Monday, May 23, 2016

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

Members and Attenders of Quaker Meetings can sign on to this letter by emailing Helen Fox Please mention the Meeting you attend. 

As Quakers, we are disappointed in your opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and your unwavering support for the right wing government of the State of Israel, despite its unconscionable repression of the Palestinian people.

We understand that you think BDS stands in the way of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

In your letter of May 9 to the Israel Action Network and the Jewish Federations of North America you explain that the movement aims to “punish” Israel by “dictating” how the two sides should resolve the core issues of the conflict. 

We respectfully disagree with this analysis. As you surely know, the balance of power has always been in Israel’s favor. 

Israel, a nuclear armed country with a modern military supported by $128 billion dollars in US aid since its founding, is pitted against smaller and smaller enclaves of Palestinians, now crowded into barely 15% of historical Palestine, harassed and dehumanized at checkpoints, deprived of work, food, water, building materials, travel, health care – everything that human beings should enjoy.

The fact that Palestinian civil society has called for a powerful, nonviolent, international response to this untenable situation should be understandable.

As you may know, Quakers have been serving since the 1880s in Palestine, where we have had the opportunity to learn from and appreciate the Palestinian people, their culture, their work ethic, and their resilience in the face of suffering.

We respectfully suggest that as someone who hopes to act as a fair negotiator, you should avail yourself of every opportunity to do the same.

You often reminisce that when you and Bill visited Israel for the first time three decades ago, you walked the ancient streets of Jerusalem’s Old City and fell in love with the country and its people.

We believe you will be a better negotiator if you allow yourself to fall in love with the Palestinian people as well.

It is not hard to do.

Spend time with families, visit people’s homes, enjoy their magnificent hospitality, listen to their stories about their daily lives, learn a bit of Arabic, appreciate the humor, the children’s games and stories, the music, the beautiful embroidery, the olive harvest, the importance Palestinians place on education.

Learn, too, about the terror so many have experienced, the physical and emotional trauma of scores of children, the displacement from their ancestral homes and villages, the erasure of their suffering from the eyes of Israelis on the other side of the “separation wall."

We know this is not how diplomacy usually works. But we believe the world is ready for a new way of addressing human disagreements that result in violence and war. If you spend significant time experiencing the lives and perspectives not just of the Israelis, but of the Palestinians as well, you will be able to move negotiations forward in ways that both sides will ultimately see as fair.

As Quakers, we yearn for an end to this terrible conflict that has spawned such hard feelings between good people. 

We ask you to act with integrity in the critical work that you do.

Dr. Helen Fox (Michigan)
Edward Morin (Michigan)
Ruth Zweifler (Michigan)
Anne Remley (Michigan)
Marilyn Churchill, MA (Michigan)
Karen Deslierres (Michigan)
Sara Koopman (Canada)
James Koopman (Michigan)
Ruth Carey (Michigan)

Steve Chase (Pennsylvania)
Maia Carter Hallward (Georgia)
Jan Wright (Michigan)
Elizabeth Block (Canada)
Joan Sampieri (Michigan)
Al Connor (Michigan)
James Crowfoot (Michigan)
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Letitia W. Ufford, Ph.D. (New Hampshire)
Mary Day Kent (Pennsylvania)
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John Steinmeyer (Florida)

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Dorlan Bales (Kansas)
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Andrew Zweifler, MD (Michigan)
Marlena Santoyo (Pennsylvania)

Jim Best, MA, CCC-SLP
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William Riccobono (Michigan)
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Elizabeth Wood (Pennsylvania)
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Thomas S. Costello, Ph.D. (New York)
Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta (Canada)
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George Matry Masselam (Massachusetts)
Jo Scott (United Kingdom)
Mark Chalk (United Kingdom)
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Cas Overton (Virginia)
Rhonda Ligon (Virginia)
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Myra Ford (United Kingdom)
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Wayland M. Hubbart (Washington)
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Katy Rugg, M.A. (Virginia)
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Phil Balderston (Ohio)
Jim McQuaide (New Mexico)
Eric J. Schiller (Canada)
Mary Fran Hughes-McIntyre (Virginia)
Sandy Moller (Michigan)
Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Friends Meeting at Cambridge, Massachusetts

