A Quaker Call to Action on Israel-Palestine

Why do Quakers care about Israel-Palestine? Jewish, Palestinian, and Quaker voices come together to explore this question. Click here to join AFSC, FCNL, and other Quakers in working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine.

Jon Watts

Jon Watts launched and directed the QuakerSpeak project for its first 6 seasons. Keep up to date with Jon’s work at his website.

24 thoughts on “A Quaker Call to Action on Israel-Palestine

  1. It struck me that while the rabbi spoke of reconciliation as an imperative of his faith the others did not. Even for the rabbi this is more a call to worldly justice. I am left troubled when we couch any concern in our Quaker historic calling instead of our present experience of the Divine Spirit leading us directly. I understand that though the connection to the Eternal and unchangeable Love that guides us is perhaps assumed – it seems to me we will be ineffectual unless that Truth is the clearly articulated foundation of our witness and ministry.

  2. Crimes are being committed.The United Nations and the world are ignoring them. There is no doubt many Jews are ashamed. I am not Jewish and I am ashamed. I feel so helpless because this is something the world community could address.

  3. Dear Don,

    It seems to me that what is needed is listening in tongues. For many of us, it is difficult to hear “truth” unless it is spoken in certain kinds of language. My sense is that a challenge for Quakers and all people of faith is to be able to hear the cries of the Spirit in voices that do not use the name, “God” or “Christ” but still God does speak through them. My sense is that this is a central tenet of Quaker faith, to be able to hear God speaking in many tongues, sometimes speaking in spiritual language, sometimes not. I do hear God speaking in the voices in this video, calling me and others to act on a faith which has as a central tenet that all people are worthy of equality. Yes, “the Eternal and unchangeable Love that guides us” is underneath this message, I believe. Try to hear it as you would a message in meeting, and hear where the words come from. I would hope that language would not get in the way of the call to action here and that instead, the urgency for manifesting the love of God on earth will rise.

    It might be helpful to read a piece I wrote after returning from Gaza last year and meeting Ayah, featured in this video for the first time. Here is a quote from it: “What will it take to knock down the separation walls, the checkpoints, the intricate restrictions that Palestinians experience every day? As I’ve met Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation, I have felt the Spirit rising, have felt a powerful nonviolent commitment to come together to knock down the structures that separate, that dehumanize, and that imprison. To accompany their witness, what’s needed is a worldwide hurricane of the Spirit like the unified Spirit that moved through the meetinghouse in Iowa that day.”

    Thank you for watching the video, I hope you will let the voices in it work on you any messenger in meeting for worship might. Blessings, Lucy

    1. Hello
      Please consider that Palestinians include christians Palestinians. Bethlehem Ramallah and other towns have a mix of Christians.
      I love the attention this organization brings to the cause. The love the Quakers bring to this earth is admirable.

  4. I see both sides as a terrorist entity fuel by political machines such as the U.S. government and the Arab world. Both have stolen land belonging to the other and the British, after WWII, re-enforced this gross injustice. Gaza is a prime example of how not to solve problems politically. Its perpetuation as a military zone, and the dehumanization of its residents both Arab and Israeli will only continue to fester and fan the fires of discontent. Remove the U.S. involvement and both sides have a chance of working out their mutual problems

  5. I can’t disagree with any of the above comments. I look forward to a time when American hearts can feel the cleansing spiritual power of redemptive love for the Palestinian people and all they are going through. Redemptive for us in America….and certainly redemptive for the Palestinians who need that on a large scale, and for years, to overcome this dehumanizing way of life.

    I look forward to the redemption in anyone’s heart that may occur by a deeper exploration of this issue, the discovery of America’s complicity in this injustice, the discovery of the cynicism we feel that interferes with our ability to support effective and compassionate solutions, etc. so that we may instead find in ourselves a heart ready to be broken open in love for our neighbors.

  6. very comforting music, but your video only tells one side of the story. I see no opposing viewpoint. Palestinians have never recognized the right of Israel to exist. Hamas rules Gaza, it is no longer occupied. The government is more interested in the destruction of Israel than the quality of life of its people. They do not desire a peaceful solution. The people live in horrible conditions because money received from the outside is spent on digging tunnels and weapons. They teach jihad, to their children and foment violence all over the world. That is the undeniable truth.

