Does it matter what Quakers say about the Israel/Palestine conflict?

Nick Francis shares a press release from Quakers in Britain

Quakers call for end to violence

Quakers in Britain have been watching, appalled, as the violence has escalated in Jerusalem over the last week and now spreads across the Holy Land.

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain said: “Our Quaker testimonies to peace and equality compel us, once again, to speak out on this issue. At this time, (11 May) over 850 people (840 Palestinians and at least 21 Israeli police officers and 7 Israeli civilians) have been wounded. In Gaza, 24 Palestinians including 9 children, were killed overnight.

“The latest round of this 73-year cycle of violence has taken place amid provocative and discriminatory actions by the Israeli government. There are threats to forcibly remove more Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem in favour of Israeli settlers, which the UN has warned may constitute a war crime, and tear gas and stun grenades have been fired by Israeli soldiers into the Al Aqsa Mosque as Muslims meet in worship for the end of Ramadan. We have seen violent crackdowns on peaceful protestors, retaliatory rockets fired indiscriminately from Gaza into Israel and airstrikes from Israel kill civilians in Gaza.

“All of these actions are grave violations of international law and must end immediately.

“As Quakers we place equal value on every human life and believe the structural violence of occupation damages all people of the region. We have said before that the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis will only be resolved when Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory is ended, and the inherent equality, dignity and worth of all is realised. We still believe this to be so. We urge our faith and political leaders to speak out with us. For as long as we remain silent, and choose to step back from uncomfortable words and actions, we are all complicit in the ongoing violence.”

Does anyone care what a small faith community in faraway Britain has to say on this matter? Does it change anything? I shared the release with a friend in Tel Aviv and was touched by her reply:

I highly appreciate you are sharing this with me. As you probably know things are more complicated than this recent cycle of violence. I totally agree…the only solution will be the end of the Israeli occupation. There is no other way. Until then, more people from both sides will be killed. One comment, there is death also on the Israeli side, and venerable people (for example from the unrecognized Arab village, Dahmash) also dying unnecessary death because of the conflict.

There are ways of helping and supporting local organizations that are fighting those issues daily. Such as Ir Amim (https://www.ir-amim.org.il/en) which I know and trust and so many more. I completely lost faith in Israel, this past couple of weeks were the most extreme and violent, not only in Gaza or Jerusalem but in all the mixed cities, so much racial violence, and hate that it is really difficult to bear.

It’s clearly not easy to be a pacifist in Israel. I feel we in Britain have a historic responsibility for the mess, and that we as Quakers have to know where we stand. The stance Quakers take is clearly noticed by the Israeli government, which has for example banned the AFSC (which saved thousands of Jews from the holocaust) from entering the country.

People need and appreciate the right conversation. For my part I find the discernment of British Quakers and also the personal experiences and testimonies of Friends who have for example served as EAPPI very helpful and grounding in this endless and painful conflict. Everyone has the right to live in security. Everyone has human rights. Judaism and Islam, and indeed all the world’s major religions can point to the wrong in what is happening today. Rabbi Hillel’s silver rule says it all: “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it.”

We need to know where we stand.

Appropriate images of the Israel-Palestine conflict via Church Times – forgiveness sought.

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