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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS VOL 169 NO 14
3 Boycott agreed 4-5 Meeting for Sufferings report:
Boycott, divestment and sanctions 6 Banks and society: rebuilding trust Tony Weekes 7 ‘We’re not all in this together’ Barbara Forbes 8-9 Letters 10-11 Egypt: through European eyes Rosemary Rimmer-Clay 12-13 Rowntree Visionaries:
Roy Head Rosemary Hartill 14-15 Helping others to help themselves Elspeth Waldie 16 Q-eye 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: Spring blossoms. Photo: Minette Lyman/flickr CC.
Images this page: Two scenes from Mawa Langa (My tomorrows), a film made in Malawi by Purple Field Productions. Photos courtesy Purple Field Productions. See pages 14-15.
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the Friend, 8 April 2011 News
BRITISH QUAKERS have recommended a boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The decision was made after lengthy discussion and discernment by Meeting for Sufferings (MfS), the central committee of Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM), the formal organisation of Quakers in England, Scotland and Wales. MfS reached their conclusion on Saturday. The decision was influenced by the support for a boycott offered by several Jewish and Israeli peace groups. (see pages 4 and 5).
BYM emphasise that they are not recommending a boycott of Israeli goods generally, but only of settlement goods in the occupied territories. These settlements have been repeatedly condemned as illegal by the United Nations.
Saturday’s meeting concluded that ‘it would be wrong to support the illegal settlements by purchasing their goods. We therefore ask Friends throughout Britain Yearly Meeting to boycott settlement goods, until such time as the occupation is ended.’
The minute stressed that this ‘nonviolent action’ is supported ‘not as punishment or revenge, but as an external pressure to achieve change’. MfS acknowledged that not all Quakers will go along with the boycott. ‘Friends have different views and we must treat one another tenderly,’ declared the minute.
The call for a boycott is likely to trigger controversy. After the Methodist Church made a similar decision last year, the denomination’s representatives received hate mail and were very strongly criticised by parts of the press.
British Friends administer the UK section of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). This scheme, run by the World Council of Churches, provides accompaniers to monitor and support human rights.
‘We pray fervently for both Israelis and Palestinians, keeping them together in our hearts,’ declared the MfS minute. ‘We hope they will find an end to their fears and the beginning of their mutual co-existence based on a just peace. And so we look forward to the end of the occupation and the end of the international boycott.’
Conscientious objectors appear in court
TWO CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS have appeared before military courts in the last week.
In Portsmouth, Michael Lyons faced a navy court martial on charges of ‘wilful disobedience’. Michael Lyons, who held the rank of leading medical assistant and was detailed for a posting to Afghanistan, was ordered to report for firearms training while his application for release on grounds of conscientious objection was awaiting consideration. His request to be excused was rejected.
In Britain’s all-volunteer armed forces, the formal procedures for conscientious objection are rarely invoked. In December, Michael Lyons’ application was the first since 1996 to come before the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objection (see ‘Armed Forces Bill and human rights’, the Friend, 14 January). He is still waiting to be notified of the defence secretary’s final decision.
The judge advocate appointed to decide the disobedience case had prosecuted at the most recent court martial in which the defendant cited conscientious objection. That case was in 2003 when
Mohsin Khan, a Muslim RAF reservist, didn’t respond to call-up for the invasion of Iraq. Last Friday, Michael Lyons’ counsel argued that the judge should therefore stand down, so that justice would ‘not only be done but would be seen to be done’. The case will proceed once this point is decided. Meanwhile, Egypt’s first recorded conscientious objector was Maikel Nabil, who refused military service last October. During and since the February ‘revolution’ his pacifist website has put the role of the Egyptian military in perspective by carefully documenting their continuing arrest and torture of activists.
On the night of 28 March he was seized by military police and, although a civilian, was sent for a ‘fasttrack’ trial before a military tribunal, charged with ‘insulting the military by spreading false information’ and ‘disturbing public security’. War Resisters International have called for his immediate release.
Derek Brett the Friend, 8 April 2011