Open letter to the Quakers of Britain in response to their support for BDS

Dear Quakers in Britain.

I read your press release dated 5th April 2011, which I am afraid, evidences your woeful grasp of the complexity of the situation in the Middle East.  I quote directly from your release below, and my reply follows.  I have read that Quakers hold that an authentic Christian belief results in both an inward faith and an outward expression of that faith.  Nowhere can I find a reference which enjoins Quakers to sit in judgement about matters with which they cannot possibly be fully informed.  Neither do Quaker teachings enjoin Friends to be blind to the consequences of their actions to promote peace when these actions favour one side over the other, and when these result in the favoured side believing that the methods it resorts to (however violent and deadly) are supported by decent people:

“Quakers in Britain have agreed to boycott products from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  The settlements are illegal under international law. Quakers consider that this boycott is a nonviolent move for peace for Israelis and Palestinians. The decision makes clear that Quakers are not boycotting Israel.

“Half a million Israeli settlers live illegally in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). The settlements and infrastructure on Palestinian land are protected by the Israeli government and military and prevent or restrict Palestinians access to their land, water supplies, education, health services and more. Extensive settlement infrastructure divides up Palestinian land, creating obstacles to peace.

There is much that is wrong and shows lack of informed thinking about the above. I would refer you to the arguments of the late Professor Julius Stone—considered one of the premier legal theorists —who maintained that the effort to designate Israeli settlements as illegal was a “subversion. . . of basic international law principles.

Stone drew upon the writings of Professor Stephen Schwebel, former judge on the Hague’s International Court of Justice (1981-2000), who distinguished between territory acquired in an “aggressive conquest” (such as Japanese conquests during the 1930s and Nazi conquests during World War II) and territory taken in a war of self-defense (for example, Israel’s capture of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967 war). He also distinguished between the taking of territory that is legally held by another nation (such as the Japanese occupation of Chinese territory and the Nazi Germany occupation of France, Holland, Belgium and other European lands) as opposed to the taking of territory illegally held. The latter applies to the West Bank and Gaza, which were not considered the legal territories of any High Contracting Party when Israel won control of them; their occupation after 1948 by Jordan and Egypt was illegal and neither country ever had lawful or recognized sovereignty. The last legal sovereignty over the territories was that of the League of Nations Palestine Mandate which encouraged Jewish settlement of the land.

Article 49 was intended to outlaw the Nazi practice of forcibly transporting populations into or out of occupied territories to death and work camps  and thus cannot be applied to Israel because Arab residents were neither forcibly transferred, nor were Israelis intended to (nor do they) displace Arab residents of the territories. Arabs continue to live in these territories and their population continues to grow.

As for Israel preventing access to medical services from the West Bank, this, too, is one-sided and therefore questionable.  This is one of many joint projects.  I am surprised that you did not mention it, or this. See also the Save a Child’s Heart Project, which treats Palestinian children and others from around the world.

“Palestinian Quakers are calling for Quakers around the world to consider boycott, divestment and sanctions because of the worsening situation caused by Israel’s occupation. The decision was made on Saturday (2 April) by the representative decision-making body for Quakers in Britain, Meeting for Sufferings. The Meeting has not yet considered a Quaker view on divestment and sanctions.

The “worsening situation”(where it exists) is primarily caused by the support of Mahmud Abbas who praises the perpetrators of terror on the one hand, whilst mouthing platitudes about peace with Israel in public on the other.   The glorification of terror against Israeli civilians and the teaching of it and  Jew-hatred in PA schools and on children’s television  is reprehensible and is itself an infringement of children’s human rights which the Quakers would do better to address than to castigate Israel.  The threats of violence from these are the principal reasons for the continuation of the checkpoints on the West Bank. The most recent example of the outcome of Palestinian support for terror was in the massacre at Itamar.

I note that your statement makes no mention of the improvement in economic and other standards in the West Bank, nor does it seem to have considered the likely impact on the standard of living and quality of life of ordinary people there if your boycott were to go ahead.

“The Meeting heard that most Jewish Israeli peace groups support boycotts of settlement products.

Many Israeli peace groups (and I note that you add the “Jewish” as a spurious attempt to convince the reader that because Jews themselves support it, boycott must be tenable) do not speak for the majority of intelligent people, Jews or otherwise .  Please read also, “Don’t divest, invest.

“People matter more than territory’ says the minute from the Meeting. And, ‘We pray fervently for both Israelis and Palestinians, keeping them together in our hearts. We hope they will find an end to their fears and the beginning of their mutual co-existence based on a just peace. And so we look forward to the end of the occupation and the end of the international boycott.’

