Quaker Voices on Israel-Palestine
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 31st October, 2010
Well over a hundred members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) from around Europe gathered at the Chant d’Oiseau conference centre in Brussels all this weekend for an often passionate debate about the EU and peace-building in Israel and Palestine, organised by the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA). The event got off to a measured start, with a presenttation by the EU’s representative in East Jerusalem, Christian Berger, but as he was talking under Chatham House rules, I cannot report anything he said. However the following morning was an intense experience for many not yet steeped in the modern tragedy that is occupied Palestine, as Jean Zaru (pictured), Clerk of Ramallah Friends Meeting, gave a heartfelt exposé of the realities, including the exodus of many Palestinian Christians — including Quakers — who can no longer take the economic deprivation, the humiliation and the hassle. It’s the pettiness of so much of the treatment West Bank Palestinians receive at the hands of Israeli soldiers and officials that wears people down, on top of outright violence and abuse from an extremist minority of ideological Jewish settlers. At least Jean Zaru is able to travel relatively freely and to take her powerful message round the world. She campaigns for women’s rights, as well as justice for the Palestinians and working with peace groups that include both Palestinians and Israelis. Last year she was given the Anna Lindt award in Stockholm in recognition of her toireless work. As well as the small, historic Meeting House in central Rammalah, there is a Friends International Centre attached, and European and North American Quaker volunteers go regularly to the occupied territories, as ecumenical accompaniers to Palestinians negotiating checkpoints, or to help harvest olive crops or to gather information on the ground.