By Stephen Schulman
I entered your site of the British Quakers, the Society of Friends and was impressed by your clearly stated aims of “justice, equality and peace” and your exhortation for “spiritual exploration“. These concepts are most noble and laudatory and should be adopted by us all, no matter what our denominations.
Whilst perusing the site, I also read of your call to divest from all companies “that profit from the occupation of Palestine”, in other words, knowingly or not, to be part of and encourage others to join the BDS movement that openly seeks to vilify, demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel. You also place the State of Israel on a time continuum that links it with Apartheid South Africa and as far back as the slave trade.
Now, as a citizen of Israel, not being a member of your Society of Friends and consequently not being endowed with your heightened morality and your vaunted keen sense of “justice, equality and peace” that proudly flutters on your banner, I wish to, if I may, speak plainly to point out some pertinent facts and ask you some relevant questions to which I would greatly appreciate answers.
Firstly, your equation of the actions of the Israeli government and its citizens with those of Apartheid South Africa and the slave trade is inaccurate, misleading, inept, repugnant and odious. As a citizen of the only democratic state in the Middle East and while having my own criticism of certain of my government’s policies, I find it simplistic in the extreme that you think by your call to divestment, that this will end a conflict in this region, particularly where you indulge in double standards by focusing on and judging Israel while blithely ignoring its mortal enemies.
If you recall, following the victory in the Six Day War in 1967 when its enemies persevered to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the map and Israel responded by offering to return the territories conquered in return for a peace treaty, the Arab reply was unambiguous:
“No recognition and no negotiations and no peace“.
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2008 with the hope that its newly gained autonomy would lead it to develop its economy, improve the life of its inhabitants and lead a peaceful coexistence.
Unfortunately, the opposite occurred!
All the agricultural infrastructure that would have been of benefit to its inhabitants was rapidly dismantled and the extremist Islamist party, Hamas – an internationally recognized terror organization – with its clear ant-Semitic, terrorist and genocidal agenda – was voted in. The results are plain to see. The billions of dollars donated by the EU, Britain included, intended for schools, hospitals, housing and infrastructure, have been spent on armaments and the digging of tunnels into Israel. Thousands of rockets with the ultimate aim of killing and maiming Israeli civilians have rained down on my country. Democracy has been extinguished with critics hunted and brutally silenced and religious minorities persecuted.
In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority encourages terrorism by paying a generous monthly salary to terrorists in Israeli prisons. This ‘Pay for Slay’ policy that entails huge sums of money and is funded by the EU and your government that annually pour billions into the bottomless hole of the Palestinian Authority’s coffers – an administration notorious for its corruption and silencing of critics.
In the light of these facts, your simplistic panacea of simply blaming Israel for the ills in the region by its “military occupation” is patently untenable. Will Israel’s complete withdrawal from the West Bank put an end to Arab terrorism and engender its neighbours’ desire to recognize its existence and live in peaceful coexistence? Will Hamas and Hezbollah lay aside their weapons and beat their swords into plowshares? Will the Palestinian Authority cease all its anti-Semitic indoctrination?
Why have you not in the name of justice, equality and peace, condemned all the terrorist attacks in my country?
I can only surmise that the silence of your on-line site serves as testimony to the double set of British Quakers’ values.
Turkey in the 1970’s – in clear violation of international law – invaded Cyprus dispossessing and expelling many Greek Cypriots from their homes and permanently dividing the island into two with a wall of barbed wire.
Has this unjust military occupation perhaps escaped your notice?
Under Erdogan, Turkey has one of the worst human rights records, jailing putative opponents, discriminating against Christians and persecuting their missionaries, conducting a massive purge of the military and civil service that would have done Stalin proud and waging a merciless war against the Kurds. Lest we forget, Turkey has vociferously denied its role in the ‘Armenian Genocide’ and has helped prop up the despicable regime of Basher Assad in Syria.
Have you called for divestment from Turkey and those that trade with it?
In Syria, the vicious regime of Basher Assad, using all means possible including devastating cities and using poison gas, has slaughtered over half-a-million of its citizens and forced millions more to flee for their lives. The death toll rises daily.
In the name of peace and justice, why have you been silent?
Why haven’t you called for divestment from Syria and all the countries that support and trade with that murderous regime?
With its rich experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya, Assad’s henchman Russia, has increased its military presence in Syria aiding and abetting that murderous regime and playing an active part in the bombing of innocent civilians.
Have you called for divestment in companies dealing with Russia?
Iran, which openly declares its policy to obliterate the State of Israel, trains, supplies arms and funds its proxies towards that aim – Hamas and Hezbollah. It promotes Holocaust denial and unashamedly hosts an annual cartoon competition mocking the tragedy. On the home front it suppresses human rights, indiscriminately jailing and torturing all those who have dared to raise their voices. Amongst its other doings, it has viciously persecuted the Bahá’í faith.
Whilst clandestinely pursuing its nuclear programme, the Revolutionary Guard continues to spread terror beyond its borders including actively aiding the regime of Assad.
Has your organization called to divest from firms dealing with this international pariah?
