As I write to you our campuses enter the third week of school closure. As Head of School I do live on campus and it has been too quiet lately as students and teachers are the soul of any school. And a school without its students and teachers is just a group of buildings.
Our seniors were taking their IB Mock exams when the closure was announced, and we had to think fast to decide what the next best steps would be for our community. Our leadership team, administrative and teaching staff never stopped working – each from their own home – to provide online materials and lessons to more than 1500 students in all grade levels (KG -11th) while our seniors continued their exams online.
Due to the dedication of our staff we were able to launch distance learning for the first time at RFS given limited resources. Our goal is not only to minimize the disruption of the learning process, but also to keep us connected to our students and their families at such challenging times when we all need each other.
Mona Halaby teaches conflict resolution at Ramallah Friends School
Teachers, administrators, principals, students and parents are all working hard together and that is how our community will survive. The school like Palestine itself has held steadfast. We hold true to our mission and we have hope for the future. At these uncertain times, we are unsure of what is coming and we have not been able to ensure our financial budgets for the next academic year.
Thank you for helping us maintain the school’s sustainability, so we can, together, make sure that RFS can continue offering Quaker education to Palestinian youth for another 150 years.
Wishing you and your loved ones wellness and peace and good health,
At a Glance: Events at UCC’s 2005 General Synod convinced a few activists of the need for a grass-roots organization to promote justice for Palestinians and to support Global Ministries partners in Palestine and Israel. This concern led to the founding of the UCC Palestine/Israel Network in 2012. The effort was supported by staff from UCC’s Wider Church Ministries as well as Justice and Witness Ministries.
What We Do
At a Glance: Our work is aligned with our mission statement. We initiate resolutions of witness for consideration by various settings of the UCC; support implementation of adopted resolutions; develop educational materials for use throughout the UCC; publicly state, support and endorse pro-justice positions; and cooperate with allied groups working toward a just peace and recognition of Palestinian human rights.
In April 2020, the Freedom Bus will get back on the road! Since 2011, we have called on friends and comrades from around the world to come together in Palestine for its annual Freedom Ride – an initiative organised through The Freedom Theatre in partnership with popular struggle committees across Occupied Palestine. After a three years break, we are now once again calling on you to join us in bringing cultural resistance back to the streets!
The 2020 Freedom Ride will offer a gathering point for artists and activists engaged in diverse movements around the world. Palestinians and people from abroad will come together to stand in defiance of the oppression and share experiences and ideas, build alliances and participate in discussions on topics such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the role of international civil society and resistance through art. Together we will engage in mutual exchange through storytelling, discussions, teach-ins, community work, interactive theatre and other cultural actions in some of the key areas of oppression and resistance within Occupied Palestine.
ITINERARY The 2020 Freedom Ride will commence in Jenin on 11 April. We will then travel to the Jordan Valley and stay there for several days before moving on to Hebron and the South Hebron Hills. The ride will end in Bethlehem on 20 April. A more detailed description of the itinerary will be provided to participants nearer to the ride.
CONDITIONS The Freedom Ride is focused on financially impoverished communities and living conditions during the ride will be very simple. Some host communities lack basic services including electricity, telephone lines, running-water, sewage systems, schools and clinics. Accommodation will be simple, in shared rooms or communal spaces. Showering facilities will not always be available and in some places we will be using outdoor toilets.
In short, this ride will require a high tolerance level and you should be prepared for what may be perceived as stressful situations, and be willing to deal with them in a calm, supportive way. In return, you will get a completely unique, first-hand experience of life in Occupied Palestine and get to participate directly in the movement towards freedom and justice in Palestine!
COST Palestinian participants: 700 NIS.
Non-Palestinian participants: 600 US Dollars.
HOW TO JOIN If you want to be part of the Freedom Bus 2020, please send an emailto email@example.com. Places on board of the Freedom Bus are limited, so we advice you to register early. Deadline for registrations is 15 February.
Find more information about the Freedom Bus project here.
I (Skip Schiel) rode this bus in 2015, struck by the comparisons with the Freedom Bus rides in the US; I highly recommend this adventure as one of the best methods to understand the situation—with lots of examples of nonviolent struggles for Palestinian rights.
