza…slow and systematic ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem through continuing displacement from sprawling illegal settlements, land grabs, the separation barrier…crushing restrictions of Palestinian movement, and a network of racist laws.”
  • AFSC supports efforts to encourage Israeli youth to dodge the draft and promotes “anti-normalization,” rejecting dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
    • In 2015, “Palestine-Israel Program Director” Mark Merryman-Lotze explained AFSC’s “position supportive of anti-normalization principles,” rejecting “any project, initiative, or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal opposition and resistance to the Israeli occupation and structural inequalities.”
  • AFSC operates a project with Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) called “Hamushim” (“Armed”) that “works to expose the true human price of the Israeli military industry and arms trade, as well as to mobilize actions against it.”  The organization’s activists accuse Israel of selling weapons to dictatorships and countries that suppress human rights in exchange for their sympathetic votes in the UN mechanisms.
    • On November 13, 2017, Hamushim held an event titled “The Israeli Arms Empire” which discussed how “In the past 50 years, Israeli weapons have been handed over to almost all perpetrators of crimes against humanity, civil wars and genocide” as well as the “Israeli connection to the suppression of protests by Black Lives Matter in Ferguson, USA.”
  • In May 2018, on the “70th anniversary of the Nakba…[and] 50 years of the Israeli occupation,” AFSC accused Israel of putting Palestinians “under a brutal military regime that systematically denies them their most basic rights” as well  as maintaining “institutionalized inequality and injustice.”
  • In October 2017, Jennifer Bing, director of the Chicago AFSC Palestine-Israel Program, spoke at a conference titled “Parallel Liberation Struggles: Lessons in Resistance” commemorating the “100-year Palestinian resistance to Israel’s settler-colonial project and explor[ing] the similarities in violence used against Palestinians, African Americans, and Native Americans and their methods of resistance.”

BDS ACTIVITIES

  • AFSC is a leader of BDS campaigns on campuses and churches in the United States, and works to increase Palestinian participation in BDS campaigns.
  • In February 2018, AFSC stated its support for “boycott and divestment campaigns that target companies complicit in the occupation.” According to AFSC, “BDS has proven effective as a nonviolent tool for realizing political and social change… AFSC answered the call for divestment from apartheid in South Africa. Supporting the call for BDS from Palestinians seeking freedom, equality, and justice is just as critical today.”
  • AFSC launched an online investment screening tool to “help individuals and institutions identify companies on their investment portfolios that are directly complicit in ongoing severe violations of human rights and international law.”

STAFF MEMBERS

  • Dalit Baum
  • Joyce Ajlouny
    • Ajlouny, General Secretary of AFSC, formerly served as Country Director for the Palestinian territories and Israel for Oxfam GB and Director of the Friends School in Ramallah.
    • On November 6, 2017, Ajlouny signed a letter to members of Congress opposing anti-BDS legislation and “support[ing] nonviolent means to end the 50-year-old occupation.” According to the letter, “bills also conflate Israel and the settlements, erasing the important distinction between Israel and its illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. They further imply that opposition to Israel’s practices in the territories is the same as being anti-Israel. We are troubled by the bills’ intent to penalize or criminalize the use of economic measures as a legitimate means of opposing policies that inhibit human rights.”
    • In a June 2015 interview with the Jerusalem Fund, Ajlouny explained that “As a Quaker school, it is our role to guide students to a nonviolent path. The BDS movement is very big on our campus, too. Our students are always challenging us as an administration to see if we are keeping up with BDS.”
    • In an interview published in 2015, Joyce Ajlouny also accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing.”

READ THE ENTIRE ANALYSIS

AFSC ON THIS WEBSITE

AN OPINION ABOUT NGO MONITOR ITSELF (in “+972,” an  online journal)

ENGAGING CRITICS OF BDS, A RESOURCE FOR ACTIVISTS (from the Quaker Palestine Israel Network)

Palestine-Israel programs at NEYM Sessions-August 2018

WORKSHOPS

A two-day workshop organized by the NEYM Working Group on Israel-Palestine (With reference to NEYM’s minute on Palestine-Israel passed last summer)

Building a Just Peace in Palestine-Israel

 Tuesday, 3:30-5, Leavenworth

John Reuwer and Laurie Gagne (Burlington, VT, MM); Working Group on Israel-Palestine

John and Laurie will have just returned from a month in the West Bank where they deployed with Meta Peace Teams to advance MPT’s vision of seeking “a just world grounded in nonviolence and respect for the sacred interconnectedness of all life.” Their mission is “to pursue peace through active nonviolence” amidst the conflict in occupied Palestine, as part of a growing field of work known as Unarmed Civilian Protection, or Third Party Nonviolent Intervention. (Jeffords 213)

They will report on:

  • Current conditions of living for Palestinians and interactions with Israeli soldiers.
  • Prospects for improvements in the social and political situation from the local perspective, including that of Ramallah Friends.
  • How UCP and TPNI work in theory and in real life, and the potential it may hold for reducing militarism in human affairs.

Their blog: West Bank Peace Team: Summer 2018

Moving our Meetings to Take Action on Israel-Palestine

Wednesday, 3:30-5, Leavenworth

Minga Claggett-Borne and Jonathan Vogel-Borne (Cambridge, MA, MM); Working Group on Israel-Palestine

How do we talk to one another about the issue? How do we engage our meetings? Given the urgency of the situation, particularly for the people of Gaza, what do we need in order to take faithful and effective action? What do those actions look like?  (Jeffords 213)

Minga’s blog, Pedals and Seeds

A REPORT AT BUSINESS MEETING

Monday, 7-9 pm, probably near the end of the evening

A proposed Minute of Concern for Palestinians in Gaza from Burlington (VT) Monthly Meeting and a report about our two presentations at Living Faith in April, 2018, about anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and privilege; and Quakers and Antisemitism.

PRESENTATION BY LAURIE GAGNE AND JOHN REUWER ABOUT THEIR RECENT TRIP TO PALESTINE-ISRAEL

Tuesday, side room in dining hall, exact place and time to be determined

Please scroll up to their workshop info for more details.

PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION BY SKIP SCHIEL

Gaza Awaken

Fine Arts Center lobby

Photographs of children at the Qattan Center for the Child in Gaza

Website: Teeksa Photography

LAWN DISPLAYS ABOUT GAZA

(To be announced)

By the American Friends Service Committee (2017)

INFORMAL LUNCH MEETINGS

(to be announced)

Image by Jeremiah Dickinson

NEYM Israel Palestine Opportunities poster-2018—Click here for a copy

To register for New England Yearly Meeting Sessions, August 4-9, 2018, Castleton VT

Last year’s Palestine-Israel program

Contact Skip Schiel for latest info.

Why Palestine Matters, The Struggle To End Colonialism (book & website)

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.”

AFSC among human rights orgs barred from Israel

PUBLISHED: JANUARY 8, 2018

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.

ORIGINAL STATEMENT HERE (JAN 8, 2018)

AFSC: Boycott, divestment and sanctions explained

Other organizations banned because of BDS advocacy

What is BDS?