Articles & News

McConaugheys Fully Funded for Ministry

Friends United Meeting - Tue, 03/27/2018 - 7:01pm

We are thrilled to announce that Shawn and Katrina McConaughey have received all the pledges they need to fund three years of ministry in East Africa! Thank you, Friends, for your prayers and friendship and financial support.

Shawn and Katrina say that they are “so grateful for the generosity and love we have experienced in this process.”

If you would still like to donate, we welcome the opportunity to partner with you! There are always Friends who are unable to complete their pledges due to changes in life circumstances, so having extra support can be a huge blessing. If you feel led to help financially support the McConaughey’s ministry at the Africa Ministries Office, you can do so here.

Categories: Articles & News

Kelly Kellum Called as New General Secretary

Friends United Meeting - Thu, 03/22/2018 - 1:04pm

The Board of Friends United Meeting, in business sessions in Richmond, Indiana (USA), accepted the recommendation of the Search Committee to call Kelly Kellum as the next General Secretary of FUM. This recommendation followed an intensive search process including members from throughout the global fellowship of Friends.

Kelly was raised in Burundi, Africa, where his parents were missionaries with Mid-America Yearly Meeting. He is a graduate of Friends University and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served as a pastor among Friends for twenty years, most recently in North Carolina, and as presiding clerk of FUM for one triennium and on the Executive Committee of the FWCC–SOA. Most recently, Kelly has been working as a Stewardship Consultant, serving Quaker meetings and organizations on behalf of a new partnership between FUM and Everence Financial Services.

Kelly is a member of High Point Friends Meeting in North Carolina. In his address to the board proceeding their deliberations and choice to call him as General Secretary, Kelly said that as a child of missionaries and a third-culture kid, he finds it difficult to say exactly where he is from.  FUM, however, has become his spiritual home: “the place and the people where I belong.”

Ron Bryan, clerk of FUM, says, “It would be hard to find anyone as well-prepared to lead an organization as diverse as Friends United meeting. Kelly’s wide background, including his upbringing in Africa and his broad experience in many Yearly Meetings and in Friends United Meeting makes him an exciting choice, and we’re glad that God has led him to this work at this time.”

Colin Saxton, current General Secretary, announced in May of 2017 that he would be transitioning out of his role at FUM. He said this about his successor: “Kelly’s gifts, ability to build deep and meaningful relationships, his spiritual depth and love for FUM and Christ will serve the community and organization in important ways. With a fully-engaged board and staff working alongside him, FUM will be more faithful and fruitful in the future.”

Colin will complete his service as General Secretary on June 30th, and Kelly will begin his service on July 1st.

Categories: Articles & News

Protect hundreds of thousands of immigrants from deportation

American Friends Service Committee - Mon, 03/12/2018 - 7:47am

Tearing immigrants from their families and communities is wrong. Support permanent residency for TPS and DED holders.

Categories: Articles & News

Who's watching? Resisting surveillance

American Friends Service Committee - Sun, 03/11/2018 - 3:12pm
Thursday, March 15, 2018 - 8:30pm to 10:00pm
Categories: Articles & News

2018 Quakers in Politics Web Panel

Friends Journal - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 9:18am

On March 22, 2018, Friends Journal and the Earlham School of Religion co-sponsored a live web panel with six first-time candidates for U.S. Congressional seats. Find out what motivated these first-time candidates to give up their privacy for the glare of public service.

You can also watch it on the Earlham School of Religion Vimeo page.

Does faith influence values? Can it be a factor in governance without closing the gap between church and state? If faith and values have a place in the discussion, what might it mean to be a quaker and run for Congress? How do Quakers relate to the governing of the country? Earlham College President Alan Price moderated the two-hour panel discussion with Quaker U.S. Congressional candidates:


The post 2018 Quakers in Politics Web Panel appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Stand with communities and #DefundHate

American Friends Service Committee - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 1:36pm

Sign our petition to tell Congress: #DefundHate, protect our communities, and refuse to fund attacks on immigrant communities.

Categories: Articles & News

Among Friends: All Land Is Holy Land

Friends Journal - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 8:15am

All land is holy land. As Friends, we teach that consecration comes only from the active presence of the living Spirit. Our meetinghouses are not sacred because we worship there or because our spiritual ancestors had meaningful worship there. The transcendent spirituality comes from us returning once more, settling into the depth of the silence once more, and attending to divine prompts. The Quaker style of worship only works if we keep showing up and staying faithful.

