Friday, April 19, 2024

Peace in Palestine and Israel

A different future is possible: Quaker organizations share a vision for peace in Palestine and Israel

photo by Jon Krieg, AFSC


For centuries, Quakers have worked for peace. This mission is a practical expression of the nonviolent message of the gospels and the teaching reflected in the many religions around the world: love your neighbor as yourself.

Quakers believe in the inherent worth of every individual and have a history of supporting both Palestinian and Israeli communities in the region. One of our organizations, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), established the first refugee camps in Gaza in 1949 and continues to work in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel today. Indeed, we have a longstanding presence in what is now Israel and Palestine, dating back to the 1800s. Quakers established the Ramallah Friends Schools over 150 years ago, one of the first institutions to educate Palestinian women. Palestinian Quakers continue to worship at the historic Friends Meeting House in Ramallah.

With these deep roots, we speak with firsthand knowledge. In a context where entrenched inequality, violence, and injustice have persisted for decades, we anticipated that desperation would eventually boil over - and sadly, it has.

The last six months have been marked by constant grief. The devastating attack by Hamas on October 7th in Israel claimed the lives of 1,163 Israelis and resulted in over 250 people being taken hostage. As of early April 2024, Israel's subsequent attacks on Gaza have killed at least 33,000 Palestinians, with thousands missing and presumed dead under the rubble.  Since October 7th, over 7,500 Palestinians from the West Bank and thousands more from Gaza, including children, have been imprisoned, many without charge or trial. Shockingly, more than 40 percent of those killed in Gaza have been children, surpassing the global count of child casualties in all other conflicts from 2019 to 2022. Countless children have been orphaned and maimed as a result.

In Gaza, hospitals, schools, universities, aid distribution centers, mosques, and churches have all been bombed and destroyed, leaving no safe space. Over 70% of homes have been damaged or destroyed, with more than 1.9 million people displaced.

Essential systems such as healthcare, water, and sanitation have collapsed, leading to preventable deaths, surgeries without anesthesia, and pregnant women giving birth in tents and without proper care. 

AFSC staff in Gaza have shared horrendous accounts of starvation used as a tool of war. Children in Gaza are starving to death. The World Health Organization predicts that up to 80,000 more lives will be lost to disease and starvation if no immediate action is taken. This crisis surpasses anything many of us have witnessed in our decades of responding to disasters worldwide.

The continued restrictions on aid access and Israel's failure to respect and protect humanitarian workers have created an environment where it is nearly impossible for organizations to provide assistance. This dire situation has pushed the Gaza population to the brink of extreme food insecurity and imminent famine. Hundreds of local and foreign aid workers have been targeted and killed, and AFSC's relief staff continue to face extreme insecurity, sharing with us that they are “still alive by chance.”

Disturbingly, instead of increasing aid provisions, major actors such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and other members of the international community have cut off or delayed funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Unproven Israeli allegations linking UNRWA employees to the October 7th attack have had severe repercussions on the welfare of the most vulnerable population the agency serves.

Immediate action is needed so that killings and suffering can end. That starts with a permanent ceasefire, the release of hostages and prisoners, and unrestricted
humanitarian access in Gaza. 

In January, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's actions in Gaza might constitute genocide. Regrettably, Israel has taken no steps to change its behavior since this ruling, ignoring the court’s provisional measures. Western governments, especially the United States, the United Kingdom, and key European states, continue to provide arms and support to Israel. Their complicity, along with unilateral vetoes preventing repeated ceasefire resolutions at the UN Security Council, raises concerns about international commitments to multilateralism and respect for international legal frameworks. 

Finally, Western leaders must look beyond this moment and work towards achieving a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel. Violence is not limited to Gaza. More than 500 Palestinians, including more than 100 children, have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and settlers since October 7. Settler and military violence has resulted in the complete depopulation of 16 Palestinian villages, causing fear and tension to permeate the whole population. Restricting worship and access to mosques and churches further infringes on freedom of worship and exacerbates tensions.

Over the last several years, a growing number of international human rights organizations have recognized Israel's treatment of Palestinians as meeting the legal definition of apartheid. In the face of this pervasive injustice, Quakers stand firm in our witness, as we have throughout history against racial inequality, South African apartheid, and all forms of war. 

Even in this time of violence and pain, we hold the belief that a different future, free from injustice and violence, is possible. Lasting peace and reconciliation will be realized when both past and ongoing injustices are acknowledged and addressed, ensuring freedom, dignity, equal rights, and justice for all people living in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Let us work together to make this vision a reality.

