US Quakers back BDS, anti-IDF groups

American Friends Service Committee boasts of challenging Israeli militarism.

Hillel Fendel,

Peter Lems of the American Friends Service Committee
Peter Lems of the American Friends Service Committee

Contrary to the popularly accepted Quaker image as lovers of peace, the Quaker movement continues to take positions that distance both Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land from each other and from the longed-for goal of peace. With barely a word of condemnation of Hamas and Fatah terrorism, but with across-the-board blame for Israeli "militarism," the Quakers' activities, wittingly or not, encourage Palestinian terrorists to believe that their goal of destroying Israel is near.

Even within Israel, various Quaker organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) continue their anti-Israel activism.

They were there in the spring of 2015, for instance, to cheer on 18-year-old Ido Ramon as he was about to begin a jail sentence for refusing to serve in the IDF. The organization's program coordinator in Israel is Sahar Vardi, who herself served three prison sentences for refusing to serve in Israel's Defense Forces.

AFSC also seeks to encourage young Druze soldiers not to serve in the IDF, thus unraveling the delicate ties that bond this ethnic group with Israeli society. AFSC works with a small group called "The Druze Initiative Task Force" to this end, and recently bragged of four young Druze men who had decided not to join the IDF.

The AFSC is also a strong supporter of the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, a loose coalition of anti-Israel groups seeking to cripple the Israeli economy. In the summer of 2013, AFSC and others sponsored a five-day event in New York State, where campus activists and organizers were trained in promoting BDS.

Through its Israel Program, AFSC says it "tries to create spaces where activists can challenge occupation, oppression, and inequality. These young Israelis become more aware of the effect of militarism on their lives and are ready to challenge it."

Another Quaker organization that seeks to demonize only Israel is Quakers With a Concern for Palestine-Israel. It, too, boasts of its support for BDS, and issues invitations for tours to "experience the checkpoints, see the refugee camps, meet with Palestinians living under occupation…"

AFSC works with several partners in Israel, including Orfud, which means in Arabic, "Refuse!" Orfud seeks not only to aid young men who refuse military service in the IDF, but also to encourage others not to serve.

Despite AFSC's extremem pacifist positions and calls for Israel's "de-militarization," similar calls to Hamas and Fatah terrorists to refuse to "serve" cannot be found on its website.

Asked to comment, AFSC responded to the weekly Israeli publication Shvi'i and said, inter alia, "AFSC supports individuals and groups throughout the world who work for peaceful change in societies, and to find ways to challenge militaristic responses in conflicts. In Israel, AFSC proposes help to organizations that provide support and help to those who have decided to refuse army service…"