The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign has worked to provide economic pressure on Israel to end its human rights abuses against Palestinians and the occupation of Palestinian lands. In the last few years Israel has faced mounting pressure from BDS resulting in an increasing PR problem for Israel.
Now, Israel has issued a blacklist of organizations banned from Israel as a result of their work with BDS. The list includes organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and the Quaker organization American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
AFSC has issued the following statement in response to the ban:
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.
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 Israelaffirm 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 17th 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.
The Steering Committee of the Quaker Palestine Israel Network stands with Palestinians as they oppose Donald Trump’s recent decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel and the new location of the US Embassy. This decision was made in the context of decades of displacement and violence against Palestinian people, and their right to remain on their land.
Mr. Trump’s announcement was made in the context of decades of Quaker involvement in the work for peace and justice not only in Palestine and Israel as a whole, but in Jerusalem specifically. In 1948, just before the official creation of Israel, James Vail went to Jerusalem with the American Friends Service Committee alongside British Friend Edgar B. Castle. The two travelled to the Holy City with the intention of pushing for the right of the holy city to be a place of worship for all who honor it as such.
That same year, Philadelphia Quaker Harold Evans was appointed by the UN General Assembly to be the municipal commissioner of Jerusalem, as the city had been declared by the UN an international city as part of the original partition plan. British colonial officials rejected this suggestion and the ensuing war — known to Palestinians as the Nakba — led to Israel’s displacement of Palestinian Jerusalemites. Palestinians forced from their Jerusalem homes remain among the millions of Palestinians living in the diaspora, their right to return to their homes and homeland denied at every turn.
Since the Israeli occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Quakers have supported Palestinian residents of Jerusalem on the basis of human rights and international law. In 1974, the Quaker Service Information and Legal Aid Center in East Jerusalem was established. The center provided legal aid and emergency assistance to Palestinian detainees and their families in cases of administrative detention and helped challenge confiscations of land for Israeli settlements. In 1997, the organization became an independent Palestinian NGO called the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, administered by a local board of trustees.
Image courtesy of the Foundation for Middle East Peace
Many Palestinians are denied access to their places of worship in Jerusalem. Palestinians are systematically displaced from their neighborhoods in Jerusalem as they continually face house demolitions, are denied permits to build or work, have residency rights revoked, and have to spend hours passing through checkpoints that restrict their movement. Mr. Trump’s decision will allow for these systematic and cruel practices to continue with ease, as Israel continues their illegal occupation of Palestinian land throughout the region and in Jerusalem particularly.
As Quakers, we believe in the basic rights of all human beings to live their lives free of the violence, humiliation and dehumanization that military occupation brings. We will continue to work towards justice and stand with the Palestinian call to Boycott and Divest from companies that profit from this violence until those rights are honored.
Logo of the Jerusalem Legal and Human Rights Center, once the Quaker Service Information and Legal Aid Center in East Jerusalem.
Recently, QPIN was pleased to host this webinar featuring AFSC’s Dalit Balm, QPIN’s Steve Tamari, and Quaker Educator / QPIN member Lauren Brownlee.
Watch the recording of the QPIN BDS Webinar
Fresh off the presses! We are pleased to announce the publication of Engaging Critics of BDS: A Resource for Activists! QPIN has written this guide as a tool for BDS activists to help counter some often encountered arguments from critics of BDS.
This document was inspired by discussions held at a Quaker consultation in April, 2016 organized by QPIN and hosted by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
Get Engaging Critics of BDS here: Engaging Critics of BDS print version
AFSC’s Mike Merryman-Lotze gives a rundown on the proposed legislation that would try and prevent you from supporting boycotts of Israel
Take action today! Contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them No, to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act!
On Tuesday, July 19th, Join Gaza Unlocked for a day of social media activism
Gaza Unlocked presents the experiences of Palestinians living in Gaza, and allows their voices to be heard beyond the oppressive and ongoing blockade Gaza residents live their lives under.
Enjoying being out in the warm, summer weather at your local Farmer’s Market? Gaza was once a bountiful grower and exporter of strawberries, but under the Israeli blockade exports have shrunk to less than 80%. Bring Gaza to your Farmer’s Market! Join Gaza Unlocked’s summer engagement effort to raise awareness about the Gaza blockade. Help conduct audience research surveys to assess what people know about the situation in Gaza and share information from Gaza Unlocked Campaign. Download flyers, and other materials to help raise awareness at your local Farmer’s Market here.