The collective views of Canadian Quakers
Read Frequently Asked Questions about Canadian Yearly Meeting’s Positions on Israel/Palestine (PDF; 2015).
In 2009 Canadian Yearly Meeting minuted the collective concern of Canadian Quakers for the situation in Palestine/Israel (PDF). The minute provides guidance for action, and a resource kit, put together by CFSC, adds information relevant to carrying out this action policy.
In March of 2010, Friends in Ramallah, occupied West Bank, wrote, as part of their epistle to Friends everywhere: “We ask Friends to discern what, in their own circumstances, they can best do to support those working to end this conflict and bring peace and justice to this troubled region. We ask Friends to consider adopting boycott, divestment and sanctions as we may be led to do, individually or corporately.”
Early in 2013, CFSC circulated a proposal for an addendum to the 2009 CYM Policy Statement. The draft addendum expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement as a nonviolent measure advocated by those working to bring an end to the conflict and lasting peace to the region. It included the request, “We ask CFSC to provide an information channel to support Friends’ engagement.”
This was discerned upon further at Canadian Yearly Meeting 2013, where it became clear that many Canadian Friends were comfortable with the idea of specifically boycotting products of the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. A simplified minute on BDS was produced.
In 2014 Canadian Yearly Meeting in session approved an Addendum to the 2009 Israel/Palestine minute (PDF). The Addendum states:
In the spirit of the Britain Yearly Meeting minute (5.4.11, Meeting for Sufferings), which notes that “The request for boycott comes from those who will suffer most, but a decision for boycott will give hope to Palestinians and support to those in Israel who are working for peace.” And that, “Our hearts are full of compassion for Israelis and Palestinians, all of whom are suffering from the effects of the occupation,” and in response to the March 2010 Epistle from Ramallah Friends:
- We authorize Canadian Friends Service Committee, Ottawa Monthly Meeting, and well-informed individual Friends to make information on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions available to Monthly Meetings and individual Friends who request it and/or feel led to participate in some way.
- We call upon the Canadian government to require that products made in the illegal settlements be accurately labelled as such.
- We encourage Canadian Friends, individually and corporately, to boycott products of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including those wrongly labelled as “made in Israel.”
What can you do?
The following are a few ways you can take action individually or with your Meeting. Feel free to contact us for help with any of these:
- In addition to the coverage you are already getting from Canadian news sources, learn about recent news and events from a different perspective through sources like the CFSC supported International Middle East Media Centre or B’Tselem.
- Engage in ecumenical or interfaith dialogue. Quaker Meetings can connect with other congregations and faith groups to provide spaces for mutual learning. Many Quakers have a great deal of experience in the region, which they would be happy to share. Many others do not have experience but are interested in learning more. Contact us if you need assistance in connecting with other faith groups or in finding presenters for events.
- If you are so led, engage in the global Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign:
- Boycott products made in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and labeled incorrectly as “made in Israel”.
- Write to your local newspaper and to the companies you are boycotting to explain your decision and request that they reconsider their practices. You can ask CFSC for sample letters.
- Have an ecumenical/interfaith meeting with retailers selling illegal settlement products to express your concerns.
- Explore the following questions personally, with your family and friends, and ask your elected officials and those seeking election:
- How will you support the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis? How can we assure that Israelis and Palestinians shall be free from collective punishment, arbitrary detention, indiscriminate attack and other abuses of their basic dignity and human rights?
- How can the State of Israel, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority all be held accountable for their actions, including any violations of international law?
- Canada’s official policy states, “As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.” How do you respond to Israel’s maintenance and expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and East Jerusalem which Canada acknowledges are illegal and detrimental to the peace process?
- Visit Israel and include a tour of the West Bank offered by Palestinians living under occupation (e.g. Siraj centre).
Telling the untold story of nonviolent action to end the occupation
The International Middle East Media Centre is the English-language news project of the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People (PCR) in Beit Sahour, occupied West Bank. IMEMC raises awareness by sharing alternative news from the occupied territories — including stories of nonviolent resistance actions by Palestinians, often joined by Israeli and/or international activists.
Stories are written to be accessible to all, even if they have no familiarity with the history, cultures, or politics of Palestine/Israel.
The work of individual Quakers supported by CFSC
At the end of 2014 CFSC gave Linda Taffs an individual grant to support her participation on a Friends of Sabeel witness trip. While in Palestine/Israel, Linda was able to film several of the presentations the group heard. Below is a clip of Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper (whom CFSC has helped support on two speaking tours across Canada), discussing his belief that the world needs to move beyond the idea of a two state solution, which is no longer possible:
Other videos shot by Linda cover the topics of militarism in Israeli society, historical and modern day popular resistance by Palestinians, Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron, and Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes. Note that the videos express the beliefs and experiences of the speakers and not necessarily those of CFSC/Canadian Friends.
In 2013 CFSC staff visited the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People and wrote a report for Quaker Concern, Reflections from Israel and Palestine.
Nova Scotian Quaker Sara avMaat produced a report of her visit with PCR in November 2011 as a part of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme.
Many Canadian Quakers have been actively working to support peace in Israel/Palestine for decades. Friends have supported nonviolent peace initiatives, participated in inter-faith dialogues, communicated with governments, and representated to diplomatic missions.
Maxine Kaufman Lacusta, an Associate member of CFSC, has written a book which we highly recommend, Refusing to Be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation. The book opens with Maxine introducing us to several nonviolent activists who tell us why they chose nonviolence and why they got involved in activism against the occupation.
Through the voices of Palestinians and Israelis, the book then moves on to reflect on the last several decades of nonviolent activism in Israel/Palestine with its successes and failures, on the question of both the triumphs and challenges of nonviolent organizing, and on the activists’ hopes and visions for the future.
Northern Spirit Radio recently conducted a very interesting interview with Maxine about Refusing to be Enemies. There are many reviews of the book available online as well, like this one from Friends Journal and this one by Dave Greenfield of Saskatoon Monthly Meeting.
Also highly recommended is When the Rain Returns (2004). This book chronicles the observations of the members of the International Quaker Working Party on Israel and Palestine during their visit to the region. Rick McCutcheon, a Canadian Friend, was a member of the working party, and has contributed a chapter. The book is informed by Quaker principles, one of which is that in crafting a settlement, all interested parties must be consulted. The introductory chapter provides a balanced history of the region. Here is a one-page review of the book.
These books may be ordered from the Quaker Book Service as well as other retailers.