American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
|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 words||Claims to promote “lasting peace with justice” and “nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social relations and systems.”|
- Actively promotes boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel; accuses Israel of “apartheid against Palestinians”; and advocates for the “right of return,” meaning the end of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
- Accuses 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.”
- 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 the UN mechanisms.
- 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 letters, 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 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 Jerusalem, BADIL, and Omar Barghouti, co-founder of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
- 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 the Zochrot conference titled, “The Third International Conference on the Return of Palestinian Refugees.” The conference featured members of Badil, Israel 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.
- AFSC is a leader of BDS campaigns on campuses and churches in the United States, and works to increase Palestinian participation in BDS campaigns.
- In February 2018, 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.”
- AFSC launched 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.”
- Among the BDS campaigns that AFSC has advanced are ones targeting Hewlett Packard and Sodastream.
- AFSC is also instrumental in promoting BDS resolutions in the Presbyterian Church USA.
- 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.”
- In March 2013, the Mennonite Central Committee adopted AFSC’s investment screening tool, which targets companies operating in the West Bank for divestment.
- Sponsored a two-day conference (March 28-29, 2014) in Philadelphia, titled, “The Role of the US in Israel-Palestine: Current Realities & Creative Responses.” The conference, sponsored by Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA), sought to “galvanize advocacy for justice in Israel-Palestine” by featuring workshops promoting boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns, the Kairos Palestine document, an end to U.S. military aid to Israel, and “[r]eaffirming the Israel-Palestine conflict as a civil rights struggle, with parallels to South Africa and the American South.” The conference featured an AFSC poster exhibit titled, “Boycott! The Art of Economic Activism.”
- In 2014, AFSC tweeted “So many similarities between apartheid South Africa and Palestine #BDS.”
- Published a 2011 “Israel-Palestine No-buy List,” compiled “with assistance” from the Who Profits (Coalition of Women for Peace) online database, which identifies targets for anti-Israel divestment and boycotts.
No Way to Treat a Child
- In 2015, AFSC and Defense for Children International- Palestine (DCI-P) initiated a campaign, entitled “No Way to Treat a Child,” to “challenge Israel’s prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by exposing widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system.” The groups call upon the United States government to pressure Israel to end “abuse of Palestinian children,” and encourage supporters to write members of congress on behalf of their cause. The campaign claims that a letter addressed to President Obama calling for the establishment of a Special Envoy for Palestinian Children, initiated by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and signed by 20 US congressmen, was a “direct response” to demands made by its supporters.
- In November 2017, AFSC endorsed US Congresswoman McCollum’s proposed legislation“to prevent United States tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children.” The entirety of the proposed bill is premised on factually inaccurate claims from anti-Israel advocacy NGOs, including direct quotes from DCIP’s “No Way to Treat a Child” 2016 report and website.
- AFSC and DCI-P held a hearing in Congress on June 8, 2017 on “how persistent human rights violations, systematic impunity, discrimination and a hyper-militarized environment affect the lives of the Palestinian children growing up under a military occupation with no end in sight.” Speakers included Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch and Nadia Ben-Youssef of Adalah.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dalit Baum
- Dalit Baum, AFSC Director of Economic Activism, is co-founder of Coalition of Women for Peace’s flagship BDS project “Who Profits?” (now an independent organization) and formerly served as the campaign’s project manager.
- Baum has been “active with various groups in the Israeli anti-occupation and democracy movement, including Black Laundry, Boycott from Within, Zochrot, Anarchists against the Wall and Women in Black.”
- On June 30, 2017, Baum spoke at the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) “Forum to Mark Fifty Years of Occupation,” stating that “the occupation continues because it really enjoys this ongoing tremendous support and impunity from every other country of the world, including individuals in the world that normalize the situation and treat it as nothing…people of the world are obliged to stop that support. To practice noncooperation, in other words BDS” (emphasis added).
- 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
- Raed Jarrar, Amnesty-USA’s Middle East and North Africa Advocacy Director, served as AFSC Government Relations Manager (2014-2017).
- In July 2015, Jarrar participated in the AFSC conference titled “Acting in Faith with AFSC” where he spoke about supporting boycotts and divestment.
- On July 29, 2015, Jarrar spoke at a Congressional briefing “Gaza One Year Later: The Quest for Accountability,” to “examine Israel’s misuse of US-supplied weapons in Gaza and call on lawmakers to hold Israel accountable for its violations of US and international law.” The briefing featured speakers from US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (formerly known as US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation), Adalah, and Defense for Children International- Palestine (DCI-P).
- In July 2014, Jarrar promoted a petition to “Charge Benjamin Netanyahu and the apartheid state of Israel for War Crimes against Humanity,” which referred to the 2014 Gaza war as a “genocide by Israel.”
- On September 9, 2011, Jarrar tweeted a cartoon celebrating the attacks on the Israeli embassy in Egypt, a fundamental violation of international law.
- 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!”
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