AFSC is best known for its work with Palestinian communities in the occupied Palestinian territories, but since 1948 AFSC has also maintained a presence in and worked with both Palestinian and Jewish populations in Israel. AFSC’s work in Israel began during the summer of 1948 when the U.N. asked AFSC to provide assistance to refugees - mostly Palestinian - who had been displaced as a result of the 1948 war. AFSC agreed to provide assistance to these refugees, but as a condition of the agreement requested that it be allowed to provide assistance not only in Gaza, but also in the newly formed state of Israel. AFSC’s work in Israel began on Christmas Day 1948 when a small AFSC team began work providing assistance to both Palestinian and Jewish refugees inside Israel using supplies received from the United Nations. These first programs were based out of the old city of Acre.
Today, AFSC’s work in Israel supports partners who are working to counter the militarization of Israeli society, understanding that wide spread acceptance of militarism is one of the factors sustaining inequalities, occupation, and conflict. Working through partners, AFSC focuses on a number of the major negative impacts that Israeli militarism has on Israeli and Palestinian societies. These include:
- A societal inability to criticize military activities, which at least in part develops from the fact that all Jewish Israeli men and most women are required to serve in the military.
- The militarization of the political system and a resulting acceptance of violence as the main tool to resolve conflict
- The disproportionate amount of the Israeli national budget dedicated to the military
- Continued support within Israel for the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories and resulting rights violations
- Discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel and those who do not serve in the army
We work with partners, who are well placed to reach out to all sectors of Israel’s diverse society, to promote the demilitarization of Israeli society, with a focus on programming targeting youth between the ages of 16 and 22. We partner with local Jewish, Druze and Palestinian NGOs to develop their skills, knowledge and practical experience with the goal of improving their ability to impact their communities. We also help these partners gain access to US audiences for advocacy and education purposes.
This program links with AFSC’s US based counter-recruitment, demilitarization, and Israel-Palestine work with a focus on promoting experience sharing across AFSC. As a part of the joint US-Palestine-Israel programs our work in Israel includes an education/advocacy component focused on developing and sharing resource and materials designed to increase awareness in the US about the reality of life in Israel and Palestine.
As with all of AFSC’s Israel-Palestine programming, this work is guided by AFSC’s Principles for a Just and Lasting Peace in Palestine and Israel.