  7. Adam, as someone who has spent significant amounts of time in Gaza I would like to challenge your “truth”. First, the PLO accepted Israel as a state in 1988 and the foundation of the Oslo accords is the recognition by Palestinians that a two state solution would be the answer to the conflict with Israel. This was an explicit recognition of Israel’s existence. Even Hamas has said that it is willing to accept a two state solution as long as that solution fully recognizes the rights of Palestinian refugees. This is not the political recognition that Israel is seeking but it also is not a refusal to recognize Israel.

    If we are going to criticize parties in the conflict for not recognizing the other then we also must criticize the Israeli government. When Netanyahu said that a Palestinian state would never be established while he was in power just before the last elections he was not saying something politically controversial. Rather, he was stating the official policy of the Likud party which does not accept a two state solution and thus does not recognize Palestinians right to a state.

    Additionally, it is not true that Gaza is not occupied. Israel did withdraw settlers from Gaza in 2005 and also unilaterally redeployed its troops. However, this redeployment was not an end to occupation. Rather it was the movement off troops to more strategically defensible positions with the maintenance of complete control. When Israel moved its troops it kept control of the borders, import and export policies, airspace, waterways, water supply, electrical system, electromagnetic spectrum, currency, and population registry among other things. It also maintained and exercised on a nearly daily basis a right to intervene in Gaza militarily. Thus, even the US government still holds that Gaza is occupied.

    But don’t Palestinians in Gaza desire the destruction of Israel? Isn’t that why it is under blockade – to stop arms shipments and because cement and other materials are being used in tunnels and to create weapons? Let’s be clear, weapons smuggled into Gaza have never legally come through the closed borders. They were always smuggled through tunnels and via the sea. The blockade has not stopped this illegal trade. Rather it caused it to increase. Likewise, the cement used in tunnels and by Hamas on other military infrastructure is not the cement that comes through border crossings but cement smuggled through tunnels and none of these arms, tunnels, or cement have been paid for with money given as aid.

    The reality is that international aid in Palestine is more heavily regulated than in any other place in the world. Building supplies coming into Gaza through the Israeli controlled Erez crossing are tracked and monitored and are not going to Hamas. Money given by the international community is not going to Hamas but is being used to provide basic need for Palestinians who are unable to provide for themselves due to the blockade. The impact of the blockade is not only a stoppage of imports for the local market but also a stoppage of exports which kills the Gaza economy and creates unemployment and poverty. The siege hurts average people who are left unemployed and who cannot buy reconstruction materials or other goods – either because they have no income or because the goods are banned from Gaza.

    Hamas is not hurt significantly by the blockade. Rather, for years the blockade provided Hamas with a steady source of funds as it could control the tunnel trade and illegal smuggling. It could tax goods coming through the tunnels. It could smuggle in cement and other goods that people say shouldn’t come through the closed and controlled borders. The draconian impact of the blockade is not primarily felt by Hamas.

    The idea that Hamas abuses “aid” meant for the Gaza population is also bogus. Hamas does not get aid from donors. Even a conversation with Hamas can result in charges of material support for terrorism. Funding from international donors and agencies therefore does not go to Hamas. There are exceedingly stringent financial controls in place to make sure that funds are tracked. Hamas does use a portion of its own funds which are received through its own channels for weapons and military infrastructure (around 14% by Shin Bet estimations), however, proportionally it spends less on its armed wing than either Israel or the US spend on their militaries. I do not support violence but those criticizing Hamas’ use of funds for military purposes must recognize that what they are asking for is one sided disarmament which will not happen in a situation of ongoing siege and occupation.

    But what about those “terrorist” tunnels? Didn’t Hamas try to attack kindergartens and civilians? The answer is the tunnels into Israel didn’t go anywhere near kindergartens (unless you count 2.5 km as close), didn’t come up under civilian communities, and were only used to attack military targets. This has been repeatedly reported on by the Israeli press. This doesn’t mean I support the military use of tunnels, but tunnels for smuggling and military purposes must be understood within the context of siege, occupation, and violence against Palestinians. If you want to make them disappear end the siege and occupation.

