Pacifist Aggressive: the Quaker echo chamber which empowers terrorism.

The decision taken in April 2011 by British members of the Religious Society of Friends – or Quakers, as they are perhaps better known – to officially join the BDS movement and engage in the boycotting of goods originating in certain parts of Israel brought the need for examination of this group’s activities into clearer focus. For several years, some British bloggers have been publicly asking for explanations regarding repeated incidents of the hiring out of Quaker-owned facilities in London and elsewhere in the UK to extremist groups with a less than pacifist ethos. Others have wondered at some of the funding decisions made by Quaker charities such as the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. A look inside the world of the Friends is, therefore, perhaps long overdue.

Several of the organisations which have received funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust over the last few years are familiar actors in the assault upon Israel’s legitimacy.  They include ‘War on Want (which actively promoted Ben White’s book “Israeli Apartheid- a Beginner’s Guide), the Oxford Research Group and its offshoot organisation the Oxford Peace Research Trust (which feature such figures as Tony Klug, Azzam Tamimi and Gabrielle Rifkind), the Nobel Women’s Initiative (which includes flotilla participant Mairead Maguire), Christian Peacemaker Teams (at least one member of which took part in the recent ‘flytilla’) and the Network of Christian Peace Organisations which includes Pax Christi, the Methodist Peace fellowship and Ekklesia. The Israeli organisation ‘New Profile’, which solicits and encourages Israeli youth to break the law of their country by encouraging and enabling draft dodging supposedly on the grounds of ‘conscientious objection’ was also a Rowntree grantee in 2007 and has further ties to both UK and US Quaker organisations.  

Perhaps one of the more dubious funding decisions taken by the Rowntree Trust was its June 2007 award of a £45,000 grant spread over three years to Alastair Crooke’s ‘Conflicts Forum’, which includes on its board Ismail Patel of ‘Friends of Al Aqsa’, Hamas supporter Azzam Tamimi and Moazzam Begg of ‘Cageprisoners’. In July 2010 a second grant of £40,000 over 24 months was awarded and in addition to that, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust appeared to be very proud to announce that ‘Conflicts Forum’ had been selected as the recipient of a “special peace grant”.

Conflicts Forum’s director Alastair Crooke is a staunch supporter of the current Iranian and Syrian regimes as well as a supporter of and mouthpiece for Hizbollah and Hamas. In 2007 – perhaps with the aid of the Rowntree funding, although it was also being funded by the EU at the time – ‘Conflicts Forum’ produced a report (worth reading in full) detailing a public relations campaign to rebrand the proscribed terrorist groups Hamas and Hizbollah in the West as proponents of “social justice”.

At first glance it may appear incongruous for a Quaker charity to be involved in the generous funding of an organisation which supports and legitimises some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Logic would seemingly dictate that the pacifist Quakers would be among the first to express horror at the indiscriminate murder of unarmed Iranian and Syrian civilians seeking political change by the armed forces of their own governments. It may also appear difficult to reconcile Quaker pacifism with the giving of repeated grants to an organisation such as Conflicts Forum which openly supports heavily armed terrorist groups which have murdered hundreds of unarmed civilians.

So how did these repeated grants make their way from the Rowntree Trust to a selection of organisations engaged in lending material or moral support to such obviously non-pacifist causes?

Whilst the inner workings of the grant-giving Trustees of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust remain an enigma, a clue may lie in the fact that one member of the five person (four of whom are also Trustees) “Peace Committee” which awarded the “special peace grant” to Conflicts Forum is a Quaker named Michael Eccles. Mr Eccles currently works at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham where he is a tutor, particularly of young adult Quakers, and is involved in the Quaker Peace and Social Witness programme. He also worked with an organisation called ‘Responding to Conflict’ as its Middle East programme coordinator.  Prior to that, however, Eccles held a fairly senior role as regional coordinator at the charity ‘Islamic Relief Worldwide’ (IRW). In May 2006 his colleague and subordinate, the IRW representative in Gaza, Iyaz Ali of Shipley, near Bradford, was deported from Israel.

“Incriminating files were found on Ali’s computer, including documents that attested to the organization’s ties with illegal Hamas funds abroad (in the UK and in Saudi Arabia) and in Nablus. Also found were photographs of swastikas superimposed on IDF symbols, of senior Nazi German officials, of Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as many photographs of Hamas military activities.”

“The IRW was established in 1984 in the British city of Birmingham.  It has branches in Gaza and Ramallah. The IRW provides support and assistance to Hamas’s infrastructure. The IRW’s activities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip are carried out by social welfare organizations controlled and staffed by Hamas operatives. The intensive activities of these associations are designed to further Hamas’s ideology among the Palestinian population.”

