Palestine-Israel at a Large Quaker Gathering in New England, Summer 2018

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
  • WorkshopsBuilding 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.

Meeting for worship with the intention of business

Minute of Concern for Palestinians in Gaza

UPDATED CASUALTY FIGURES (MARCH 30-AUGUST 9, 2018):
KILLED: PALESTINIANS, 172; ISRAELIS, 1
INJURED: PALESTINIANS, 15,504; ISRAELIS, 20
HOSPITALIZED: PALESTINIANS, 8,598; ISRAELIS, UNKNOWN

(Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, August 9, 2018)

FROM BURLINGTON FRIENDS MEETING, BURLINGTON, VERMONT, JUNE 10, 2018

Friends’ concern for the sufferings of all peoples leads us to oppose the recent escalation of violence by the Israeli political establishment against the Palestinians of Gaza. How should we as Quakers respond to this tragedy still taking place along the border of the Gaza Strip? [which began in late March, 2018, and continues thru this posting, July 4, 2018]

Gaza contains nearly 2 million residents in an area of 141 sq. miles. Israel imposes an economic cordon sanitaire around the region with the result that its economy is nearly destroyed and 80 percent of residents rely on international assistance. Travel in and out is sharply restricted by Israel and Egypt.

Since March 30, 2018, thousands of residents of Gaza, more than 80 percent of whom are refugees or the descendants of those displaced during the establishment of Israel in 1947, began marching toward the barriers that keep them from work, travel, foreign markets, and their ancestral lands. While still within Gaza, they were met by Israeli snipers who shot into Gaza from embankments across the line. On May 14 alone, 58 demonstrators were shot dead and 1,360 wounded with fragmentation rounds that often lead to amputations and permanent crippling. The dead include 6 children.

As a response to this unarmed, non-violent civilian protest, these premeditated and systematic shootings are a clear violation of international norms which forbid targeting noncombatants and require proportionality in the use of force, even in wartime. Clearly marked members of the press and the Red Crescent have been among the victims.

The United States is deeply complicit in these events. Since 1946, the U.S. has given Israel $134.7 billion in military and missile defense aid, $3.775 billion in 2017 alone. The weapons purchased are used to kill Palestinians. On April 6, the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution supporting the right of Palestinians to “demonstrate peacefully” and endorsing Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for an independent investigation into these events.

On the day when 58 Gaza residents were shot dead by Israeli snipers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was welcoming U.S. Middle East Advisor Jared Kushner, his wife Ivanka Trump, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and four U.S. Senators on the occasion of the symbolic opening of a planned United States Embassy in Jerusalem. The embassy will be on land declared neutral in the 1949 armistice agreement and considered by the United Nations to be in occupied Palestine.

Friends are witnesses to these horrific events. Unless we speak out forcefully in protest, we will also be complicit. Removal of people from their land, their confinement in what amounts to a concentration camp, denying them sanitation, adequate health services, and employment, and then systematically killing them when their despair boils over into nonviolent protests all work against the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth. Quakers must protest this occupation by demanding that the U.S. government end all military aid to Israel and support international efforts to immediately end the illegal blockade of Gaza. We urge each Monthly Meeting to address this crisis through internal discernment and public activism.

Palestinians stage a protest within the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations near Israel-Gaza border in Gaza City, Gaza. Getty Images

The plea of refugees in Gaza to return to their ancestral villages now in Israel is the central focus of the Great March to Return . It began on April 2, 2018, was planned to end on May 15, but currently (August 15, 2018) is ongoing. These dates mark two important historical events, Land Day when 6 Palestinians were killed as they attempted to return to their villages in 1976, and Nakba Day marking the beginning of The Catastrophe, or the Grand Dispossession in 1948. The violence of this effort—as of August 9, 2018, Israeli army snipers have killed 172 mostly unarmed Palestinians, with 17,504 wounded (more than 1000 of them children), many with life-threatening injuries, overwhelming the already stressed medical system—led to this minute.

We attempted to bring this minute to New England Yearly Meeting (Quaker) Sessions this summer (2018) but because of our working group’s slip up and a packed business agenda,  we failed. However, Burlington Monthly Meeting may bring it to its Quarter, “seasoning” it for next year’s NEYM Sessions. We’re also working on a revision  (Minute inspired by Burlington Friends’ minute), not yet official from us.

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.

NEYM unites on a statement about Palestine-Israel

(Dating back to late 2014, after a summer of unprecedented violence over Gaza and inspired by a statement from Britain Yearly Meeting in August 2014, Friends Meeting at Cambridge, followed by Salem Quarterly Meeting, and finally the Yearly Meeting itself unites on the following statement.)

Minute 2017-46 Annual Sessions at Castleton, Vermont, August 8, 2017

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) testimony on peace, justice, and nonviolence is based in our experience of the divine in all of creation and within all persons. Thus, we are deeply troubled by the suffering and injustice caused by the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and we are concerned that our government perpetuates that violence by continuing to send billions of dollars of military aid to the region. Continue reading “NEYM unites on a statement about Palestine-Israel”

Plans for NEYM Annual Sessions 2017

The New England Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions takes place August 5–10, 2017 at Castleton University, Vermont. Our team is currently planning programs.

WORKSHOPS

Israel, Palestine and New England Yearly Meeting — a two part workshop with Jennifer Bing of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Chicago office — Tuesday & Wednesday, 3:30-5pm

Israel/Palestine flares into the headlines periodically but intense work to resolve issues continues in the background with little notice.  This workshop with share some of that work and help move NEYM to finding its voice on the problem. Day One will focus on two AFSC campaigns. “No Way To Treat a Child” has been tracking child detentions and raising these concerns with Congressional leaders and the State Department. “Gaza Unlocked” seeks to draw attention to the ongoing trauma in Gaza as well as the beautiful resilience of the people.  Day Two will continue talking about that work as well as explore ways for Meetings and NEYM to have a voice in work for peace with justice. Jennifer Bing from the AFSC will be a resource for this workshop. Continue reading “Plans for NEYM Annual Sessions 2017”