American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)

Profile

Country/TerritoryUnited States
Websitehttp://afsc.org/
Founded“in the crucible of World War I by Quakers who aimed to serve both humanity and country while being faithful to their commitment to nonviolence.”
In their own wordsClaims to promote “lasting peace with justice” and “nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social relations and systems.”

Funding

Activities

  • Actively promotes (BDS) boycotts, divestments and sanctions campaigns against Israel; accuses Israel of “apartheid against Palestinians”; and advocates for a Palestinian “right of return,” meaning the end of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. AFSC has also accused Israel of “obvious violence in Gaza…slow and systematic ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem through continuing displacement from sprawling illegal settlements, land grabs, the separation barrier…crushing restrictions of Palestinian movement, and a network of racist laws.”
  • AFSC supports efforts to encourage Israeli youth to dodge the draft and promotes “anti-normalization,” rejecting dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.
    • In 2015, “Palestine-Israel Program Director” Mark Merryman-Lotze explained AFSC’s “position supportive of anti-normalization principles,” rejecting “any project, initiative, or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims (implicitly or explicitly) to bring together Palestinians and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal opposition and resistance to the Israeli occupation and structural inequalities.”

Political Advocacy

  • AFSC operates a project with Coalition of Women for Peace (CWP) called “Hamushim” (“Armed”) that “works to expose the true human price of the Israeli military industry and arms trade, as well as to mobilize actions against it.”  The organization’s activists accuse Israel of selling weapons to dictatorships and countries that suppress human rights in exchange for their sympathetic votes in UN forums.
    • In June 2018, Hamushim published a report, “Gaza: A Lab and a Showroom,” on Israeli military technology employed during the 2018 violence on the Gaza border. According to the report, “It has become increasingly clear that the offensive was indeed premeditated: the ISF [Israel Security Forces] was not merely acting to protect the fence, but rather planned in advance to intimidate and kill protestors.” The report ignored the violent nature of the protests, which have consisted of an organized armed attack on the Israeli border and IDF positions, attempts to destroy and breach the border fence, and sustained arson, rocket, and mortar attacks on Israeli civilian communities.
    • On November 13, 2017, Hamushim held an event titled “The Israeli Arms Empire,” which discussed how “In the past 50 years, Israeli weapons have been handed over to almost all perpetrators of crimes against humanity, civil wars and genocide” as well as the “Israeli connection to the suppression of protests by Black Lives Matter in Ferguson, USA.”
  • In May 2018, on the “70th anniversary of the Nakba… [and] 50 years of the Israeli occupation,” AFSC accused Israel of putting Palestinians “under a brutal military regime that systematically denies them their most basic rights” as well  as maintaining “institutionalized inequality and injustice.”
  • In October 2017, Jennifer Bing, director of the Chicago AFSC Palestine-Israel Program, spoke at a conference titled “Parallel Liberation Struggles: Lessons in Resistance” commemorating the “100-year Palestinian resistance to Israel’s settler-colonial project and explor[ing] the similarities in violence used against Palestinians, African Americans, and Native Americans and their methods of resistance.”
  • On June 4-6, 2017, Raed Jarrar, then AFSC Government Relations Manager, spoke at Churches for Middle East Peace’s “Advocacy Event” titled “50 Years Too Long” designed to educate participants “how to advocate for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza and put that learning into practice by visiting government representatives to promote a solution that advances security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians.”
  • In March 2017, AFSC launched a website titled “Gaza Unlocked,” which provides stories of Palestinians “liv[ing] under a brutal military blockade imposed by Israel” and “how the blockade impacts everyday life.”
  • On June 30, 2016, AFSC, alongside Chicago clergy members, delivered a petition to US Senator Dick Durbin, urging him to end the blockade of Gaza, as “We, who have the advantage of seeing the reality of Gaza without this baggage of dehumanizing indoctrination can take a stand for the humanity of the Palestinian people in Gaza.”
  • From May 21-June 3, 2016, AFSC and Eyewitness Palestine (formerly Interfaith Peace-Builders IFPB) sponsored a tour featuring Edith Garwood, Amnesty USA “country specialist on Israel and Palestine” with a long record of bias and hostility towards Israel, and Alicia Koutsoulieris, Amnesty USA “case coordinator on Israel and Palestine.” The trip focused on “the effects of incarceration and detention on Palestinian society… The delegation also includes meetings with Israeli military refusers, imprisoned for their opposition to military occupation.” They also met with members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Grassroots JerusalemBADIL, and Omar Barghouti.
  • In April 2016, AFSC organized a speaking tour alongside Jewish Voice for Peace to “raise support for conscientious objectors in Israel.” The tour featured two speakers who had refused service in the Israeli military.
  • In March 2016, AFSC was a sponsor for a Zochrot conference titled, “The Third International Conference on the Return of Palestinian Refugees.” The conference featured members of BADILIsrael Social TV, and Sadaka Reut.
  • In 2014, AFSC held an event to discuss how “Israel’s bombs are slaughtering civilians held captive inside the besieged Gaza Strip. This horrific violence stems from decades of colonization, dispossession, and apartheid by an Israeli state that serves the interests of US domination in the oil-rich Middle East.”
  • Published a 2013 resource paper, “Forced displacement in Palestine and Israel,” claiming that the “displacement and dispossession of Palestinians from their land and homes is at the core of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis” and that upon the establishment of the state of Israel, “plans to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian population” were developed.