Old news but worth repeating so many know. From The Times of Israel (October 2012)
JTA – A Quaker group has removed a French and an American company from its financial portfolio due to what it calls the companies’ involvement in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.
Friends Fiduciary Corporation will drop the French multinational corporation Veolia Environment and the US-based Hewlett-Packard from its portfolio following requests from Quakers concerned about the companies’ involvement in the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands.
FFC has investments of more than $250,000 in HP and more than $140,000 in Veolia, according to the We Divest Campaign. The money is part of an overall $200 million in assets and investments for more than 250 Quaker meetings, schools, organizations, trusts and endowments around the US.
The Quaker group does not issue public announcements about such moves, but did send a letter confirming the information, according to Anna Baltzer, a spokesperson for the We Divest Campaign.
“It’s not private; it’s public information and they’ve written a letter to the Friends Meeting in Ann Arbor, Mich. that raised the issue,” she said. The Ann Arbor group did not return JTA’s call for this article.
However, Jeffrey W. Perkins, the FFC’s executive director, said in a press release issued by We Divest that HP provides information technology consulting services to the Israeli Navy, and Veolia Environment is involved in “environmental and social concerns” with the Israeli military,
This decision comes a few months after the FFC dropped shares in Caterpillar Inc. because Caterpillar “would neither confirm nor deny the extent or type of modifications to equipment sold to the Israeli military,” according to the release.
West Bank refugee camps are facing a crisis of safety and square feet.
Play is a human right for children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), essential to healthy brain and body development. But how can children in Arroub play when all the spaces available to them, public or private, put them at risk of becoming witness or victim to damaging events?
I have widened my 16 year Palestine-Israel photographic project by locating, interviewing, and photographing Palestinians living in yet another of their many diasporas, this one internal, meaning in the Occupied West Bank of Palestine. In the fall of 2018 I photographed 15 Palestinians, most first-generation refugees, some second, third, and fourth generation. I’ve also photographed their original regions, their sites of expulsion where many had provably lived for multiple generations, now in Israel (or what’s called 1948 Israel to indicate the occupation). The first generation Palestinians suffered the Nakba in 1948, the Palestine Catastrophe, coincident with the formation of the Israeli state.
Palestinians are one of the world’s peoples longest colonized—since 1948 by Israel during the Nakba, later thru the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, and most recently by the blockade of Gaza in 2005—and living in external diaspora—Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Scandinavian countries, and elsewhere including the United States. Since 2003 I’ve photographed regularly in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel to depict their conditions. Now, responding to the worldwide refugee and immigration crisis, and with the help of many contacts and friends in the USA and Palestine-Israel, I have the opportunity to reach further with my photography and show more widely the consequences of colonization and immigration.
The project has 4 parts: black and white portraits, color photos of their current environments, color photos of their former regions, and black and white historic photos of their lives before and during expulsion. And possibly a fifth—videos and photos of current Israeli communities built on or near the original Palestinian sites. Along the way to a multi-platform book (videos, internet, etc.) I’ll produce slideshows and exhibits.
I plan to return in spring, 2020, this time with others (the Alternatives to Violence Project, AVP) to enter Gaza and continue my work. I hope to work with the Palestinian organizations, Badil and Adalah, and the Israeli organizations, Zochrot and B’Tselem. I offer my efforts to amplify the Palestinian right of return.
Quakers in Britain has today become the first church in the UK to announce it will not invest any of its centrally-held funds in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine. (November 19, 2018)
The decision, made by the church’s trustees in consultation with Meeting for Sufferings – the national representative body of Quakers – fits into a long Quaker history of pursuing ethical investments. It follows decisions not to invest funds in, among others, the fossil fuel industry, arms companies, Apartheid South Africa, and – going even further back – the transatlantic slave trade.
Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said:
“Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.
“With the occupation now in its 51styear, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.
“We know this decision will be hard for some to hear. We hope they will understand that our beliefs compel us to speak out about injustices wherever we see them in the world, and not to shy away from difficult conversations.
“As Quakers, we seek to live out our faith through everyday actions, including the choices we make about where to put our money.
“We believe strongly in the power of legitimate, nonviolent, democratic tools such as morally responsible investment to realise positive change in the world. We want to make sure our money and energies are instead put into places which support our commitments to peace, equality and justice.
