Established during World War I for pacifists seeking an alternative to serving in the military, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) quickly became a leading organization for helping refugees around the world. Now it is a major advocate for boycotts of Israel. Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander Joffe explain how it changed its focus:
[AFSC’s] Quaker theology has . . . gone from emphasis on the “inner light” that guides individual conscience to something like old-fashioned Christian supersessionism, according to which Jews deserve to be hated [because they rejected Jesus and thus lost their claim to be God’s chosen people]. The result is that the organization is now effectively captive to progressive Israel-hatred. . . .
The shift began when the AFSC was invited by the United Nations to run Palestinian refugee relief in Gaza in late 1948. Quakers had been in the Holy Land for over a century, running schools and hospitals for local Christians. But the refugee program was a turning point. Relief workers had never encountered refugees who did not want to be taught new skills or to be resettled elsewhere, only to be maintained at someone else’s expense until Israel disappeared. . . . The Gaza experience—where in fact the AFSC excelled at providing relief and creating infrastructure, despite resistance from the refugees themselves—was enough to convince the leadership to get out of the relief business altogether.
At the same time, a faction of the organization’s leadership advocated a radical pacifist, and anti-American, agenda, aimed at nuclear disarmament and elevating the status of the Soviet Union and Communist China. . . . Support for Saddam Hussein and North Korea quickly followed. . . . After 1967, the AFSC escalated its involvement [in the Israel-Palestinian conflict], beginning with quasi-theological criticism of Israel, acting as the PLO’s legal representatives in Jerusalem during the 1970s, and conducting “interfaith” events at which American Jews were shamed for supporting Israel. . . . These policies are reflected in the educational curriculum of Quaker schools across the country, but most of all in the AFSC’s leading role in the BDS movement. . . .
Many Jewish parents are attracted to Quaker schools, which seek to instill values mistakenly believed to be analogous to those of Judaism, especially since the Quakers and their schools have enshrined “social justice” as a guiding principle. This is misleading. . . . Jewish parents must decide whether Jewish values and Quaker values, as they exist today, are really the same.
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