When we decided to do an issue on Israel and Palestine, we picked the musty-sounding cliche of “Holy Land” as its organizing theme. Most terms for the region have years and sometimes centuries of layered meaning. Claims of Jerusalem as an especially holy city have been advanced for thousands of years and embraced by three major world religions. The last century and a half of Quaker activity in the region has been shaped by the mythos of these cultural claims, even as our participation has embedded us ever deeper into the complexities of its peoples.

Our stories this month follow some of that journey. Lois Jordan starts us off with the tale of her beloved aunt Mildred, an Indiana Quaker who worked with the Friends school in Ramallah, ten miles north of Jerusalem, over a span of three decades starting in 1922. Philadelphia Friend Sandy Rea continues the story with tales of working at Ramallah and a non-Quaker schools in Jordan in the 1980s.

Then, like a discordant record scratch, Tabitha Mustafa and Sandra Tamari, Palestinian Americans with Quaker bonafides, have an article asking inconvenient questions of how notions of colonialism have shaped Quaker activity in Palestine. They are the ones who remind us that all land is holy land.

When we strip myths away to look at the day-to-day realities of Israel and Palestine, we find two peoples in conflict over resources. Religions and ethnic identities divide them, and so does power. In “When Dialogue Stands in the Way of Peace,” Mike Merryman-Lotze of American Friends Service Committee introduces us to a contemporary Palestinian politics that challenges Quaker idealism. As Friends, our first instinct has been to think of conflicts as misunderstandings: if only everyone got to know each other better, love and cooperation would replace fear and confusion. It’s a charming and sometimes true sentiment, but many Palestinian activists charge that this process ignores power differentials and “normalizes” the status quo.

Finally, Lauren Brownlee shares a vulnerable and honest account of how she worked through the conflicting claims around justice and anti-Semitism to find a position on the controversial Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that she can claim. Her answer may not be your answer, but we hope her model of discernment is useful to readers.

I’m reminded of the struggles of discernment, power, and normalization when I look at other intra-Quaker conflicts that haven’t resolved despite the ministrations of committees, task forces, and listening sessions. Many Friends feel alienated over important issues—race, politics, and sexuality, just to name a few—and wonder if they belong. The fractures can result in more homogeneous and harmonious bodies, but they also suggest a failure of Quaker process. Is the normal we have the normal we want? If we’re all children of God, then all well-meaning, Light-seeking Friends should be able to find a home among us.

Let’s keep showing up and staying faithful.


Correction: The print version of this article mistaken says Sandy Rea’s teaching in Lebanon took place in Quaker-affiliated schools; they were International College, a secondary school (not Quaker) in Lebanon (1969–70) and at American Univ. of Beirut, in Lebanon 2000–2001.

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Categories: Articles & News

A Network of Love

Friends Journal - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 8:10am
Left to right: Leila and Violet Zaru with Lois Jordan, in the sisters’ home in Ramallah, 1995. In the particular lies the universal. —James Joyce I was only four, but I could tell that someone special was coming to
Categories: Articles & News

What Once Was Can Be Again

Friends Journal - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 8:05am

All photos courtesy of the author.

Probably you can easily imagine it: that familiar photo looking west across the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. The sweeping panorama takes in the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock shrine; further back, the black tops of the domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; and the walls of the old Temple Mount with the Western Wall out of sight on the far side. There they all are in Old City Jerusalem: the spiritual cores of all the three great monotheistic religions, side by side by side.

Medieval science, philosophy, and medicine flourished in the Middle Ages in the Iberian Peninsula as Christian, Muslim, and Jewish writers and scholars shared their knowledge.

I’ve been privileged to go to all three. I was inside the Dome of the Rock in 1970, before it was closed to non-Muslims. My last time in the Old City, I was accompanied into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by a Palestinian Muslim doctor who wanted to see the inside. Having already visited the Western Wall myself, I was greatly moved in hearing the story of a developmentally delayed patient of mine who was so excited to travel with her synagogue group and place a prayer from her grandmother into a crevice in the Western Wall.