You say that you pray “fervently” for Israelis and Palestinians and yet you continue to castigate only one side!

By so doing you undermine what you say next above, about mutual co-existence.  By blindly supporting the Palestinian narrative without once demanding the same decency and humane behaviour from them as you demand from Israel, you reinforce their execrable behaviour towards Israel. Mahmud Abbas, in spite of his honeyed words in public about peace with Israel and his condemnation of the murders in Itamar, glorified terror in public within days of those murders.  I have not read an update of your press release in which you condemn this infamy, or even recognise it, or indicate in any way your understanding that it is a mockery of the Palestinian role in any peace process.  Israelis, too, look forward to peace, but not if one of its conditions is that they commit collective suicide!

“In the face of the armed oppression of poor people and the increasing encroachment of the illegal settlements in the West Bank, we cannot do nothing,’ the minute continued.”

“You cannot do nothing” but you need not resort to ill-researched, half-baked declamations by people whose minds are already made up before you rush to judgement.  As I have written above, the economy of the West Bank is growing apace, and whereas I can readily believe that there are poor among the citizens of the West Bank just as there are poor anywhere, there is really no need to resort to emotive language, such as “armed oppression.”  PA television broadcasts programmes which endorse terrorism and Jew-hatred, and this is taught to children in school.  These are infringements of their human rights.  Why are you not outraged about these, out of which grew the ideology which led to the massacres at Itamar?

“‘We are clear then that it would be wrong to support the illegal settlements by purchasing their goods. We therefore ask Friends (Quakers) throughout Britain Yearly Meeting to boycott settlement goods, until such time as the occupation is ended.”

I suppose that there is no law against boycott, but see above for my reference to why it should not be resorted to.  Everyone suffers, Palestinians most of all, and in any case it will not work.  Quakers may feel aglow with misplaced self-righteousness if they boycott Israeli settlement  goods,  but rest assured that your actions will be a drop in the ocean. Those of us who believe that you are misguided and un-Christian will buy even more Israeli settlement produce.

“Quakers consider that this boycott builds on their other nonviolent moves for peace in the region. Since 2002 Quakers in Britain have trained human rights observers for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The observers, called ecumenical accompaniers, work with Palestinians and Israelis to promote nonviolence by their protective presence, to monitor human rights abuses and to advocate for an end to the Israeli occupation.”

I say again that Quaker “nonviolent” moves for peace in the region, as long as they ignore the excessive Palestinian violence and fail to condemn that in like terms, serve only to rubber stamp that violence.  If your “trained” observers continue to promote this then they and you are complicit in terror because your “protective presence” must be negligible.


Categories: BDS

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24 replies »

  1. Medusa, I am sorry to say you are wasting your time. I spent 2 years trying to engage with Friends’ House about their hosting of deeply anti Jewish (not anti Israel) hate and violence preachers, engaging with individual Quakers who are appalled at the direction the Quakers have taken over the past 5 years but these good people are now a powerless and ineffectual minority. I was invited to share my views on the Quaker forum by these few good members, but my contribution was greeted with hostility and a closing of ranks.
    see my report here:

    Meanwhile, the ZF continued to use Friends HOuse for meetings, as does a very large Reform synagogue for their Rosh Hashana services. And so Friends was able to tell me, if the shul doesn’t have a problem with us, why should you.

  2. Forget about appealing to the non violent principle: in the course of the past 2 years, the view has been expressed at high levels among the Quakers, that the principle of non violence must take second place if it means siding with oppression (read Israel).

  3. amie, thanks for your comments.

    I am working from the “name and shame” premise by which I shall continue to point up Quaker hypocrisy.

    Individual Quakers’ favourite get out statement, if any are questioned about why, for example, Quakers allow Islamist terror organisations to use their premises to spread Jew-hatred, and in this case actively support the spreading of that hatred under the guise of wanting peaceful coexistence, is that each Quaker meeting house is autonomous. This is of course nonsense and dishonest to boot and, as I have said above, unChristian. Pacifists they certainly aren’t when they support organisations which deal in death for Israeli Jews.

    “It’s nothing to do with me” is shameful. To bystand when outrages are committed is sinful.

  4. Excellent response, Medusa, but as others say, it will no doubt fall on deaf ears.

    Nevertheless, it is important to have a response like this, if only so that people like this can never claim that they did not know or had never heard the truth.

