Why do Quakers care about Israel-Palestine? Jewish, Palestinian, and Quaker voices come together to explore this question. Click here to join AFSC and other Quakers in working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine.
- Subscribe to QuakerSpeak so you never miss a video
- Read Friends Journal to see how other Friends describe the substance of Quaker spirituality
- Visit FCNL to Lobby with Quakers on Capitol Hill
- Work for peace with justice with AFSC.
- Ryan Beiler – www.ryanrodrickbeiler.com
- Anna Spysz – Flickr
- Lucy Duncan – AFSC
- Tony Heriza – AFSC
From my history of what I knew growing up as a Quaker is that we took risks. Mary Dyer went back to the Boston Common. John Woolman went and talked to people about where they purchased their clothing. There were Quakers that helped with the Underground Railroad. Et cetera, et cetera. People who would even take personal risk to stand up for the truth as they saw it.
“Vision for Equality”
A Quaker Call to Action on Israel-Palestine
I visited Israel many, many times in my life, going back to when I was a kid and I would go on the hermetically-sealed trip. In other words, I would go to the Jewish parts of Israel, and it wasn’t until later, as an adult, that I literally crossed the line and spent time in the West Bank. I realized that we really have in this tiny little land two radically different universes. When you’re in Tel Aviv, you can be sipping cappuccino by the beach in a cafe and literally just a few kilometers to your south is the Gaza Strip, which is one of the most hellish places to live on Earth.
On the Ground in Palestine
People are only concerned about living their days. About the basic things of life. For example, getting electricity, which they get only six hours a day. Getting water, clean water. Getting jobs. You have skyrocketing rates of unemployment, around 60% or even more, people are unemployed. Especially youth. So youth don’t see that there is a future, even, in Gaza.
The Impact of Occupation
If they stop my father’s car in Ramallah and he shows them his I.D. and its color is blue, and my sister is in the car with him and she shows them her green I.D., West Bank I.D., it means that he has to pay a little bit more than fifteen hundred dollars and his car is taken away from him for 3 months. It’s illegal that he drives his daughter around in his car.
When I went to Eres checkpoint in order to cross to present-day Israel, I was expecting that I will see Israeli soldiers face-to-face, because I have never been in all my life in direct contact with an Israeli soldier, but to my astonishment, when I arrived there, it was like watching a science fiction movie because everything there was with signs, with colored lights. And then, I saw an Israeli soldier who was sitting behind her desk behind a glass window. She asked me to take off all my clothes. I was completely surprised, I said, “Why?” And she said just like this, “Take off all your clothes and put them in the machine.”
So I did, but then after I get out, I kept crying because I felt that, again, I have been humiliated. It’s not enough for them to impose the siege. It wasn’t enough for them to launch 3 massive attacks. Still they keep humiliating us.
“We Don’t Have the Luxury of Despair”
My first involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was on an Earlham study abroad program in 1982, and since then I’ve been committed to this issue. Oftentimes people ask me, “How can you do this work for so long?” I think, “Well, how can I not work on it?” How can I, with the knowledge that I have, with the experiences that I’ve had over all these many decades, how can I not work on it? Why should I have the luxury of stopping when all these people—these young people, these old people, who live under such hardship—they’re not giving up. I don’t feel I have the luxury of despair.
Finding the Courage of Our Convictions
As American people of faith, we need to speak our conscience, and we need to find the courage of our convictions. And if we believe in values such as equality for all, regardless of our race or religion or ethnic background, then in this land that is so sacred to so many people—not only Jews: Christians and Muslims—we need to find the courage of our convictions to call for justice. My conscience tells me, and my religious faith tells me, that when you see oppression going on, you call out the oppressor and you stand with the oppressed.
Because we were working on the right to freedom of movement, we said OK, we want to determine the companies that are complicit in violating our right to freedom of movement. We decided to choose HP, because HP is complicit in settlement activities, they provide surveillance equipment and technology for the separation wall, they provide technology to the Israeli prisons.
Not because I hate Israel as Israel, but because I hate the oppressive system of Israel, and not because I want to destroy the Israelis or the Jews, but because I want this apartheid system of discriminatory policies to be ended.
Exactly Where We Need to Be
Exactly Where We Need to Be
So I’m asking American citizens to come in solidarity with our struggle, with the Palestinians, and to say “no more” to what Israel is doing.
We look at all the social movements that Quakers have been active in, and we’re proud that we were on the right side of history, and I want the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to be in that narrative. I want us to feel that it is the continuum. We’re calling for nonviolent means to end the Israeli occupation. We have a vision of Israelis and Palestinians living together in equality. We want historical injustices to be addressed. I want that to be seen not as an aberration, but a continuum of this history, and for Quakers to feel that that’s exactly where we need to be.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.