Despite conflicts, the three faiths—side by side for 1,300 years—have found ways to live together with respect, even celebratory joy.

We know of other examples when Muslims, Christians, and Jews successfully lived together within communities. Spain from the early seventh century well into the fourteenth century included stretches of decades where Jews, Christians, and Muslims interacted with tolerance, revering each other’s way of life and traditions. Medieval science, philosophy, and medicine flourished in the Middle Ages in the Iberian Peninsula as Christian, Muslim, and Jewish writers and scholars shared their knowledge.

More recently, interaction between faiths is presented in Ariel Sabar’s lovely memoir, My Father’s Paradise, which tells of Kurdish Jews in a rural village in Northern Iraq. Sabar begins with descriptions of his grandparents’ life in rural Kurdish Iraq in a village where his Jewish ancestors lived in harmony with Muslim and Christian neighbors. They celebrated each other’s holidays, attended weddings and funerals of friends of other faiths, and interacted respectfully in business and professional relationships.

It is with these and other similar examples in my mind and heart that I carry on my work as a Friend in twenty-first century United States. In my role as clerk of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Middle East Collaborative, I work with a team of Friends to inform Friends and others in the Philadelphia region of some of the developments and complexities of current Middle East political, social, educational, and economic challenges. Together we have a shared vision of equality and a just peace between the Palestinians and Israelis in the Holy Land that may in the future be a reality. Together we share a concern for broken resolutions, continued violence, and entrenched leadership.

Friends presence in the Middle East is carried by the two monthly meetings that comprise Near East Yearly Meeting: Brummana Meeting in the hills east of Beirut, Lebanon, and Ramallah Meeting in Palestine, about ten miles north of Jerusalem.

Each of the two Near East Yearly Meetings monthly meetings is intimately connected to a school: Brummana High School in Lebanon, and Ramallah Friends School in Palestine. Political events in the region added to the First World (or Western) drive for colonization. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century in Greater Syria (ostensibly the whole region east of the Mediterranean Sea), numerous schools were started under the care of Western entities. American Friends were instrumental in the late 1860s in beginning Friends Girls School (FGS) in Ramallah. Paralleling those efforts, British Friends helped local Quakers establish Brummana Meeting and Brummana High School in 1874. Friends Boys School started in Ramallah about a generation after Friends Girls School, when in 1905, FGS graduates wanted a school for their sons. Ramallah Meetinghouse was built in 1910.

During three teaching years in the region, I was blessed to worship with Friends at both Brummana Meeting and Ramallah Meeting. In the 1969–70 school year, I taught English as a second language at International College (IC) in Beirut, Lebanon, a secondary K–12 school adjacent to the American University of Beirut. IC had a program through the ‘60s, and until the war in Lebanon in 1975, of hiring American young men as teaching fellows. I was one of five teaching fellows at IC in the 1969–1970 school year. We taught a part-time load of English, did dormitory supervision, and a bit of coaching. The program included tuition for a course or two at American University of Beirut.

I fell in love with Lebanon: with the people, the sound of the language, the tastes of the food, and smells of the spices. Views to the Lebanon mountains from Beirut’s seaside boulevards and rooftops are enticing. Mountain villages have preserved their charm by keeping older homes with the blonde stone and red tile roofs. The hard-working and earnest teachers and the smart, business-minded shop owners are always glad to see foreigners. There is an industriousness, resilience, and pride in the Lebanese that contribute to the repeated risings from so many destructions of the city. (Fourteen civilizations were identified by archeologists who, due to some of the destruction of 15 years of war, were able to access more artifacts under the earth than ever before in the decade of the ‘90s, after the end of the war.)

My wife, Stephanie Judson, and I looked at each other asking what to do when we heard the news of the bombing of the American Embassy on the seaside boulevard in Beirut in 1983. Our daughter, Julia, was not yet one year old. Beirut, in the middle of an intense part of the 15-year-long war, was not a place for a young family. Way opened as Stephanie asked more and more questions, and we landed teaching at Friends Girls School in Ramallah for the 1983–1984 school year.

