When the former officers of the Holy Land Foundation who had served as Hamas’ fundraising arm went before the US Court of Appeals– there weren’t many organizations willing to file an Amicus brief. But the American Friends Service Committeewas first among them.
The American Friends Service Committee had good reason to be worried. It had worked with Life for Relief and Development, an Islamic charity also accused of being a Hamas front. Its concern over the criminal prosecution of charities that passed money along to terrorists was even more pressing because it has a substantial presence in Hamas-run Gaza.
When Israel stopped the blockade running Gaza flotilla, the AFSC statement in response said that the “continuing refusal by the U.S. to deal with the winners of this election [Hamas] has led to a tightening of the blockade” and urged, “the U.S. government to reverse its support for this flawed, failed policy approach and take all effective steps to end Gaza’s isolation.”
Dealing with the winners of the election would mean dealing with Hamas, but that was no obstacle for the AFSC, whose General Secretary, Mary Ellen McNish, had no doubt discussed this policy when she visited Hamas’ backer in Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In the United States, the AFSC is a familiar presence alongside the usual Marxist and Islamist groups on posters advertising anti-American and anti-Israel rallies. While its bulletins still make some effort to mention “non-violence” in all the right places as a tribute to the group’s pacifist roots, it is enmeshed with violent and totalitarian groups.
The AFSC’s unnatural interest in Israel goes back to the devil’s bargain that Quakers made to keep their institutions operating in the face of Islamic pressure, replacing their American and European officials with locals at the time of Israeli statehood and the war that followed. This takeover of Quaker institutions tipped them into the terrorist camp. The bigoted revolutionaries who now headed them up were Quakers in name only. Their inner identity was allied with the terrorist campaign against Israel.
Khalil Totah, the head of the local Friends school in Ramallah, toured America and the UK at that time calling for an end to Jewish immigration and the destruction of the embryonic Jewish state. Totah had been described as the most active member of the Washington Arab Office, an organization that the Anti-Nazi League claimed was under the control of the Mufti of Jerusalem– an ally of Hitler.
At the time, Totah was more radical than the AFSC leaders he encountered. But the AFSC today denounces Israel at every opportunity, demands an end to the embargo of Hamas run Gaza, and under the influence of its radical Pacific Mountain Region wing is approaching a total boycott of Israel. The AFSC’s name has already appeared on flyers calling for a boycott of Israel and the AFSC lists events staged by the boycott, divest, and sanctions movement on its site.
While the AFSC makes a fetish of Quaker values of nonviolence, it has always been an arm of the left. Long ago its political alliances on the left transformed the AFSC into fellow travelers of the Communist Party. When the AFSC appears on posters alongside the Workers World Party, it’s no different than the old tiesbetween the AFSC and the Communist Party of the United States.
The AFSC’s road to legitimizing terrorist violence traveled a convoluted route. What began as y dogmatic pacifism that denied war was ever the answer, leading the AFSC to conduct an anti-war campaign during WW2, became a more nuanced refusal to condemn what the left considered to be the violence of the oppressed.
By the 1970′s, the American Friends Service Committee had legitimized terrorism and discarded the veneer of non-violence. In a pamphlet titled, “Non-Violence: Not First For Export”, leading AFSC figure, James E. Bristol wrote, “before we deplore terrorism, it is essential for us to recognize whose ‘terrorism’ came first.”
With that the AFSC adopted the position of the far-left, privileging violence depending on its origin, and terminating the moral authority of its pacifism. The program laid out in that pamphlet treated non-violence not as a universal mandate, but as a weapon to be directed against the United States and its allies: “Instead of trying to devise nonviolent strategy and tactics for revolutionaries in other lands, we will bend every effort to defuse militarism in our own land and to secure the withdrawal of American economic investment in oppressive regimes in other parts of the world.”
The AFSC had started out as an anti-war organization, but Bristol used Marxist doctrine to redefine the status quo as a form of violence and terrorism as the survival reflex of people who have no choice but to resist the status quo. The victims of violence had become the perpetrators and the perpetrators had become the victims.
Under this formula, the existence of Israel is a form of violence. Even by passively existing, the Israeli walking down the street is carrying out a violent act. An Israeli girl in a café in Sderot is guiltier than a Hamas terrorist pulling the trigger, because as part of the status quo, she is an oppressor, while the terrorist is a resistance fighter.
The corruption of Quaker values into left wing radicalism defines the AFSC. Like the radicals who took over its Arab institutions, it is now Quaker in name only. And its commitment to non-violence also exists in name only. Its dark path from true nonviolence has led it to a war against Israel.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.