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Quakers in the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict

Quakers in the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict: The Dilemmas of NGO Humanitarian Activism

Nancy Gallagher
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Quakers in the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict
    Book Description:

    The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has resulted in the longest-standing refugee crisis in the world today. Based on new archival research and interviews with surviving participants, this book considers one early effort to resolve that crisis while offering helpful lessons for current efforts at conflict resolution in the Middle East and elsewhere. When war broke out in Palestine in 1948, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker service organization, had just won the Nobel Peace Prize for its peacemaking endeavors and its service to war refugees during the Second World War. On the basis of that experience, the United Nations invited the highly visible AFSC to provide humanitarian relief to Arab refugees in Gaza. The AFSC also sent volunteers to work in Israel, where they hoped to serve both Arabs and Jews. Its long-term goal was repatriation of the refugees and conciliation and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. As eyewitnesses to some of the major events of the conflict, the AFSC volunteers came to understand it better than most outsiders at the time. By examining these early efforts at peacemaking and assistance, historian Nancy Gallagher has uncovered essential insights for today’s peacemakers, human rights activists, and humanitarian NGOs.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-376-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has played a prescient role in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict from its very first years—albeit behind the scenes. I first became aware of Quaker interest in the conflict when I came across a small book entitledSearch for Peace in the Middle East.¹ Members of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a service organization founded by Quakers, had written it, and it had been translated into many languages and widely read.² The authors had spent the year after the 1967 June War interviewing, listening to, and assessing the needs of persons on all...

  7. 1 Quaker Peacemaking in Theory and Practice
    (pp. 7-28)

    Since the seventeenth century, Quakers have undertaken humanitarian relief not only to relieve suffering without distinction of race or creed, but to reinforce the dignity of recipients and to help alleviate hostility between enemies. The Quaker approach to conflict resolution has entailed listening to grievances and, to avoid unnecessary publicity, working behind the scenes to foster communication between the hostile parties.17Quakers believe that there is something of God in everyone, that all people have the capacity for love and goodness, and that more can be accomplished by appealing to this capacity than by threatening punishment or retaliation. Accordingly, conflicts...

  8. 2 The 1948 Palestine War
    (pp. 29-60)

    Sporadic fighting began in Palestine immediately after the November 29, 1947 partition vote. In February 1948, with Palestine descending into warfare, Clarence Pickett and Rufus Jones met at Quaker House in New York to draw up a petition calling for a truce. The hope was that an appeal from religious leaders for a ‘Truce of God’ in Jerusalem might be a first step toward resolving the conflict peacefully. Jones drafted the following petition:

    Those of us whose names are listed below, representing some of the most important Christian groups over the world, have a profound love for the land of...

  9. 3 Catastrophe in Gaza
    (pp. 61-98)

    The district of Gaza in southern Palestine was a prosperous center of citrus and cereal cultivation, from which growers sent their crops to Jaffa, the main Palestinian port city, for export. The district’s capital, Gaza City, was a pleasant seaside town with approximately 80,000 inhabitants. Tourists visited Samson’s Tomb and purchased Gaza’s distinctive ceramic pots. During the Second World War, the British military had vast army bases stationed in Gaza but had abandoned them in 1948. When Zionist forces attacked towns and villages throughout southern Palestine, tens of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. Many sought...

  10. 4 Relief versus Repatriation
    (pp. 99-118)

    Three days after the official launch of the Gaza project, the AFSC held a ‘Palestine Meeting’ at Quaker House in New York to discuss the repatriation of the refugees. Clarence Pickett, Elmore Jackson, and James Read met with senior United Nations officials, Ralph Bunche, Andrew Cordier, and Colonel Alfred Katzin. Before the UN officials arrived, Pickett, who was about to depart for his two-month trip to the Middle East, mentioned to Jackson that he was worried that there was no official date of termination for the AFSC’s mission in Gaza. Jackson replied that August 31, 1949 was the understood termination...

  11. 5 The AFSC in Israel
    (pp. 119-144)

    In keeping with Quaker beliefs, the AFSC hoped to work with both sides in the conflict. The AFSC had dispatched three workers to Israel to distribute emergency relief under UN auspices and to work toward the rehabilitation and resettlement of both Arab and Jewish refugees. It had in fact been able to distribute some relief to Jewish prisoners of war and to Jewish orphans and immigrants, but the new Israeli government quickly assumed responsibility for aiding the Jewish refugees and asked the AFSC to distribute United Nations supplies to impoverished Arabs only.284Although for the AFSC the arrangement was not...

  12. 6 Nasser, Ben Gurion, and the Quakers
    (pp. 145-158)

    The Quakers had hoped that their grassroots efforts might result in unofficial diplomatic contacts. This appeared to be the case in 1955, when an Israeli diplomat approached the Quaker office at the United Nations and asked for help on behalf of some imprisoned Egyptian Jews whom the Egyptian government had convicted of spying. The Quakers duly appealed to Egyptian diplomats that justice be administered in such a way as to not increase tension in the Middle East. The Israeli delegation to the UN wrote a note of appreciation to the Quakers for their intervention on Israel’s behalf. Years later, however,...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 159-164)

    Before its involvement in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the American Friends Service Committee had delivered relief and political and moral assistance to hundreds of thousands of refugees in Europe and other parts of the world. At the same time, the AFSC had worked for peace with justice following the basic Quaker belief that there is “that of God in all people.” In the years before the Second World War, Quakers had journeyed to Berlin to meet with Nazi leaders in the hope that their visit might encourage Germans who were calling for disarmament. During the war, the AFSC became known...

  14. Glossary
    (pp. 165-166)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 167-180)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-188)
  17. Index
    (pp. 189-196)