We spent the days scheduled as one teacher so that one of us could be home with baby Julia. We spent free time travelling easily around the West Bank and Israel. We spent vacations in Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Classes in conversational Arabic enhanced our understanding of the culture, both directly from learning the language and from our beginning ability to converse with folks we met. Julia, a toddler growing from age one to two, was an ambassador who helped us open many conversations with locals. On Sundays one of us would walk up to the meetinghouse and join ex-pats, as well as the few local Palestinian Quakers, for meeting for worship. The other would stay home, as there was not First-day school at that time at Ramallah Meeting. As the meeting and school are both under the care of Friends United Meeting, our meetings for worship included hymns as well as ministry out of the silence.

Ramallah Meeting is about half way across the city of Ramallah between Friends Boys School and Friends Girls School. It was several years after we taught there that the governance board of the two schools fully combined to form Ramallah Friends School (RFS). The campus of Friends Girls School is now the Lower School of RFS and what was called Friends Boys School is now the Upper School of RFS.

Julia was also the connection to a second American family with whom we have been close since the October 1983 day when a babysitter brought a second American toddler to the door of our rented apartment in Ramallah, just blocks from the school. Christina Heath is the daughter of Peter and Marianne Heath who were working at Birzeit University, a small Palestinian University west of the city of Ramallah. I hold a strong memory of Christina and Julia reaching across the space between their highchairs at our Thanksgiving table to hold hands for our silent grace.

Stephanie and I took our slide show, “We Learned More Than They Did,” to various meetings in the Philadelphia area in the year after returning from teaching at Friends Girls School in Ramallah. One of the points we’d make is that both sides—Israeli and Palestinian—taught fear. In the stories they’d tell, there would be references to prior horrors, to unjust imprisonments or land grabs, to eye-for-an-eye violence, to random home demolitions, and to random car bombings.

By 2000, Peter Heath was provost at American University of Beirut (AUB). He hired both Stephanie and me to work in administration at AUB. I was director of counseling services in the Office of Student Affairs; Stephanie worked in the Development office and did special projects for the deans, the provost, and the president. Our younger daughter, Elizabeth, was with us and attended ninth grade at American Community School, where Marianne Heath was her English teacher. Again we travelled all around Lebanon on weekends and enjoyed trips to Damascus, Istanbul, Cairo, Luxor, and the Sinai Peninsula during vacations. We began to become familiar with subtle differences in the Arabic dialects and heard varied points of view on America and on the Israel/Palestine dilemma.

Brummana Meeting is held in a parlor of the administrative offices of the school in the Lebanese mountain village of Brummana, east of Beirut. Upon first arriving at the school, we were struck by the similarity of the look and feel of the school entrance to Friends Girls School where we’d been 15 years before. The campus has darkened sandstone buildings with green trim, beautiful tall trees, ocher-colored dirt playgrounds, and many steps down to the various levels of the school campus. From the main building’s patio looking west is an outstanding view down to Beirut far below.

We routinely would take a taxi up to Brummana Meeting from our AUB apartment and ride back in a shared service, a vehicle for about ten passengers that would take us down to sea level and a section of Beirut from which we could find another service to head out to the University district of the city. The Baz family, Rene Baz and her son, Sabbagh, were the social and functional centers of the meeting at that time. Most Sundays a social gathering at Rene Baz’s apartment a couple blocks from the school campus followed meeting for worship. A small number of other Lebanese Quakers would come together with occasional out-of-town visitors and a few Brummana High School teachers.

My screen saver says: “If you want Peace, work for Justice; if you want Justice, work for Equality; if you want Equality, work to reduce fear.” Bringing conflicting sides together to work for peace involves compromise and involves reducing the fear of letting go of old grudges, stubbornness, opinions, and stances. Additionally, there is the challenge of reducing the fear of moving into an unknown, when each side will have to give up something highly valued. A whole lot of the road map for a peaceful solution for the Israelis and Palestinians is in place. But people and politicians have to want peace and uncomfortable new arrangements more than they want to continue the unsatisfactory status quo.

Therefore, I hold a vision of a just and lasting peace with equal rights for Palestinians, both in Palestine and in Israel, as well as freedom and safety for all Israelis, and stability for the whole region. I work toward possibilities that bring us closer to a workable solution for a peaceful, integrated coexistence.

