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...

  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough took to Instagram on Tuesday to marvel about climbing the famed Masada fortress with his band during their visit to Israel, where they will perform this week for the first time. The group’s second day of sightseeing in the Jewish state included the Masada hike, and taking a mud bath at the Dead Sea. A picture from the band’s official Twitter page shows the five singers covered in mud. While relaxing in the Dead Sea, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews US & Canada ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    A new book and its upcoming film adaptation tell the true story of how three former yeshiva students who habitually smoked marijuana scored a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply weapons for the Afghan Army, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday. Arms and the Dudes details how the Miami Beach potheads became “the most unlikely gunrunners in history,” according to the book’s author, investigative reporter Guy Lawson. The tale begins with Efraim Diveroli, nephew of [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    JNS.org – Natalie Portman, who directs and stars in the new Hebrew-language film adaptation of author Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, says that despite Oz’s record as a vocal left-wing critic of Israel, her film is not political. Like the book on which it is based, Portman’s film is about a young boy at the time of the founding of the state of Israel. “I think the movie is very much about this very particular, specific family story. Of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.