In the early morning hours of October 18, 16-year-old Shadi Khoury was rousted from his bed and beaten by Israeli soldiers who had entered his home to arrest him. Pictures taken at the scene show a trail of blood marking where he was dragged out of his house. Since his detention, Shadi has been held and interrogated without charge or trial. His court case has been postponed three times so far, leaving his family and friends in an ongoing state of anguish and disarray.
Shadi is a student at the Ramallah Friends School, a school that teaches Quaker values of peace and nonviolence. His mom describes him as warm, shy, and confident. He loves music and sports, especially soccer. His parents lead cultural organizations in Jerusalem and his grandmother, who Shadi visits daily, is a prominent Christian activist in Palestine and a long-time friend of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)….
Amnesty International’s new research report, Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity shows that Israeli authorities impose a system of domination and oppression against the Palestinian people in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and against Palestinian refugees. Laws, policies, and institutional practices all work to expel, fragment, and dispossess Palestinians of their land and property, and deprive Palestinians of their human rights. We conclude this treatment amounts to an institutionalized regime of oppression and domination defined as apartheid under international law.
Amnesty’s research, campaigns, advocacy, and statements pertaining to Israel are focused on the actions of the Israeli government — they are not, and never will be, a condemnation of Judaism or the Jewish people. Antisemitism is antithetical to everything Amnesty represents as a human rights organization….
Leila Farsakh and Jeff Halper in conversation across the globe, on strategies and actions for a just peace in Palestine/Israel.
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I was one of the founders of the human rights organisation Al-Haq in 1979 and remain proud of its work over the past four decades in defending human rights in the Israeli occupied territories. I was horrified when it was declared to be a terrorist organisation by the Israeli defence minister on 19 October, along with five other Palestinian NGOs.
During the many years of direct Israeli occupation, from 1967 to 1995, there was a long and expanding list of proscribed groups issued by the Israeli military commander under “emergency” regulations first put in place by the British in 1945. Al-Haq was never on this list.
In 1980, an Israeli army patrol passing by Al-Haq’s small office in Ramallah late at night became suspicious of the cars parked nearby and stormed the meeting, roughing up some of the staff. At the time a representative of Amnesty International was attending the meeting. When we lodged a complaint the army began an interminable investigation of the incident, which after many years was still not concluded. Yet the storming of the organisation’s office was never repeated – not even during the reinvasion of the West Bank in 2002, when offices of a large number of organisations in Ramallah were trashed.
Israel’s charge against the six NGOs, which include groups that offer legal support to prisoners and a women’s rights organisation, is based on a supposed connection to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Over the years, this claim has been used by Israeli officials to justify their refusal to permit travel for Al-Haq staff. The claim was that Al-Haq was not a genuine human rights organisation, but a PFLP front. Yet this unfounded and patently untrue accusation was never followed by issuing such a devastating order as happened last Tuesday.
B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation that Al-Haq often collaborates with, has described the Israeli government’s declaration as “an act characteristic of totalitarian regimes, with the clear purpose of shutting down these organisations”. The policy change is evidence of how far Israel has gained confidence in feeling immune from the consequences of its actions, in this case interfering with civil society organisations that do tremendous work in the West Bank.
The declaration was made by the Israeli minister of defence and was issued under Israeli law. Where the West Bank has not been annexed, Israeli law does not apply, so it will probably be followed by an order from the military commander of the West Bank, adding Al-Haq to the list of proscribed organisations. Even if this action is not taken, Al-Haq could be paralysed by the order of the defence minister. Under counter-terrorism law, Israel can use its extensive powers over organisations and residents of the occupied territories. These include preventing funds from reaching Al-Haq. Israel can also detain anyone working for the organisation, providing professional services or expressing support for it.
Condemnations of the Israeli action has been extensive, including from the US state department, which sought clarification from its strategic partner. Yet statements alone will not suffice. Stronger measures will need to be taken if Israel is to reverse this declaration.
Al-Haq’s standing over the past 40 years proves its significance as a major defender of human rights. Its most important work during the past year has been the assistance it has given to the international criminal court in The Hague in its investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes. That the ICC might end up charging any Israelis with such crimes greatly worries Israel. For us Palestinians, it would herald an end to Israeli immunity from prosecution for its grave breaches of international law.