In my opinion, it is—and will be—crucial to address the fears that accompany the current standoff, as well as the fears of letting go for the sake of a new unknown. Occupation dehumanizes both the occupied and the occupier. We know of programs and connections across the political and cultural divide. We know of nonviolent resistance efforts to the Occupation on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides. But the overwhelming evidence of the continued threat to Israel’s existence; the separation wall; the settlements on so many ridge and hilltops in the West Bank; the ever-present reality of another suicide bombing; and the injustices of detentions, inequalities of transport, water resources, and travel make the good news shrink to tidbits in the onrushing cascade of forces against equality and justice.

Friends are called to action. The Middle East Collaborative of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is committed to assist Friends and others in understanding the complexities of the Middle East: politics; human rights violations; inequalities regarding land, water, and roads. We have supported Ramallah Meeting clerk Jean Zaru since she gave the plenary speech at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Annual Sessions in March of 2002 and have extended that support to the new clerk, her son Saleem Zaru. We are looking for ways to support efforts that are assisting recent refugees, particularly but not exclusively those from the Middle East region.

In 2010, we sponsored a delegation of ten young adults (about half were Friends) and two leaders to be in Israel and Palestine for two weeks. Part of their mission was to travel through the West Bank with Palestinian counterparts who worked for American Friends Service Committee’s Youth Program at the time. In 2012, two members of our group were instrumental in nudging forward Friends Fiduciary board in its discernments to divest its funds in companies that support human rights abuses in Palestine. Most summers at Philadelphia Yearly Meeting annual sessions, our group has hosted a workshop on a timely topic concerning the region.

The title of Emily Dickinson’s poem “I Dwell in Possibility” (even if different from the context of her poem) has been a beacon for my Middle East-related work as a twenty-first-century Friend. I hold an awareness of what was true in Medieval Spain and in early twentieth-century Iraq. What was can also be again, as we plan, connect, listen, compromise, forgive, and build a shared vision for respectful, nonviolent coexistence with reduced fear and increased justice and equality.

The post What Once Was Can Be Again appeared first on Friends Journal.

Categories: Articles & News

Palestine and Israel

Friends Journal - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 8:00am
A Decolonial Framework for Justice and Peace

© Dave Marzotto

When Canada’s acclaimed aboriginal poet Lee Maracle first met Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, she remarked, “He spoke to something so old inside my body, it felt like floating on a sea of forever.” She composed “Remembering Mahmoud 1986” to mark his death in 2012. The opening lines of the poem read:

Mahmoud’s poems are beads of sweat
Dripping from stressed and weathered foreheads
To fall near silent amid the incessant Israeli bombs
To rise—pearls of blood—from between the bits of rubble
Clutched by Palestinians chasing a livelihood
From a shrinking land base

They become desperate word flowers
Blooming nonetheless from a land
Occupied by settlers
Chronically stealing the lives of children

What Maracle expressed when she met Darwish was a validation of her own condition as an indigenous woman forced off her land, stripped of her cultural memory, and struggling to thrive in a system designed to eliminate her people. The lines of verse describe the political reality known as settler colonialism, illustrating its distinct feature: the replacement of indigenous populations with an outside settler society. Both Israel and the United States—as well as Canada, Australia, and others—are settler colonial societies. One of the lessons we have learned from organizing for justice for Palestinians and other marginalized people is that native history must be centered. The decolonial discourse of indigenous struggles for land, self-determination, and sovereignty is the necessary lens through which to articulate and pursue visions for collective liberation.

Israel’s privileging of Jews over non-Jews ensures that it cannot be both Jewish and democratic.

The situation in Palestine and Israel is often described as complicated. Declaring the issue as complicated is a way to avoid coming to terms with our own responsibility; confusion; and inability to support the rights of a colonized, indigenous people. Understanding the nature of settler colonialism clarifies the struggle over Palestine. A settler colonial lens puts the focus on the root cause of the injustice and, thus, the path to justice and peace among Palestinians and Israelis. Those genuinely interested in the fate of the peoples of this land need to reckon with the reality of Israel’s foundation, reject myths, and commit to decolonization.

Grasping the full truth of Israel’s foundation requires examination of the Palestinian Nakba, the Arabic word for “catastrophe.” The Nakba refers to the events of 1948 that led to the establishment of the state of Israel, the destruction of hundreds of Palestinians villages, and the ethnic cleansing of over 750,000 Palestinians. Displacement of Palestinians by Israel continues today. The logic of Zionism, the ideology of Jewish nationalism that defines Israel, requires acquiring the maximum amount of land with a minimum number of Palestinians. Jewish supremacy in Palestine is central to the Zionist project.