    What about the thousands of rockets? From the end of the 2012 attack on Gaza by Israel until Israel attacked Gaza last summer no rockets were fired from Gaza by Hamas (as confirmed by the Israeli military). A few rockets were fired by other groups but there were also daily attacks on Gaza by Israel (see the Gaza NGO Security Office briefs). Since the end of the conflict this summer Hamas has also refrained from rocket fire although a few rockets have been fired by other groups. Again, Israel has fired into and attacked Gaza nearly every day while maintaining the blockade in violation of the terms it agreed to in the ceasefire. The reality is that since 2009 Hamas has controlled and stopped most rocket fire. There have not been thousands of rockets fired into Israel since 2009. This has not changed Israeli policy.

    Hamas is not innocent. Its members are not pacifists. But they also are not monsters. Saying that they and Palestinians in general only desire destruction and teach their children hate is to dehumanize them. It is a justification of political repression premised on the stripping away of a people’s humanity. That can’t be acceptable.

    What I have written above is not balanced, but in a situation where there are severe political and military power imbalances I don’t think that balance is what is needed. Balance too often turns into neutrality. What is needed is impartiality and truth tell. If your interested in more on the linked issues of violence, power, and balance I offer up a piece I wrote last year: http://www.afsc.org/friends/have-i-failed-acknowledge-palestinian-violence


  8. What a complete pile of lies and propaganda. You should be ashamed to be publishing this filth and promoting terrorists. I am disheartened that as a Christian organization, you support people who behead our fellow Christians and are rapidly cleansing the entire Middle East of its Christian populations. (Everywhere, that is, except in Israel.) And for a people that is supposed to value life, you choose to support those who send children with bombs strapped to their bodies into cafes and banquet halls and onto crowded buses with the sole intent of murdering innocent civilians. You support people who use their own brethren as human shields and who go to great lengths to maximize civilian casualties so that they can be used for propaganda purposes. I think the people who made this video and many of the commenters need to do some real soul-searching about their actions and their motives.

    Thank you, Adam, for speaking truth. Meanwhile, the outright lies and propaganda of the other commenters, especially Mike Merryman-Lotze, cause me great pain in my heart. There are many in the region who truly suffer. But to level the blame at Israel is disingenuous. The fault lies with those who have prevented the so-called “refugees” from being assimilated into the arab populations in the countries where they now live. It lies with the parents who inculcate their children with a culture of hatred and teach them that killing Jews is not only OK but is actually something to strive for, and for allowing their children to be indoctrinated in schools that teach little of value for bettering their lives and all about a pipe dream of driving the Jews into the sea. It lies with the so-called leaders whose intransigence perpetuates this conflict by (1) refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist (sorry Mike, but your claims about Oslo and recognition are pure fallacy – at no point have the arab leaders agreed to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and do give up the phantom, unjust, and ridiculous “right of return” that has no bearing in either historic tradition, law, or even common sense and which would effectively transform the Jewish state into another muslim-majority caliphate); listen not to the double-speak the leaders say to the western media but rather to what they say in their speeches (usually in Arabic) to their people, (2) refusing to make ANY concessions (EVER) in the sham peace talks while piling on ever-more-ridiculous demands of the Israelis, and (3) stealing the vast sums of aid which could be used to build a viable, prosperous society and using it to buy weapons, build tunnels, and train fighters. And it lies with the people, like those who created this piece of trash video, who spread the propaganda that emboldens the inhabitants to continue their war of hatred against the peace-seeking Israelis.

    It is time for the people responsible for this pile of trash to do some real soul-searching and consider what life would be like with rockets raining down on their heads — having to run to bomb shelters at all hours of the day or night, with only 15 seconds to get there, not knowing whether or not you’ll make it in time. To consider why there are checkpoints and a security wall — a wall that has reduced the incidence of terrorist attacks by some 98%. To consider why one side gives up territory, supplies food and water and electricity and even medical care to people who have sworn to kill them, and even releases mass murderers just to coax its enemies to the negotiating table, while the other side only sends bombs and terror and propaganda. I think many of you will have a very uncomfortable time when you finally meet Jesus and have to answer for your sins.

