Pacifists at War

June 18, 2013 2:08 am 3 comments

BDS protestors in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: wiki commons.

“We utterly deny all outward wars and strife . . . for any end, or under any pretense whatever; this is our testimony to the whole world.” So proclaimed the Quaker Declaration of Pacifism, delivered to King Charles II of England in 1660.

Times have changed among the admirably peaceful Quakers who maintained their commitment to pacifism even in the aftermath of 9/11. As an official of the Society of Friends in Philadelphia then declared, the jihadi perpetrators see “the United States – and economic and cultural powers of the West – as forces of violence, oppression and injustice.” Who were the Quakers to condemn al-Qaeda terrorists? As their faith teaches, “in the long term love will somehow win over hatred.”

With their passion for peace, it may seem curious that leaders of the American Friends Service Committee, the organized political voice of the Quakers, would have dined with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad in New York five years ago. Then, last year, the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation divested from Hewlett-Packard for providing technology consulting to the Israeli Navy. The AFSC website provides helpful hints for educating Americans about “Palestinian nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation” and organizing lobbying efforts “to end/condition US military aid to Israel.” All else failing, they must be sure to boycott SodaStream refills, “which are manufactured within an Israeli settlement in occupied Palestinian territory” and even have the chutzpah to bear the label “Made in Israel.”

None of that sounds like fun, so the AFSC is inviting college students with suitably anti-Israel credentials to participate in a five-day summer training institute in pastoral upstate New York. There they will participate in an “intensive program” focusing on “what is happening in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories,” the better to develop Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions programs on their campuses.

Promising “fun in a summer camp-like environment,” the AFSC will offer “anti-oppression analysis workshops” and “non-violent direct action planning” – presumably accompanied by campfires and folk dancing (but certainly not the hora). It assures applicants that “meal and other accommodations will be made for those observing Ramadan.”

Comparing themselves – preposterously – to protesters against Jim Crow laws in the American South and apartheid laws in South Africa, organizers of the BDS summer-camp frolic see “nothing inherently anti-Semitic” in “these proven nonviolent tactics nor in the BDS movement as a whole.”

But the BDS movement has a revealing history. It originated with Francis Boyle, an international law professor at the University of Illinois whose demonstrable hostility toward Israel included allegations of “Zionist control and domination of the American judiciary.” Boyle, an adviser to the PLO between 1987-89 and 1991-93, accused Israel of “genocide” and proposed a divestment movement based on the “anti-apartheid model.” Insisting “God had no right to steal Palestine from the Palestinians and give Palestine to the Zionists,” he suggested that Israel change its name to “Jewistan” and predicted that “this Bantustan for Jews” would “collapse of its own racist and genocidal weight.”

The movement proliferated on university campuses, with the University of California leading the way in venomous denunciation of Israel. Initiated by Students for Justice in Palestine at Berkeley, an emerging academic hotbed of anti-Zionism, it sprouted chapters at Irvine, Riverside, San Diego and Santa Barbara. At their rallies and conferences, Muslim imams routinely praised suicide bombings targeting Israel civilians while identifying Israeli Zionists as “the true and legitimate object of liquidation.”

Even at tiny Oberlin College (my alma mater), renowned for its liberalism ever since it became the first college to admit female and African-American students, Students for a Free Palestine recently voted to divest from six companies “that profit from the occupation and oppression of Palestinians.” It was enthusiastically supported by La Alianza Latina, the South Asian Students Association, the Queer Wellness Coalition and the Center for Women and Transgender People. Oberlin, according to one proud student, “lives up to its progressive history and reputation.”

The contagion of delegitimization is widespread. Annual conferences in dozens of North American campus locations have provided popular forums – under the protective cover of academic freedom – for the laceration of Israel as “imperialist,” “colonial,” and “apartheid.” But, as former Harvard president Lawrence Summers warned when the BDS movement wound its way through the Ivy League, “serious and thoughtful people” in “progressive intellectual communities . . . are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.”

So it is with the American Friends Service Committee, as rustic and inspirational as its summer camp experience may be. But the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin), a ten-year-old civil-rights organization, with a history of successful litigation efforts representing victims of Palestinian terrorism and challenging banks that funded terrorist organizations, is monitoring the situation. It has given notice that its American office is investigating whether the camp violates federal and New York state anti-boycott laws and its organizers and participants may be subject to legal action.

If so, it could be a short hot summer for aspiring BDS organizers in upstate New York.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author, most recently, of Against the Grain: A Historian’s Journey (Quid Pro Books, 2012).

3 Comments

  • sorry for a mistake, :I knew about thr red cross lies about what they really knew on the situation of the Jews under the nazi domination

  • I knew about the red cross an its les about the jews in Germany. I did not know about the Quakers who were known as really pacific people. On could start with boycotting there famous oat flakes.I shall start here in Israel first woth my freinds and also at the shop where I usually by. If the jewish women star the mouvement it couls de influencial

  • Would it not be appropriate for friends of Israel to picket this camp to nonviolently exercise their rights protest its activities outside the gates?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    JNS.org – Many young Jewish artists struggle to define who they are personally, artistically, and religiously. Against the backdrop of that struggle, the recent Asylum Arts International Jewish Artists Retreat provided a space for some 70 young Jewish artists to explore Jewish ideas, to build community and a culture of reciprocity, and to learn skills to assist their career development. “We are trying to encourage and excite people to engage in Jewish themes,” says Rebecca Guber, director of Asylum Arts. [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    JNS.org – Has the era of large-scale biblical epics returned? Not since “The Ten Commandments” has there been so much torrential water on the big screen (not counting weather-related disaster films such as “The Impossible”) than in “Noah,” the latest blockbuster from writer and director Darren Aronofsky. “Noah” takes the traditional tale and splices it in an eco-friendly and psychologically driven plot. After Adam and Eve got booted out of the Garden of Eden and after Cain killed Abel, mankind [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.