Israel’s own leaders openly talk about the settler colonial foundations of the state. Moshe Dayan said in 1969:

We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs, and we are building here a Hebrew, a Jewish state; instead of the Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of those villages, and I do not blame you because these villages no longer exist. There is not a single Jewish settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village.

Israel’s privileging of Jews over non-Jews ensures that it cannot be both Jewish and democratic.

Quakers do not acknowledge the settler colonial nature of Zionism and Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinians. The minutes and statements of Quaker meetings and organizations focus on competing national narratives, “cycles of violence,” and “two irreconcilable claims to the land.” This discourse is deeply flawed and damaging as it gives cover to oppression. How can we move forward for justice and peace if we don’t understand the root of the violence?

The “two narratives” myth brings with it a peculiar set of problems in Quaker circles.

The violence of settler colonialism can only be addressed through decolonization, a process which begins with the rejection of myths. Philosopher Karl Popper said, “True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.” Palestinian scholar Yamila Shannan clarifies this notion by adding, “Ignorance is the presence of myth.” Taking into account the catastrophic results of the creation of Israel from Palestinians debunks the myths that surround use of terms like “Holy Land” and tropes like “two peoples for one land.” Just as no person is “illegal,” all land is holy.

One oft-repeated myth is that any critique of Israel is anti-Semitic. Palestinians have the unfortunate reality of facing oppression at the hands of the victims of European anti-Semitism. Edward Said spoke to this condition when he said, “To be the victim of a victim does present quite unusual difficulties.” Many Quakers condemn Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). They see BDS as refusing to see the humanity of Israeli Jews and, thus, as anti-Semitic. Understanding settler colonialism and decolonization clarifies that resistance to forced displacement would exist, regardless of whom the oppressor is.

The “two narratives” myth brings with it a peculiar set of problems in Quaker circles. Quakers promote dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians an an avenue for reconciliation. As Palestinians, we are constantly invited into spaces to sit opposite Zionists to engage in “dialogue.” In such settings, we are basically being asked to justify our own humanity. How do you dialogue with those who espouse an ideology and policies that are premised on a denial of your people’s humanity and its ongoing dispossession? To appear with those who insist on maintaining Jewish supremacy in our homeland is to normalize our own oppression. We don’t believe it is enough to end the military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. We cannot separate the military occupation from the fate of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are subjected to at least 50 discriminatory laws, home demolitions, and police brutality. Nor can we abandon millions of Palestinian refugees to permanent exile. It is not unreasonable for us to demand full dignity, equality, and freedom.

Finally, a settler colonial framework requires solutions rooted in decolonization. Quakers must advocate for solutions that dismantle Israel’s racist foundations. That means any logic which supports settler colonialism must also be rejected. Quakers are compelled to take an introspective look at the ways in which they contribute to colonialism in Palestine. Quakers are complicit in unjust systems through programs, policies, and institutions that act as tools of oppression. We offer these critiques to bring the Quaker community into a full keeping with its rich legacy of seeking justice.

[quote]What shift in thinking about Palestinians would take place in a decolonization of the school?[/quote]

Quaker institutions contribute to the dehumanization of Palestinians by imposing outside norms on Palestinian society and making judgments about who is fit to lead Palestinian liberation. The Ramallah Friends School and the principles guiding the work of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) are two examples of Quaker colonialism in practice.

The Ramallah Friends School was originally opened in 1889 as the Girls Training Home of Ramallah, a boarding school teaching Western and Quaker values. While today the school is praised for its legacy of producing Palestinian intellectual, social, and political leaders and for its rich tradition of antiestablishment politics against the Israeli occupation, the origins of the school and its history are reminiscent of “Indian” boarding schools, as the Ramallah Friends School is a product of U.S. educational imperialism. Otherwise, why is it that the head of school for such a prominent Palestinian institution is appointed by Friends United Meeting (FUM) of Richmond, Indiana? Further, the school boasts that its graduates attend top universities around the world. Of these top universities, 106 of the 123 schools on the list are Western universities. There is a subconscious (or perhaps conscious) emphasis that Western institutions are inherently better than others. Institutions like the Ramallah Friends School are tools of colonialism because they package and impose what is idealized by Western Quakers on an indigenous Palestinian population. What would decolonization of Ramallah Friends School look like? What shift in thinking about Palestinians would take place in a decolonization of the school?

