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Calling for economic action to end Israel’s occupation: Minutes and statements of Quaker Meetings & organizations

By: Madeline Schaefer
Published: September 19, 2013
Photo: AFSC

Note:  Quakers around the world are working for peace in Israel/Palestine by joining or supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which takes economic action to end Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank. Below is a list of minutes and statements supporting the BDS movement, and calling on all governments to end the dehumanizing effects of the Israeli government.

This month, a U.S. Quaker Palestine Israel Network was launched and is collecting names of individuals and meetings who would like to be involved.  You can sign up here.

-Lucy

Monthly Meeting (MM) Minutes

Ann Arbor MM (Mich.) Minute – 2011

We believe that one key step towards stability and safety for both Israelis and Palestinians depends on a just agreement regarding the Palestinian lands that Israel has occupied, illegally, according to international law, since 1967.

We urge Friends worldwide to unite with Britain Yearly Meeting in its call to boycott products made in Israeli settlements “not as punishment or revenge, but as an external pressure to achieve change.”

In order to exert more than symbolic pressure on the Israeli government to negotiate a just peace at this critical time, Ann Arbor Friends Meeting joins with religious and civil society organizations throughout the world in a boycott of corporations that support the Israeli military.

Colorado Springs MM (Col.) Minute - 2012

We, Colorado Springs Friends Meeting, Religious Society of Friends, embrace the spirit and support the goals of the We Divest Campaign of the American Friends Service Committee… As Friends who value our testimonies of Peace, Equality, Community, Integrity and Simplicity and strive to live by them, we unite with the AFSC campaign. We see the campaign as an example of speaking truth to power – in this case to the power of unjust profit – both as individuals and as a Meeting. We recognize that peace in the Middle East is dependent upon true justice for Palestinians and so seek to support all nonviolent efforts to further that cause.

Holland MM (Mich.) Minute – 2013

The sense of our meeting is that a boycott of products made in Israel’s West Bank settlements can be an appropriate signal to Israel of our encouragement to compromise.  Another appropriate signal is financial divestment from U.S. and other companies that support the ongoing military occupation and repression of the Palestinian people.  Holland Friends Meeting supports the efforts by AFSC, Britain Yearly Meeting, Illinois Yearly Meeting, and many other Monthly Meetings as well as other religious and civic groups to advocate for peace via the above actions, and we  encourage LEYM to adopt similar policies.

Sandy Spring MM (Md.) Minute – 2012

Our Meeting has a significant portion of its reserves invested in Friends Fiduciary’s Consolidated Fund.   We appreciate that in deciding on investments for the Consolidated Fund, Friends Fiduciary Corporation is guided by its principles of Socially Responsible Investing.  Consistent with these principles, the Meeting asks Friends Fiduciary to divest from companies that support and profit from violence of any kind in the Israeli Palestinian conflict.*  

*For purposes of identifying such companies we recommend reading more about American Friends Service Committee's Investment screen.

St. Louis MM (Mo.) Minute – March 2011

Palestinian civil society organizations have asked for support of boycott, divestment and sanctions action (BDS) against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, until Israel complies with international law.  The St. Louis Religious Society of Friends affirms the nonviolent nature of the BDS movement and its support of the fundamental equality of all parties in this conflict.  We see BDS as a challenge to discriminatory Israeli state policies that diminish the humanity of another people.  It is a nonviolent challenge to political systems and institutions, not individuals, that deny the equality of Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

Swannanoa Valley MM (N.C.)  – 2013 (Also presented to Southern Appalachian YM)

As members of the Religious Society of Friends who believe that all women and men are our sisters and brothers, we are led to respond to the cries of suffering of the Palestinian people by supporting the boycott campaign until the Occupation has ended and the basic human rights of those living under the intolerable conditions of this Occupation are secured.

In support of Palestinian justice, as well as in support of a peaceful and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we encourage our members and all citizens not to buy products (eg. Soda Stream, Ahava cosmetics, etc) made in the West Bank settlements.

Yearly Meeting (YM) Minutes

Britain YM for Sufferings Minute - 2011

In the face of the armed oppression of poor people and the increasing encroach-ment of the illegal settlements in the West Bank, we cannot do nothing …We are clear that it would be wrong to support the illegal settlements by purchasing their goods.  We therefore ask Friends (Quakers) throughout Britain Yearly Meeting to boycott settlement goods, until such time as the occupation is ended.

Netherlands YM Minute – 2012. We are calling on one another to boycott the products of the (illegal) settlements on the West Bank wherever possible.

Our Letter to Friends Worldwide: We wholeheartedly endorse the call from the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) to our government to undertake actions that will end the occupation. This call demands:

  • A total import ban on goods from the settlements in the occupied areas, which are illegal according to international law
  • An end to all arms sales to the Israeli government
  • To call a halt to any intensification of the bilateral relations with the Israeli government until such time that government demonstrates respect for human rights and international law.               

Kees Nieuwerth, Clerk

Lake Erie YM – 2013

A key step towards stability and safety for both Israelis and Palestinians, and other indigenous peoples of the region, depends on a just agreement regarding the Palestinian lands that Israel has occupied, illegally, according to international law, since 1967. 

Therefore, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting calls for Friends to join the boycott of products made in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements and to divest from companies that support Israel’s military occupation and repression of the Palestinian people. 