Now is the time for action. As Quakers and as peacemakers we are called to actively live into our testimonies of equality and peace. To this end, we urgently put forward these calls to action:

To the Israeli government:
1.    End attacks on Gaza, commit to a permanent ceasefire, withdraw from reoccupied areas of Gaza, and end the Gaza blockade.
2.    Cease settler and military violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
3.    Guarantee uninterrupted, unconditional, swift, and adequate humanitarian access in Gaza and open land crossings.
4.    Hold accountable those who have violated the law or committed human rights abuses, including settlers.
5.    Release Palestinian political prisoners and hostages and provide fair trials following international standards free from coercion, torture, and abuse.
6.    Guarantee the self-determination of Palestinians by ending its occupation of all Palestinian territory and ensure Palestinians and Israelis share equal human, political, and civil rights currently denied under Israeli Occupation. 

To Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups:
1.    Release Israeli hostages.
2.    Commit to and maintain a permanent ceasefire as a long-term, just, and sustainable peace is sought.
3.    Hold accountable those who have violated the law or committed human rights abuses. 

To Western leaders and the US and UK governments in particular:
1.    Urgently press for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and Israel.
2.    End complicity in Israeli human rights violations and exert levers of power with immediate economic and political pressure on the government of Israel, including imposing an arms embargo.
3.    Actively work to ensure uninterrupted humanitarian access in Gaza, especially through ground entry points, and commit to funding and protecting UNRWA.
4.    Hold accountable those who have violated the law or committed human rights abuses.
5.    Uphold international law, demand equal accountability for State and non-state actors, and enforce the ICJ provisions imposed on Israel.
6.    Support an end to Israel’s occupation and equal protection and rights for all.
7.    Ensure an inclusive political process for peace that incorporates all voices, perspectives, and political factions, especially those marginalized or acting as potential spoilers and those most affected by injustice and violence.

As Friends, we will continue to support the global community of Quakers to:
1.    Urgently call and fervently work for a permanent ceasefire and amplify our voices in our communities and at the local, state, and national levels.
2.    Encourage decision-makers calling for a ceasefire and working for peace.
3.    Organize and participate in teach-ins, actions, and protests until a ceasefire and a just and lasting peace are realized.
4.    Actively support an end to Israel’s occupation and equal protection and rights for all people living under Israeli control and commit to actions as meetings/churches until this reality is realized.
5.    Divest from corporations profiting from militarism, including the occupation of Palestine.
6.    Support those in Israel and Palestine who are working for peace.

Signed,

American Friends Service Committee
Canadian Friends Service Committee
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends World Committee for Consultation
Quakers in Britain
Quaker Council on European Affairs
Quaker Peace and Social Witness 
Quaker United Nations Office

The above Quaker organizations jointly drafted this statement. We invite all Friends meetings, churches, schools, and organizations to join us in endorsing this call for peace with justice. Sign onto the statement.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

All war is failure

I am too distressed to blog about my everyday.

All over the world millions of ordinary people can see that a ceasefire in Gaza is urgent and necessary but apart from a few exceptions - Ireland and Spain - western politicians don’t care. 

Starving Palestinians are leaving Rafah to avoid the upcoming Israeli onslaught and travelling north, only to be turned back with gunfire.

Insufficient food aid is getting into Gaza, and now the US is more interested in Iran’s attack on Israel than on the starvation and famine in Gaza.

The west is rallying around Israel after they bombed the Iranian consulate in Syria, and Iran retaliated. Apparently it is only Israel who has the right to ‘self defence.’ Every other country’s actions are ‘unprovoked attacks’ or ‘retaliation.’

I care nothing for any of these terms. 

All war is a failure, whoever is perpetrating it.





All war represents a failure of diplomacy. Tony Benn

All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal. Steinbeck

The ultimate failure of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Martin Luther King.

This is the 21st Century. You’d have hoped by now that politicians would see that instead of investing in more and more sophisticated and powerful weapons, we should be investing in diplomacy, and building bridges, not making war. It has to come to talking in the end. Why not start with talking and avoid the killing?
















Friday, April 12, 2024

Sunshine!

What I feel like doing is having a rant about Keir Starmer’s militaristic and right wing agenda, but I am sure you didn’t come here to read that, so…

Remember my last post about the six months of rain driving me bonkers and inducing me to start a crazy patchwork project by unpicking an old failed one and remaking it with new pieces?

The sun came out yesterday when I was in the middle of arranging and sewing patches and I lost interest in the whole project.




I despaired of the mess cluttering up the room where I paint 






And went out on my bike.

