Friends’ Central School cancels Dr. Sa’ed Atshan talk. QPIN responds

We were surprised and disappointed to learn on Friday that Friends’ Central School canceled a planned talk there by Dr. Sa’ed Atshan. Dr. Atshan is a Palestinian Quaker and professor of Peace Studies at Swarthmore College. QPIN has written the following response to Friends’ Central School’s decision in a letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

I am writing on behalf of the Quaker Palestine/Israel Network (QPIN) to thank you for covering the story “Friends’ Central students protest cancellation of Palestinian speaker” and to express our disappointment with  the administration of Friends’ Central’s decision to disinvite Dr. Sa’ed Atshan to speak to its students. As Quakers we have historically believed it is important to speak out against injustice and oppression, whether against slavery or against the apartheid system in South Africa. In South Africa the international non-violent Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement facilitated efforts to end apartheid.  Today, Palestinians face systematic oppression at the hands of an apartheid state and QPIN supports the BDS call by Palestinians. Friends Schools were founded by Quakers as a path to equality, ending injustice and furthering knowledge about the world. Quakers have a long history in support of justice in Palestine/Israel  dating back to the establishment of the Ramallah Friends School in 1869.

Quaker decision making is done through a discernment process rooted in values such as peace, integrity, community, and equality. We do not see those values reflected in Friends Central’s decision to disinvite Dr. Atshan, who is a respected educator and leader in the Quaker community. In addition to being a Palestinian Quaker and a professor at Quaker Swarthmore College, he is on the board of key Quaker institutions in the US and in Palestine. He was a graduate of Swarthmore and of the Friends School in Ramallah. His work with QPIN focuses on opportunities for American Quaker youth to visit Palestine.

Dr. Atshan has devoted his career to non-violent struggles for the marginalized, most notably in defense of LGBTQ rights in the US and abroad. Friends Central could not have found a more suitable candidate to address high schoolers about non-violent approaches to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. In disinviting Dr. Atshan Friends Central administrators have made a decision at odds with Quaker values and the long Quaker legacy of support for peace and justice among Palestinians and Israelis.


Steve Tamari, Clerk, Quaker Palestine Israel Network

On behalf of QPIN Steering Committee 


4 Comments on “Friends’ Central School cancels Dr. Sa’ed Atshan talk. QPIN responds”

  1. Ruth Zweifler says:

    Well said. It is a sad, sad day when a Quaker school further silences the voiceless.

  2. Elizabeth Block says:

    You’re kidding, right?
    See the blog on my website,, for an account of my trip to Palestine.

  3. John Salzberg says:

    Thanks, Steve, for your excellent reply. I hope Friends’ Central will reconsider their decision. John Salzberg

  4. Elizabeth Barry says:

    Very disturbing that a Quaker school would sink to such so low point.

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