Letters - 11 March 2011

From supporting both sides to ethical investment

Supporting both sides?

To say that I feel a little embattled and weary as a concerned advocate in support of initiatives that could lead to peace, justice and reconciliation between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people is perhaps an understatement. Our Advices & queries, among many useful questions and statements in this respect, remind us that ‘our responsibilities to God and our neighbour may involve us in taking unpopular stands. Do not let the desire to be sociable, or the fear of seeming peculiar, determine your decisions.’

So it is with surprise and some sadness that I see criticism of QPSW (Quaker Peace & Social Witness) in bringing the concern of several distinguished church leaders in Israel and the West Bank endorsed by the concern of Ramallah Friends Meeting and over a thousand individual Palestinian Christians to the attention of Meeting for Sufferings (MfS) especially as churches throughout the world have been asked to consider this concern. While some Friends may have a problem with identifying the Quaker movement with ‘church’ it is nevertheless true that we are members of the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and accept, I hope graciously and gratefully, that our witness and practice have been recognised as in the manner of discipleship of Jesus of Nazareth.

Of course, MfS should consider it and come to a mind about the questions raised by ‘Kairos Palestine 2009’ and the associated minute from Ramallah Friends Meeting dated March 2010. It should be to our shame that we know so little about these important contributions to the seeking of peace and reconciliation and have not yet sought as a Yearly Meeting to engage with them.

As to our attitude towards one particular recommendation of the Kairos document that we should consider a boycott of Israeli goods, that is a matter for discernment and I am delighted that our Local and Area Meetings have been asked ‘to consider what further action might be possible’ following the endorsement by MfS of EAPPI’s work on the issue of proper labelling of products manufactured, assembled and distributed by the illegal Israeli settlements established in the West Bank. I trust the movement of the Spirit in our lives together to help us find a response that we can truly appreciate as a leading.

God forbid that the time comes when we are too frightened or too challenged by controversy to speak Truth as we find it or to dismiss even a discussion of the issues involved when our Friends and fellow Christians raise a concern based on faith and bitter experience.

Colin South Previously director of Friends Schools in Ramallah/el-Bireh from 2000-2004 and currently clerk of EAPPI in Britain and Ireland, chairman of Living Stones, a member of the Palestine Advisory Group to QCEA and of Friends of Sabeel UK.

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