“We hope that by announcing our refusal to profit from these companies it will encourage others to think about their own investments, and help challenge the legality and practices of the ongoing military occupation.
Ingrid Greenhow, clerk of Quakers in Britain trustees, said:
“While we do not believe we currently hold investments in any company profiting from the occupation, we will now amend our investment policy to ensure this remains the case in future.
“This includes companies – whichever country they are based in – involved for example in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in occupied Palestine, and the construction and servicing of the separation barrier and Israeli settlements.
“We look forward to the publication of the UN Business and Human Rights Database which will list companies involved in settlement-related activities in occupied Palestine. We recognise the help this – and others including the Investigate database compiled by the American Friends Service Committee – will give our investment managers in implementing this new policy.”
In their minute, the trustees said, “We hope this policy might be useful to [Quaker] area meetings interested in adopting a similar approach”.
In their minute, Meeting for Sufferings reaffirmed their 2011 decision to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine “until such time as the Israeli occupation of Palestine is ended.”
Meeting for Sufferings added that, “[W]e continually pray for both Israelis and Palestinians, keeping them together in our hearts, and looking forward to a future of loving and generous co-operation.”
(Our working group has asked to be included in this umbrella committee.)
From the Faith in Action Committee:
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
Join the American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker Palestine Israel Network, and Pendle Hill for a weekend of exploring what it will take to realize a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel.
From Dec.14 to 16, we’re holding a conference titled “Whatdoesjusticelooklike? Moving towards a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel.” We invite you to join us for this exciting opportunity to learn more about Israel and Palestine and what you can do to bring change.
AFSC and Quakers have engaged in Palestine for over a century and worked for peace with justice since 1948. After decades without change, we want to open up a conversation about what’s needed for a just future.
It has been 70 years since the 1948 war, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced and the State of Israel was born. It has been over 50 years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, gaining control of all of historic Palestine. And it has been 25 years since Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn at the start of the Oslo Peace Process.
But 25 years after the start of what was intended to be a five-year peace process, we must question that framework. Why hasn’t peace yet been achieved? What paradigm shifts are needed to bring change? What are the historic injustices that need to be righted, and what might it looklike to address these issues today? What actions can people outside of the conflict take to promote change?
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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Once a month, B’Tselem sends a newsletter to its e-mail subscribers. The newsletter includes information on individual cases and larger policies concerning human rights, as well as calls for action. Click here to subscribe to the newsletter.
Last summer, I traveled to Palestine with a group of African-American artists, scholars and activists organized by Dream Defenders. I am not anti-Semitic, and the views expressed in this essay are in no way an attack on people of the Jewish faith. My words are a reflection of my experiences on my trip, and my criticism lies with the treatment of Palestinian civilians by the state of Israel, no more and no less. As a black man in America, being stereotyped as a criminal is more than familiar to me, as is being unwanted on the streets of my own home and profiled by law enforcement.
Her eyes looked like she’d been crying for 30 years. Hearing her impassioned pleas for freedom beneath the flaking walls of her home in the Old City of Jerusalem, I don’t doubt that she had. Nora has been embattled in a tortuous legal struggle for her family home since the 1980s. Oftentimes carrying children, in her arms and in the womb, she labors in and out of Israeli courtrooms. She was born in this house. Her children were born in this house. Now just holding on to it has been the fight of her life.
The state of Israel has gone to unbelievable lengths to try to evict her and replace her with Jewish settlers. At one point the Israeli government even had her front door blockaded, forcing her to climb from a window ten feet up and barely bigger than a dog-door. As she guides us outside to the patio that shares a window with the settlers next door, a net filled with trash and stones thrown at her family by her new neighbors sits directly above our heads. How’s that for hospitality?
Nora’s home is just one heartbreaking casualty of war in the ongoing struggle between Israel and Palestine, in which heinous acts of violence have been committed by both Jews and Arabs. The blood on both sides runs deep. I do not pretend to be familiar with every nuance of the longstanding turmoil that engulfs Israel and Palestine; it is no doubt as aged and tangled as the family trees ripped apart by its brutality. I can only speak to the experiences I had there, to the humiliating checkpoints where Palestinians were not only stripped of their possessions but of their dignity. Walking the ancient streets of the Old City, I watched a Palestinian boy thrown against the wall and frisked by Israeli soldiers in full military gear, carrying assault rifles with their fingers ever present on the trigger. Our guide tells us he’s likely been accused of throwing stones, a crime punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison. Take a moment to process that. Throwing stones. Punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence. Further down the busy street was the startling image of an Israeli civilian walking by a group of Palestinian children complete with an AR-15–style rifle by his side and a pair of flip-flops on. The magnitude of the double standard is dumbfounding.
