News February 2018

Popular resistance by Ryan Rodrick Beiller/AFSC

Statement from AFSC on being blacklisted from entry into Israel

On January 7, 2018, Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs released a list of 20 organizations whose staff may be denied entry visas into Israel because of their support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was among the blacklisted organizations. Of the six US-based groups on the blacklist, AFSC is unique in having a substantial program presence on the ground in Israel and Palestine. Friends Journal is publishing AFSC’s statement here in its entirety. Our upcoming March issue, on the theme of “Quakers in the Holy Land,” will include more background material about Friends’ witness in Israel and Palestine.

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 seventeenth-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.

AFSC Acting in Faith blog ( is updated with statements and news about this fast-moving story.

[hr]Remembering Muted Voices symposium

A coalition of peace churches and other organizations, including the Peace History Society, sponsored the symposium Remembering Muted Voices. It was held at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo., October 19–22, 2017, and told stories of resistance during the First World War.

The symposium hosted five keynote speakers. Michael Kazin, a history professor at Georgetown University, spoke on the resistance to the draft in the United States during the First World War. Erika Kuhlman spoke about the use of rhetoric surrounding strength and weakness to increase support for war in a pacifist climate. Kuhlman is a history professor at Idaho State University. Her talk also considered how gender roles and expectations affected the war discourse in the United States.

Dora Maendel was born in the rural community of the New Rosedale Hutterite Colony, some 100 kilometers southwest of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Duane C.S. Stoltzfus is a professor of communication and chair of the communication department at Goshen College, where he also serves as copyeditor for The Mennonite Quarterly Review. Maendel and Stoltzfus’s talk centered on four young Hutterite men from South Dakota who were conscientious objectors during the First World War. They were among 504 conscientious objectors who were court-martialed during the war. Within a year, the men had traveled from the guardhouse at Camp Lewis in Washington State to Alcatraz, off the coast of California, and then to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

Ingrid Sharp is an associate professor and director of Graduate Studies in the School of Languages, Cultures, and Societies at the University of Leeds. Sharp spoke on how language influenced the perception of the First World War in Germany. During and after the First World War, “German” and “Germany” became coded language for militarism. One hundred years later, commemoration of the First World War centenary sometimes gave the impression that the war was accepted without opposition in Germany. Dr. Sharp’s talk went beyond German militarism to look at the various forms of anti-war resistance practiced by German citizens, including those conscripted into the German army.

In addition to the keynote talks, the symposium included two plenary panels. One panel consisted of secular organizations, including representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, the War Resisters League, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. The other plenary panel consisted of representatives from faith organizations: American Friends Service Committee, British Friends, Friends of Reconciliation, and Mennonite Central Committee were represented.

The Symposium ended on Sunday morning with a memorial service at Fort Leavenworth. Two Anabaptist conscientious objectors who died there were remembered, as were all the other conscientious objectors that resisted the First World War. A traveling exhibition, Voices of Conscience: Peace Witness in the Great War, opened at the symposium and will be hosted around the country through November 2018.

[hr]Quakers in Britain denounce recognition of Jerusalem

On December 6, 2017, Quakers in Britain released a statement in opposition to President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump had announced earlier that day that the United States would move the site of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This action recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli land, despite its status being disputed in peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain wrote:

As Quakers, and guided by our testimonies to peace and equality, we feel compelled to speak out about President Trump’s announcement that he now recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. East Jerusalem is recognised internationally as occupied Palestinian territory, with over 15 UN Security Council Resolutions affirming this since the occupation of Palestine began in 1967. We join with others around the world, including Pope Francis and the British government, in voicing our deep concern at President Trump’s announcement. We find his actions to be morally indefensible because they are deliberately provocative and against international law.

Our desire would be to see actions which reduce the likelihood of violence and enhance chances for a just peace with dignity and security for all. We believe President Trump’s decision instead gives legitimacy to the widespread human rights abuses committed by the Israeli government in the course of its 50-year occupation of Palestine, including the illegal acquisition of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The statement continues by calling on Trump to reconsider the move. It further calls on the British government to recognize the state of Palestine as it does the state of Israel. It concludes by calling for the status of the city of Jerusalem to be determined only within the context of peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Faith leaders and organizations around the globe, including the Episcopal Church of the United States, Pope Francis, and church leaders in Jerusalem have joined in calling for Trump to reconsider the move.

[hr]Friends Celebrate World Quaker Day

On October 1, 2017, Friends around the world took part in celebrations and activities for World Quaker Day. World Quaker Day is a program of Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC). Each year, FWCC promotes a theme for the day. For 2017, the theme was Gathering in Worship Around the Globe. Friends around the world took part in celebrations and reflections on the theme.

Barrydale Worship Group in South Africa shared: “We were very aware of the unfolding connectedness from meetings opening and closing in different time zones all around the world. Our hope is that our participation will link us closer to other Friends from different parts of the world.”

The Quaker Community in Cape Town met with the Ahmadiyya Jama’at group in East Rondebosch. They are an unusual Muslim group and have experienced persecution by other Muslims in Pakistan where they originated over 100 years ago. They are very peace oriented and believe in “love for all, hatred for none.”

At Hill House Meeting in Ghana, Friends considered environmental sustainability and partook in tree planting at the meetinghouse.

Bhopal Friends of Bhopal Yearly Meeting in India celebrated World Quaker Day with silent worship. Friends meditated on the twelfth chapter of Romans and then shared their thoughts. After the meeting, a group photograph was taken.

Canberra Friends in Australia participated in their tradition of talking via Internet to Quakers in other parts of the world. This year they talked to Friends in Bhopal Yearly Meeting, Mid India Yearly Meeting, and to Quakers in Osaka, Japan. Canberra Friends acknowledged the importance of international connections and also grieved for the difficult times many are going though.

Coventry Friends, of Central England Area Quakers of Britain Yearly Meeting, put aside their usual silent unprogrammed meeting and heard five readings from around the world as well as two pieces of recorded music.

Green Country Friends Meeting in Tulsa, Okla., hosted an open house at a local library and offered an introduction to Quakers and a period of worship in the manner of Friends. The open house was part of a combined celebration of their 30th anniversary as a monthly meeting and World Quaker Day. Friends were surprised and delighted with the arrival of four Friends from Hominy (Okla.) Meeting (Great Plains Yearly Meeting in Friends United Meeting).

Young Friends Group in Orlando (Fla.) Meeting celebrated World Quaker Day with the help of an orange. All having washed their hands, the orange was segmented according to the proportionate number of Quakers in each of the four sections of the 2017 World Map for Finding Quakers Around the World. Thanks to the orange, everyone could easily see how Quakers are currently distributed around the world. After discussion of the sections, Friends reassembled them into “one world” of Quakers.

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