China invaded and annexed Tibet, imposing its own bogus Llama and flooding it with Chinese settlers. It is presently “re-educating” over a million Muslims and is viciously persecuting the Falun Gong sect, incarcerating, torturing and murdering its members who have proved a source for organ harvesting. The country has a huge penal gulag that arbitrarily imprisons after fixed trials. Its actions fly in the face of all that is ethical.
Have you ever protested? Have you called for divestment? Have you raised your voices at all?
The term “Apartheid” has been so widely bandied about by all and sundry that it has lost its original meaning which was a state legislated and executed policy of discrimination against a group of its citizens, denying them basic rights and services, barring them from residence in certain areas and practicing certain professions. Palestinians in Lebanon are barred from 36 legal or syndicated professions, prohibited from acquiring or inheriting property and restricted to refugee camps. Recently, a three-year-old Palestinian child died when a Lebanese hospital refused to receive him.
Is this not Apartheid? Does this not recall the notorious Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany? Society of Friends, where is your concern for the Palestinians’ welfare? Where are your protests? Where is your action?
The plight of your fellow Christians in Muslim lands is a dire one with many living in fear of their lives and forced to convert to Islam. There is Christian genocide in Nigeria with Boko Haram and other related groups burning churches, slaughtering believers and kidnapping young girls who are then forcibly converted and married off. Copts in Egypt fare badly with churches bombed, congregants discriminated against and murdered whilst many local authorities turn a blind eye. Since the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians have been abducted, enslaved, raped and slaughtered, sometimes by crucifixion.
The city of Bethlehem once had a thriving Christian population and a Christian mayor. Since the Israeli withdrawal in 2001, the former Christian majority has shrunk to a minority as many have left. It is pretty simple to draw the conclusion!
Quakers of England, your official site that voices your policies and activities is conspicuously devoid of any mention of your fellow Christian’s persecution.
Where is your compassion? Where is your charity? Where is your love? Where is your morality? Where is your conscience?
Sudan engages in systematic persecution of Christians while Pakistan is notorious for its virulence. Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five has been incarcerated for ten years under appalling conditions after having been falsely accused of blasphemy. During this period, this brave lady has faithfully and tenaciously adhered to her faith and despite all dire threats and coercions, refused to convert to Islam. Due to her religious persuasion, her word carries no weight against that of her Moslem accusers. She has now been acquitted but the mobs are howling for her death. It is no secret what fate awaits her and her family on her release from prison!
Great Britain charitably extended its hand to Muslim Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani activist and youngest Nobel Prize Lauriette after she was shot and gravely wounded by the Taliban in retaliation for her campaigning for female education. While Malala was medically treated and granted asylum to live in the UK, it was not so charitable in the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 but recently acquitted on appeal “due to lack of evidence.” Bibi is prevented from leaving Pakistan until the verdict is again reviewed – a process that can take years.
While having granted asylum to Muslim Malala, Great Britain shamefully denied asylum to the equally courageous and deserving Christian Asia on the grounds that it “will upset community relations.”.” Simply put, your once proud country has committed a disgraceful act of political expediency.
Have British Quakers campaigned for this heroic soul or publicly decried this outrage against all common decency?
In your own backyard, Jeremy Corbyn has elevated his anti-Semitism to main stream politics and made it socially acceptable. Roger Waters is virulently anti-Semitic and continues on his unabated tirades. Acts against Jewish communities and citizens is on the rise.
Where are your voices for social equality and justice?
I perceive only a mute silence.
Quakers of Britain – Society of friends, I accuse you of moral turpitude and of a double set of values. Jumping on the present ‘politically correct’ bandwagon, you seek only to single out and unfairly judge Israel and yet remain silent, willfully ignoring rampant global injustices.
Your site provides ample proof!
Not one voice of protest, not a bleat, not a squeak, not even a faint whimper! Your moral myopia and blinkered ethics speak volumes. Nevertheless, to salve your consciences, you choose to solely focus on the State of Israel, the sole country in the Middle East that practices democracy and enshrines freedom of religion.
You are well aware of this truth. The British Quakers have had a proud history of helping their fellow men – the involvement with saving children from the Nazis in the Kindertransport is a shining example.
However, this was in the past.
Today, I see you mouthing empty platitudes and detect the rank stench of hypocrisy. Your site carries your aims of “spiritual exploration”. I suggest that you carry out a thorough spiritual housecleaning and sweep the stables clean.
Society of Friends, I have levelled serious accusations against you. If I have erred in some, I shall willingly stand to be corrected. I look forward to receiving replies to my questions but if none are forthcoming, I shall understand you have no answers.
Ramat Hasharon, Israel
Stephen Schulman, is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. Stephen, who has a Master’s Degree in Education, was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.
4 thoughts on “Open Letter to British Quakers”
Please thank Mr Schulman for his concise and hard hitting letter to the Quakers. I would be interestedf to know if he gets any reply.
Dear Connie Azulay.
As for now we did not get a direct reply from the “Quakers in Britain” organization BUT it was noticed that after our publication was made, they removed their call for divestment in companies that deal with the “occupied territories” from their official on-line site.
excellent letter-keep up the good work
Your post is largely just a “tu quoque” argument. That Friends express concern about the treatment of Palestinians does not preclude us from expressing concerns about other abuses of human rights and decency elsewhere in the world. Many of us have deep concerns about all of the people and states you mentioned, including Israel.