  9. As a Quaker, I was taught about two tenets that tie our diverse faith together: There is that of G-d in every thing; and when confronted we must speak truth to power. I believe this video does that and does it well.
    I wish that folks would read the Palestinian Charter before taking a stand on some people’s interpretation of it. I wish folks would research the history of the founding of the state of Israel, the terroristic acts of its later statesmen; the parallels of 1940’s conflict within the leadership of the Israeli statehood movement and the decades long movement for a Palestinian state and its subsequent struggle for representative leadership. I wish folks would understand the evil of embracing Zionism is compounded by the zeal of nationalism and religious purity. I wish that we didn’t have this irrepressible urge to be “right” instead of just.
    I recently watched a video of a man learning to ride a bike that had one simple alteration: its steering had been modified to be opposite of what he learned as a child. It took him 8 months to “unlearn” the truth that had been previously ingrained. This gives me renewed faith that the Love of G-d as exemplified by Jesus will one day overcome…

  10. I am neither a Quaker, nor an attender. Nevertheless, I have had a strong interest in Friends for many years. However, one of a couple of barriers on my personal spiritual path has been the apparent stance of the Religious Society of Friends to the middle east, and to Israel in particular. I have been appalled at some of the comments I have read in the debates around boycotts, disinvestment and so on. To me, they have verged on the anti semitic. I know that Israeli / Palestinian relationships are enormously complex and that much evil and much good has been done on both sides. However, I have to say that my sympathies lie more with the jewish people than anyone else. If pressed I might find it hard to rationalise that position. But, we are all products of our upbringing. Mine was as a dissenting Northern Irish Presbyterian born in 1950 – just five short years after the opening of the gates of Belsen and the other death camps. Perhaps, it is a purely atavistic response, but I believe that the world owes a debt to the jews which can never rightly be repaid. I just hope that as in Northern Ireland (although it is interesting to note that the prolific killers of the Provisional Irish Republican Army had long standing links and sympathies with Palestinian armed groups) a political settlement can be reached which respects Palestinian rights but, for me, which must also guarantee Israel its existence and security.

  11. Russell,

    Why is it anti-Semitic to call for the Jewish state of Israel to stop oppressing a whole people? Is that not instead very loving, to hold people, whoever they are, to moral standards of conduct? It seems especially imperative when that oppression is financed by US tax dollars to the tune of $3 billion per year, rendering US citizens complicit in the massive Gaza bombardment last summer and in the continued maintenance of the occupation and associated human rights abuses (like imprisoning children regularly in military prisons) that we as US citizens say, “no.” How is a call for Israelis and Palestinians to live together (as they did before 1948) in equality anti-Semitic? We are not calling for anything but the end of complicity in massive oppression, how is that anti-Semitic? There are many Israrlis working for the same thing.

  12. Lucy you are quite correct to say that a call for the oppression to stop is not anti-semitic. To say the the people of the USA are complicit is perhaps an overstatement since I do not believe that most Americans are very much aware of what is going on in spite of the books on the situation that have been produced. But certainly the political elite are aware.
    A side effect of the oppression orchestrated by the Israeli Government is the effect on Jews in other countries. In Sweden for example where there are many Muslims who have fled the war and oppression experienced in the Middle East the rate of crimes against Jews has increased radically and most are committed by Muslims who were welcomed to the country.
    I am not sympathetic to the current views of either Hamas or to the policies of the Government of Israel. My sympathies lie with both Jews and Arabs (both Muslim and Christian) who are suffering from the situation created by both sides but principally and currently by the Netanyahu’s Government of Israel and the IDF he commands. However he seems to have the ear of the US public.
    I would like to tell Russell McLernon that as a Christian I can feel no other way. I hope he reads this.

  13. Dear Donald,

    Thank you, I hope Russell reads your comment as well.

