British Quakers support peace seekers in Palestine and Israel

By agency reporter
December 2, 2014

Quakers in Britain are responding to the recently escalating cycles of violence and retribution in Palestine and Israel, with a new initiative to support those seeking peace.

“Peacebuilding is the only way of preventing violence,” says Helen Drewery, General Secretary of Quaker Peace and Social Witness. “We are sending this letter to the numerous individuals and small groups who are courageously upholding the way of peace in both Israel and Palestine. We want them to know that they are supported and their work is celebrated. We cannot know all their names – we hope the letter will be passed from one to another and that publicising the letter will help us to reach more of them.”

The full text of the letter follows:
A letter to those seeking peace in Israel and Palestine

Dear Friends,
I write on behalf of Quakers in Britain to express our appreciation of your work for peace in the current climate of violence and retribution. We applaud all those on any side who choose not to retaliate or seek revenge whether you are individuals, communities or leaders.

“We are hugely saddened by the cycle of violence that has recently escalated including the killing of Israelis and Palestinians going about their daily lives, the use of non-judicial punishments, punitive house demolitions, the scale of injuries to life, livelihood and dignity and the use of sustained structural violence against a whole people. Equally troubling to us is the celebration of and incitement to violence by some within both Israel and Palestine, together with the language of hate.

Quakers have a long history of working in the region to assist the development of a just peace. We find that when people on any side instigate, promote or applaud violence in the region this makes it harder to advocate for a just peace and security for all.

We see communities in Israel and Palestine being further damaged by growing fear and anger, entrenching the view that security can best be achieved through armed attacks or military solutions. When violent incidents are exploited for political gain or to build support for further violence, the fear and anger are deepened. We see a need for leaders of all communities to expand their thinking away from these harmful responses and instead react to such incidents by using judicial processes in line with international law. We uphold all individuals and groups who have the courage to condemn violent attacks on all sides and seek recourse in law rather than revenge.

As Quakers in Britain, we recognise and deplore the part that our own government has played historically and currently as part of an international community that does not appear to have the political will to act to promote a sustainable and just peace. We will continue to lobby the UK government on this issue.

We know how hard it is to uphold values of peace and mutual respect and how costly it is to maintain this strength of character in the face of acute provocation. We have been deeply impressed when meeting those who rise to this challenge, to hear your stories and to learn from your actions to bring change.

We retain our hope for a relationship between Palestine and Israel where all people are equal under the law, enjoy the full exercise of their human rights, have access to just and inclusive governance and are free from fear and want. We have seen elsewhere that where positive aspirations and actions can be retained through the most acute times, the peace that is achieved is of greater substance.

And so we write, with our gratitude and commitment to uphold and act alongside all those who are living with peace in mind and heart and working for change. Like you, we are convinced that the weapons of war are not the right tools to build true peace in the region. The tools of peace and nonviolence are to hand and they are strong when used with consistency and conviction.”

Paul Parker
Recording Clerk
Quakers in Britain

The experience of Quakers in Britain in the region is grounded in the eye witness accounts, since 2003, from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, managed by Quakers in Britain on behalf of churches and agencies in UK and Ireland.

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends.
* Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.


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