Quaker Group Under Fire from Two Major Jewish Organizations

Two major national Jewish organizations castigated the American Friends Service Commitee (AFSC) for urging the United States to scrap the May 17, 1983 Lebanese-Israeli security and withdrawal agreement because, two Middle East representatives of the AFSC told a press conference in New York last week, “Syria would never agree to the establishment of normalization of relations between Lebanon and Israel.”

The two organizations, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Committee, also criticized the Quaker group for calling on the U.S. to open a dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization. (See full story January II News Bulletin.)

Abraham Foxman, ADL’s associate national director and head of its international affairs division stated in a letter to Stephen Cary, AFSC chairman, that “It is most disturbing, and ironic, that the call to cancel an agreement that establishes peace between countries should come from an organization which identifies itself, and is identified with, the cause of peace.”

SIGNIFICANCE OF MAY 17 ACCORD

Foxman stated that the Israel-Lebanon agreement “represents a further stage in the ongoing process of Arab recognition of Israel’s right to live in peace. This process began with Egypt, continues with Lebanon, and must be encouraged and broadened in the future to include other would-be Arab peacemakers. indeed, those in the Arab world who wish to end the bloodshed and seek peaceful relations with the Jewish State might be emboldened to come forward if they see other Arab states doing so.

“Should we than allow the Syrians to have a stranglehold on the sovereign will of peace-seeking states and a veto on the peace-making process? Are we not allowing them to use us to perpetuate their rejectionism when we cave in to their sabotage, their threats, and their intimidation?”

‘APPALLED’ AND ‘DISTURBED’ BY STATEMENTS

Dr. George Gruen, the AJCommittee’s Middle East affairs director, stated that “One would have expected that representatives of the Quakers, a movement noted for its devotion to peace and the pacific settlement of disputes, would have encouraged the step forward toward a more comprehensive Arab-Israel peace represented by the Lebanese-Israeli agreement …. We would have expected the AFSC to use its moral suasion and political influence to attempt to convince Syria to agree to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, as has been repeatedly requested by the Lebanese government, and to stop obstructing the peace process.”

Gruen also said that the AJCommittee was “appalled” and “disturbed” that the two AFSC representatives called for the U.S. to open a dialogue with the PLO.

“If the AFSC means what it says when it declares that it wholeheartedly’ supports ‘Israel’s right to live within secure boundaries’, then it should endorse the official U.S. position that the PLO has no place in Middle East peace discussions as long as the PLO engages in terror and refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, as called for by UN Security Council Resolution 242, which is the basis of American peace efforts,” Gruen stated.

In his letter to Cary, Foxman also declared: “When peace-oriented organizations are perceived to support the policies of those who seek to undermine Middle East peace they bring respectibility and strength to those rejectionists. It also sends them precisely the wrong message: that rejectionism will be tolerated and will, in fact, be catered to, even by those identified with the very cause of peace and moderation. This, in turn, encourages them to continue their rejectionism.”

Foxman added: “One would have hoped that your Middle East representatives would call on Syria to reverse its policy of rejecting peace and welcome the Egyptian-Israeli and Lebanon-Israeli accords. One would have expected AFSC to tell the Syrians clearly that there can be no compromise on peaceful coexistence with Israel.”

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