Free Solomon Polazzo (Georgia)
Donald Saunders (United Kingdom)
Dr. Margaret Barker (United Kingdom)
Wayne Lee (Florida)
Christine Ashley (Iowa)
Geraldine Farrow (United Kingdom)
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Don Bender (Georgia)
Judy Bender (Georgia)
Clive Gordon (Georgia)
Mary Ann Mays (New York)
Richard Corl (Texas)
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Dave Swindells (United Kingdom)
Elizabeth Lees (United Kingdom)
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Carol Barclay (New York)
Deborah Fine (Pennsylvania)
Maud Easter (New York)
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Gatewood West (Massachusetts)
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Shirley P. Wolfe (Michigan)
Marilyn Siegel (Michigan)
Karen L. Connor (Michigan)
Pat Micks (Michigan)
Carol Bechtel (Minnesota)
David Easter (New York)
Deena Kinsky (Massachusetts)
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Robert Cadman (California)
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Linda Mills (Michigan)
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Jessica Rettig (Ohio)
Linda Stagg Long (Ohio)
Peter Yff (Lebanon)
Alan Penn (United Kingdom)
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Jinchun Ma (Pennsylvania)
Janet Lamborn (Pennsylvania)

Photo by Skip Schiel 

Bob Stauffer (Hawaii)
Margaret Nielsen (Michigan)
Lucia Anne Kalinosky (Ohio)
Princewell Onwere (Michigan)
Tracy Davis (Colorado)
Mary Kay Kernan (Colorado)
Tom Kowal (Colorado)
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Phyllis Hoge (New Mexico)
Wyn Lewis (New Mexico)
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Anna Darrah (New Mexico)
Mara Kelson (Colorado)
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Barbara Stephens (Colorado)
Leslie Stephens (Colorado)
Ann Bunting (Colorado)
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Nancy Uhl (Colorado)
Susan Rose (Colorado)
Carlos Valen III (Arizona)
Siva Raver (New Mexico)

Janie Cravens (New Mexico)
Ann Anthony (New Mexico)
John A. Kretzmann (New Mexico)
Elaine Emily (California)
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Eugenia Durland (Colorado)
Henry R. Seltzers (New Mexico)
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Michael Baird (Colorado)
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Norma Seneca Cady (Iowa)
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Warnoek Davies (Indiana)

Gwendolyn Halsted (Indiana)
Michael Klein (Ohio)
Pauline Klein (Ohio)
Johanna Jackson (Pennsylvania)
Kersey Bradley (Pennsylvania)
Cathy Clifford (Michigan)
Dr. J. L. Underfer (Michigan)
Jamie Young (Ohio)

Members and Attenders of Quaker Meetings can sign on to this letter by emailing Helen Fox Please mention the Meeting you attend. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Let Us See What Love Can Do"

Early in 1948, just before the end of the British Mandate, Palestine was in turmoil. Jewish immigrants fleeing European persecution were pouring into the region, believing they were returning to a long-lost homeland, now devoid of civilization. Palestinian Muslims and Christians, forced out of their homes and villages, were fleeing into neighboring countries; others had taken up arms to defend their land and way of life. Palestinian Jews, who had lived in friendship with their Muslim neighbors for generations, were appalled at the idea that they must now take sides against them. The holy city of Jerusalem was on the verge of collapse, its water supply compromised, the threat of disease imminent.

Into this cauldron stepped three Quakers: Edgar Castle from Britain, James Vail, representing the American Friends Service Committee, and Kendall Kimberland, a Cairo-based Quaker with long experience in the Middle East. After prayerful consideration, they had decided to travel to the heart of the conflict to see what love could do.

AFSC recently has made public their archives from that tumultuous period: four cubic feet of notes, cables, letters, and reports that tell the story of the attempt of these three men to “discover what Friends might do in reconciliation work between Jews  and Arabs.” They were convinced that the political deadlock “would yield only to the reconciling force of reason founded in love.”

Over a period of two months, the small Quaker delegation met with high-level individuals from all sides in the conflict. They would explain, sometimes to sympathetic listeners, sometimes to hostile ones, that “the Quaker aim was always to seek peace and create brotherhood.” By appealing to the best in all three religious traditions they were able to make a surprising amount of headway: they offered emergency assistance “without discrimination except that of human need,” transmitted messages of compromise and reconciliation from one side to another, and established a basis for a truce in Jerusalem’s Old City that seemed amenable to all sides. “We had learned once again,” Castle wrote, "that barriers of suspicion will fall before confident acceptance of God's goodness in men."

But as they soon discovered, in such a volatile situation love was not enough. "I had not written three words of these notes, says Castle, "before the radio announced the news of Bernadotte's assassination, surely the consumation of evil." Count Folke Bernadotte was a Swedish diplomat who had arranged the release of 31,000 Jewish prisoners from German concentration camps in WW II, and was at the time serving as U.N. Security Council mediator for the Palestinian conflict. He was traveling in the region with a peace plan proposal but was assassinated by the Lehi, a Zionist group that opposed his plan.