The defence minister’s statement will not convince anyone who has worked with Al-Haq and benefited from its extensive coverage of the human rights violations committed by Israel over the years. It is time for those concerned around the world to take a strong stance and work at convincing their governments to stop obstructing the ICC in its efforts at bringing to justice any Israeli official who has committed war crimes.
Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian writer and lawyer. His most recent book, Going Home: A Walk Through Fifty Years of Occupation, won the 2020 Moore prize
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.
A video analysis by New York Times staff, June 24, 2021
On May 16, Israeli airstrikes destroyed three apartment buildings, decimating several families. We visited the scene, interviewed survivors and analyzed videos, photos and satellite images to find out what happened.
By Evan Hill, Ainara Tiefenthäler, John Ismay, Christiaan Triebert, Soliman Hijjy, Phil Robibero, Drew Jordan, Yousur Al-Hlou, Christoph Koettl and Patrick Kingsley
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.
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.”
The Database of Israeli Military and Security Export (DIMSE) provides data on trade and use of Israeli military, security and police weapons and equipment as well as other services from the year 2000. The Database support searches by Country and by weapons and aims to be a resource for civil society actors seeking information about this industry.
Israel ranks annually among the 10 biggest arms exporters in the world, but does not report regularly to the UN registry on conventional arms, and has not ratifies the Arms Trade Treaty – the international treaty regulating international arms trade. The Israeli domestic legal system does not require transparency on issues on arms trade, and there are currently no legislated human right restrictions on Israeli arms export beyond obeying by UN security council arm embargos.
Due to this public information about Israel’s arms export is extremely limited. While this database does not include all of Israel’s arms exports globally, its aim is to collect and make accessible publicly published information about Israel’s arms export.
DIMSE is provided by The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action since 1917.
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.
The cover-up has to stop – and with it, the huge sums in aid for a country with oppressive policies towards Palestinians (December 31, 2020)
Desmond Tutu, a Nobel peace laureate, is a former archbishop of Cape Town and, from 1996 to 2003, was chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Every recent US administration has performed a perverse ritual as it has come into office. All have agreed to undermine US law by signingsecret letters stipulating they will not acknowledge something everyone knows: that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal.
Part of the reason for this is to stop people focusing on Israel’s capacity to turn dozens of cities to dust. This failure to face up to the threat posed by Israel’s horrific arsenal gives its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a sense of power and impunity, allowing Israel to dictate terms to others.
But one other effect of the US administration’s ostrich approach is that it avoids invoking the US’s own laws, which call for an end to taxpayer largesse for nuclear weapons proliferators.
Israel in fact is a multiple nuclear weapons proliferator. There is overwhelming evidence that it offered to sell the apartheid regime in South Africa nuclear weapons in the 1970s and even conducted a joint nuclear test. The US government tried to cover up these facts. Additionally, it has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Yet the US and Israeli governments pushed for the invasion of Iraq based on lies about coming mushroom clouds. As Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu said: the nuclear weapons were not in Iraq – they are in Israel.
Amendments by former Senators Stuart Symington and John Glenn to the Foreign Assistance Act ban US economic and military assistance to nuclear proliferators and countries that acquire nuclear weapons. While president, Jimmy Carter invoked such provisions against India and Pakistan.
But no president has done so with regard to Israel. Quite the contrary. There has been an oral agreement since President Richard Nixon to accept Israel’s “nuclear ambiguity” – effectively to allow Israel the power that comes with nuclear weapons without the responsibility. And since President Bill Clinton, according to the New Yorker magazine, there have been these secret letters.
Israel’s per capita gross domestic product is comparable with that of Britain. Nevertheless, US taxpayer funds to Israel exceed that to any other country. Adjusted for inflation, the publicly known amount over the years is now approaching $300bn.
This farce should end. The US government should uphold its laws and cut off funding to Israel because of its acquisition and proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The incoming Biden administration should forthrightly acknowledge Israel as a leading state sponsor of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and properly implement US law. Other governments – in particular South Africa’s – should insist on the rule of law and for meaningful disarmament, and immediately urge the US government in the strongest possible terms to act.
Apartheid was horrible in South Africa and it’s horrible when Israel practises its own form of apartheid against the Palestinians, with checkpoints and a system of oppressive policies. Indeed another US statute, the Leahy law, prohibits US military aid to governments that systematically violate human rights.