BDS Activities

  • AFSC is a leader of BDS campaigns on campuses and churches in the United States, and works to increase Palestinian participation in BDS campaigns.
  • AFSC runs an online investment screening tool to “help individuals and institutions identify companies on their investment portfolios that are directly complicit in ongoing severe violations of human rights and international law.” The “Occupations” section of the website focuses only on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and relies “heavily on information published by Who Profits research center.”
  • Among the BDS campaigns that AFSC has advanced are ones targeting Hewlett Packard and Sodastream.
  • In 2018-2019, lobbied in support of the discriminatory UN database of businesses operating across the 1949 Armistice line, aimed at bolstering BDS campaigns against Israel.
  • In September 2019, AFSC held a conference titled “Preparing for 2020: Advocating for rights, justice, and freedom in Palestine and Israel,” which discussed “our rights to support BDS” and “engag[ing] in economic activism at the city, state and national levels.”
  • In January 2019, AFSC stated its support for “boycott and divestment campaigns that target companies complicit in the occupation.” According to AFSC, “BDS has proven effective as a nonviolent tool for realizing political and social change… AFSC answered the call for divestment from apartheid in South Africa. Supporting the call for BDS from Palestinians seeking freedom, equality, and justice is just as critical today.”
  • In December 2018, AFSC sponsored a conference “What Does Justice Look Like? Moving Towards a Just Peace in Palestine and Israel,” featuring a lecture titled “BDS/Congressional Advocacy/Direct Action.”
  • In January 2018, AFSC was included on a list released by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs of 20 international organizations whose leaders are barred from entry into Israel due to BDS support.
  • On January 7, 2018, AFSC tweeted, “We answered the call for divestment from apartheid South Africa and we have done the same with the call for #BDS from Palestinians who have faced decades of human rights violations.”
  • On October 28, 2017, AFSC held a “Centennial Celebration” that included a workshop titled “Economic Activism “People Power vs. Corporate Power,” discussing “What makes for an effective boycott? What is divestment and how does it work? The workshop will collect lessons from successful campaigns by students and churches, indigenous communities and responsible investors, targeting corporate profiteers on issues ranging from the Israeli occupation (BDS) to mass incarceration, immigrant detention, surveillance, and walls.”