    One thing that’s really important to say is that it’s very different to hold someone accountable for their actions and ask them to change as opposed to discriminating against them because of who they are. The call for boycott and divestment from companies complicit in the occupation and to call the US to account for its support of the Israeli military excursions and abuse is all about accountability for actions, repeated repressive actions. If Israel ceased its discriminatory policies and companies stopped profiting from the occupation, the nonviolent actions to hold them to account would stop. Anti-semitism is always wrong, as is Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment. There was a boycott of Jewish goods during the Nazi regime, but it was a boycott based on who Jews were, not based on what they were doing. Those boycotts had to do with treating people differently because of who they were, which is very different from shining a light on actions that a particular government or company is participating in.

    This distinction is critical.

    And some activism focused on Israel does have tinge of anti-Semitism, and is not distinguishing Israelis and Jews who are supporting the end of the occupation from those who are perpetuating the racism in the system. Such activism is not okay, if we call for equality, we need to really mean it – and not fight for retribution, but justice for all.

    In Peace,

  14. Donald / Lucy

    Thank you for your thoughtful replies. Clearly this is a subject which provokes strongly held views.

    I was very careful in what said.

    In Northern Ireland, where I live, if someone is the victim of a crime and ‘perceives’ that crime to be motivated by hate, racism etc then it is treated immediately as such by the state and the organs of the state. Perception is sufficient. Sadly, my perception of some of the debate around Israeli / Palestinian issues remains unchanged. But it is my perception, and mine alone.

    I grew up, was educated, worked and raised a family throughout more than 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland. Perhaps that experience, along with my upbringing, colours my world view.

    It has become fashionable and politically appropriate to call what happened in my homeland a conflict. It wasn’t. And while its causes may have been complex, it was simply a series of sustained campaigns by terrorists. It left more than 3,000 people dead – overwhelmingly innocent civilians and, thus, I maintain, terrorism. Many thousands sustained life changing injuries. The vast majority of deaths were caused by Irish republican terrorists (mainly catholic and nominally Christian). The second biggest cadre of killers were their so-called Loyalist terrorist counterparts (mainly protestant and nominally Christian).

    Inevitably, some deaths were caused by police and soldiers.

    Before retirement, I was a civilian worker with the police in Northern Ireland. More than 300 of my uniformed colleagues were murdered.

    I believe firmly – as do many others – that the police with, at times, the support of the army, held the ring and made the space for the politicians to come (in my view much too slowly and many more deaths too late) to an agreed solution.

    During the course of my work, I met, on occasions, representatives from the Israeli Defence Forces. I found them resolute certainly, but I also found them eager to engage, and to learn from the painful experiences of Northern Ireland on its slow and complicated path towards peace and reconciliation.

    We now have a political settlement of sorts. It is far from perfect. But it is immeasurably preferable to the wholesale slaughter of the past.

    I hope with all my heart for a settlement in the Middle East.

    Probably what saddens me most from a personal perspective is the very significant obstacle some of this puts in my path as a seeker. I wish sincerely that were not the case; but it is.

  15. It would be nice to have an Israeli who lives in daily fear of being attacked by missles
    or suicidal “martyr” to be interviewed for this. I saw lovely Arab families, Christian
    and Moslem, having a good family life in Haifa. I saw Arab students in Jerusalem. I saw
    Druze and Arabs with good businesses in Tel Aviv, mostly craft shops and restaurants
    and taxi companies. The Rabbi talks about standing with people who are persecuted but
    AFSC cares nothing for the oppressed people of Africa, slaving in the mines, children forced
    to pick chocolate, children in India and Pakistan forced to weave rugs and race camels until
    they die, girl children forced into marriages with older relatives or mutilated . . . only Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank territories. Not that this doesn’t deserve attention, it certainly does! but the BDS movement and AFSC’s activism on this front without the Quaker love for all (what happened to that — guess doesn’t apply here) is truly causing anti-Semitism on a large scale. I am sad that my Quaker faith cannot see the possibility of reconciliation and peace, but can only condemn when it comes to Palestinians and Israelis.

    1. Dear Mika,

      Here are two very powerful recent pieces, one a collection of Israeli voices seeking peace in the conflict, and the other from an American Rabbi, Alissa Wise, calling for consistent anti-oppressive stances from all activists. AFSC works in close collaboration with Jewish Voice for Peace, which explicitly calls for an end of the occupation of Palestine. Please take a look at these.

