“A quarter-century ago I barnstormed around the United States encouraging Americans, particularly students, to press for divestment from South Africa. Today, regrettably, the time has come for similar action to force an end to Israel’s long-standing occupation of Palestinian territory and refusal to extend equal rights to Palestinian citizens. . . . This harsh reality endured by millions of Palestinians requires people and organizations of conscience to divest from those companies . . . profiting from the occupation and subjugation of Palestinians.”
— Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2012)
In 1947, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), together with the British Friends Service Council, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of all Quakers. Chairman Gunnar Jahn, in awarding the prize, said, “The Quakers have shown us that it is possible to carry into action something which is deeply rooted in the minds of many; Sympathy with others; the desire to help others; that significant expression of sympathy between men, without regard to nationality or race; feelings which, when carried into deeds, must provide the foundation of a lasting peace. For this reason they are today worthy.”
Today, on the United States Holocaust Memorial website one reads that AFSC “became an important part of a rescue network helping refugees. The group worked in French internment camps, hid Jewish children, and assisted thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish refugees with their immigration and resettlement to the United States.”
Today, to many supporters of Israel, AFSC seems less worthy.
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
— Cornel West
Last month, President Trump announced his administration’s reckless, one-sided decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and eventually move the US embassy there. Now the administration is threatening to cut off US aid to the Palestinians — a move that would have disastrous consequences for the Palestinian refugees who depend on it.
“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.”
— 17th-Century Quaker abolitionist John Woolman
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.
“This move is reminiscent of South Africa’s apartheid regime which also prepared blacklists in order to punish people and prevent the entry of those opposed to its racist policies.”
— Hassan Jabareen, of the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
The prominent British campaign group War on Want has been listed as one of 20 foreign NGOs whose representatives are banned from visiting Israel over their support of the pro-Palestinian boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) movement.
The publication of the list, which also includes a well-known Jewish anti-occupation group and a Nobel peace prize-winning US Quaker group, had been threatened for months by Israel.
The organizations were singled out by Israel’s rightwing strategic affairs and public security minister, Gilad Erdan, for advocating boycotts of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
Human rights groups condemned the move as an assault on free speech. A number of individuals have been refused entry into Israel in recent months, including a prominent African theologian and official of the World Council of Churches.
“When Israel, which aims to portray itself to the world as liberal and democratic, blacklists activists dedicated to nonviolent organizing and dissent, it only further exposes itself as a fraud.”
— Yousef Munayyer, the director of the Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Israel on Sunday published a blacklist of 20 organizations, including a Jewish group in the United States, whose leaders it has barred from entering the country for supporting an economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.
The list was drawn up under a nearly year-old law enacted to combat the so-called boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which Israelis overwhelmingly oppose, consider anti-Semitic and view as calling for the country’s destruction.
Supporters of the pressure strategy favor the boycott of Israel until it ends the occupation of the West Bank, provides full equality under the law to Palestinian citizens of Israel and grants a right of return to Palestinian refugees. But refugees number in the millions, and their return would probably spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
I heard one young woman speak of entering into Israel through the Erez Crossing for the first time to travel to the West Bank for meetings. . . . She was eighteen years old and had never seen an Israeli Jew in person in her life. Up until that time, she said, she had only seen them as “helicopters, planes and bombs.”
I’ve written a great deal about Gaza for over ten years but until this past week, I haven’t had the opportunity to visit in person. I’m enormously grateful for the opportunity to experience Gaza as a real living, breathing community and I’m returning home all the more committed to the movement to free Gaza from Israel’s crushing blockade — now eleven years underway with no end in sight. . . .
It’s extremely rare for Americans to receive permission from Israel to enter Gaza through the Erez Crossing. Permits are generally issued only for journalists and staff people of registered international NGOs. Though I was technically allowed to enter Gaza as an AFSC staff member, I wasn’t 100% sure it would really happen until the moment I was actually waved through the crossing by the solider at Passport Control in Erez.