 IRW has been identified as a member of the ‘Union of Good’ – the Muslim Brotherhood’s umbrella organization involved in fundraising for Hamas and its terrorist activities which is headed by the notoriously homophobic and anti-Semitic cleric Yussuf Qaradawi and which was banned in Israel in 2002 and designated a terrorist organization by the USA in 2008. Some of the IRW’s British Trustees are known members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Strangely, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust appears to have seen fit to make a man who worked for such a controversial body for five years partly responsible for the allocation of large sums of money to so-called ‘peace’ organizations. Not so strange is the resulting fact that a supposedly pacifist Quaker charity then repeatedly allocates grants to an outfit such as Conflicts Forum which supports terrorist organizations and whitewashes repressive human rights-abusing regimes.

However, the Quakers’ selective pacifism and terrorist denial does not end with the granting of financial gifts. The Quaker Council for European Affairs, which sits in Brussels, produced a frankly stunning report in 2007 entitled “Effective Counter-Terrorism”.  This report really does need to be read in full for the magnitude of its dangerous mix of naivety combined with unquestioned faux axioms to be appreciated.

One might assume that such a report would be compiled by some sort of expert in the field, seeing as it proffers recommendations to the EU on subjects such as intelligence and security. But no; it was in fact written by one of the QCEA’s program assistants (interns) and edited by the joint representative (co-director) of the organization, Liz Scurfield. Ms Scurfield is actually an expert in Chinese language by profession and the intern, Matthew Taylor, was barely a couple of years out of university when he penned this report. Nevertheless, apparently both consider themselves adequately informed and the opinions of lay persons of the Quaker faith across Europe ( with whom they consulted in the preparation of the report) sufficiently weighty to be able to produce a document issuing recommendations to the security services and the EU parliament.  

This act of rather barefaced self-aggrandizement takes on even more worrying proportions when one takes into account that one of the activities of the QCEA is to lobby EU MEPs – something Ms Scurfield engages in herself – and that reports and papers emanating from the QCEA are instrumental in forming policy for Quaker groups throughout Europe. Liz Scurfield and her colleague Martina Weitch also attend events such as United Nations meetings in their capacity as QCEA representatives and issue briefings designed to influence EU decision-making on the subject of the Middle East.  

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Alastair Crooke – what an apt name

This is cross posted at the blog, Anne’s Opinions

Alastair Crooke, in his Guardian comment column (where else would it be?), bemoans Europe’s failure on Middle East policy, as proven by the Palileaks papers.

He is upset that Tony Blair’s counter-insurgency (“Coin”) surge, which he initiated in response to President Bush’s request, against Palestinian terrorists meant that the Europeans were not in a position to negotiate with Hamas.

Blair’s Coin surge was his response to Bush. The Palestine Papers reveal “a security drive” with the objective of:

“degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists: Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad], and the al-Aqsa Brigades – through the disruption of their leaderships’ communications and command and control capabilities, the detention of key middle-ranking officers, and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources held within the occupied territories. US and – informally – UK monitors would report both to Israel and to the Quartet. We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures.”

To Crooke this is a bad thing.   I told you his name was apt.

The poor Europeans then complained that:

US wants to see a Hamas government fail. The EU will encourage Hamas to change and will try to make things work as much as possible.

But that didn’t work out so well, because

The EU had endorsed the Quartet conditions for engagement with Hamas – conditions that the UN representative at the time told the UN secretary-general were hurdles raised precisely in order to prevent Hamas from meeting them, rather than as guidelines intended to open the path for diplomatic solutions. Soon after, British and American intelligence services were preparing a “soft” coup to remove Hamas from power in Gaza.

Unfortunately for us, none of these plans of Bush and Blair come to complete fruition, and in actuality the EU’s and Crooke’s wishes were fulfilled to a certain extent, for Hamas is still in power and the terrorists are still active both in Gaza and in Yehuda and Shomron.

In short, I’m not quite sure what Crooke is complaining about. Perhaps it just bothers him that the EU didn’t get to make peace with Hamas and win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Perhaps it would help to know that his Guardian profile states:

Alastair Crooke is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum,

And about Conflicts Forum:

Conflicts Forum is a group which recognizes “resistance”…and works to engage and listen to Islamists.

The Board of Advisors at Conflicts Forum include:

Dr Azzam TamimiIsmail Patel, & Moazzam Begg.

That explains everything.