      Here is a quote from Rabbi Alissa Wise:

      “So – it is a balancing act of being sensitive to Jewish history and trauma, without pulling punches about today’s reality. While Jews in the US have more political, economic, cultural and intellectual status than perhaps ever before, the Jewish narrative is still about vulnerability. Part of the work that we as progressive Jews need to take responsibility for is challenging that narrative.

      It means that we all, collectively, need to be able to hold, simultaneously, the idea that anti-Semitism in our society is still real, if not very potent at this moment; and at the same time, recognize and fight how accusations of anti-Semitism are being used as an effective weapon to silence debate on Israel. In the US we are up against attempts to codify re-definitions of anti-Semitism that would encompass advocacy to hold Israel accountable for its violations of Palestinian human rights. This represents a scary and dangerous development and if successful, formidable obstacle in our nonviolent activism to ensure Palestinian human rights.” The full text of the talk is here: http://palestiniantalmud.com/2015/06/09/rabbi-alissa-wise-at-friends-of-sabeel-na-conference/

      Here is a quote from a collection of Israeli voices very much in support of peace in Israel and Palestine who do support boycotts and divestment and real, just peace as well:

      Here’s one voice from the article: “I’m not an activist who goes to the barricades, although I did when I was younger and worked for a programme that brought Jews and Arabs together. At that time, in the early 1980s, I thought that you could work towards reconciliation but not think about politics. Later on, I realised that without justice, there is no reconciliation. So the question is: ‘Whose justice and what does it consist of?’

      If you don’t come out and support this boycott movement your real motivation will be fear: fear of what people will think of you, fear of ostracism, fear of your friends not speaking to you.

      I think that we have to understand human rights today as interactive; it can’t be about ‘I worry about my human rights, you worry about yours’. That doesn’t work anymore. The basic human right we need today is the right not to be enemies, the right to refuse to slaughter each other. We can’t actualise this right by ourselves, we need others to do it with us.””

      Here is the rest of the piece: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/05/magazine-meet-israel-boycotters-150528072013581.html

      Also, AFSC does work around the world, not only in Israel and Palestine. We have programs in Zimbabwe, Burundi, Somalia, Guatemala, Myanmar, Cambodia, El Salvador, Haiti, Syria, China, Indonesia. We work for just peace and the alleviation of poverty in all these places. You can learn more here: http://www.afsc.org/where-we-work

      Lastly, when you say we are not supportive of peace in Israel and Palestine, what to you mean? Do you mean supporting Israel and adjusting to injustice or working for peace based on equality? I’m curious what solutions you would propose instead of working for end of state based discrimination and segregation.

      Thanks so much for watching and commenting.

      In Peace,

  16. I find this discussion of Israel and Palestine very sad. It crushes my heart and dampens my spirit. I don’t want to argue with either side those who support the Palestinian and those who support the Israeli. There is a failure at communication. I understand that Failure well, I spent a lifetime as a black man in the United States where we have not communicated in my lifetime . Over a lifetime racism Sucks the life out of a person and also the light. I glow still, because I am engaged in a transformation that begin with me. It is as Frederick Douglass named it a struggle that is both moral and physical. I won’t live the lie that we are a company of states united I won’t live a lie and call myself an African-American when I am only a black man with a little power, and few resources, and a lot of racist running for president of the ununited States of America, hating my brothers and sisters! America the myth, America, stolen from a whole Lot of people murdered, tortured, placed in concentration camps, called reservations. It is an ancient almost ageless struggle. It won’t stop until we sit together in silence and listen to the heart beat of one another, it won’t stop until we take a deep breath and realize we are all breathing the same air.

    The good folks on all sides of all of the different and related struggles, are ignored. But when you look at the bodies be they black or white, be they Palestinian or Israeli, The blood is always red, never foreign. At Quaker Worship I pray for three young Palestinian women engaged in struggle. At Quaker Worship I pray for family members in Israel engaged in struggle. At Quaker Worship I pray for my black child who was raised Jewish, engaged in struggle. Maybe a common struggle for Justice , Unite Them! I want to sit in silence with those whose hearts and eyes and mindsare closed. I want to sit until we all open in love!