This morning the sun is out again and a dry day is forecast and I’ve decided to pack away the patchwork project with notes on what I had decided on the design, and get it out next winter. I fully admit I have a love-hate relationship with patchwork in that I love the colour and the design and hate the sewing. 

Having said that, I realise today that the idea of doing horizontal stripes of triangular patches doesn’t have to be repeated, and indeed, probably shouldn’t be. It was laziness that made me think I’d do it again, because it would mean less work. But who measures time and effort in a creative project? I don’t when I’m painting. 

It's not a lost hope. It took me six years to knit my fair isle hoodie - another project involving (my own) colour and design - and it got done in the end. This might well come out of the cupboard one winter time.

Now I’ve discovered painting, which is a much more direct way to play with colour and design.

And I also have my electric bike, which means that views like this are so much easier to achieve.




Oh yes.



Friday, April 05, 2024

Going bonkers

My friend Gill and I agreed yesterday that it has been raining here for six months. The Trail is too muddy to ride a bike on, you need wellies to walk over the fields, the garden is too waterlogged to dig, and I am getting fed up with indoor occupations that I love, such as painting.

Actually I think the rain has driven me a little bit bonkers. Otherwise why would I be unpicking a double bed patchwork quilt with the intention of remaking it? The quilt in question is my sunset quilt:




Actually, it was always a failure as a quilt, though as a wall hanging it might have passed muster.

But it doesn’t look like this any more because some of the colours are so faded, and also, of course, because I am unpicking it. 

Here is an example of the fade. This is the binding: it started as dark blue and is now a weird faded pinky orange:




I could have given it away to a pet shelter, I suppose, but there are some tasty bits of fabric in it that haven’t faded. And if I remake it in a new design and with new fresh pieces added, I can re-use the wadding and the back. Actually, the more I think about it the more mad the project seems. It will probably take me all summer to unpick it, if we actually have a summer. Who knows if the climate has changed for good? 

Dave meanwhile is also behaving strangely. You know I said he made me some hot cross buns for Easter as a treat? Well they were so delicious I asked him if he’d make me some more. 

Dave makes our bread and our oatcakes, even though he hates baking. And he doesn’t eat hot cross buns, but he is making me another batch.  I said it was the taste that mattered and he really didn’t need to bother about the cross on the top or the glaze, but he’s just come upstairs and asked if we have a metal nozzle because the hole in the plastic bag approach made the cross too wide last time.

“What’s going on?” I said. “I said I don’t care about the crosses.”

“I care about the crosses.”

“But why? You’re an atheist, you’re not going to eat them, and you hate baking, so why make it more of a faff than you need to?”

He then admitted that when our children were still at home and I was baker-in-chief, he was always disappointed by my hot cross buns (which in those days he ate) because I just made the cross with the knife, which meant they weren’t like the ones he had as a child. 

We don’t have a metal nozzle (a casualty of the fire that I never restocked) so I suggested he wash out the nozzle on a washing up liquid bottle, but he thought he'd never get rid of the taste of the detergent.

What do you know…he has just come upstairs to show me this:



It’s the unused nozzle from a silicon sealant dispenser tied on with a plastic tie. Let’s hope he likes the crosses this time.




And let us also hope the rain stops soon. We have a Refugee Hospitality Day in a couple of weeks and we really really need some sunshine for that. 

No, I haven’t forgotten about Gaza. 

My latest painting is entitled Spring 2024. It’s one that came straight from the gut, like this one, The Dancers




This is Spring 2024



The link for the UNICEF Gaza appeal is here 

The link for Medical Aid for Palestinians is here

Monday, April 01, 2024

Good and evil

Every morning when I wake up and read the news, the only thing I can think about is the suffering in Gaza: it really distresses me. This is not surprising - I have been thinking and blogging about Gaza off and on since December 2008. I do what’s in my power to support Palestinians, which doesn’t feel like much, but all we can do in any situation is do our best to work for the good. We can’t control the outcome.

In any case, continuing to pay attention to the situation in Gaza is better than not.

In an email yesterday a friend mentioned Gaza and said “…Gaza, which is beyond belief, and I feel is also bringing a new sense of powerlessness, resignation and callousness into the world.”

Let us not be resigned to brutality and injustice. 

Let’s do what we can to make the world a better place, but we can also remember what my friend Het said “They want us to care, not to suffer,” and also to remember the Jack Gilbert poem I’ve shared with you before, Brief for the Defence. Here’s a quote

“To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the devil.” 


Lastly, here is a poem by Maggie Smith called Good Bones:


Let’s do it - let’s make this place beautiful.