Just outside of Jerusalem we visited a Bedouin camp, where a sectarian group of Muslims told us they have seen their elementary school demolished ten times, as well as broken into and vandalized by armed settlers that live in the hills above. The Bedouins are a naturally nomadic community who prefer to live in tents and ask for only the freedom to the most basic of human rights; even these are unequivocally denied. Solar panels donated and built by European institutions for the camp were destroyed by the Israeli government, citing a lack of permission to build. Even toys donated by an Italian institution for the children of the camp were confiscated. An elderly man with a face of leather spoke to us in Arabic saying, “Now that you have seen with your own eyes, return home and explain what you saw. Place pressure on the U.S. government to place pressure on Israel.”
Herein lies the purpose of this composition. I write to inform all those who will hear me of the treacherous denial of human rights to the Palestinian people living under occupation. These scenes of oppression and abuse will be forever etched into my memory, burned into my mind’s eye.
The parallels between the black American experience and the Palestinian experience are overwhelming. Staring into the worm-infested water tank on top of a dilapidated house in Aida refugee camp, I can’t help but think of Flint, Michigan, and the rust-colored lead-poisoned water that flows through their faucets. As I gaze over the 25-foot “separation wall,” the economic disparity is acutely transparent; the Israeli side of the wall looks like the Capitol in The Hunger Games, while the Palestinian side reads like a snapshot from a war photographer. It’s as if the South Side of Chicago’s most forgotten and disenfranchised neighborhoods were separated from the luxury of Downtown’s Gold Coast by a simple concrete wall. The sight alone is emotional, and many people in the group cried on that roof. Rage cannot describe how I feel thinking of the insects swimming in that water tank, while just across the wall is an Israeli settlement with an Olympic-size swimming pool.
In a West Bank village called Nabi Saleh, I saw the most graphic account of these crimes against humanity I would be exposed to whilst in Palestine. The people of Nabi Saleh have mounted a long-term, non-violent resistance to martial law that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have responded to with extreme brutality. We sat in silence and watched a series of YouTube videos filmed by villagers of soldiers terrorizing the demonstrating civilians, primarily women and children. The videos show hundreds of metal tear-gas canisters raining on peaceful protests, elderly women punched in the face, children beaten and arrested, and even a villager who’s face was literally removed by a gas can at point blank range. “It’s our Palestinian 4th of July. You have fireworks, we have gas canisters,” jokes our host. It’s hard to find the strength to laugh.
As with the black community in the U.S., the use of incarceration, racial profiling and targeting the youth as methods of control are heavily prevalent in the occupied West Bank. The main difference I see between our oppression in America and that of Palestinians is how overt and shameless the face of discrimination is in the occupied West Bank. As much as we ruminate on our metaphorical police state in Black America, martial law is a very real and tangible condition in Palestine. Thinking of the young men I saw being detained by the roadside, my mind floats to the story of Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old boy incarcerated for three years without trial in Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack. Consumed by the cruelty that robbed him of his childhood, Kalief hung himself with a bed sheet two years after his release. In Palestine, I met children as young as 12 years old that had been detained by the IDF. At any given time, hundreds of Palestinian children are detained in Israeli prisons, many of them under the age of 16. It gave me chilling flashbacks to my earliest experiences with police as a black boy in America; officers forced us to the ground with pistols drawn for the common crime of mistaken identity.
For once in my life I didn’t feel like the nigger. As I sat comfortably at a coffee shop, gawking at a group of Israeli soldiers harassing a Palestinian teenager, it was clear who was the nigger. My American passport, ironically, had awarded me a higher position in the social hierarchy of Jerusalem than it did in my hometown of Chicago. As insensitive as it sounds, it was almost a feeling of relief to be out of oppression’s crosshairs for a moment, albeit a very short one.