  17. How much is the ultra richZionist extremist hampering all this Palestines land. Who ever has a divine right to another’s land sorry not able to
    understand Michael

  18. I don’t condone any mistreatment of anyone, Israeli or Palestinian. I’ve been studying this topic a little bit but I’m not expert. The land was part of the Ottoman empire before WWI. The Ottomon empire decided to join the fight against the allies and lost, and as part of the treaty gave the land for the British to control. The land was not very populated at that time. Under British control, Jewish people immigrated there and as WWII took place even more came because of the Holocaust, and even before this they were moving in, sometimes just buying land from absentee landowners. Before the end of WWII, somewhere in the range of 30-50% of people were Jewish. As the end of WWII approached, the British promised Israel land and the Palestinians land. They disagree about how much land they were promised. At the end of WWII, the United Nations was formed and they passed a partition plan were the Jewish people got about 50% and the Palestinians got about 50% with Jerusalem to be shared. Israel thought they were given less than they were promised, but agreed to the plan. The Palestinians and the Arab leadership thought they were given less but refused to accept the plan. They were offered a bona fide country but refused to accept sharing the land 50/50. Within 24 hours of Israel declaring themselves a state, a war was launched against them by 4 neighboring Arab countries and again, like in WWI, they lost and basically lost land as the cease fire green line was created. So is Israel an occupier? You could make the argument that they occupy the land between the green line and the original borders the United Nations established. Bottom line is though, the Palestinians were offered half of the land and refused to share after WWII. I realize things have changed on the ground as a result of the fighting, and both sides are at fault for fighting. But history is very clear: the Palestinians were offered a UN recognized country much larger than were they live now but refused it. Now I applaud every effort the Quakers are making towards peace, but peace will only occur if both parties share. Now, I’m not an expert on this situation, so please if what I’ve said above is incorrect regarding the history of the land, please leave comments for me to consider.

  19. Did you know that United Nations offerred the Palestinians a state equal in size given to Israel by the UN and they rejected it? They would have had much more land and statehood. I don’t agree with both sides fighting each other like they are. But this is a major reason for their current terrible situation.

  20. Gary, It is important to look more closely at why Palestinians might have rejected the UN Partition Plan and the division of mandate Palestine in 1948. You are correct that there the Jewish population in mandate Palestine in the period prior to partition was about 33% of the total population. However, that population was primarily composed of new European immigrants, not people indigenous to the area.

    In 1900 the total Jewish population in historic Palestine was about 2% of the total population. That population increased to about 11% by 1920 and then up to about 30% by the late 1930s. That increase in population was the result of immigration from Europe motivated by both European anti-Semitism and Zionist ideals. The Zionist leadership in mandate Palestine considered their movement a colonial movement and saw their relationship with the Palestinian population as one of colonizer and colonized. Their interest was the establishment of a state of the new Jewish population at the expense of the Palestinian population. The Palestinians for good reason saw this as a threat.

    But Palestinian rejection came not only because the population was new. It was also because they were a majority in all areas of mandate Palestine. The Jewish population owned less than 7% of all land. In the areas designated by the UN for the new Jewish state, the Jewish population was a majority in only one of 8 sub-districts. In the northern section of the proposed state Palestinians were 85% of the population. In the Southern area Palestinians were 95% of the population. In total Palestinians were over 45% of the total population. This meant that you effectively did not have a Jewish state but rather a binational state. Palestinians rejected the idea that the land that they were indigenous on should be divided with the majority given to a newly arrived minority group of people. That was not a rejection of the Jewish population remaining in the area but rather of the idea of the formation of ethnically defined states. That is not unreasonable.

    It is als not accurate to say that the Zionist leadership in mandage Palestine fully accepted the Jewish UN partition plan. Yes they verbally accepted the plan, but when the Arab armies attacked after the partition plan went into effect one-third of all Palestinians who were displaced during the 1948 war had already been discplaced. Haifa, Jaffa, and other major cities had been emptied of Palestinians. Most Palestinians in the areas that were to become the new Jewish state had been depopulated. This was not simply an issue of Palestinians and Arabs attacking because they didn’t want to share the land.

