Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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...

  • Blogs Book Reviews Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    Can ‘Islamic Reformation’ Work? (REVIEW)

    It is cocktail hour on an April afternoon in 2004. The sun is hot on Amsterdam’s canals, and I am sitting at Café den Leeuw on the Herengracht with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is still a member of the Dutch Parliament, and we talk about Islam. Specifically, we talk about the concept of “moderate Islam,” or what she calls “liberal Islam.” And she has one word for it. “It’s absurd,” she says. “It’s complete nonsense. There is no ‘liberal […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    A Look at the Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook (REVIEW)

    Everybody knows that cooking varies from country to country. There are Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. We associate different styles of cuisine with different languages. Do we also think of the association of different cuisines with different dialects? We should, because cooking also varies from region to region. Litvaks and Galitsyaners have their own traditions of preparing gefilte fish. Marvin I. Herzog, in his book The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Indiana University, Bloomington, and Mouton & Co., The […]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    Analysis: Jewish Women Less Likely Than Catholics to Take Husband’s Name

    An analysis of New York Times wedding announcements showed that women married in Jewish ceremonies were less likely to take their husband’s last names than those married in Roman Catholic ceremonies, the Times reported on Saturday. The largest gap between the two groups was in 1995 when 66 percent of Catholic women took their husband’s names and 33 percent of Jewish women did the same. Nearly half of the women featured in the publication’s wedding pages since 1985 took their husband’s name after marriage, while about […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    Jerry Lewis, Legendary Jewish Comic and Humanitarian, Stays Relevant at 89

    JNS.org – Through appreciation of both his comedy and humanitarian work, legendary Jewish entertainer Jerry Lewis is staying relevant at age 89. The only comic to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Lewis added another award to his trophy case in April, when he received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Gordon Smith, NAB’s president and CEO, said the organization was “honored to recognize not only [Lewis’s] comedic innovation, but also his remarkable […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli Gymnasts Win Bronze, Silver Medals at 2015 European Games in Baku

    Israeli athletes marked a successful day on Sunday, as gymnasts won multiple bronze and silver medals in the 2015 European Games in Baku. The Gymnastics team won two silver medals and one bronze in group events, while Neta Rivkin, an Israeli Olympic gymnast, won bronze for the Solo Hoops event. Sunday’s gymnastics wins follow Sergey Richter’s bronze on June 16 for the Men’s 10 meter air-rifle, and Ilana Kratysh’s silver for women’s freestyle wrestling. The 2015 European Games in Baku are […]

    Read more →
  • Theater Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Report Highlights Success of Russian-Jewish-American Ballroom Dancers

    Russian-American Jews are some of the most successful ballroom dancing competitors in the U.S., South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) Radio reported on Thursday. Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Jewish history at Brandeis University, said their success can be traced back to Jewish discrimination in the former Soviet Union. Because of the prejudice they faced, Russian Jews had to perform better than their peers in every field, including dancing, in order to have a chance of getting ahead. “They knew that if they […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    Israeli Dancer With Shofar, Prayer Shawl Wows ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Judges (VIDEO)

    An Israeli dancer made use of Jewish props in an extraordinary routine that left judges amazed when he auditioned for season 12 of TV dance competition So You Think You Can Dance on Monday. At first, the panel of judges appeared confused when Asaf Goren, 23, began his audition in Los Angeles with a tallit (prayer shawl) over his head and the blowing of a shofar, which he explained “opens the sky” for people’s prayers. However, as soon as he started his “Hebrew breaking” performance, […]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    Jewish Hoops Fairytale Falls Short as David Blatt’s Cavaliers Drop Game 6

    JNS.org – A fairytale ending to Jewish basketball coach David Blatt’s first season in the National Basketball Association (NBA) was not meant to be, as the Blatt-led Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night dropped Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, 105-97, to lose the best-of-seven series 4-2. Blatt, who just last year coached Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv franchise to a European basketball championship, failed to finish a second straight hoops season on top. But after the Cavaliers began the NBA […]

    Read more →