As we sat in the home of an elderly woman in Hebron, the emotion of the room stuck to the air like tear gas. “Every day is suffering,” she confesses to us. She’s seen 18 of her people killed in front of her home, been jailed 25 times and beaten into the wall by soldiers and even forced to remove her Islamic dress at the checkpoint nearby. She wipes a single tear from her eye as she recounts to us how her husband left her because she wouldn’t leave the home. Still she refuses to hand over the house. “This is my home, it protected me and I will protect it,” she tells us.
This seems to be the overarching attitude of the Palestinians, one of pain but of pride, of darkness but of dignity. They have been made strangers in their own land, second-class citizens in the home of their forefathers, but they refuse to be a memory. They fight as if their existence depends on it, because it does. And all they ask of us is to tell their story.
Recently, the struggle for Palestinian human rights gained international attention surrounding a new icon of resistance–16 year old Ahed Tamimi.
While in the West Bank in late 2016, Abby Martin interviewed Ahed Tamimi about her hardships and aspirations living under occupation and it becomes clear why her subjugators are trying to silence her voice. Her brother Waad and father Bassem also talk about their experiences with Israeli soldiers harassing their village and targeting their family.
In this exclusive episode, Abby outlines the Tamimi family’s tragic tale and unending bravery in the fight for justice and equality in Palestine and how the story of their village of Nabi Saleh is emblematic of the Palestinian struggle as a whole.
Just before the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference and mass congressional lobbying day in Washington, DC, the “Israel Lobby and American Policy 2018” conference will be held on Friday, March 2, 2018 at the National Press Club.
This educational event is open to the public and will examine the strategies, tactics and policies of Israel and its U.S. lobby. Key questions to be addressed by invited experts are:
What is the current estimated cost and trajectory of major Israel lobby initiatives such as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act law that seek to fine and jail American organizations and individuals engaged in boycotts of Israel over systematic human rights abuses?
What impact could other major Israel lobby initiatives—including precipitating U.S. attacks on Iran, renewed U.S. attacks on Syria, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and formal U.S. recognition of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, Golan Heights and West Bank—have on America’s global standing?
How is American public opinion shifting on key issues such as unconditional military aid to Israel, the influence of Israel on U.S. policymakers, and trust in coverage of Israel by the mainstream news media?
What is the current level of Israel lobby “capture” of major U.S. institutions, especially government agencies, think tanks, academia and news outlets?
What is Israel’s long-term regional strategy and how does it attempt to engage the U.S. in achieving its objectives through the Israel lobby?
How are peace and human rights activists pushing back against the lobby in courtrooms and at the grassroots level?
What new roles are artists taking on to challenge Israel lobby initiatives? What is the pushback?
How do Israel lobby “gatekeepers” influence campus debate, academic appointments and curriculum?
What are the current challenges to liberal Zionist beliefs, public perception of Israel as being interested in peace, and the notion of universal American Jewish support for Israel?
Which country has a quantitatively larger influence on U.S. electoral politics, Russia or Israel?
Will Israel likely break its agreement not to seek more than $38 billion in U.S. military aid over the next decade? What amount of secret intelligence aid is Israel also receiving, and why are U.S. intelligence agencies fighting to keep it secret?
So what explains the special relationship if there is no strategic or moral imperative and if most Americans do not favor it? Our answer, of course, is the lobby.
– John Mearsheimer
(This video site will provide live coverage, and probably a recording for later viewing.)
Yesterday the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was included on a list of 20 organizations whose staff may be denied entry to Israel because of their support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Motivated by Quaker belief in the worth and dignity of all people, AFSC has supported and joined in nonviolent resistance for over 100 years. We answered the call for divestment from apartheid in South Africa, and we have done the same with the call for BDS from Palestinians who have faced decades of human rights violations.
Throughout our history, we have stood with communities facing oppression and violence around the world. In 1947 we were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in part for our support for Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust. We will continue our legacy of speaking truth to power and standing for peace and justice without exception in Israel, occupied Palestine, and around the world.
All people, including Palestinians, have a right to live in safety and peace and have their human rights respected. For 51 years, Israel has denied Palestinians in the occupied territories their fundamental human rights, in defiance of international law. While Israeli Jews enjoy full civil and political rights, prosperity, and relative security, Palestinians under Israeli control enjoy few or none of those rights or privileges.