We join with the American Friends Service Committee, Britain Yearly Meeting, Monthly Meetings, and religious and civil society organizations throughout the world in taking such steps in working for peace.

Illinois YM Minute - June 2011

The Illinois Yearly Meeting of Religious Society of Friends united with the concern brought both by St. Louis Monthly Meeting and Blue River Quarterly Meeting, to urge American Friends Service Committee to seek for the TIAA-CREF pension funds to divest from 5 corporations whose business and/or products oppose Palestinians.

Blue River Quarterly Meeting (QM) Minute – April 2011

St. Louis Friends have sent a letter to AFSC asking them to encourage TIAA-CREF to divest from…a bus company [Veolia] that only serves the settlements and not the Palestinians, a company [Northrop Grumman] that provides weapons to Israel, Caterpillar which sells bulldozers specifically outfitted for military use such as bulldozing homes and orchards, and Motorola which designs and sells surveillance systems to Israel…BRQ unites with the statement of St. Louis Friends and will both contact AFSC to express our concern and take the concern to ILYM sessions this summer asking that they also unite with this statement.

Statements

American Friends Service Committee Investment Screen – 2008-2013

On March 8, 2008, AFSC’s Board approved an affirmative investment screen specific to Israel-Palestine…This is a policy designed to prohibit the investment of AFSC resources in companies that benefit from the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank…or that are involved in or facilitate Israeli or Palestinian acts of violence.

In 2009, Jewish Voice for Peace launched the “We Divest” campaign, demanding TIAA-CREF stop investing in corporations that enable the destruction of Palestinian homes and orchards, the expansion of Israeli settlements and infrastructure, checkpoint surveillance of Palestinian communities, and provide weapons used against civilians.

In June 2010, the AFSC Board of Directors officially endorsed Jewish Voice for Peace’s efforts to call on TIAA-CREF to divest, and joined the national effort of people of conscience…by supporting Palestinians and Israelis who are engaged in nonviolent resistance to the occupation.  Over 20,000 people have now signed the petition to TIAA-CREF on the web: wedivest.org.

Ann Arbor MM (Mich.) to Friends Fiduciary Corp - 2013

Ann Arbor Friends welcome the decision by Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) in 2012 to drop its holdings in Caterpillar Corp, Hewlett Packard, and Veolia Environment, companies listed on the investment screen developed by AFSC to avoid support for products and services used in violence against civilians in Israel and Palestine.  We invite LEYM Friends to join us in expressing thanks to FFC for this compassionate action.                         

Nancy Taylor, AAFM.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, Earlham - 2011

Earlham College students from different backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences declare their support for BDS Earlham, a campaign to encourage Earlham to divest from companies materially supporting or profiting from Israeli violations of International law and the universal principles of Human Rights.

Lake Erie YM – 2008 Letter to Presidential Candidates Obama and McCain

As part of your campaign for President, you have recently pledged support for Israel, and for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Lake Erie Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) shares your desire for a resolution to the conflict so that both Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace…At the heart of much of the discussion of conditions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict is the idea of a “two-state” solution, an Israeli state and a Palestinian state side by side on the territory of historic Palestine. There are a number of obstacles, however, that together make such a solution well-nigh impossible. The central impediment is the massive settlement process, whereby in contravention of international law Israel has built settlements exclusively for Israeli Jewish citizens throughout the territories occupied in the 1967 war, on land expropriated from Palestinian inhabitants. These settlements together with the network of “bypass roads” which connect the settlements with each other and with Israel proper and are off-limits to most Palestinian traffic make up what one Israeli analyst refers to as “the matrix of control.”  As long as this matrix of control is in place, cemented by a military occupation with its checkpoints and a myriad of other regulations that govern every aspect of the Palestinians’ lives, there can be no viable Palestinian state.We hope  that you will keep these considerations in mind, both as a candidate and as the one who ultimately is elected President.

Shirley Bechill, Presiding Clerk, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting

Interfaith Boycott Coalition – Mission Statement - 2012

We are a coalition of faith networks and organizations that represent Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and other traditions. We are all committed to ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine and violations of international law. Toward this end, we join the growing international call, coming from within the faith community and outside of it, for the boycott of companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine and violations of international law.

Interfaith Boycott Coalition members include:                           

Jewish Voice for Peace

Church of the Brethren                           Presbyterian Church (USA) IP Mission Network    

American Muslims for Palestine             Episcopal Peace Fellowship PI Network

American Friends Service Committee    United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network

United Methodist Kairos Response        Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East 

Members of the Catholic, Lutheran, Quaker, and Mennonite denominations.

NOTE:   For complete texts of Minutes, Statements, and Letters excerpted here, see http://www.quakerpi.org/Q-Action.shtml  or send your request to agr1@me.com.

About the Author

Madeline Schaefer

Madeline is the Friends Relations Associate. She grew up in the beautiful Radnor Meeting community outside of Philadelphia, and attended Friends Schools in the area until the end of High School.  After several years of studying and traveling, she returned to Philadelphia only to immerse herself once again in the stories, the culture and the spirituality of Philadelphia Quakers.  While living in collective house in West Philadelphia, she grew curious about the history of young Quaker activists in the neighborhood, and started an oral history project to find out more.  Madeline is interested in exploring the ways in which life in community can stretch our capacity for compassion and growth.  Her dream is to create more alternative communities of people learning how to live together, creating models for a society fueled by cooperation and love.

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