In this interconnected world, the problems we face in our own communities are intimately linked with the fate of other communities and nations. What happens in the U.S. matters around the world, and what happens around the world matters here.
This is particularly visible in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians—a conflict defined by enduring injustices, unconscionable economic inequalities, and a discriminatory legal system designed to privilege one group of people over another. Despite considering Israeli settlements to be illegal, the U.S. continues to send military aid to Israel, perpetuating the injustice.
These settlements are at the core of the conflict. They are built on stolen land and used to justify the building of the Wall and the restriction of movement within the West Bank. They contribute to forced displacement, severely limit Palestinian access to basic resources including land and water, and perpetuate a system of segregation and structural inequality between Palestinians and Israelis.
In the U.S., in Israel, and in the occupied Palestinian territory, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a continuing witness for change, supporting a courageous nonviolent movement that seeks to end this infamous occupation. Our Israeli and Palestinian partners in the Middle East as well as our partners in the U.S. believe as we do that a lasting peace must begin with a commitment to shared security for all.
In just the past few months, AFSC's Middle East staff has witnessed hopeful movements in this struggle for lasting peace and justice:
- Last fall, the Israeli organization Zochrot hosted a conference in Tel Aviv on the practicalities of Palestinian refugee return.
- In December, an 18-year-old Druze man refused draft orders to serve in the Israeli army, joining a small group of conscientious objectors in Israel taking a stand against the militarization of Israeli society.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., efforts to draw attention to the illegal settlements through nonviolent means—notably, boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)—have begun to bear fruit:
- When Scarlett Johansson, actress and Global Ambassador for Oxfam, took a lucrative contract to advertise for SodaStream—a company that operates a factory in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank—there was a public outcry prompting her resignation from her Oxfam role.
- In February, an article in The Economist observed that the BDS movement, "once derided as the scheming of crackpots" is “turning mainstream,” citing increased attention from some of the world’s largest financial institutions.
- Now, throughout the U.S., people are learning more about the Palestinian call for BDS and the history of boycotts thanks to a new exhibition, “Boycott! The Art of Economic Activism,” put together by AFSC and the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. Using powerful posters to demonstrate the effectiveness of boycotts as a nonviolent tactic to end injustice and oppression, “Boycott!” will tour the U.S. throughout the next two years.
Our interconnected world requires an interconnected response. Through creative collaborations with Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans, we are making real progress toward lasting peace and justice. I hope you, like me, will be heartened by these small but significant wins along the way.
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