By Kathleen McQuillen, AFSC Iowa Program Coordinator

Observing the current liberation struggles sweeping through the Arab world, British Foreign Secretary William Hague noted, “Legitimate aspirations cannot be ignored and must be addressed.” The freedom movement in Palestine is no different. Working for 63 years to have their legitimate aspirations for a Palestinian state recognized, the people of Palestine have successfully petitioned the UN General Assembly to hold a vote on Palestinian statehood in September. Though non-binding, such a vote is expected to be heavily lopsided in favor of statehood and will leave Israel and likely the US once again on the wrong side of freedom movements. This is our time to elevate Palestine’s freedom movement to public view and change US policy!

Every US administration since Eisenhower has called for a state for the Palestinian people. Now 63 years after the state of Israel was announced – albeit without official borders – there is still no state for the Palestinian people. Palestinians forced to leave their homes in the fighting of the 1947-48 war remain even today in refugee camps or in diaspora around the world. Palestinians living on land intended for a future Palestinian state live under an oppressive Israeli occupation on the West Bank, or live under a brutal Israeli siege in Gaza. Palestinians inside Israel (20% of Israel’s population) live in second-class status – “separate and unequal.”

Official statements aside, the US has partnered with Israel in its violation of international law and human rights principles.  The US continues to provide Israel with over $3 billion in military aid annually. That $3 billion is instrumental in sustaining Israel’s illegal and oppressive policies. Further the US provides Israel diplomatic cover as exemplified by the most recent of US vetoes of UN resolutions attempting to hold Israel accountable for its actions. The vetoed resolution, sponsored by 130 UN members, asserted the illegality of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=us-vetoes-un-resolution-on-israeli-settlements-2011-02-19

On October 14 and 15, 2011, people from around Iowa will gather together to help reshape US policy. A conference entitled “US Policy in Palestine – Israel: Engaging the Faith Communities in Pursuit of a Just Peace” will highlight the voices of people working to bring peace with justice to Palestine and Israel. Drawing from sources within Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and secular communities, the conference is guaranteed to be a stimulating and goal-directed experience intended to motivate and mobilize. Outstanding speakers include:

Conference workshops include topics such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign; Moving Beyond Zionism; Introduction to Islam; The Kairos Document—A call from within the Palestinian Christian Communities. In addition there will be a conference track specifically for young adults. This track includes “Organizing on College Campuses” and “Spoken Word Art in Political Activism.”

The day and a half conference will end with a strategy session to answer the question—So what do we, in Iowa, to do change US policy?

A complete program listing is available on the AFSC website in the weeks ahead: http://afsc.org/event/us-policy-palestine-israel-engaging-faith-communities-pursuit-just-peace

For more information or to volunteer to help with the conference, contact Kathleen McQuillen, kmcquillen@afsc.org.

US Policy in Palestine-Israel: Engaging the Faith Communities in Pursuit of a Just Peace
Friday Oct. 14, 2011, 1pm-9pm, Saturday Oct. 15, 9am-9pm
Our Lady of Immaculate Heart Church; 501 E. First St. Ankeny, IA