Despite the failure of their attempt at a truce, the Quaker mission was not in vain. As a result of their two-month effort, AFSC was asked by the United Nations to set up humanitarian assistance for some of the 500,000 refugees "flying from another refugee people" -- the Palestinians who had been left homeless while joyful newcomers celebrated the birth of the State of Israel.

As Quakers continue the work begun by Castle, Vail, and Kimberland sixty-eight years later, we have learned that in dealing with powerful regimes, ever-more deadly weapons, and still-raw emotions, we need to do more than appeal to reason guided by love. Nonviolent pressure tactics, refined over the years in struggles for justice in South Africa, Latin America, India, and countless other places, have proved both ethical and effective.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is now leading the way. Yet the optimism and spiritual determination that guided the small AFSC delegation should never be discounted. What love can do is astounding when it informs the power of nonviolence.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Candidates on Israel/Palestine

In February, President Obama offered Israel what a US official described as “the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in US history.”

The package would start at $3.8 billion for the first two or three years and grow incrementally until it reached a combined 10-year total of more than $40 billion.

Yet Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu was not convinced that this amount would be enough, and suggested he would wait to conclude a deal with whoever succeeds President Obama.

So what are the views of the candidates now vying to become the next president?

TRUMP: Although he has cited Israel’s “separation barrier” as an example of why the US should build a wall on the Mexican border, Donald Trump claims he will remain neutral about the Israel Palestine conflict. He is used to making deals, he says, and if he came out in favor of one side or the other, he would not be seen as a credible broker in making peace between the two groups. “I don’t want to get into it,” he told a South Carolina town hall meeting. “You understand a lot of people have gone down in flames trying to make that deal. So I don’t want to say whose fault it is. I don’t think that helps.” But Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (net worth $28.9 billion) sees something else in Trump: 

RUBIO: Questioning Trump’s “commitment to Israel” because of his comment suggesting that Israel would need to offer “sacrifices” to win a peace deal, Senator Marco Rubio told the Republican Jewish Coalition, “There is no moral equivalence between Israel and those who seek to destroy her. Understanding that fundamental truth is essential to being the next commander in chief.” “Today, anti-Semitism hides behind the label of anti-Israel,” Rubio continued. “We need a president who will call it that. I will be that president.” The largest single backer of Rubio’s campaign is billionaire auto dealership magnate Norman Braman (net worth $1.88 billion), a past president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

CRUZ: Responding to Trump’s claim of objectivity, Senator Ted Cruz said he had “no intention of being neutral” in his support for Israel. Cruz positions himself to the right of GW Bush, who at one time, called on Israelis to disband their settlements on disputed land. Instead, Cruz says, the US shouldn’t be dictating where Israelis choose to live. Confusingly, this means he isn’t averse to a two-state solution, because even though “the barrier to peace is the Palestinians,” if Israel chooses to negotiate with them the US has no right to dictate the terms. Yet Cruz also insists that there is “no moral equivalency” between “terrorists” and Israelis who are only trying to protect themselves. Cruz's biggest benefactors are Farris and Dan Wilks, Texas billionaire brothers who made their money from fracking. But Farris Wilks is also a pastor in an obscure Christian denomination called the Assemblies of Yahweh, which traces its roots to "Jewish Cristianity."

CLINTON: Palestinians “deserve to have a state of their own,” Hillary Clinton told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “That’s why I support a two-state solution.” Supporting Palestinian aspirations “is in the long-term best interests of Israel, as well as the region.” Yet at the same time, she vows to strengthen relations with Israel’s right wing government. “I have stood with Israel my entire career,” she wrote in an op-ed in The Jewish Daily Forward. “As Secretary of State, I requested more assistance for Israel every year. . . . I defended Israel from isolation and attacks at the United Nations . . . including opposing the biased Goldstone report” (which documented widespread Israeli war crimes during the 2014 assault on Gaza). Clinton's donors include "Hollywood leftists" George Soros, Steven Spielberg, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who have given at least $1 million to Clinton's super PAC.

SANDERS: Given his heritage as the son of a Jewish immigrant from Poland whose family was murdered in the Holocaust, Sanders might be expected to have the strongest ties to Israel. Yet his website claims he does not favor Israel over the Palestinians, nor does he otherwise let his religion influence his positions regarding the 60+ year conflict, which he describes as “depressing and difficult.” He believes that the Palestinians must fulfill their responsibilities to end terror against Israel and recognize Israel’s right to exist. In return, the Israelis must end their policy of targeted killings, prevent further Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes, businesses and infrastructure.

Sanders' top contributors include members (or PACs) of the Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union ($105,000), the Teamsters Union ($93,700), the National Education Association ($89,242), and other unions.