An essential part of decolonizing Quaker spaces and actions means that Quakers must acknowledge and respect that Palestinian communities have immense knowledge and resources, which predate the establishment of Quaker institutions in Palestine.

American Friends Service Committee also perpetuates colonialist tendencies. For example, there are no Palestinians in leadership positions on the organization’s Israel-Palestine Coordinating Committee, and the country representative for Israel and Palestine is European. It is not that those currently in these positions are ill-informed on the subject or unqualified to lead others. We also acknowledge that the current program leadership has inherited staffing structures that have been difficult to remedy in times of budget crisis. Rather, this observation illustrates that AFSC, as a non-governmental organization, exercises colonialist practices by excluding Palestinians from leading their own struggle for liberation. The decision to put white Americans and Europeans in positions of power implies that Palestinians are not fit to govern themselves or to have agency over their own liberation work. An essential part of decolonizing Quaker spaces and actions means that Quakers must acknowledge and respect that Palestinian communities have immense knowledge and resources, which predate the establishment of Quaker institutions in Palestine.

AFSC’s “Principles for a Just and Lasting Peace Between Palestinians and Israelis” has largely remained static since 1999. The principles are outdated and present a problematic framework for understanding the situation in Palestine. The document attempts to lay out solutions for Palestinians and Israelis including a section on self-determination that reads in part:

AFSC affirms the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live as sovereign peoples in their own homeland, a right that encompasses the possibility of choosing two separate states. We acknowledge that other options such as a bi-national state and confederation are being discussed.

Quaker process can be slow and biased toward a continuation of the status quo.

The “Principles” document goes on to say that “the issue here is of one land and two peoples” and that “no one’s right to self-determination should be exercised at the expense of someone else’s.” This framework is problematic in that it makes permanent the subjugation of the Palestinians. Jewish self-determination in the form of Zionism, an ideology as we explained earlier espouses Jewish supremacy on the land, is not justice. This principle essentially condones the existence of a Zionist (read white supremacist) nation. While a decolonial solution does not necessitate the expulsion of the colonizers, it does require that settler mentalities be expelled. Jews living in the land must concede power and supremacy over Palestinians. Maintaining Jewish supremacy in the interests of self-determination ensures continuing Palestinian oppression. What does Jewish self-determination mean on stolen land? What does self-determination for Palestinians mean when millions of Palestinians remain in exile to maintain a Jewish majority?

Quaker process can be slow and biased toward a continuation of the status quo. Given these hurdles, we challenge the AFSC board to take bold moves to adopt principles for a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis that is grounded in a decolonial framework guided by the indigeneity of the Palestinian people.

Melanie Yazzie, Dine (Navajo) scholar and artist, defines the decolonization nation-building process this way:

Decolonization is a future-oriented project that requires imagining, building, and fighting for forms of nationhood and self-determination not premised on the relations of exploitation, dispossession, elimination, and extraction that define liberal nationalisms and capitalist, imperial, and colonial formations.

Palestinians have the right to sovereignty simply because they are human and fully deserving of the same dignity and respect to which all other humans are entitled. AFSC’s “Principles” document says, “The surest road to peace is the path of empathy, where self interest can give way to shared interest, where separateness can give way to reconciliation, where domination can give way to justice.” We need much more than empathy for a “just peace.” The issue is one of land and control. The ability of Palestinians to empathize with and reconcile with Israelis is dependent on decolonization.

Quakers have a long history of standing up for justice, speaking truth to power, and railing against the status quo. We are calling for a more prophetic, courageous, and unapologetic Quaker position on justice for Palestinians. What prevents us from acknowledging the roots of this conflict? A settler colonial lens gives us insight to see clearly the way forward. This framing is vital for justice for Palestinians and Israelis, but it also is essential for coming to terms with this country’s settler colonial origins. It should inform how Quakers engage on issues of saving our environment, justice for indigenous peoples, and eliminating anti-Black racism. Decolonization promises freedom for us all.

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