Quakers, Ferguson and Palestinians

The twisted myth of a "common struggle."

Pro-Palestinian protesters take part in a demonstration against the violence in the Gaza strip, in LyonThe multimillion dollar American Friends Service Committee, with offices in several dozen U.S. cities and 14 other countries, is the nearly century old political advocacy arm of Quakers in the U.S. Rooted in the Quaker pacifist tradition, AFSC advocates a form of "peace" that has aligned it with countless dubious international causes over the decades, usually anti-American, anti-Western and often anti-Israel.

AFSC touts accommodation of Iran, for example, naturally more concerned about U.S. or Israeli military action than about a nuclear armed Iran. And AFSC endorses Palestinian nationalism in ways that of course demonize Israel while minimizing Palestinian terror.

But AFSC offered a somewhat new twist when recently highlighting a young Palestinian-American activist's solidarity visit to, and arrest in, racially charged Ferguson, Missouri.

"When Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson my people in Gaza were being slaughtered by Israel in Operation Protective Edge," explained Bassem Masri on AFSC's blog.

"The timing of the two events woke up a lot of people. When Mike was killed, much of the media started demonizing him and the protestors, often the same sources that blamed Palestinians for their own deaths in Gaza. People naturally saw the connections."

Masri, a self-described “pissed off citizen," said Americans have long "maligned" the Palestinian struggle for liberation, but at least the people of Ferguson now understand their common struggle.

"On those terrible nights in Ferguson when the police were attacking peaceful civilians with tear gas, Palestinians under Israeli occupation offered advice on how to deal with the effects of the gas," Masri recounted.

"Facing violence from an occupying force, whether in Palestine or Ferguson, forges a mindset that demands resistance and standing up for one’s community. When the police used military tanks and checkpoints to imprison the residents of Ferguson, I was reminded of life in the West Bank where I saw the Israeli military use the same tactics of repression."

Masri said while in Ferguson for protests he's been "tear gassed, shot at with rubber bullets, and physically assaulted by the police" before his eventual imprisonment and "interrogation," apparently just like his kindred on the West Bank. The commonality between the the two similar oppressions, he concluded, is clear: racism.

Arrested at a Walmart with a dozen other demonstrators, Masri was, unlike others, jailed over night, for having spat at a police officer. He denied the charge, admitting that he "curses and levels vulgar insults at police officers," as evidently confirmed proudly on his own film, but no spitting. According to him, the police contrived the charge so as to browbeat him into becoming their "collaborator" against fellow resistance fighters, which naturally he bravely declined.

No doubt Masri enjoys the street theater, and no doubt the chronically aggrieved AFSC was moved by the shared struggles of Ferguson and the West Bank.  The ostensible Israeli repressions of Palestinians are virtually the only form of human rights abuses that typically interest Religious Left outlets like AFSC. But if the West Bank is egregiously suffering, it was not illustrated by a Pew Research global survey of health and happiness in various countries, including the Palestinian Territories that released only days after Masri's vivid report for AFSC.

According to the Pew study, Palestinians see themselves as better off compared to five years ago at higher rates than do other Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. Forty three percent of Palestinians said they were better, compared to 36 percent of Tunisians. Palestinians also reported higher satisfaction with their health, safety, education, standard of living and jobs than did Jordanians and Egyptians. Twice as many Palestinians reported overall happiness than did Jordanians, and Palestinians were nearly four times likelier to be happy than Egyptians. They were one third likelier to be happy than Tunisians.

None of which proves or even suggests that the Palestinians are living in Nirvana. But living standards and quality of life are better on the West Bank than in much of the developing world. Palestinians receive more international aid per capita than almost any other people group. There also likely are per capita more international human rights monitors among the Palestinians, from anti-Israel groups like AFSC, than almost anywhere else in the world.

Unsurprisingly, the AFSC blog, for which Masri wrote, features a special "Israel/Palestine" section, an honor not accorded to any other region. For the Religious Left, Israeli infractions against Palestinians merit very special attention.

Masri's and AFSC's correlation of Israeli oppression with oppression in Ferguson fits the Religious Left narrative that Israel and America are uniquely set apart in their moral failures. As Masri explained:

"Our goal is to dismantle apartheid regimes wherever they exist. That is the most important link between Palestine and Ferguson, and it is the link that will make both struggles stronger."

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