Letters - 03 November 2023

From New wrongs to In classic Quaker style

New wrongs

As a woman of over eighty, who grew up in a Jewish family within a Jewish-American community, who lived in Iran under the shah and witnessed the Iranian revolution first-hand, who travelled in Afghanistan prior to the US withdrawal, who lived in Qatar during the Iraq-Iran war, who emigrated with her family to Great Britain at that time and eventually obtained citizenship, who joined a Quaker Meeting about fourteen years ago and fully believes in its commitment to peace and justice, and who currently belongs to both ‘Friends with Jewish Connections’ and ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’, I can sincerely say I am deeply aware of all sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. 

Although shocked and horrified by the recent Hamas attack on Israelis, and although in no way condoning it, I can understand it as a response to fifty years of the unjust, illegal and repressive occupation of Palestinian lands, including the annexation of Palestinian territory, the usurpation of water rights, the brutal demolitions of entire family homes, the severe restrictions of the movement of groups and of individuals – and more.

Yes, there has been erratic Palestinian terrorist violence during this time, but these attacks have lacked the vast resources and the clear backing of a recognised state.

Two wrongs do not make a right, and the wrongful encouragement by the US of a potentially-genocidal Israeli land invasion, on top of the already-inhumane Israeli cut-offs of water, power, and fuel, will devastate innocent Palestinian civilian lives and will enormously set back any viable (and greatly overdue) dialogue between reasonable representatives of both countries, along with international peacemakers of all persuasions. This horrendous war must be stopped.

Is it possible that our Quaker leaders and institutions could spearhead an urgent call for a ceasefire and for international negotiations leading to a long-term solution for peace?

Lois A Chaber

Old tropes

Barney Smith questions the term ‘Israelophobia’ (20 October) but the phenomenon is sadly apparent in Britain Yearly Meeting’s (BYM) 11 October statement on Israel-Palestine. 

In insisting that the latest violence ‘must be understood in the context of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine’, the statement contradicts our Peace Testimony by supplying justification for Hamas’ brutal attack on Israeli civilians.

The mainstream synagogues and Jewish bodies here in the UK are far too anguished right now to worry about Quakers, but from my work at the Anne Frank Trust UK I am in no doubt they would see BYM’s statement, like so much of our approach to Israel-Palestine, as rooted in tropes of Jews as rich, powerful and their own worst enemies. They have said this to us many times before.

If we persist in believing that we are unbiased, we are gaslighting them. 

When people of colour raise similar concerns about our anti-black racism, we fall over ourselves to listen and try to put things right (and of course we still have much to do in this area, too). We are a vivid example of the ‘Jews don’t count’ syndrome that is spelt out so tellingly in the book by comedian David Baddiel.

I pray that at least one tiny positive outcome of the heartbreaking situation in the Middle East may be that in the Religious Society of Friends we wake up to our institutional antisemitism.

Tim Robertson

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