“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”