Letters - 27 January 2023

From Our commitment to Granny on a gantry

Our commitment

There’s been a spate of Israel/Palestine letters recently. It may be helpful to set out the position of Britain Yearly Meeting, which is nuanced, and carefully so. 

First and foremost, all our actions in the region are intended to build a just, enduring peace.

Britain Yearly Meeting doesn’t boycott Israel; since a Meeting for Sufferings decision in 2011 we boycott products from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The settlements are illegal under international law, and Quakers discerned that we shouldn’t support them by purchasing their goods.

In 2018, the decision was made not to invest any centrally held funds in companies (from anywhere in the world) that profit from the occupation of Palestine. This boycott is of companies undertaking particular activities, not of a country.

Quakers in Britain is not a member of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and does not advocate for it. Other groups we work with, including some Quaker organisations in other countries, are part of the BDS movement and we support their right to engage in such democratic and legitimate means of nonviolent protest.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is run by the World Council of Churches and administered in Britain and Ireland by Quakers. It works for a future in which the military occupation of Palestine has ended, and Israelis and Palestinians enjoy equal rights, peace and security.

EAPPI amplifies the voices of Palestinians and Israelis working for peace, gives their accompaniers opportunities for understanding multiple perspectives and bases all their advocacy on a framework of international law.

We oppose antisemitism, which is a form of racism. Our commitment to become an actively anti-racist church must include work to end this hatred based on who people are, not what they do.

Oliver Robertson
Head of witness and worship, Britain Yearly Meeting

Loving enemies?

The Peace Testimony drew me to Quakers in the 1990s, and it is challenging me at this time to ask myself whether I can remain a Friend.

As well as being exhorted in your pages (13 January) to show Vladimir Putin – the head of a totalitarian, oppressive, homophobic and racist regime – some love (!), yesterday I endured an hour-long Meeting for Worship interrupted by a great deal of similarly complacent and insensitive ‘ministry’.

My discomfort was made much more acute by the fact that I had invited the Ukrainian family of refugees who have been living in my home since last July (a fact that is well known to my Meeting) to come along in what I thought was a safe space to bring into the Light our helplessness and dismay, to pray for God’s mercy, for peace and deliverance.

Instead we had to listen to victim-blaming and well-intentioned but totally futile appeals to diplomacy from people whose lives have not been turned upside down by the extreme violence of the Russian attack.

By all means, love and forgive those who have hurt you, but please refrain from preaching to those who are afflicted from the comfort of your unaffected lives.

I no longer feel able to take the family to Meeting, and I wonder how long I can continue to go myself.

Marisa Johnson

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