It’s quite possible that one of the reasons that Israel’s version of apartheid has outlived South Africa’s is that Israel has managed to maintain its oppressive system using not just the guns of soldiers, but also by keeping this nuclear gun pointed at the heads of millions. The solution for this is not for Palestinians and other Arabs to try to attain such weapons. The solution is peace, justice and disarmament.
South Africa learned that it could only have real peace and justice by having truth that would lead to reconciliation. But none of those will come unless truth is faced squarely – and there are few truths more critical to face than a nuclear weapons arsenal in the hands of an apartheid government.
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.
202038. A number of Meetings in the Quarter have considered the Quarter’s charge to look at the AFSC’s No Way to Treat a Child program. Friends in Bennington, Burlington, and Putney as well as Friends present report being in unity with this program. Others are still considering or have not yet had a chance to complete this task. We spoke of ways to continue with this concern.
We ask New England Yearly Meeting to consider supporting the AFSC program “No Way to Treat a Child” and support the bill HR2407, entitled “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under the Israeli Military Occupation Act” at Sessions.
We might like to hear more information on a Zoom call or a webinar, although we may tap into existing webinars on this topic. We would like to have a Quarter letter-writing campaign, and Progressive Secretary might be a tool to accomplish this. We might host speakers at a future Quarterly Meeting. We are in this for the long haul.
Several people stepped forward to move this work forward. Carl Williams, Connie Kincaid-Brown, Scott Rhodewalt, and Susan Rhodewalt will work on a letter packet. Ruah Swennerfelt will work with Progressive Secretary to post the letter. Ruah Swennerfelt will also invite Brad Parker of the National Defense for Children and Jennifer Bing of the American Friends Service Committee for our Zoom call or webinar. Cliff Bennett and Scott Rhodewalt will help.
We leave the discussion of this topic reminding ourselves again to search for the courage to talk with our neighbors on these hard topics. It is part of a larger picture. Concern for the safety and welfare of children applies not only to the Israeli/Palestinian border but also treatment of children at the U.S.- Mexico border and in our detention system. We need to hold ourselves accountable. We also need to trust in the Spirit.
“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
As I write to you our campuses enter the third week of school closure. As Head of School I do live on campus and it has been too quiet lately as students and teachers are the soul of any school. And a school without its students and teachers is just a group of buildings.
Our seniors were taking their IB Mock exams when the closure was announced, and we had to think fast to decide what the next best steps would be for our community. Our leadership team, administrative and teaching staff never stopped working – each from their own home – to provide online materials and lessons to more than 1500 students in all grade levels (KG -11th) while our seniors continued their exams online.
Due to the dedication of our staff we were able to launch distance learning for the first time at RFS given limited resources. Our goal is not only to minimize the disruption of the learning process, but also to keep us connected to our students and their families at such challenging times when we all need each other.
Mona Halaby teaches conflict resolution at Ramallah Friends School
Teachers, administrators, principals, students and parents are all working hard together and that is how our community will survive. The school like Palestine itself has held steadfast. We hold true to our mission and we have hope for the future. At these uncertain times, we are unsure of what is coming and we have not been able to ensure our financial budgets for the next academic year.
Thank you for helping us maintain the school’s sustainability, so we can, together, make sure that RFS can continue offering Quaker education to Palestinian youth for another 150 years.
Wishing you and your loved ones wellness and peace and good health,
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)
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 email@example.com. 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.
All ten members of NEYM’s Israel-Palestine Working Group (IPWG) recognize significant challenges in our efforts to: educate monthly meetings, open Friends’ collective hearts, and seek justice in the constantly shifting political landscape of Palestine-Israel.
Whose voice, in any conversation about Israel-Palestine, do Friends hear in our monthly meetings? Is it the voice of the colonizers or the colonized, the occupier or the occupied, the oppressor or the oppressed? Who do we accompany?
Israeli elites, who hold power in Israel today, are children and grandchildren of displaced European and north African Jewish refugees to a land where Palestinians lived. Descendants of those Palestinians now live, largely, in Gaza, West Bank, East Jerusalem and overseas as refugees exiled from their homes in 1948 and again in 1967. Israeli Jews and exiled Palestinians live with the moral injury of the Holocaust and the Nakba. This is not a conflict of equals despite the message our media relay: Israel’s government imposes its massive power asymmetrically upon the “other”.
