Saturday, September 17, 2011

Minute on Israel Palestine

The Ann Arbor Friends Meeting wishes to share with you its position on handling the present conditions between Israel and its Arab brothers and sisters. This issue has been a difficult one for us to consider for many years. The fact that we were able to come to unity in this statement is something we are proud of. Please join with us in finding a way to peace in this crucial area of the world.

Bill Riccobono, Clerk, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting
Helen Fox, Convener, Palestine Israel Action Group, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting

Minute on Israel Palestine
Adopted by the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting (Quakers) July 17, 2011

The Ann Arbor Friends Meeting recognizes the complex international dynamics that feed the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, creating fear on both sides and putting both Palestinians and Israelis at risk. We are concerned about the safety and well-being of all affected by this conflict. We wish to ally ourselves with those in Israel and Palestine working to bring peace.

We believe that one key step towards stability and safety for both Israelis and Palestinians depends on a just agreement regarding the Palestinian lands that Israel has occupied, illegally, according to international law, since 1967. Successive U.S. governments have generously supported Israeli military occupation of these lands, and have turned a blind eye to illegal tax exemptions for U.S. charitable organizations that support Israeli settlements.

We urge our government to exhibit equal concern for the well-being of both Palestinian and Israeli people by:

¨ Supporting a United Nations resolution recognizing a Palestinian state

¨ Withholding U.S. tax dollars that support the Israeli military

¨ Enforcing U.S. tax law regarding charitable organizations that support Israeli settlements

We also urge Friends worldwide to unite with Britain Yearly Meeting in its call to boycott products made in Israeli settlements, “not as punishment or revenge, but as an external pressure to achieve change.”

With Britain Yearly Meeting, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting considers that “we should now act publicly, and, well-informed, be able to explain our action to others,” in order to “give hope to Palestinians and support to those in Israel who are working for peace.” We agree with Britain Yearly Meeting that “in the face of the armed oppression of poor people and the increasing encroachment of the illegal settlements in the West Bank, we cannot do nothing.” We too are clear that it would be wrong to support the Israeli settlements by purchasing their goods.

In order to exert more than symbolic pressure on the Israeli government to negotiate a just peace at this critical time, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting joins with religious and civil society organizations throughout the world in a boycott of corporations that support the Israeli military.


Supporting Documentation

Illegal U.S. Tax Exemptions
For more information about the U.S. tax law regarding charitable organizations that aid Israeli settlements, please see:
Tax Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank. New York Times, 2010, July 5

Israeli settlement products
AHAVA beauty products are produced using salt, minerals, and mud from the Dead Sea – natural resources that are excavated from the occupied West Bank. The products themselves are manufactured in the illegal West Bank settlement Mitzpe Shalem. Please see CODEPINK’s “Stolen Beauty” campaign for action steps.

Other settlement products sold in the U.S. can be found here:

Some corporations that support the Israeli Military
Please join the American Friends Service Committee in divesting personal and institutional funds from these and other U.S. corporations that support Israel’s Occupation.

Caterpillar Corporation
General Electric Corporation
Lockheed Martin
ITT Corporation
Silicon Graphics

The full, annotated list of corporations boycotted by AFSC and the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church can be found here:

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Visions of the Future

As the Palestinian Authority prepares to ask the United Nations for recognition of an independent Palestinian state this month, most of the UN member countries (with the notable exception of the U.S. and Israel) are ready to endorse the bid as a largely symbolic, yet positive step on the road to Palestinian independence.

Even within Israel, some applaud this initiative on the part of Palestinian (or West Bank) President Mahmoud Abbas. Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, says in an advertisement in Ha'aretz (9-2-2011):


The great majority
Of the world's nations
Are about to
Vote for recognizing
The State of Palestine

If you can't beat them,
Why not join them?

But the Netanyahu government seems to be trying its best to spread fear and panic. Israeli columnist Uri Avnery says that in the minds of the government coalition, dominated as it is by settlers and their allies:

"September is not just the name of a month, the seventh in the old Roman calendar. It is the symbol of a terrible danger, an unspeakable existential menace. In the next few weeks, the Palestinians will ask the UN to recognize the State of Palestine. They have already mustered a large majority in the General Assembly. After that, according to the official assessment of our army, all hell will break loose. Multitudes of Palestinians will rise, attack the “Separation” Wall, storm the settlements, confront the army, create chaos."

To combat the "barbarians at the gates," the Israeli army is training settlers in violent self-defense, which can easily spill over into aggressive offense against peaceful protesters. And since Palestinians will surely continue their nonviolent protests, more tragedy is sure to result.

Avnery suggests that the government's fear-mongering serves not only to block the formation of an independent Palestinian state, but to divert the public from the huge social protests against Israeli living conditions that have taken place over the past few months. The Israeli education system, the health system, and the social services are all in dire need of reform. The billions of dollars that would fund such efforts can only come from the military budget and from the massive economic support the government provides the settlements. Israel cannot build a humane social welfare system for its own people and block a Palestinian state at the same time. How better to resolve this paradox than whipping up fear and paranoia?

Meanwhile, in Gaza, there is widespread skepticism that the PA's bid for independence will bring positive change. Mohammed Rabah Suliman, a 21 year old Palestinian student and blogger, writes eloquently from Gaza that his generation, especially, "does not seek more UN resolutions and international declarations. Not even a declaration of a state. A state itself is rather what we desire. A state that we can touch, see and live in. We long for the reunification of the more than 11 million Palestinians living in the world. We want to see facts on the ground and tangible results. We crave for the land which has been relentlessly ripped apart in flagrant violation of dozens of resolutions already passed — and then promptly ignored — by the very same UN to which the PA now turns."

Palestinian Americans, too, have called on their allies everywhere to reject the PA's plan. "In recent months, a consensus has emerged among Palestinian experts and organizations that the UN statehood bid is useless at best, and highly damaging to Palestinian rights at worst":

Controversy and dissent are to be expected around such a central issue of peace and human rights. But when both supporters and deniers of justice for Palestinians agree for opposite reasons, how should Friends respond?

Certainly we must speak out. But rather than responding with exasperation, confusion, worry, or worst-case scenarios, what if we focused solely on the positive? If you're in favor of UN recognition of a Palestinian state, what good things might come from that -- for both sides? Are you passionate about a one-state solution? What could that look like for all its new citizens? What positive changes in the larger, global order would address the suffering of Palestinians as well as the concerns of Israelis whose social system is collapsing around them? What could the region look like in ten or fifteen years if the peace you envision were achieved?

Focus on the light,

Helen Fox
Convener, Palestine Israel Action Group
Ann Arbor Friends Meeting