Wednesday, November 25, 2015

When Friends Are Not Friends - Quakers and Israel

My mother often told me of her childhood in Jerusalem during the 1920's and 1930's.

On Shabbos (Sabbath) she would walk to the nearby Western Wall of the Temple Mount to pray. Several generations of my Ultra-Orthodox family lived in and around the Old City of Jerusalem, on both sides of what would become the temporary boundary when the Jordanians and Israelis divided Jerusalem after the 1948 War. In fact, my mother lived in the vicinity of one of the "Gates" of the Old City of Jerusalem.

During and after the 1948 War, many Arab and Jewish refugees, who had lived on what was now the "wrong" side for their ethnic group, were pressured in various ways to leave and move to the other side of Jerusalem (East or West). Though there were Arabs who were able to stay in West Jerusalem, the Jordanians forced all Jews out of East Jerusalem. A fortified and armed barrier was created between East and West Jerusalem.

We had had family and friends on both sides of this new border. My great-grandfather had been buried in 1943 in Mt. of Olives Jewish cemetery, a more than 3,000 year old burial site, but because of the new border, after 1948 we were not able to visit his grave. In fact his grave was desecrated during the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem from 1948 -1967 (along with many other Jewish graves on Mt. of Olives); tombstones and sarcophagus material was removed and some of the materials from desecrated graves were used by the Jordanians for roadwork, building toilets and worse. After 1967, when my family had access to this grave again, we repaired what was destroyed at my great-grandfather's grave. (In this new millennia, my mother is also buried on Mt. of Olives near her grandfather's grave.)

During this period the Quaker American Friends Service  Committee choose to work with the Arab refugees and choose not to work with the Jewish refugees. This is what I was aware of while growing up. I had not investigated this further until recently.

Recently I was sent various materials, including the following additional information about the American Friends Service Committee:

"The Quakers, No Friends of Israel"

"American religious history is filled with examples of faiths whose public perceptions defy deeper realities. The Quakers, for instance, are known as peaceful and supremely benign. Few suspect that one central mission is promoting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (or BDS) movement that opposes Israel's existence.....

 (as I noted above, the Quakers worked with the Arab refugees in Jerusalem and also elsewhere in 1948  through the 1950's.)

The Quakers began to take a fervently pro-Palestinian stance in later decades. In 1973 the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) called for a U.S. embargo on arms and other aid to Israel, and in 1975 adopted "a formal decision to make the Middle East its major issue." It opened an office in Israel, installed specialized staff members at offices in the U.S., and began advocating for Palestinians in Israeli and international courts. The AFSC treads dangerously close to outright anti-Semitism and "replacement theology," the idea that Palestinians were the "new Jews," displaced and downtrodden."

For the rest of this author's article see his website:

What is so?