A controversy erupted earlier this year when Jewish Voice for Peace disassociated itself from the organization If Americans Knew and its director Alison Weir. Not long afterwards, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation removed If Americans Knew from its coalition for violating the Campaign’s anti-racism principles which include rejection of anti-Semitism. In both cases, If Americans Knew and Ms. Weir were asked to stop associating with avowedly racist and anti-Semitic figures and organizations. Ms. Weir and her supporters contend that they are not racist but that in the interest of promoting Palestinian claims for justice, there is no harm—and, in fact, advantage—to being heard by those who are sympathetic to our position on Palestine even if they don’t share our values on other social justice struggles.
There is a Quaker dimension to this controversy. The Ann Arbor Friends Meeting Palestine Israel Action Group (PIAG) defends If Americans Knew and takes the AFSC to task for being “dogmatic”. The PIAG statement implies that Quakers need not agree on the primacy of anti-racism in their work.
The QPIN Steering Committee appreciates the pioneering work of PIAG among US Quaker meetings on Palestine. However, we take issue with their support of Ms. Weir and If Americans Knew. QPIN stands in unity with the position of the American Friends Service Committee, a US Campaign coalition member organization. The position of the AFSC is clear and in line with the Quaker testimonies of peace, community, equality, and, most importantly in this case, integrity.
Since their beginnings, Quaker social activists have striven to hold tight to principles (and the ultimate guide of the Spirit) over and above what is socially acceptable. That is why so many, beginning with George Fox, prefer discomfort, imprisonment and even death over political expediency.
The events in the United States over the last year have reminded us how important it is to understand the structural nature of violence and racism as well as recognizing the structural foundations of Zionist racism and their colonial manifestations in Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora. We cannot be concerned only with Palestinian rights within Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories if those conditions are made possible by the deep-seated and structural nature of racism, including anti-Semitism, in the US itself.
The Black Lives Matter movement has shined the light on how mass incarceration, the militarization of police, and the intrusiveness of the national security apparatus are global phenomena in which the American and Israeli states are intimately tied. Thus, intersectional resistance among People of Color and their white allies are rightly at the forefront of Palestinian-led progressive organizations like the US Campaign.
Ten years ago Palestinian civil society organizations launched the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. Three years ago Palestinians committed to anti-racist principles had to dissociate themselves from “fellow travelers” who truck with racism. Once again, a Palestinian-led organization has the courage to assert the primacy of these principles. Earlier this fall, the US Campaign’s annual convention was devoted to anti-racism and intersectional activism under the banner “Advancing a Mass Movement for Palestine”.
It behooves those of us engaged in the struggle for justice in Palestinians—especially predominantly white American Quaker communities—to check our privilege, stay true to our principles, and not attempt to second-guess principled stands taken by Palestinians.
We are back! The Quaker Palestine Israel Network website is back up and running after a period of inactivity. The members of the new Steering Committee, Lauren Brownlee (Bethesda Monthly Meeting), Lauren Ballester (Plymouth Monthly Meeting), Ted Klyce (Madison, WI Meeting), Jennifer Bing (American Friends Service Committee, Middle East program liaison), Lucy Duncan (Green Street Meeting), and Steve Tamari, clerk (St. Louis Meeting), want to acknowledge the efforts of our former members Maia Hallward, Lucia Kalinosky, Carol Nickle, and Tory Smith.
We—like so many in Quaker and social justice circles more broadly—were deeply saddened by the passing of a founding member and Steering Committee clerk Tony Bing on March 20, 2015. Tony was a life-long and tireless advocate for justice for Palestinians and a mentor and friend to so many of us. He is dearly missed.
This website will continue to serve as a clearinghouse for information and links related to Quakers and the struggle for justice in Israel-Palestine.
We at QPIN have started to focus on Hewlett Packard’s role in facilitating the Israeli occupation through the information systems it sells to Israel. Among the actions Quaker meetings can take– at the monthly, quarterly, and yearly levels– is to craft a minute in support of boycotting and divesting from HP. Here’s a sample minute:
“Look upon our treasure, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions.” – John Woolman
This summer’s Operation Protective Edge, the 51 day bombardment of the Israel Defense Forces on Gaza which killed over 2,000 Gazans, the expansion of Israeli settlements into east Jerusalem in September, and the ongoing human rights abuses of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory all reveal the excessive violence and repression enacted by the Israeli government on Palestinians. The US government and US citizens are complicit in the occupation through the $3 billion in military aid we supply through defense contract vouchers to Israel each year. Several US companies are also complicit and profit from the continued occupation of Palestinian territory including Hewlett Packard which manufactures and supplies the biometric identification technologies that limit Palestinian movement and identifies them as targets for other forms of discrimination. Hewlett Packard is the largest IT supplier to the Israeli military and is profiting from the oppression of the Palestinian people.
As Quakers opposed to all wars and who affirm the essential equality and dignity of all people, we take a moral stand against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and companies which profit from the suffering of others. We have carefully deliberated and educated ourselves on the situation in Israel and Palestine and take a public stand to boycott all HP products and divest from any holdings in our investments that would support the continued oppression and subjugation of Palestinians including of HP investments as long as HP continues their practice of supplying tools of oppression to the Israeli government. We will participate in public boycott actions and encourage all Quakers to join us in renouncing complicity in the occupation and taking a moral stand against the occupation especially through boycott and divestment actions of all companies which profit from the occupation, but especially Hewlett Packard as a United States company.
Several US companies are complicit and profit from the continued occupation of Palestinian territory including Hewlett Packard which manufactures and supplies the biometric identification technologies that limit Palestinian movement and identifies them as targets for other forms of discrimination. Hewlett Packard is the largest IT supplier to the Israeli military and is profiting from the oppression of the Palestinian people. Here are five things you and your Meeting can do to put pressure on Hewlett Packard to stop profiting from human rights abuses.
1. Educate your community about HP’s connection to the Israeli military occupation. (Link to the resources listed here under “Focus on HP”)
2. Sign the petition to HP.
3. Introduce a Minute in your Monthly Meeting. A sample minute will be posted here shortly.
4. Look at your investment portfolio and divest from your HP shares.
5. Join in Holiday actions to bring attention to the HP boycott. (Stay tuned for suggestions for alternative carols and actions)
Over many years, Quakers have worked to support the development of lasting peace with justice in Israel Palestine. In the past few years several monthly meetings and yearly meetings have issued minutes of support for boycott and divestment as a nonviolent approach to advocate for change. Ann Arbor Meeting, Swannanoa Valley Meeting, Illinois Yearly Meeting to name just a few have expressed concern and actively advocated for peace and there is a growing energy and movement emerging among Friends. Q-PIN (The Quaker Palestine Israel Network) was founded in the Fall of 2013 to support the growth of this movement of Friends, to educate about boycott, divestment, and sanctions as a nonviolent approach, and to work together across Quaker meetings and churches and with the interfaith movement for greater impact.