The Palestinian BDS call aims at changing this situation, asking the international community to use proven nonviolent social change tactics until equality, freedom from occupation, and recognition of refugees’ right to return are realized. AFSC’s Principles for a Just and Lasting Peace in Palestine and Israel affirm each of these rights. Thus, we have joined others around the world in responding to the Palestinian-led BDS call. As Palestinians seek to realize their rights and end Israeli oppression, what are the alternatives left to them if we deny them such options?
Quakers pioneered the use of boycotts when they helped lead the “Free Produce Movement,” a boycott of goods produced using slave labor during the 1800s. AFSC has a long history of supporting economic activism, which we view as an appeal to conscience, aimed at raising awareness among those complicit in harmful practices, and as an effective tactic for removing structural support for oppression.
The 17th century Quaker abolitionist John Woolman spoke to the spiritual foundation of this work when he said, “May we look upon our treasures, and the furniture of our houses, and the garments in which we array ourselves, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions.”
The ban on entry to Israel for activists who support the Palestinian-led BDS movement is part of a larger effort by the Israeli government to silence and constrain human rights and anti-occupation activists. In recent months, more Palestinian activists have faced arrest, death threats, and imprisonment without charge or trial in response to nonviolent activism for human rights. In addition, organizations inside Israel have been denied funding and access to event venues and have faced threats of trial and imprisonment.
At a time when the Israeli government is moving to expand settlements, redefine Jerusalem, and annex portions of the West Bank, support for nonviolent activism that seeks freedom, equality, and justice is critical.
Therefore, as long as these and other human rights violations persist, we will continue to support Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions efforts as effective nonviolent tools for realizing political and social change. We hope one day to see Israelis and Palestinians live together in peace. This will only happen when the human rights of all are recognized and respected.
Mondoweiss is an independent website devoted to informing readers about developments in Israel/Palestine and related US foreign policy. We provide news and analysis unavailable through the mainstream media regarding the struggle for Palestinian human rights.
According to the editors, Mondoweiss is “a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective”. Its founder describes himself as progressive and anti-Zionist. (Wikipedia)
In 2002, OCHA established its Country Office in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), occupied by Israel since the 1967 war, to support international efforts to respond to the humanitarian situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the Gaza Strip.
The major drivers of humanitarian vulnerability in the oPt are the protracted occupation, the systematic denial of Palestinian human rights, and continuing conflict, punctuated by frequent outbreaks of violence. In the West Bank, continuing settlement expansion and the lack of a horizon for ending the occupation are major sources of frustration and conflict. In the Gaza Strip, years of blockade and recurrent outbreaks of hostilities have eroded basic infrastructure, service delivery, livelihoods and coping mechanisms. The overall context is that of a protracted protection crisis driven by lack of respect for international law, and a lack of accountability for violations.
OCHA is the part of the United Nations Secretariat responsible for bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent response to emergencies. OCHA also ensures there is a framework within which each actor can contribute to the overall response effort.
OCHA’s mission is to:
Mobilize and coordinate effective and principled humanitarian action in partnership with national and international actors in order to alleviate human suffering in disasters and emergencies.
Advocate the rights of people in need.
Promote preparedness and prevention.
Facilitate sustainable solutions.
For the most up-to-date information, including alerts, daily facts and recent publications, check out our official Facebook page.
Produced by Zena Tahhan
Published on November 21, 2017
To the casual visitor or tourist driving through the occupied West Bank or Jerusalem, Israeli settlements may appear as just another set of houses on a hill.
The middle-class suburban style townhouses, built fast and locked in a grid of uniform units, stand like fortified compounds, in direct contrast to the sprawling limestone Palestinian homes below.
Settlement homes, mostly constructed of cement with a cosmetic limestone cladding, tend to fashion a similar look: American-style villas topped by red-tiled roofs and surrounded by lush, neatly trimmed green lawns.
The largest settlement, Modi’in Illit, houses more than 64,000 Israeli Jews in the occupied West Bank. The mega-settlement has its own mayor, as well as schools, shopping malls and medical centres.
Some settlements even have their own universities.