UNICEF GAZA appeal link here



Friday, March 29, 2024

Letter from home

Wensleydale has been on my mind this week. I always associate Easter with going  to stay with my parents at their home in Aysgarth. Daffodils, hot cross buns, lambs, blackthorn blossom, sleet, wind, snow, sunshine, rain. I miss Ma and Pa, and I miss the dale. I haven’t been for a couple of years, because the sibs’ reunion was at my sister Jen’s in Winchester last year instead.

And my big sister Kath just texted (we text early from our beds, Kath and me) to say she is up there in Askrigg with 16 of her family. Lucky Kath.


Photo by Rosemary Mann






This is Kath and me on one of our sib trips…ten years ago, early morning, reading the news.




Down here in the bleak Peak we have daffodils, blackthorn blossom




lambs, and all the same weather, and Dave is treating me to breakfast at Hassop station before the Easter tourists arrive. Yum.

I think I finished three paintings yesterday. I say ‘I think’ because they have to sit around for a week or so while I consider them. 

This is one, and since I took the photo I have realised the gull is too low so I need to paint another one higher up. The painting was inspired by a photo I took in Cornwall.




This is another I finished. It’s of Miller’s Dale, below the Monsal Trail. 




The news on the painting front is that the Royal Academy did not choose either of my submissions for the summer exhibition. When I texted Het to tell her I wasn’t picked, she texted back “This year.” Bless her.

I have to admit that it wasn’t exactly a gut punch like it was when I got rejections for my writing. Maybe I’m inured to rejection now, or maybe it’s because my feelings for my paintings are different from my feelings for my writing. I think it might be because I feel like such a beginner with my painting and the summer exhibition was a long shot. And as Het says, there is always next year. Also, it means I don’t have to cart a painting all the way down to London on the train to deliver it for the second round of judging and then go and pick up again later, either after it failed the second round, or didn’t sell at the end of the exhibition. There are so many bright sides and I must learn to see them in every sphere of my life. Listen to me: Mrs Philosophical.

When Dave made the oatcakes and the bread last weekend he made me some hot cross buns as well, because I told him I miss having nice ones, as supermarket ones aren’t up to scratch. I hope you have a lovely weekend, despite the weather, and maybe some treats as well. My other treat is that Zoë and family are coming tomorrow. 

But let us all remember the people of Gaza, and give what we can to help.

Link to the UNICEF Gaza appeal: here





Thursday, March 28, 2024

Today’s letter

 Todays letter to my MP:









Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Don’t look away

How to blog about domestic life when the UN Security Council finally calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, and the Israelis ignore it and bomb a house in central Gaza killing yet more children.

There is a piece in the Guardian today asking us to keep looking at Gaza news and to keep reminding ourselves that this is not normal: that the war on Gaza has resulted in the biggest cohort of paediatric amputees in history, and that if nothing changes, Gaza will have the most intense famine since WW2.

It’s natural - and I do it myself - to protect ourselves from crippling sorrow at the plight of people in Gaza by avoiding the news. But let us not, in protecting ourselves from despair, forget to act - to protest to our representatives by writing and marching; to insist they give Israel no more support either moral or in terms of weaponry; to give to aid charities working in Gaza; to boycott Israeli goods as we did South African ones. 

The UN Security Council resolution is international law and Israel are sticking their finger up at everyone else in the world. 

Things are not OK.

Please do what you can. 

UNICEF appeal for GAZA here.

Medical Aid for Palestinians appeal is here

Boycott Divestment Sanctions here.

British Foreign Secretary email address here.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign National Demo on Easter Saturday here.




Friday, March 22, 2024

Make and mend

We got a new oil tank this week. Our old one was 28 years old and they do decay over time, and we didn’t want to be in the position in the next ten years of a sudden catastrophe of losing oil and contaminating the soil, both of which would have been difficult and expensive. So we decided to swap it now: we’re trying to make things easy for ourselves in the future, in view of our advancing age. Ahem.

The plumbing firm would have taken the old tank away as part of the deal, but Dave had one of his bright ideas. He would make it into two logstores. We still have four mountains of logs in the back garden with no home to go (remember the tree he cut down in December?) so we certainly need more storage.

First stage, cut the tank in half:




Second stage, consider a jacuzzi



Third stage, start stacking…




Meanwhile, I have been doing some make do and mending inside the house. I’ve been darning hiking socks which have a habit of wearing through near the heel, and I’ve been mending a jumper I knitted twenty years ago. It’s knitted in Aran wool and has worn well, but the elbow on one side developed a small hole. Have you seen those online videos of magic darning where the craftswoman makes an invisible mend? Those women (the only ones I have seen are women)  are my gods, but I can’t do it. As I still had a ball of wool and the pattern in the drawer from the original knit, I decided to unpick and unravel the sleeve with the hole and re-knit it. It’s almost done. Then I realised that if I swapped the sleeves round, the patch that was wearing thin on the other sleeve would be sited INSIDE the elbow, and wouldn’t wear though. All of this is a work in progress.