NEYM has access to Friends United Meeting’s wealth of experience and understanding through 150 years of service in Palestine as Ramallah Friends School celebrates its founding in 1869. Another resource is Charles Friou, who shares photographs he took in 1949-50 in Gaza while working with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) with Palestinian refugees whom Israelis had expelled from their nearby homes in what had just become Israel.
Our goal as a working group is to help Friends untangle threads of antisemitism, Islamophobia, Zionism, and colonization. Once again, at summer sessions, we hope to:
welcome visitors with Palestinian and Israeli heritage;
join other racial justice related working groups’ efforts in NEYM;
organize outdoor displays, lunch talks; workshops and an indoor photography exhibit;
engage monthly meetings with AFSC’s current projects: “End the Blockade” and “No Way to Treat a Child”;
support campaign against Israel’s training U.S. police;
circulate Burlington MM’s Minutes for Gaza and Deadly Exchange.
Several members have served on New England Network for Justice for Palestine (NENJP), Quaker Palestine Israel Network (QPIN), and AFSC committees and staff. One member assisted planning AFSC’s eight-city tour (including his speech at Harvard) of Ahmed Abu Artema—Gazan poet whose writing inspired the weekly nonviolent Right of Return March to the separation barrier between Gaza and Israel. We sponsored the “Promised Land Exhibit” at Cambridge Meeting House and Northwest quarterly meeting at Hanover.
Our long-term goals are ambitious: establish a memorial fund in Sandy and Nancy Isaacs and Joyce Rawitscher’s memory to promote education about Israel/Palestine, organize NEYM delegations to visit Palestine-Israel in coming months and years (IPWG members, who have visited Palestine-Israel numerous times, know how much monthly meetings will learn by sending members there), expand links with neym-ip.org, and develop social media activity.
Invite us to your monthly meeting as you struggle to discern how to accompany the colonized and the colonizer, the oppressed and the oppressor.
Our schedule for New England Yearly Meeting sessions-2019- Castleton VT-August 3-8
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….
Old news but worth repeating so many know. From The Times of Israel (October 2012)
JTA – A Quaker group has removed a French and an American company from its financial portfolio due to what it calls the companies’ involvement in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.
Friends Fiduciary Corporation will drop the French multinational corporation Veolia Environment and the US-based Hewlett-Packard from its portfolio following requests from Quakers concerned about the companies’ involvement in the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands.
FFC has investments of more than $250,000 in HP and more than $140,000 in Veolia, according to the We Divest Campaign. The money is part of an overall $200 million in assets and investments for more than 250 Quaker meetings, schools, organizations, trusts and endowments around the US.
The Quaker group does not issue public announcements about such moves, but did send a letter confirming the information, according to Anna Baltzer, a spokesperson for the We Divest Campaign.
“It’s not private; it’s public information and they’ve written a letter to the Friends Meeting in Ann Arbor, Mich. that raised the issue,” she said. The Ann Arbor group did not return JTA’s call for this article.
However, Jeffrey W. Perkins, the FFC’s executive director, said in a press release issued by We Divest that HP provides information technology consulting services to the Israeli Navy, and Veolia Environment is involved in “environmental and social concerns” with the Israeli military,
This decision comes a few months after the FFC dropped shares in Caterpillar Inc. because Caterpillar “would neither confirm nor deny the extent or type of modifications to equipment sold to the Israeli military,” according to the release.
West Bank refugee camps are facing a crisis of safety and square feet.
Play is a human right for children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), essential to healthy brain and body development. But how can children in Arroub play when all the spaces available to them, public or private, put them at risk of becoming witness or victim to damaging events?
Issa Amro is committed to peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation in his native West Bank city of Hebron, despite frequent arrests, attacks by settlers and other unrelenting efforts to sabotage his work.
“Nonviolence is the best tool because it strengthens civil society and it gives a role to each person: the kids, the women, the elders and the youth. With nonviolent activities you get more international support and you neutralize the violence of the oppressor,” he explained….
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….
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?
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.” Please check my links at the end for rebuttals to NGO Monitor. (Skip Schiel)
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.”
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 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.”
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.”
