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.
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….
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.
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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