The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s recent screening of Rachel, commemorating the young anti-Israeli activist Rachel Corrie who was accidentally killed by a bulldozer while trying to disrupt an Israeli security operation, sparked a bitter controversy. It was no surprise that one of the two organizations that co-presented the film (the other was the far-Left Jewish Voice for Peace) was the American Friends Service Committee, which has a record of anti-Israeli activism.
AFSC, founded by Quakers as a pacifist organization back in 1917, claims it is “committed to the principles of nonviolence and justice” and believes in “the transforming power of love, human and divine.” Already in the 1920s, the best way the AFSC could find to express these ideals was through pro-Communist activism, and a Quaker author recalled that in the 1930s the organization “refused publicly to criticize the Soviet Union because building up cultural and personal contacts seemed the only way open to defuse hostilities.”
By the 1970s such proclivities still hadn’t waned, with the head of AFSC’s Indochina program praising Cambodia’s Pol Pot regime as “the example of an alternative model of development and social organization.” Even after the genocide in Cambodia was well known, “AFSC also distributed a printed defense of the Khmer Rouge….” Needless to say, throughout these decades and up to the present AFSC has considered the world’s worst malefactor to be the United States, pushing for its unilateral disarmament.
With this record of political perspicacity behind it, in recent decades AFSC has naturally also zeroed in on the “Little Satan”—Israel. AFSC’s own website features “Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” as one of its main categories, and among much else on that subject, it offers a “Palestine-Israel Timeline.” There one learns that Israel is the cruel, rapacious bully of its region.
In 1956 “Suez War begins when Israel, supported by Britain and France, attacks Egypt”; no mention at all of the years of Egyptian-supported terrorism taking hundreds of Israeli lives, or Egypt’s sealing access to Israel’s port of Eilat, that led to the “attack.” In 1967 “June (Six Day) War begins when Israel attacks Egypt, claiming it is acting preemptively”—as if the tricky Israelis fabricated this claim to grab more land; in 1981“Israel attacks Iraqi nuclear reactor”—no mention at all of the existential threat it posed to Israel—and so on. The “Great Satan” doesn’t do much better; in 1991 “U.S.-led coalition defeats Iraq”—no mention at all of that little matter of Kuwait.
By 2001 “Palestinian hard-liners continue suicide bombings against Israeli military and civilians; Israeli forces increase ‘targeted killings’ (assassinations) of Palestinians and armed incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas;…” The scare quotes convey that the term “targeted killings” is just another piece of Israeli trickiness, a verbal evasion for assassinating “Palestinians” (no mention that they were terror masters); and the suicide bombings are perpetrated by “hard-liners” while it is mainstream Israeli “forces” that commit the Israeli misdeeds.
Could the Israeli men, women, and children slaughtered in the suicide bombings—in the wake of Israel’s offer to the Palestinians of a state at Camp David—just have been victims of aggression? Could the Israeli forces just have been trying to succor them? In the AFSC worldview, never; Israel is nefarious to the core and always the source of harm.
Hence AFSC’s various endeavors against Israel. It sends activists to Gaza to help alleviate the alleged “siege” there, but you will search its website in vain for a reference to thousands of rockets falling on Israeli civilians; the “transforming power of love” doesn’t seem to stretch that far. AFSC urges visitors at the site to write to their legislators to endorse former president Carter’s book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid—even though that book was widely denounced by Jews and others of varying political persuasions for its naked anti-Israeli bias.
AFSC also devotes a page to “Israeli conscious objectors”—or that small fraction of Israelis who find themselves too moral to take part in defending the country. AFSC says it “is now working to create an international solidarity network” for these objectors, and it links to a page calling for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel. Needless to say, you’ll search forever to find AFSC calling for an end to U.S. military aid to, say, Egypt, Jordan, or the Palestinian Authority. Does AFSC really think a disarmed Israel would thrive in the Middle East, or does it want to see the bully eliminated once and for all?
That an ostensibly pacifist impulse gets twisted into antipathy to decent countries, and warm sympathy for horrific human rights abusers from Stalin’s Soviet Union to the Khmer Rouge to Palestinian terror, is a strange thing. That such an organization is given a role in a “Jewish film festival,” despite its obsessive slander and subversion against the Jewish state, is even stranger.