  5. Perhaps if someone lives near a Quaker community center, the letter should be printed and simply stuck to a notice board outside or failing that, to the door of the premises.

    Even trying to get the letter published in other less anti Israel Christian publications.

    I hesitate to use the word ‘progressive’ Christian organisations. But the letter might be made available to them too. Especially after the attack in Itamar which I am sure will be a sympathetic opening to use the careful language in the letter to attack/demolish the Quaker position.

  6. I wonder what the Quaker reaction would be to the unrepentant and defiant attitudes of the confessed murderers of the Fogel family who declared that they would have killed the other two children in the house had they known that they were there.

  7. Nothing the Brits do ever surprise me but here goes:

    Imagine, Quakers of Eurabia, just imagine that Israel should follow your good suggestions and fire over 200,000 Arab workers from Judea & Samaria who are working daily in Israel for their daily bread.
    How is that for fair reciprocal treatment of DBS?

    As for the legality of settlements, I suggest you go back to your history books before you pass judgement on legal matters. Why don’t you start by watching this video:

  8. I do not believe Quakers are force for good – so their latest shenanigans are of little suprise.

    btw another revolting Christian Aid advertorial (lavatorial?) in this morning’s Guardian. What is it with Christians – are they brain sick?

  9. amie

    “Meanwhile, the ZF continued to use Friends House for meetings…”

    Well the next meeting should be devoted to drafting a letter explaining why they aren’t going to pay, and why they won’t be using Friends House any more.

  10. Is the position of Quakers in the US the same? Does anyone know? Or is this unique to the UK sect?

  11. I am not an authority on the matter, yet even I know that no righteous Christian would ever advocate splitting Jerusalem.

    Shameful words from shameless bigots and that’s about it.

  12. Bob, these people are blinkered and their closed mindedness is a great disappointment to me.

    And yes, their self-righteous condemnation is so all consuming that they target only Israel and would probably blame Israel for the persecution of Arab Christians. Indeed they are in bed with the Sabeel revisionist theologians (take a deep breath and read all about them online) and, being brainless and vacuous- rather than open-minded, probably swallow its party line whole.

    Let’s face it, Israel-bashing is easy and unfortunately widespread. It takes moral courage to swim against the tide and speak out the truth that Quakers are so keen about.

  13. Quakers supporting the BDS read this and cry:

    Israeli economy grows 7.8% in Q4

    Gross domestic product sees significant rise in fourth quarter of 2010, while business sector’s GDP up 6.3% in second half of year. Exports climb 27.3%, imports up 34.7%

  14. How about sending this report to the Quakers directly from the ass’ mouth:

    PCBS research showed that 38.3 percent of the workforce was employed in the service sector, with 19.3 percent in commerce, hotels and restaurants, 14.2 percent in illegal West Bank settlements — up from 13.9 percent in 2009 — and 24 percent in the public sector.

    Average daily wages for settlement workers were 150 shekels ($44) per day, compared to 76.9 ($22) in the West Bank and 46.2 ($13.50) in Gaza, the latest research showed.

  15. I suspect that The Quakers are not happy with Israeli assertiveness. They feel much more at home with humiliated Jews apologizing for existing.

    It really goes back to the medieval concept of Jews being forever cursed for ‘god-killing’.

    The Catholics are getting past it.

    Not the Quakers.

  16. The letter to the Quakers paints a picture of the situation in the West Bank that is contrary to that of virtually every national government and international organisation worldwide. Even the US calls the settlements illegitimate. Apart from Israel and the US, the four countries that vote in favour of the Israeli perspective in the UN are all tiny Pacific states dependent on US aid, with a total population less than 20% of Tel Aviv.

    No, the Quakers have got it right and when a non-confrontational, pacifist group such as the Quakers makes such a decision, you really ought to take notice.

    • The Quakers like many deluded others must sleep not on water beds but on oil deposits.

      Why do they support terrorism and Muslim Arab land conquest, not to mention the annihilation of Jews?

      That is what “Palestine” is all about.

      • The delusion isn’t really simple. There’s a strand directly from Hitler. There’s a strand from the oil-hungry Western (and now Eastern) countries.
        There’s the Arab fantasia interweaving with the rest. There is communism and jihadism. And good old Jew-hatred.

        Fancy “peaceful” Quakers supporting all that and helping to sacrifice Jews.

  17. The Quakers linked directly to Hitler and Jew-hatred? Ariadne, on a credibility scale from 1 to 100, that scores minus 1000.