Israel-Palestine Working Group of NEYM 2019-2020 Report

Join AFSC in memorializing the 521 Palestinian children killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge (2008-2009) while demanding change.

“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.

Theme-organized informal lunch conversations, this one about the Deadly Exchange campaign of Jewish Voice for Peace about Israel training US security officers, including police

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.

The Promised Land Exhibit by the Jewish Museum of the Palestinian Experience

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.

Exhibit by Skip Schiel, The Ongoing Nakba, internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank

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.

Last summer’s Palestine-Israel program at sessions in Castleton Vermont

Israel-Palestine Working Group 2020 Annual Report

Photographs by Skip Schiel of New England Yearly Meeting sessions, 2019:

Quakers gather in New England

Provoke one another to love and to good works

Selectively ending incarceration during the age of the coronavirus pandemic

Israel raids offices of Palestinian prisoner rights activists ...

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:

    1. American Friends Service Committee’s call for compassionate release of elderly people and others who are medically vulnerable;  (AFSC)
    2. 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

Supreme Court Rules California Must Cut Prison Population : NPR

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

Ramallah Friends School closes because of the Novel Coronavirus threat

Ramallah Friends School / Ramallah, Palestine - Jobs.ps

Message from the Ramallah Friends School Head of School Adrian Moody, March 26, 2020

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

Ramallah Friends School | bonnie and dave | Flickr

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,

Sincerely,
Electronic Signature
Adrian Moody
Head of School
Ramallah Friends School

 

Adrian Moody

Quakers in Israel & PalestineTime Line

(with resources)

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.

Our schedule for New England Yearly Meeting sessions-2019-
Castleton VT-August 3-8

Click poster to download

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:

“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)

Why Are Palestinians Protesting in Gaza?

 

A wounded Palestinian demonstrator is evacuated during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

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.

According to a group of United Nations experts, “there is no available evidence to suggest that the lives of heavily armed security forces were threatened” by the unarmed demonstrators they fired on.

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.

 

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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).

—Yehuda Amichai (from Jews in the Land of Israel)

Other perspectives, the first with photos:

Israeli forces kill dozens of Palestinians in Gaza ‘massacre’ (May 14, 2018)

With the Great Return March, Palestinians Are Demanding a Life of Dignity (April 6, 2018)

‘We want to return to our lands without bloodshed or bombs’ (March 30, 2018)

Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week,  

The Challenges We Face and Community We Forge: An interview with Sa’ed Atshan

Sa’ed Atshan at Ramallah Meeting in Palestine. Photo courtesy of Sa’ed Atshan.

In February 2017 Friends Central High School in Philadelphia had fired two teacher-advisors to a student group which had invited a Palestinian Quaker, Sa’ed Atshan, to discuss the situation in Palestine-Israel. In this interview, after a long discernment, Sa’ed speaks about what happened and how he approaches what some feel is censorship by a quaker school.

READ THE ARTICLE HERE Continue reading “The Challenges We Face and Community We Forge: An interview with Sa’ed Atshan”

NEYM unites on a statement about Palestine-Israel

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

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

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