    Palestinian refugees were not allowed to return in 1948 not because they were a threat militarily to the new state of Israel but because they were a demographic threat. Without the expulsion of Palestinians there would not have been a Jewish majority or a Jewish state. There would have been a binational state. The formation of Israel as a Jewish state was only possible with the expulsion of the Palestinian population. That is why the refugee issue is core to the conflict.

    1. Hi Mike.
      Thanks for your response. From your response, several things
      can be deduced:

      Mandatory palestine was under control by British and they did allow Jewish immigration. This was a consequence of the British
      being given control of the land at the end of WWI willingly by
      the Ottomans. You mention “the population was primarily composed of New European immigrants, not people indigenous to the area.”

      I suppose you believe then that someone who claims to be indigenous should have more rights than a legal immigrant then. (granted not 100% of the jewish people came legally, but also not all the palestinians were living there either ‘indienously’).

      “In 1900 the total Jewish population in historic Palestine was about 2% of the total population. That population increased to about 11% by 1920 and then up to about 30% by the late 1930s. That increase in population was the result of immigration from Europe motivated by both European anti-Semitism and Zionist ideals.”

      After WWI, the British were given the land to control. This was a major factor in Jewish immigration. In other words, Jewish people used to live there (you’re using the word indigenous, which is problematic so I’ll avoid it), now the British have control, and they are allowed to move back, so they have every right to if the British say its ok. The palestinians lost the legal power to prohibit their immigration when their ruling body in the Ottoman empire gave it to Britain. The Ottoman empire did not have to get involved with WWI, and they didn’t have to agree to give Palestine away, but they did, and this was the agreement that was reached, British control.

      Its that there were more Arabs in the land given to them by the mandate. I agree with that. Both the British who had legal control of the land, and then the United nations who had countries from all over the world voted to split it 50/50. So the Arabs.

      As you say it is not unreasonable to say a 50/50 2 state solution offer was wrong because most people living there were arab. I agree its not unreasonable. My opinion is that I would rather live in a world were written laws and agreements have meeaning and take precedent over simply the percentage of people of a given nationality get to have the land. That’s more of a mob mentality.

      “It is als not accurate to say that the Zionist leadership in mandage Palestine fully accepted the Jewish UN partition plan. Yes they verbally accepted the plan, but when the Arab armies attacked after the partition plan went into effect one-third of all Palestinians who were displaced during the 1948 war had already been discplaced.”

      I’m sorry Mike, I don’t understand your reasoning. The Zionist leadership did accept the Partition plan, but some Jewish people did and smaller groups did not agree with it. The UN ambassodor was even killed by a Jewish group. But the leadership did accept. Anyhow, what does 1/3 of all Palestinaians being displaced before the plan being voted in have to do with they Zionist leadership acceptance of the partition plan? Once accepted, the new border becomes the law.

      “Palestinian refugees were not allowed to return in 1948 not because they were a threat militarily to the new state of Israel but because they were a demographic threat. Without the expulsion of Palestinians there would not have been a Jewish majority or a Jewish state. There would have been a binational state. The formation of Israel as a Jewish state was only possible with the expulsion of the Palestinian population. That is why the refugee issue is core to the conflict.”

      Actually, once a country is established, they do have the right to border control for security reasons.

      I see why Palestinians wouldn’t like this. However
      1) the ottoman empire gave the land away
      2) the british had control after that
      3) many nations UN voted for a 50/50 split
      4) palestinians wouldn’t accept this

      It would have been better for them to accept the partition plan even according to Abbas.

      It may look like I’m anti palestinian, but I’m not I’m just trying to introduce both sides. I do believe in presenting both sides not just one. My personal belief is that the palestinians should be offerred the old partition plan back from the UN which Israel is against. I think thats the right thing legally to do. But really, the Palestinians lost rights to the land when their leaders sold them out after WWI.

      Conceptually, forgiveness is essential, here. Sometimes you have to make the best out of what you’re given rather than try to be dissatisfied and always wanting more. This goes for both sides.

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