Young boys play outside of a rehabilitation center in Rafah during a training on community engagement run by the Palestinian Youth Program.Photo: AFSC / Skip Schiel
In the Middle East, as elsewhere, peaceful ends can only be achieved by peaceful means. With AFSC’s support, youth in Israel, the occupied Palestinian territory, and the U.S. are rejecting militarism, challenging the injustices that fuel conflict, and building movements for change.
Young conscientious objectors in Israel are often shunned by family, friends, and society. A new AFSC-facilitated youth group gave those choosing to resist military service a safe place to talk and acquire tools for social activism. We also supported a similar group for members of Israel’s Druze minority who are resisting military service.
In the West Bank and Gaza, approximately 550 Palestinian youth led civic engagement projects such as building a playground and distributing blankets to patients in hospitals. AFSC brought two delegations of Palestinian youth from the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel to World Social Forum meetings in Brazil and Tunisia, where they demonstrated the resilience of Palestinians in the face of continued military occupation, unequal rights, and exile.
Recognizing that specific corporations profit from human rights abuses in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, AFSC continued its partnership with Jewish Voice for Peace and others on a divestment campaign aimed at financial giant TIAA-CREF. We also trained 29 students from U.S. college campuses on boycott and divestment strategies and developed a traveling art exhibit on the art of economic activism.
Amid civil war and the humanitarian crisis in Syria, AFSC supported a politically diverse network of Syrians who are dedicated to nonviolence. The network’s initiatives included mediating the release of kidnapping victims, ensuring the equitable distribution of bread, and working for the inclusion of all children in classrooms, regardless of religious identity.