Dalit Baum, AFSC Director of Economic Activism, is co-founder of Coalition of Women for Peace’s flagship BDS project “Who Profits?” (now an independent organization) and formerly served as the campaign’s project manager.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Is Zionism a failed ideology? This question will strike many people as absurd on its face. Israel, after all, is a nation with an advanced standard of living, a high-tech economy and one of the most formidable militaries on earth. In a little over half a century, it has taken in millions of people from far-flung corners of the globe, taught them a new language and incorporated them into a political culture that is nothing if not vigorous. If this is failure, there are a lot of countries wishing for their share of it.
But consider the things Israel has not accomplished. In his 1896 manifesto The Jewish State, Zionism’s founding document, the Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl predicted that such a country would be at peace with its neighbors and would require no more than a small professional army. In fact, Zionist settlers have clashed repeatedly with the Arabs from nearly the moment they began arriving in significant numbers in the early twentieth century, a Hundred Years’ War that grows more dangerous by the month. Herzl envisioned a normal state no different from France or Germany. Yet with its peculiar ethno-religious policies elevating one group above all others, Israel is increasingly abnormal at a time when almost all other political democracies have been putting such distinctions behind them. Herzl envisioned a state that would draw Jews like a magnet, yet more than half a century after Israel’s birth, most Jews continue to vote with their feet to remain in the Diaspora, and an increasing number of Israelis prefer to live abroad. Israel was supposed to serve as a safe haven, yet it is in fact one of the more dangerous places on earth in which to be Jewish….
…Under normal conditions, Israeli secularists would forge alliances not only with like-minded Palestinians but with others farther afield. But Zionism interferes not only by plunging society into a permanent state of war but by imposing a kind of conceptual prison. If not forbidden, contacts across religious lines grow very complicated in a “faith-driven ethno-state.” “You don’t understand,” educated, secular Israelis say when European and American friends criticize the latest Israeli outrage. “You don’t know what it’s like to live in a society where a bomb could go off any minute. You don’t know.” But that is exactly the point. The purpose of Zionism, and of nationalism in general, is to impose a barrier between one group and another, to limit contact and impede understanding. By emphasizing one aspect of human experience, the ethno-religious in the case of Israel, at the expense of all others, it hobbles communication with those outside the fold. The personality is truncated, and political options are reduced. Instead of freely deciding what is to be done, people are forced to follow the logic imposed on them by the state. Hounded by rabbis, terrorized by suicide bombers, hemmed in by nationalism, Israelis see no alternative but to throw in their lot with a strongman like Sharon. The logic is irresistible but suicidal–unless someone can figure a way out of the ideological cage.
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….
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.
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)
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.”
JOURNEYS TO ENGAGEMENT: a panel discussion organized by the NEYM Israel-Palestine Working Group, “Living into NEYM’s Israel/Palestine Minute: Understanding the Interplay of Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Racism.” Our interactive panel—Steve Chase (author of Pendle Hill Pamphlet #445 BDS? A Quaker Zionist Rethinks Palestinian Rights); Salaam Odeh (mother raised in Jordan, with family in Nablus, Occupied Palestinian West Bank), and her daughter, Samah Deek; and Steve and Barbara Low (active members of Jewish Voice for Peace, much traveled to Palestine Israel, founder and directors of the GRALTA Foundation)—will examine how anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and privilege affect our understanding of Israel/Palestine today. By sharing their insights & experiences the panel will 1) address ways to overcome feeling the fear, which exists among Quakers, about having this conversation; and 2) suggest how Friends can imagine living more boldly into last summer’s NEYM minute on Israel and Palestine.
Our IsraelPalestine Working Group of New England Yearly Meeting has been meeting since 2015. Each year during NEYM we have organized and facilitated programs including slideshows and movies about the region, workshops, speakers, a Gaza pinwheel display from American Friends Service Committee, photographic displays, and informal lunch sessions. Most recently we have concentrated on helping write and distribute minutes from monthly and quarterly meetings. We are a small, self-appointed interest group from different sections of New England. Most of us have visited Palestine and Israel numerous times and have been active on related issues for more than one decade. Our website is neymip.org. You will find quite a bit of background information and links on the site.
Other religious denominations have devoted substantial time and resources to deepening their understanding of Israel/Palestine, the role of the United States in that dynamic, and in discerning what, if anything, they feel called to contribute to the situation. Many have asked why Quakers are not engaged in these discussions, as our voice as a traditional “peace church” is often looked to for guidance.
