Reflection by a Quaker by Anthony Manousos
I have just returned home from a night in Van Nuys jail, where I was booked along with three other peace activists: Jerry Stinson (a retired UCC pastor and lifelong activist), Edie Pistolesi (art professor at Cal State Northridge), and Estee Chandler (LA organizer for Jewish Voices for Peace and hostess on a KPF radio show). We were arrested for overstaying our welcome at Senator Feinstein’s office, where twelve of us showed up at 10 am with a letter calling on the Senator to stand up for justice in Israel/Palestine (see text below).
The Senator’s aides wanted us to fill out a form requesting a meeting with Feinstein, but we insisted on having a phone meeting since she was one of the 100 Senators who unanimously supported a resolution giving $225 million in additional military aid to Israel (which already receives over $3 billion in military aid). We felt that giving extra military aid to Israel at this time was tantamount to supporting Israel’s merciless attacks on Gaza, which have so far killed over 2,000 Palestinians, 80% of them civilians, and 500 children. Israeli supporters claim these killings were in self-defense, but Israeli military strategists cynically call these periodic bloodbaths "mowing the lawn."
We disregarded the request that we follow protocol and arrange a meeting through the usual channels (which could take place, at the earliest, in the fall) because we felt that the atrocities taking place in Gaza are so urgent we needed to speak to the Senator immediately. After meeting with the Senator’s aides, we refused to leave. After four hours, her chief staff person lost patience and called the police. When the police arrived, eight of us left, and four of us decided to stay and commit civil disobedience. We were arrested and handcuffed at 2 pm.
This kind of confrontational meeting is not what I, as a Quaker, am used to, or comfortable with. I prefer respectful dialogue with our elected officials. But I also resonated with Estee Chandler’s insistence that things have gotten so bad in Israel/Palestine we need to resist the status quo and put our bodies on the line, to show that we don't want innocent people killed in our name, and with our tax dollars.
While in jail, I thought about others who have served time for reasons of conscience: the apostle Paul, George Fox, Quaker war resisters like Bill Lovett, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the Barrigans, Martin Luther King. What a glorious crowd of witnesses!
I thought and prayed about my fellow inmates, what hard lives they live, many of them growing up in neighborhoods where gangs and jail seem almost inevitable (like going to college when you grow up in affluent suburbs). Some were suffering from mental illnesses, others from substance abuse issues. Most were black or brown--victims of the New Jim Crow.....
I was grateful to be serving time with amazing people of conscience and courage like Jerry Stinson, Estee Chandler and Edie Pistolesi--people who, like me, who have been given many privileges and are trying to give back. And I was grateful for our team captain, Shakeel Syed, who stayed up past midnight to support us and doggedly worked to get us released. Bail was set at $5,000, but we were supposed to be released on our own recognizance after twelve hours. We were admitted at 6:00 pm, but when 6:00 am rolled around, others were released to go to court or to go home, but we were left behind in a nearly empty cell. We waited and waited, and finally called our bail bondswoman who seemed nonplussed by what was happening. At 10 am, Jerry was told he had a visitor, and it turned out to be Shakeel, who informed us he was getting the run-around but was determined to get us released. An hour later, a police officer called our names, unlocked our cells and told us to pick up our bedding and leave.
What rolled through my head at this moment were the words of Jesus: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me....I come to preach good news to the poor, give sight to the blind, and release to the captives..." Thank you, Jesus, and thank you, Shakeel!
These prophetic words have never seemed so meaningful and powerful, My hope and prayer is that all those held captive in Israel/Palestine will be set free, set free from bondage to hate and prejudice, set free to reconcile and love mercy and do justice....
While we were in jail, the fragile ceasefire broke down, and bombs began raining down on Israel and Gaza. Gaza’s rockets are so ineffective that there were no Israeli injuries (thank God!), but two Palestinian mother were killed, along with a two-year-old child. The heart-breaking slaughter goes on.
We are convinced that this carnage will continue until the status quo changes and the blockade of Gaza is lifted, the occupation is ended, and Palestinians enjoy the same rights and privileges as Israeli Jews. We are calling for an impartial UN investigation of alleged war crimes on both sides, and demand that Americans and Israelis donate the billions of dollars needed to rebuild Gaza and give the Gazans a chance to live a productive life. There can be no peace without justice, and mercy. This is what people of conscience all around the world are calling for. It is time for our elected officials to heed these outcries of conscience and do what God requires....
For more see:
For the courageous statement of Quakers on Israel/Palestine, see:
August 18, 2014
Senator Diane Feinstein
11111 Santa Monica Blvd., #915
Los Angeles, CA 90025
As interfaith people of conscience, we are deeply disappointed with your unconditional support of Israel’s ongoing and increasingly violent occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, and of the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza.
You have continuously supported providing Israel with over $3 billion of annual military aid and recently you voted for Senate Resolution 498, which expressed support for Israel’s attack on Gaza and made no mention of Palestinian deaths and the disproportionate use of force against Gaza’s civilian population.
We are shocked by the brutality of Israel’s assault on Gaza. We are appalled by the massive destruction of homes, mosques, schools and hospitals. Israel has already killed close to 2,000 people in Gaza – an estimated 80% of them civilians. Of these, nearly 500 are children who comprise 25% of those killed by weapons you have voted to give Israel. More than 10,000 people are seriously wounded.Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are homeless and living in fear.
We call upon you to support the international commission of inquiry appointed by the United Nations to look into possible human rights violations and war crimes committed during Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
We call upon you to condemn violence on both sides and to stop justifying Israel’s use of disproportionate force and killing of innocent civilians because of “its right to defend itself,” which leads only to an escalation of violence.
There is no military solution to the political issues dividing Israelis and Palestinians; therefore, we urge you to demand that Israel immediately end its blockade and siege of Gaza and commit yourself to joining an international effort to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
We call upon you to support genuine peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian unity government. If the Israeli government will not participate in talks with that unity government, then no further American aid of any sort should be provided to Israel.
We call upon you to support the United States providing immediate humanitarian aid and supplies to Gaza. Our tax dollars have played a significant role in the destruction of Gaza; now our tax dollars must be used to rebuild Gaza and aid the civilian population.
There can be no peace in the Middle East until there is genuine peace in Israel/Palestine and that will only come with equal rights and justice for all who live there.
Estee Chandler, Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles Organizer
Taher Herzallah, West Coast Regional Coordinator, American Muslims for Palestine
Shakeel Syed, Board Member, American Muslims for Palestine
Rev. Jerald M. Stinson, United Church of Christ
Rev. Darrel Meyers, Presbyterian Church USA
Rev. Ann Schranz, Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Montclair*
Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Cohen
Edie Pistolesi, Ph.D., Professor of Art, California State University, Northridge
David Klein, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics, Director, Climate Science Program
California State University, Northridge
Anthony J. Litwinko, Friends of Sabeel, Los Angeles
Karin Pally, member, Women in Black-Los Angeles
Sarah Thompson, Executive Director, Christian Peacemaker Teams
*affiliation for identification purposes
Yours in friendship and peace,
1628 N Garfield Ave
Pasadena CA 91104