Why would organizations like the ADL or the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) who at least claim to be human rights organizations, campaign to limit union democracy and non violent protest by demanding that UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles) cancel a class for teachers sponsored by the AFSC and a meeting to discuss nonviolent resistance to Israeli brutality such as boycotts, sanctions and divestiture? I mean, maybe concern for the actions of RADICAL groups (can you say, red baiting?) like the SDS or Cafe Intifada, but who can have a qualm with the Quakers? they’re like the teddy bears of the human rights world.
It’s the battle for narrative, Shut down the Quakers, and it all shuts down.
Then the Zionist shrills, the bull dogs for U.S. imperialism and Israeli colonialism, wrapped in the garb of human rights, can justify the continued oppression of the Palestinian people by maintaining a narrative that denies their existence in the first place. A class like the AFSC class provides essential information to teachers about all the varied cultures of the Middle East, including Palestine, and this is something the Museum of Tolerance’s (MOT) SWC, just can’t tolerate! Imagine if classrooms of school children, a fraction of those paraded through the MOT every year, indoctrinated in the Israeli narrative, might consider the humanity of the people on whose bones Israeli society is built? Imagine if classrooms of school children considered the humanity of the millions of people in the Middle East, including those dying under bombs built with tax payers money at the expense of education, health care, housing and other social programs in the U.S. Imagine the Israeli narrative, a mirrored version of the U.S. narrative of an empty land of savages/terrorists, settled by determined brave pioneers, venturing into the wilderness, in a territory of manifest destiny and divine ordination, having left oppression and persecution; challenged by the very real, very visible humanity of the Palestinians. Imagine if the lack of real democracy, the Jim Crow type separation, (housing, education, roads, neighborhoods) along with the apartheid/ reservation system of isolation, control and dependency masked as sovereignty, became apparent as part of a real pedagogy?
NO! don’t imagine! Defend the right to at the very least, present an alternative narrative to the narrow and obscure myths of Israeli divine providence. Demand the continued presentation of the historical record, of the diversity of culture, religion, values, beliefs of the peoples of a vast region, without needing the stamp of approval of an establishment of the ADL or the Simon Wiesenthal Center, those corporate funded neo-liberal bastions of censorship and hegemony who manipulate a history of suffering and the rhetoric of human rights in the service of empire!
AFSC Urges Wiesenthal Center to Show Tolerance
Press Release – October 11, 2006
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is deeply disturbed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s October 4th letter to United Teachers Los Angeles President A. J. Duffy and its press release of the same day entitled “Wiesenthal Center Urges UTLA President To Act Against Extremists’ Anti-Israel Campaign.” The Wiesenthal Center is urging UTLA to drop an AFSC-sponsored teacher workshop without reviewing the course content and without having expressed concerns to us or the faculty. Bringing unfounded accusations of bias and extremism against AFSC because we work with both Israeli and Palestinian groups seems inconsistent with the Wiesenthal Center’s commitment to tolerance, dignity and human rights.
AFSC, a Quaker organization, was a co-recipient of the 1947 Nobel Peace Price. In his presentation speech Gunnar Jahn, chair of the Nobel Committee, noted: “The Quakers have shown us that it is possible to carry into action … sympathy with others; the desire to help others.without regard to nationality or race; feelings which, when carried into deeds, must provide the foundations of a lasting peace.” We bring this same spirit to our Middle East Peace work today. Our staff embraces many different faith traditions, including Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Our staff in Jerusalem, Ramallah and throughout the US are dedicated to finding a peaceful, just resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The LAUSD-approved professional development course has been offered twice now as part of our effort to promote understanding and to challenge anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish attitudes by providing balanced, factual information about the history, economics, politics and culture of the Middle East. Oversight of the course rests with our Middle East Peace Education Program Committee which currently includes three Jewish members. At our invitation, a reporter from the The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and an observer from the Anti-Defamation League attended the course, sitting in on several sessions. We have received no complaints of bias from those who have first-hand experience with the course.
Tolerance surely begins with respectful dialogue and a commitment to be fair and accurate in representing those with whom we disagree. We ask the Wiesenthal Center to show tolerance for those who have come to a different conclusion about some of the thorny problems facing the region and to refrain from using lies, inaccuracies and innuendo to discredit an organization that has been actively working for peace in the Middle East since 1949. We ask the Wiesenthal Center to cease its efforts at censorship of this carefully reviewed and accredited course and to retract the misleading statement currently on its web site.
The American Friends Service Committee is an international peace and justice organization with a regional office in the downtown Los Angeles area. Founded in 1917 and governed by the Society of Friends (Quakers), its programs of peace, relief, reconciliation and development are based on non-violence and belief in the inherent goodness of all persons. In 1947, AFSC accepted the Noble Peace Prize on behalf of all Quakers worldwide.
View the Wiesenthal Center’s letter to UTLA President A. J. Duffy:
View the Wiesenthal Center’s statement:
Learn more about the AFSC’s Middle East Teacher Resource Project:
American Friends Service Committee
Pacific Southwest Regional Office
Please visit our national website to learn more about the AFSC: