Israel-Palestine Working Group of NEYM 2018-2019 Report

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.

NEYM Israel Palestine Opportunities poster-2018

Recent and current violence in and around Gaza (May 6, 2019)

The Occupation is a Crime of Aggression: Gazans React After 25 Palestinians, 4 Israelis Die

Palestinian leaders in Gaza report that they’ve agreed to a cease-fire with Israel to end a deadly two-day escalation of violence. Here, a Palestinian girl stands in front of a building on Monday that was destroyed during Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City over the weekend.

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….

Ashdod, Israel, May 6, 2019

READ THE FULL REPORT ON DEMOCRACY NOW

From Susan Rhodewalt, member of Northwest Quarterly Meeting in Vermont, a note she sent to her Monthly Meeting after discernment about a minute about violence in Gaza.

Friends Fiduciary Corporation divests from companies working in Israel

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.

READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

 

 

 

Friends Fiduciary Trust investment screen

 

 

 

American Friends Service Committee investment screen

In The Jewish Times:

Space to Play

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?

Despite Israel being a signatory to the CRC, many refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza are examples of how Israel has failed to protect the rights of Palestinian children that it is obliged to ensure as an occupying power.

Palestinian children play soccer in the streets of Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank on May 11, 2017. (Photo: DCIP / Ahmad al-Bazz)

READ MORE

In photos: Israel’s war on nonviolent resistance in Hebron

BY Claire Thomas The Electronic Intifada Hebron (May 2016)

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….

READ & SEE MORE

Israeli soldiers respond to a group of young Palestinian boys throwing stones from a nearby street.

Gaza march leader, Ahmed Abu Artema, to [Israeli] conscientious objectors: ‘Turn your words into weapons’

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.’

By Edo Konrad and Oren Ziv (January 2, 2019)

Israeli activists, including past and soon-to-be conscientious objectors hold a phone conversation with Gaza Return March leader Ahmed Abu Artema at the Hagada Hasmalit political space, Tel Aviv, December 19, 2018. (Oren Ziv)
Israeli activists, including past and soon-to-be conscientious objectors hold a phone conversation with Gaza Return March leader Ahmed Abu Artema at the Hagada Hasmalit, Tel Aviv, December 19, 2018. (Oren Ziv)

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….

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN +972

2019 New England tour

On February 26, 2019 at 7:15 pm, at Harvard University’s Kennedy School’s Starr Auditorium at 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge Massachusetts 02138.  

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

Quakers in Britain has today become the first church in the UK to announce it will not invest any of its centrally-held funds in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine. (November 19, 2018)

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

The decision, made by the church’s trustees in consultation with Meeting for Sufferings – the national representative body of Quakers – fits into a long Quaker history of pursuing ethical investments. It follows decisions not to invest funds in, among others, the fossil fuel industry, arms companies, Apartheid South Africa, and – going even further back – the transatlantic slave trade.

Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said:

“Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.

“With the occupation now in its 51styear, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.

“We know this decision will be hard for some to hear. We hope they will understand that our beliefs compel us to speak out about injustices wherever we see them in the world, and not to shy away from difficult conversations.

“As Quakers, we seek to live out our faith through everyday actions, including the choices we make about where to put our money.

“We believe strongly in the power of legitimate, nonviolent, democratic tools such as morally responsible investment to realise positive change in the world. We want to make sure our money and energies are instead put into places which support our commitments to peace, equality and justice.

“We hope that by announcing our refusal to profit from these companies it will encourage others to think about their own investments, and help challenge the legality and practices of the ongoing military occupation.

Ingrid Greenhow, clerk of Quakers in Britain trustees, said:

“While we do not believe we currently hold investments in any company profiting from the occupation, we will now amend our investment policy to ensure this remains the case in future.

“This includes companies – whichever country they are based in – involved for example in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in occupied Palestine, and the construction and servicing of the separation barrier and Israeli settlements.

“We look forward to the publication of the UN Business and Human Rights Database which will list companies involved in settlement-related activities in occupied Palestine. We recognise the help this – and others including the Investigate database compiled by the American Friends Service Committee – will give our investment managers in implementing this new policy.”

In their minute, the trustees said, “We hope this policy might be useful to [Quaker] area meetings interested in adopting a similar approach”.

In their minute, Meeting for Sufferings reaffirmed their 2011 decision to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine “until such time as the Israeli occupation of Palestine is ended.”

Meeting for Sufferings added that, “[W]e continually pray for both Israelis and Palestinians, keeping them together in our hearts, and looking forward to a future of loving and generous co-operation.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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

Faith in Action Committee of New England Yearly Meeting

(Our working group has asked to be included in this umbrella committee.)

From the Faith in Action Committee:

Dear Friends,

We are writing on behalf of the newly formed Faith in Action Committee of New England Yearly Meeting. This committee was formed “to support the public witness of Quakers in New England, to listen for where Friends from across New England are active, to amplify what is happening locally, to connect Friends with each other, to help form networks among Friends who carry related concerns, to highlight and share the news of Witness among Friends, and to listen for where Spirit is moving us” (committee charge approved at YM Sessions 2018).

The Faith in Action Committee would appreciate your help. As we seek to become more aware of faithful witness, news, and events among Friends, receiving meeting newsletters is one way we can learn news and help us stay connected. If your meeting/committee/working group has an electronic newsletter, and/or sends our notices regarding public witness of the meeting/group or its individual members, we would ask you to add the Faith in Action email to your distribution list. Our e-mail address is

Faithinaction@neym.org

You may also find it linked on our committee’s webpage, which we hope to use as a connecting page while a new website is developed.

neym.org/faith-action

If anyone from your meeting/group would like to contact the clerk and members of the committee, you may also use this email address.

We look forward to further contact as the work of this committee continues. in faith and service,

Diane Dicranian, clerk (Winthrop Center, ME, Friends Church)
Kathleen Wooten (Fresh Pond, MA, Monthly Meeting)

Faithinaction@neym.org

neym.org/faith-action

Plenary of NEYM, 2011, Bryant University, Kingston, Rhode Island, November 2, 2018

“What does justice look like? Moving towards a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel,” a conference Dec. 14 to 16, 2018

From Mike Merryman Lotz of the AFSC

The Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

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 “What does justice look like? 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.

Find more details and register on the Pendle Hill website. Scholarships are available to offset costs.

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 look like to address these issues today? What actions can people outside of the conflict take to promote change?

Join us for an interactive weekend of panels and workshops to:

  • Find out what is needed to support change in Israel and Palestine.
  • Gain skills for taking action and building intersectional work toward change.
  • Connect with others interested in building toward a different future.
  • Give and receive support as you continue to work toward change after the conference.

Register for the conference today.

I hope that you can join us at Pendle Hill.

In peace,

Mike Merryman-Lotze
Middle East Program Director

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

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

Some excerpts:

ACTIVITIES

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

BDS ACTIVITIES

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

STAFF MEMBERS

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

READ THE ENTIRE ANALYSIS

AFSC ON THIS WEBSITE

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

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