At Sessions last August we passed a minute that ended a long period of paralysis and began to engage us in these issues. We have begun to talk. We are facing our fears. And the minute did something more though it barely mentions Israel/Palestine, it does spotlight the problem of US arms trade and foreign policy in the region as something perhaps we can focus on. Also, it commits us to growing in understanding of antiSemitism and Islamophobia. This actually gives us quite a bit of space to work in.
We engage in this work with a few assumptions that we want to put on the table. Perhaps the most important is that there is no one Jewish voice or narrative. And there is no one Palestinian voice or narrative. People enter this story from a variety of experiences and histories. A younger generation of Israelis, American Jews and Palestinians and Palestinian diaspora has a different lived experience and they are beginning to shape the dialogue in new ways. We want for people at NEYM to listen deeply to this variety of voices and experiences.
The other assumption we should name is that we draw from our own experiences challenging our own government we hold that governments are something different from a people. Many of us are fierce critics of US government policies and practices, but many of us also will say that we do so out of love. And that criticizing our government does not necessarily mean criticizing all people who call themselves US citizens. Israel makes criticizing the government more complex by insisting that it is a Jewish state, but we believe that as with any government, its policies are something that can be discussed without impugning all Jews or such criticism being antiSemitic.
We come to this day asking you to engage in deep listening not political debate. We have five panelists: Steve Chase, who will talk about his journey to overcome the perspectives he had been taught as he listened to new voices and educated himself more; Steve and Barbara Low, both members of Jewish Voice for Peace who likewise have had an evolution in their thinking; and Salaam Odeh and her daughter, Palestinian American activists.
QUESTIONS FOR THE PANELISTS
(from the organizers)
What has been your journey in coming to understand Israel/Palestine—both the dream and the reality?
What has been your journey in coming to understand the intersections of antiSemitism, Islamophobia, and racism?
How do you differentiate between antiSemitism and antiZionism?
What have you had to do to find your voice within your core community?
What do people who are most directly impacted by these issues want or need from us as allies?
As we enter this discussion, we ask you to think about the words of a British peace activist as she engaged with the Irish man who murdered her father:
In that moment of empathy, there is nothing to forgive, just understanding. We are all born into sides, into different narratives, into communities with their own stories but when we hear each other’s stories then we are connected through our shared humanity.
Let us listen deeply, with empathy for the hearts holding other stories, other sides, that we may grow in understanding and wisdom, and find our own voices, individually and collectively, for a just peace.
QUESTIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE
(overflowing, some one-third of all those attending the retreat, a good sign of interest; we passed out cards and didn’t have time to answer more than a few questions; we anticipate answering and encourage readers of this post to send in their own answers, using the reply panel at the bottom of this page.)
How do we initiate conversations with our Jewish Friends? Some have family in Israel; others are Holocaust survivors
Talk about the future – what will this Middle East area look like in ten years? Paint the future, please!
What use is NEYM making of AFSC’s programs and initiatives with regard to Israel-Palestine?
What is the benefit of looking at how racism affects both Jewish people and Palestinians in Israel? Especially with regard to Ethiopian Jews and other Jews of color? (police brutality, sterilization, socioeconomic marginalization) Does invoking this intersectionality help complicate the suggestion that criticizing the Netanyahu administration/neoliberalism/settler colonialism in Israel is inherently antisemitic?
The word “Holocaust” I was cautioned should not be used after I came home from AFSC-sponsored study tour to Guatemala/Central America in 1985. I was struck that I had spent days walking in an occupied land in front of Uzi guns and Reagan was visiting the Bitburg Cemetery – so many connections. I was surprised and appalled when I saw photos of the “settlements” – in my mind, I was imagining a refugee camp w/ tents vs high-rise apartments – these visuals I think would help raise the questions we need to be asking to gain understanding.
Tell us more about “Jews for Peace” (presumably JVP – Jewish Voice for Peace? unless this person meant Americans for Peace Now? – but I suspect it is JVP)
What are the most reliable news sources on Israel-Palestine? al Jazeera? Other?
Where is the prophetic voice today? What Jewish prophets are talking to Palestinians? What Palestinian prophets are talking (kvetching) with Jews?
How much do the victim stories of the Jews who survived Nazism (and who now live in Israel) impact Israel’s policies?
Talk about the perspective that Israelis have that they “won” the land from Palestinian land during the Intifada (sic) – (NOTE – some historical confusion in this question; can’t tell if they mean 1948 or 1967; but neither way do the Intifadas seem to apply to the question)
Why do you say a two-state solution is not possible? Is it more possible to have a one state solution that provides for equity and equal justice and equal opportunity
What do you think will happen with the confrontations at the Gaza border?
