From Israel/Palestine to the importance of history
David Keating (15 March) writes about the apparent singling out of Israel for criticism, while the wrongs committed by other countries seem to escape the attention of Quakers. Other correspondents have already disputed this claim and have pointed out that we, as a small organisation, cannot give our attention to all the brutal wrongs being committed in this world.
Additionally, I would like to emphasise the long association this country has had with Palestine, namely through the British Mandate for Palestine, 1923-48.
For Quakers in particular there is a strong connection. There are two long established Quaker schools in the region: the Brummana school in Lebanon and the Ramallah school on the West Bank. Importantly, Quakers have a key role in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). All this means that there are those among us who have witnessed first-hand the brutal injustices being suffered by the Palestinians at the hands of Israel. It is very difficult to turn away from these brutalities and say and do nothing on the grounds that we cannot try and take similar actions worldwide.
Many Quaker Meetings invite ecumenical accompaniers to come and talk about their experiences. Once one has heard what they have witnessed it is very hard to turn away from this situation. Some of us have been inspired to apply to EAPPI ourselves. One can be of any faith or none. We must do something. What do those who object to the nonviolent sanctions and boycott movement suggest?
The reason why Britain, not just Britain Yearly Meeting, needs to prioritise the Israel/Palestine dispute over the many others mentioned by Peter Bolwell (8 March) is, I believe, that Britain was entrusted with the Palestinian Mandate by the League of Nations and consequently made the decision to allow a Jewish homeland in part of Palestine. In so deciding, they made it clear that Britain was responsible for: ‘Safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.’
Britain failing to secure those conditions is a reason why this country should feel guilt and some responsibility in having failed in the trust given to them.
In most other cases we have no responsibility to interfere and no means of doing so, however much we may deplore what has happened. We can only protest.
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