Letters - 27 November 2015

From 'the other' to Paris

The ‘other’

I am very grateful for Ian Kirk-Smith’s constructive Thought for the Week (20 November) following the tragic events in Paris. It is in vivid contrast to Colin Nevin’s polarising and deeply negative letter (20 November), which heightens our fear of ‘the other’ and can only encourage sectarianism. However deeply we sympathise with the continuing and genuine plight of innocent Israeli citizens, we cannot forget the agony of their Palestinian counterparts. The blame game works from both perspectives. ‘Whataboutery’ is a term well-known in Northern Ireland: whenever we deplore an atrocity perpetrated by X on Y, we inevitably invite a ‘what about’ reminder of a previous crime perpetrated by Y on X. That can only lead to a never-ending spiral of self-justification, intensifying division.

Our contribution can only be small, but I prefer to focus on Ian’s advice: ‘while condemning evil, to confront ignorance and promote understanding.’ We are called by our Quaker faith to seek out and support that of God, which we know is there to be found. To expect the worst and seek actively to build up barriers is a counsel of despair. We need to put our limited energies into seeking the common ground.

Janet Quilley


I was interested to read in Sabina Tzikas’ report about the conference on interfaith peacebuilding (16 October) that Jane Clements, the director of the Council of Christians and Jews, spoke of the ‘worsening of relations between Quakers and the Jewish community’. She said further that there had been ‘a loss of reputation for peacebuilding, but this can be regained’. However, our long-standing reputation for peacebuilding may be irreparably damaged, especially as we continue to endorse the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. Some of the leaders of the movement, like Omar Barghouti, say frankly that their object is to eradicate Israel.

He is reported to have said recently to Yale students: ‘If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine’.

This misguided policy, in my opinion, calls all our other work into question. We claim to work for peace, but at one or two removes, it could be argued that we support terrorists. If we haven’t noticed the connection, many others have.

Sarah Lawson

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.