I’d like to know the experience of typical middle-aged Palestinian Arabs. Have their families lost their homes, their lands? How do they feel about occupation by Israelis and about checkpoints?
QUAKERS AND ANTI-SEMITISM:a workshop organized by Jonathan Vogel-Borne and Allan Korhman
Part of NEYM’s 2017 minute on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (#2017-46), states that we “call upon all individuals and communities to examine how anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and privilege affect our understanding of the conflict.” In this interactive workshop we will explore our stories and perhaps find more understanding about where and how we participate in the personal and systemic evil of antisemitism. We will look at how antisemitism has operated in our Quaker heritage and especially how it affects us today as we struggle to address our nation’s complicity in the continued suffering. Jonathan Vogel-Borne and Allan Kohrman have been engaged in conversation on the topic of Israel-Palestine, Quakers and Jews, for almost 30 years. While not fully agreeing with all of Allan’s position—but because he felt Allan’s voice needed to be heard—Jonathan helped to edited Allan’s pamphlet, “Quakers and Jews” (2004).
WHAT:Living into New England Yearly Meeting’s Israel/Palestine Minute/statement: Understanding Interplay of Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Racism (as part of an all day gathering, Living Faith
WHEN: April 14, Saturday; the panel is from 10:45 to 11:45 with the option of informal conversations during lunch, and attendance at a related afternoon workshop.
WHERE: Portland Maine, Cheverus High School, 267 Ocean Ave, 04103
“LIVING FAITH”—WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?
Living Faith is a day-long gathering of Friends from throughout New England. The event is a chance for Friends to worship together, get to know each other, share the different ways we experience and live our faith, and build community.
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.
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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Last summer, I traveled to Palestine with a group of African-American artists, scholars and activists organized by Dream Defenders. I am not anti-Semitic, and the views expressed in this essay are in no way an attack on people of the Jewish faith. My words are a reflection of my experiences on my trip, and my criticism lies with the treatment of Palestinian civilians by the state of Israel, no more and no less. As a black man in America, being stereotyped as a criminal is more than familiar to me, as is being unwanted on the streets of my own home and profiled by law enforcement.
Her eyes looked like she’d been crying for 30 years. Hearing her impassioned pleas for freedom beneath the flaking walls of her home in the Old City of Jerusalem, I don’t doubt that she had. Nora has been embattled in a tortuous legal struggle for her family home since the 1980s. Oftentimes carrying children, in her arms and in the womb, she labors in and out of Israeli courtrooms. She was born in this house. Her children were born in this house. Now just holding on to it has been the fight of her life.
The state of Israel has gone to unbelievable lengths to try to evict her and replace her with Jewish settlers. At one point the Israeli government even had her front door blockaded, forcing her to climb from a window ten feet up and barely bigger than a dog-door. As she guides us outside to the patio that shares a window with the settlers next door, a net filled with trash and stones thrown at her family by her new neighbors sits directly above our heads. How’s that for hospitality?
Nora’s home is just one heartbreaking casualty of war in the ongoing struggle between Israel and Palestine, in which heinous acts of violence have been committed by both Jews and Arabs. The blood on both sides runs deep. I do not pretend to be familiar with every nuance of the longstanding turmoil that engulfs Israel and Palestine; it is no doubt as aged and tangled as the family trees ripped apart by its brutality. I can only speak to the experiences I had there, to the humiliating checkpoints where Palestinians were not only stripped of their possessions but of their dignity. Walking the ancient streets of the Old City, I watched a Palestinian boy thrown against the wall and frisked by Israeli soldiers in full military gear, carrying assault rifles with their fingers ever present on the trigger. Our guide tells us he’s likely been accused of throwing stones, a crime punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison. Take a moment to process that. Throwing stones. Punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence. Further down the busy street was the startling image of an Israeli civilian walking by a group of Palestinian children complete with an AR-15–style rifle by his side and a pair of flip-flops on. The magnitude of the double standard is dumbfounding.