No Way to Treat a Child

Campus Initiatives

  • From August 10-14, 2014, AFSC and Jewish Voice for Peace launched the “BDS Summer Institute,” a five-day indoctrination session in California to train college students to stage divisive and discriminatory BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) events on campus as part of the political warfare strategy against Israel adopted at the 2001 Durban NGO Forum.
  • In February 2013, AFSC and the We Divest campaign organized a nation-wide student “National Day of Action” to pressure “financial-services giant TIAA-CREF to divest from companies profiting from the occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel.”
  • Published a 2013 pamphlet on “Seven ways to support peace in Israel/Palestine on campus this semester,” which urges students to advance BDS, organize “flash mob[s],” target Israeli companies, start divestment campaigns, and create additional chapters of the Students for Justice in Palestine group.

Staff Members

  • Michael Merryman-Lotze
    • Michael Merryman-Lotze, AFSC’s “Palestine-Israel Program Director” since 2010, served as a researcher for Al-Haq from 2000-2003 and worked in Save the Children’s Jerusalem office from 2007-2010.
    • In a July 20, 2018 article, Merryman-Lotze justified Palestinian violence, “In a situation where basic rights are systematically denied to Palestinians, where military occupation denies Palestinians their right to self-determination, and where the systems set up to control Palestinians are enforced through violence and state power, there must be an expectation that some Palestinians will respond through resort to violence.  Indeed, international law allows Palestinians to resist occupation through resort to force.”
    • An August 13, 2014 article by Merryman-Lotze in Tikkun magazine states, “it is my opinion that Israeli violence is the violence that must be exercised to maintain a neo-colonial military occupation and apartheid like inequality. Palestinian violence is the inevitable response to that occupation and apartheid like inequality. Violence therefore will only end when the occupation and Israeli apartheid end.”
  • Dalit Baum
  • Joyce Ajlouny
    • Ajlouny, General Secretary of AFSC, formerly served as Country Director for the Palestinian territories and Israel for Oxfam GB and Director of the Friends School in Ramallah.
    • On November 6, 2017, Ajlouny signed a letter to members of Congress opposing anti-BDS legislation and “support[ing] nonviolent means to end the 50-year-old occupation.” According to the letter, “bills also conflate Israel and the settlements, erasing the important distinction between Israel and its illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. They further imply that opposition to Israel’s practices in the territories is the same as being anti-Israel. We are troubled by the bills’ intent to penalize or criminalize the use of economic measures as a legitimate means of opposing policies that inhibit human rights.”
    • In a June 2015 interview with the Jerusalem Fund, Ajlouny explained that “As a Quaker school, it is our role to guide students to a nonviolent path. The BDS movement is very big on our campus, too. Our students are always challenging us as an administration to see if we are keeping up with BDS.”
    • In an interview published in 2015, Joyce Ajlouny also accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing.”
  • Raed Jarrar
  • Sahar Vardi
    • Sahar Vardi, Israel Program Coordinator for AFSC, previously worked for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement.
    • Vardi has described the objectives of BDS: “in terms of profit, the real losses will not come from the boycott of products, but from divestment. That’s where the big money is. The last thing I’ll say about the BDS movement is that it’s fun. They’ve started using all these flash mobs and [other] cool activities. It accesses people who normally wouldn’t care. There are huge companies being affected, and [activists] are having fun.”
    • In May 2015, Vardi was a signatory on a statement titled “From Israeli citizens to FIFA: Show Israel the red card now!” stating that “We are Israeli citizens, active against our government’s policies of racism, occupation, and apartheid. As the FIFA Congress gets underway, we would like to state clearly: Israeli apartheid, just like South African apartheid at the time, has no place in international football!”
  • Jehad Abusalim
    • Jehad Abusalim is the program associate for AFSC’s Gaza Unlocked campaign.
    • On April 19, 2019, Abusalim tweeted, “For Palestinians, the foundation of Israel’s supposed democracy was built on our suffering through dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and discrimination.”
  • Jennifer Bing

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