The UK’s Disproportionate Response

CIF’s Israel attack dogs went wild when British Foreign Minister David Miliband announced on Tuesday that he had expelled an Israel diplomat in retaliation for Mossad’s alleged cloning of British passports. Former Ambassador to Libya Oliver Miles – who is on record as believing that Jewish historians have no place on the UK Iraq War Enquiry – sanctimoniously welcomed the expulsion as ‘action, not words’ suited to a country that “continues to flout international law and ignore any UN condemnatory resolution that does not suit it.”

But look what happened in an arguably precisely analogous case in Israel, to one of the Guardian’s favourite sons, Alastair Crooke.

Crooke used to work for MI6, the UK equivalent of Mossad. Now he is the Beirut-based Director of Conflicts Forum and as someone who showed disregard for the opposition demonstrations in Iran after the elections, is even too extreme for Mark Perry (who started last week’s malicious misrepresentations of what General David Petraeus really said about Israel). Perry quit as a Director of  Conflicts Forum – started by Crooke – in protest.

Crooke was was sent to Israel, as part of the British consular delegation in Jerusalem, ostensibly to oversee Israeli Palestinian relations on behalf of the UK Government.

Sheila Raviv – an Israeli freelance journalist – says that Crooke had relationships with some highly questionable people in and around Jerusalem, people who were not connected to his diplomatic work. She relayed these concerns to the then British Ambassador (2001-3) Sherrard Cowper-Coles.

The Ambassador was apparently very sympathetic to her information and asked her to prepare a full report. But within ten minutes of sending it by email, Raviv received a frighteningly threatening email warning her off – the Ambassador’s personal computer had been hacked! Concerned for her own safety, Raviv reported her concerns to the Shin Bet.

Crooke was investigated and within a short time was packing his bags. But there was no public announcement of an expulsion. The Israeli government had the prerogative of a formal public expulsion, of course – as all governments have for the diplomatic corps whom they host. But it seems that Israel chose to magnanimously offer the UK the chance of a ‘gentleman’s agreement’  that Crooke could go quietly and below the radar, so as not to embarrass an ally.

It was later revealed that Crooke was a member of MI6 and the astonishing breadth of his terrorist contacts became known. An Italian magazine, Il Riformista, commented as follows (July 2005):

This activity over the past year finished by provoking a growing resentment among Israeli authorities, who a couple of times went so far as to issue “warnings” to Crooke and to present confidential protests about him to the British embassy in Tel Aviv. Further, on 19 May, the deputy chief of information at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Gideon Meir, referring to the secret British meetings, saw fit to say that “any contact with Hamas on the part of representatives of foreign governments is considered by the Israeli government as encouragement for striking us with terrorist acts.”

Yet despite this flagrant breach of trust, Israel – unlike Miliband on Tuesday – did not seek to turn a diplomatic spat into a PR opportunity.  Crooke’s departure took place quietly and discretely, out of respect to an ally.

Why did Miliband not show the same respect and magnanimity towards Israel as Israel showed to the UK in the Crooke case? And of course as an Arabist and a former Middle East Ambassador, Miles must know all about the Crooke case. Not mentioning it must have been an oversight, of course.

Ah, but there is an election within six weeks in the UK and Miliband knows that Israel-bashing plays well with Labour’s core vote. And Miles just happens to be deputy chairman of the Libyan British Business Council.

The moral of this story: As far as this Foreign Minister and the FCO’s camel corps are concerned, when votes and money are at stake, “respect for allies” can go hang, especially when that ally is Israel and the UK Jewish community just lies back and thinks of England.

As Oliver Worth says:

British Jewry, in its muted action, has goaded the willingness of the British government to stab Israel in the back. We are undoubtedly in a situation where the British government has no fear of provoking the pro-Israel and Jewish population into meaningful action, rendering Israel by far the easiest target when finding a scapegoat to cover up domestic misgivings. This must be the wake-up call.

He might have added that Israeli citizens do not blow up UK ones.

(UPDATE: The Spectator has published an apology on its site which reads as follows:

A blog by Melanie Phillips posted on 28 January 2011 reported an allegation that Alastair Crooke, director of Conflicts Forum, had been expelled from Israel and dismissed for misconduct from Government service or the EU after threatening a journalist whose email he had unlawfully intercepted. We accept that this allegation is completely false and we apologise to Mr Crooke.

The ‘allegation’ referred to in this apology refers to the post above from which Melanie Phillips quoted. As can be seen, however, this post made no such allegation. Insofar as an inference could be drawn to that effect, we would like to make it clear that no such implication was intended and no such inference should be drawn. However, neither CiF Watch nor Sheila Raviv made any such allegation, and consequently the Spectator’s statement is inaccurate.)