Just outside of Jerusalem we visited a Bedouin camp, where a sectarian group of Muslims told us they have seen their elementary school demolished ten times, as well as broken into and vandalized by armed settlers that live in the hills above. The Bedouins are a naturally nomadic community who prefer to live in tents and ask for only the freedom to the most basic of human rights; even these are unequivocally denied. Solar panels donated and built by European institutions for the camp were destroyed by the Israeli government, citing a lack of permission to build. Even toys donated by an Italian institution for the children of the camp were confiscated. An elderly man with a face of leather spoke to us in Arabic saying, “Now that you have seen with your own eyes, return home and explain what you saw. Place pressure on the U.S. government to place pressure on Israel.”
Herein lies the purpose of this composition. I write to inform all those who will hear me of the treacherous denial of human rights to the Palestinian people living under occupation. These scenes of oppression and abuse will be forever etched into my memory, burned into my mind’s eye.
The parallels between the black American experience and the Palestinian experience are overwhelming. Staring into the worm-infested water tank on top of a dilapidated house in Aida refugee camp, I can’t help but think of Flint, Michigan, and the rust-colored lead-poisoned water that flows through their faucets. As I gaze over the 25-foot “separation wall,” the economic disparity is acutely transparent; the Israeli side of the wall looks like the Capitol in The Hunger Games, while the Palestinian side reads like a snapshot from a war photographer. It’s as if the South Side of Chicago’s most forgotten and disenfranchised neighborhoods were separated from the luxury of Downtown’s Gold Coast by a simple concrete wall. The sight alone is emotional, and many people in the group cried on that roof. Rage cannot describe how I feel thinking of the insects swimming in that water tank, while just across the wall is an Israeli settlement with an Olympic-size swimming pool.
In a West Bank village called Nabi Saleh, I saw the most graphic account of these crimes against humanity I would be exposed to whilst in Palestine. The people of Nabi Saleh have mounted a long-term, non-violent resistance to martial law that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have responded to with extreme brutality. We sat in silence and watched a series of YouTube videos filmed by villagers of soldiers terrorizing the demonstrating civilians, primarily women and children. The videos show hundreds of metal tear-gas canisters raining on peaceful protests, elderly women punched in the face, children beaten and arrested, and even a villager who’s face was literally removed by a gas can at point blank range. “It’s our Palestinian 4th of July. You have fireworks, we have gas canisters,” jokes our host. It’s hard to find the strength to laugh.
As with the black community in the U.S., the use of incarceration, racial profiling and targeting the youth as methods of control are heavily prevalent in the occupied West Bank. The main difference I see between our oppression in America and that of Palestinians is how overt and shameless the face of discrimination is in the occupied West Bank. As much as we ruminate on our metaphorical police state in Black America, martial law is a very real and tangible condition in Palestine. Thinking of the young men I saw being detained by the roadside, my mind floats to the story of Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old boy incarcerated for three years without trial in Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack. Consumed by the cruelty that robbed him of his childhood, Kalief hung himself with a bed sheet two years after his release. In Palestine, I met children as young as 12 years old that had been detained by the IDF. At any given time, hundreds of Palestinian children are detained in Israeli prisons, many of them under the age of 16. It gave me chilling flashbacks to my earliest experiences with police as a black boy in America; officers forced us to the ground with pistols drawn for the common crime of mistaken identity.
For once in my life I didn’t feel like the nigger. As I sat comfortably at a coffee shop, gawking at a group of Israeli soldiers harassing a Palestinian teenager, it was clear who was the nigger. My American passport, ironically, had awarded me a higher position in the social hierarchy of Jerusalem than it did in my hometown of Chicago. As insensitive as it sounds, it was almost a feeling of relief to be out of oppression’s crosshairs for a moment, albeit a very short one.
As we sat in the home of an elderly woman in Hebron, the emotion of the room stuck to the air like tear gas. “Every day is suffering,” she confesses to us. She’s seen 18 of her people killed in front of her home, been jailed 25 times and beaten into the wall by soldiers and even forced to remove her Islamic dress at the checkpoint nearby. She wipes a single tear from her eye as she recounts to us how her husband left her because she wouldn’t leave the home. Still she refuses to hand over the house. “This is my home, it protected me and I will protect it,” she tells us.
This seems to be the overarching attitude of the Palestinians, one of pain but of pride, of darkness but of dignity. They have been made strangers in their own land, second-class citizens in the home of their forefathers, but they refuse to be a memory. They fight as if their existence depends on it, because it does. And all they ask of us is to tell their story.