Meanwhile the two white cotton sheets I use on the bed have been needing attention. I bought them on Bakewell market for £20 each 20 years ago. They were sold as Egyptian cotton, hotel quality, with a gazillion thread count, and they have been in constant use. They’ve been fantastic but are getting a little thin in the middle while the edges are as thick as ever, and I remembered what my mother and my gran used to do: cut them down the middle and sew the two edges together to make a new middle. I ripped one down the middle and then pressed the hems on the new raw edges and stitched them. 

Then I placed the two selvedge edges together in a flat seam for the middle. It was all going swimmingly, but I did not pin these two edges together, partly because my pins are blunt and the selvedges are thick and partly because I am a lazy sewer. I stitched and stitched and got to the end of the seam and found this.


Hey ho. I am not a skilled seamstress. The fabric had stretched because I had not pinned it. At least I know when I fix the next sheet that pinning is a must. 🙄

Last item in the make-do list is this: my brother’s sweet peas, which he sows in rolled up newspaper. I think they look so much classier than mine do in yoghurt cartons.







Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Spring

It was a wise decision not to blog when I was ill. It was a virus - not a matter of life and death, though being the Prima Donna I am I thought at one point I would never get better. So you have been spared MUCH unseemly moaning. Now I am finally well but completely lacking in zip.

Enough!

Spring finally arrived in the Peak District this week, and I found a self-seeded violet on the front path near the front door,




a sister companion to the self seeded feverfew by the front step, 




that I’m delighted has survived the winter. (The photo was taken last summer.)

And many of the sweet peas have germinated…





So on the domestic front everything is tickety boo, and I hope to be able to get back to my painting.

I don’t have anything else to say today so here’s a film recommendation: Past Lives. It was nominated for an Oscar but didn’t win, I think because it’s a quiet film with no razzamatazz. I watched it with Het in Cornwall and as soon as it had finished I wanted to watch it again. Now it’s on Netflix so I can. Watch it and tell me what you think. I think it’s wonderful. 

Ooh, I just thought you might like to see what the girls are getting up to in Boulder.

Cece



Lux

Friday, March 08, 2024

Taking a break

 I have been ill since Monday night, and I’m still ill, and so I don’t fret about the blog, I’m going to take a break for a week.

Here is a comforting poem I found recently.



And a photo I took in Cornwall



 


Monday, March 04, 2024

Letter from home

Long time blog readers - I hope you noticed I did not complain about it being February when it was February. 

Please give me credit, because this morning I woke up from thick heavy dreams and felt low. I am not sure why. I think it’s about the usual - the state of the country, the state of the world, Gaza. 

It also might be to do with feeling old. Sometimes it creeps over me. Or maybe it’s my sinuses? [Later: I became ill that night so obviously the low feelings were physical.]

But the freezing fog we woke up to soon cleared and I realised that the best medicine was to make myself a flask of coffee and go up to my thinking spot above the village.





I used to go there with a flask during lockdown, and the habit has stuck. I always feel better for it. 

Yesterday I got the pots ready to plant my sweet pea seeds, and as some of you have asked me how I grow them I took some photos.

I use a peat-free compost designed specifically to grow seeds in, such as these…





I save loo roll insides throughout the winter and use large yoghurt cartons with holes punched in the bottom. Sweet peas need tall pots.





If I have enough loo rolls I put two in each pot, but I usually don’t have enough. It still works well. The loo rolls separate the roots so when you take the seedlings out if the pots to plant them, the roots don’t get damaged.



Today I’ll put in the seeds (no more than 3 to a pot) and move the trays of pots to the bedroom windowsills.

When a seedling has at least 4 leaves on it I nip off the growing shoot which makes the plants bush out. I keep nipping out the growing tips until I plant them out. They need hardening off before planting. I usually plant them out towards the end of May, but it’s cold in the Peak District. If you’re in warmer climes and the seedlings are big enough it might be OK plant them out sooner. In my experience they are not susceptible to frost.

As an envoi, here’s a poem I came across lately that you might like.



Onward and upward, dear friends. Cheeringly the greeting cards I had printed to sell and raise money for the UNICEF appeal for Gaza are selling so well I’ve had to order some more.

These two have been the most popular