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 (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.”
- 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.”
- AFSC supports the Deadly Exchange campaign led by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) that aims to “end police exchange programs between the US and Israel.” JVP claims that American Jewish organizations and programs are to blame for police violence against minorities in America. The campaign also invoked antisemitic tropes.
- The initial “Deadly Exchange” video labeled AIPAC, ADL, Birthright and other Jewish organizations as being responsible for these exchanges, and urged viewers to “Hold accountable the Jewish institutions who run and fund the deadly exchange.”
- On November 28, 2022, AFSC and 197 other regional and international civil society organizations sent an open letter to the ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan urging him to “Investigate and Deter Israel’s Apartheid Regime.” According to the letter, “Though mindful of the Court’s limited resources and budgetary complications, as well as your office workload and challenges, we are compelled to stress that Palestinian victims deserve justice and require equal attention as in other situations…we will continue our cooperation with your office and our support of your investigation into the Situation in the State of Palestine.”
- In September 2022, AFSC, alongside Palestinian Vision (PalVision), “organized a three-day summer camp…with the aim of learning about the fragmentation, the apartheid wall, and the ongoing isolation policies.”
- In August 2022, AFSC was a signatory on a letter to President Biden condemning the decision by the Israeli Ministry to designate six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations. According to the letter, “The targeted organizations form part of the bedrock of Palestinian civil society that has been protecting and advancing Palestinian human rights for decades across the full spectrum of issues of global concern.” The letter also called to “Suspend U.S. military funding to the Israeli government and cease any diplomatic efforts that enable systemic impunity for Israel’s gross violations of internationally-recognized human rights.”
- In October 2021, AFSC published a press release condemning the decision by the Israeli Ministry to designate six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations. According to AFSC, “The Israeli government has targeted these organizations for decades because of their human rights activism. They have arrested and detained staff, raided organizations offices, and made similar accusations to these organizations’ donors…This is an outrageous and dangerous escalation of Israel’s attacks on civil society. The U.S. government must immediately condemn this move, demand its immediate reversal, and insist on protections for civil society and human rights defenders.”
- In October 2021, AFSC published an article titled “Why AFSC uses the term ‘Israeli apartheid.’” According to the article, “We use the term to accurately describe the realities of inequality and discrimination that exist on both sides of the green line in Israel and Palestine.”
- In January 2021, AFSC held a webinar to demand “COVID-19 vaccinations for Palestinians under Israeli occupation.” The webinar falsely claimed that Israel has legal obligations to ensure that vaccines be provided to Palestinians, while altogether ignoring that Palestinians residing in Jerusalem are part of the Israeli health care system; that under the Oslo Accords the PA is responsible for health care of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza; and that the PA had adopted its own vaccine policy for its population.
- In May 2020, AFSC posted a blog commemorating the death of “Razan al-Najjar and all health care workers in Palestine.” AFSC repeated the unfounded claim that a 21-year-old female medical volunteer, Razan Najjar, was intentionally killed by an Israeli sniper. AFSC ignored that an extensive New York Times article examining the case concluded that Najjar was accidentally killed by shrapnel from a ricocheting bullet.
- 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.”
- In October 2019, Palestine-Israel Program Director Mark Merryman-Lotze placed sole blame on Israel and the blockade for the continuation of the conflict, stating that “the blockade is violent. The blockade is collective punishment. The blockade cannot be justified. The blockade must be ended. Only with an end to the blockade, the occupation, and the systematic inequalities faced by Palestinians under Israeli control can a just peace be realized.” Merryman-Lotze altogether omitted that the blockade was implemented in an effort to stop Palestinian terrorists from smuggling weapons and rockets into Gaza that would later be used to target Israeli civilians.
- One of the website’s “stories” is an account by Shareef Hamad, a project coordinator at the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), which is identified by Fatah as an official PFLP “affiliate,” and by a USAID- engaged audit as the “agricultural arm” of the PFLP.
- Another “story” is a video of Amjad Shawa, Gaza director of Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO). In January 2020, Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) vehemently opposed a new clause in European Union grant contracts with Palestinian NGOs that prohibits grantees from working with and funding organizations and individuals designated on the EU’s terror lists. According to media reports, PNGO claimed that Palestinian terrorist organizations are “political parties.”
- 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 Jerusalem, BADIL, 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 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.
- 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.
- AFSC lobbied in support of the discriminatory UN database of businesses operating across the 1949 Armistice line, aimed at bolstering BDS campaigns against Israel.
- In February 2023, AFSC called on Congress to “Stop funding Israeli violence against Palestinians” and “End all U.S. military assistance to Israel to stop funding Israeli oppression and violence against Palestinians.”
- In August 2022, AFSC called to “Hold corporations accountable for their role in violating the rights of Palestinians in Gaza” and “join efforts to divest or boycott them.”
- In June 2021, AFSC launched its new socially responsible investment policy that called for investments not to be made in companies that “facilitate and enable violations…as part of Israeli apartheid.”
- In June 2021, AFSC was a signatory on a letter to President Biden to “Halt Weapons Sales to Israel,”
- In May 2021, AFSC launched a petition to “Tell Congress: Block the bombs! Stop arms sale to Israel.”
- In August 2020, following the release of the discriminatory UN database of businesses operating across the 1949 Armistice line, AFSC launched a BDS campaign against Pillsbury, headlined “No Dough for the Occupation.” The campaign accused Pillsbury of “profiting from an illegal occupation” and called on consumers not to “buy Pillsbury products until the company stops its production in an illegal settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory.” As part of the campaign, in September 2020, AFSC participated in a General Mills annual meeting accusing it of “involvement in Israel’s illegal settlement industry, which amounts to a war crime.”
- While Pillsbury is included on the UN blacklist, Pillsbury is located within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Pillsbury also represents, at most, a miniscule proportion of General Mills business, inasmuch as this involves a single bakery that produces niche products for a subsidiary of one of the company’s brands. This indicates that General Mills was included because it is a huge international company with a recognizable brand, not because of any substantial connection to violations and abuse.
- 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
- 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 2017, 2019, and 2021, 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.
- A May 1, 2019 video produced by AFSC in support the bill falsely claims that Israel “is the only country in the world that systematically uses its military to arrest, interrogate, and imprison children.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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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