When it comes to attacking Israel's legitimacy, the Mennonite Central Committee hits way above its weight class. The MCC bills itself as a relief development and peace agency for adherents of the Anabaptist tradition, and is supported by North American churches and congregations totaling only 150,000 members, but its output of anti-Israel propaganda exceeds the volume of disinformation produced by much larger church groups.
For example, at the height of the Second Intifada, the MCC produced three videos - more than an hour's worth of imagery and sound - devoted to the Middle East, all of which portrayed Israel as the primary source of suffering in the region.
Meanwhile the MCC has produced no videos whatsoever about violence in Central Africa which has killed several million
. Apparently, for MCC , the deaths of a few thousand inhabitants of the Middle East is worthy of more attention than the deaths of several million black Africans. This disparity cannot be blamed on the MCC's ignorance about African violence. According to MCC's annual reports, the organization has just over 50 volunteers in the Middle East, and three times that many in Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, the scene of extensive bloodshed.
What really sets the MCC apart from other American church organizations is its avowedly anti-Zionist agenda. While most church groups in the United States offer pro-forma acknowledgements of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, activists and writers affiliated with the MCC explicitly deny the right of the Jewish people to a sovereign homeland. In the minds of these MCC representatives, the force used to defend Jewish sovereignty - and not the violence used to undermine it - is the primary cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In the films, books and articles published by the MCC, Israel's existence is the primary cause of deteriorating relations between Christians and Muslims in the region, an exclusive source of Palestinian suffering in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and ultimately a stain on the Holy Land. To MCC activists, Arab rejectionism of Israel's existence as a sovereign nation hardly merits a mention and the anti-Semitism embraced by religious and political leaders throughout the region is unremarkable. They also largely ignore Jewish suffering as a result of terror. In short, the MCC portrays the dissolution of the Jewish state as a great leap forward for the region.
This is evident in a recent article published in Cornerstone
, a newsletter published by the Jerusalem-based Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, and organization founded in large part with help from MCC activists.
In this piece, Alain Epp Weaver, a peace worker with the MCC writes:
After the horrors of the Shoah [Holocaust], it is understandable that the idea of Israel as a safe haven with a Jewish majority would be so important to many Jews. But must such a haven be tied to a project of maintaining and projecting a Jewish majority by any and all means? Might not a bi-national future in one state be one in which Palestinians and Israelis alike both sit securely under vine and fig tree?
For Weaver, the problem is not Arab attacks on Jewish sovereignty, but Israel's insistence on remaining a Jewish state.
A few vignettes from MCC's videos demonstrate just how far the organization will go to demonstrate the evils of Jewish sovereignty in Israel.
In the 2003 video Walking the Path Jesus Walked, a 23-minute overview of Christian communities in Syria, Egypt and Israel, the story is simple: healthy Christian communities have a long history in the Middle East, but face an uncertain future because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which inflames hostility toward Christians. The video presents substantial footage of Israeli soldiers pointing guns at Palestinians and of Israeli tanks rumbling down the street past blown out neighborhoods, but offers no scenes whatsoever of Hamas or Fatah members carrying weapons during parades, nor are there any images of the aftermath of Palestinian suicide attacks.
While the imagery depicts armed Jews menacing Palestinians, the sound track provides testimony from Arab Christians who speak of peaceable relations with the Muslim majority. For example, when describing relations between Christians and Muslims in Egypt, the films narration states that while "tensions sometimes run high between Christians and their Muslim neighbors, there is a great deal of acceptance as well."
Then Irini Zareef, a member of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, assures viewers that everything is fine:
For the first time this year, the President [Hosni Mubarek] declared the Seventh of January, our Christmas, a national holiday for the whole country - Muslims and Christians. And of course it was a very sensitive touch from him and we really felt that it's our country.
Muslims have murdered, kidnapped, raped, and forcibly converted scores of Copts in recent years, and burned or vandalized Copt homes, businesses, and churches. The government has seized church-owned land, has closed churches, and frequently uses an Ottoman-era law to deny permission to build or repair churches.
Also striking is the one-sided portrayal of Israeli checkpoints and the impact they have on Palestinian Christians in the West Bank. The barrier is described as having been created to restrict the movements of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories.
The video makes no mention whatsoever of the campaign of suicide attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis that took place during the Second Intifada, which began three years prior to the films release.
A similar omission is evident in the MCC's 2004 video The Dividing Wall. Like its predecessor, this 23-minute video is filled with images of armed Israelis apparently lording over Palestinian civilians and children who climb over piles of rubble and peer through the security fence. The only hint of Palestinian violence is eight seconds of footage of Israeli first responders inspecting a bus blown up by a suicide bomber and a brief snapshot of an Israeli victim of suicide attacks.
The first direct reference to terror attacks does not come until seven minutes into the film, when the narrator states:
The escalation of violence on both sides of the conflict has made the peace process difficult. Suicide bombers claim revenge for attacks by the Israeli Defense Forces. The IDF, in return, invade Palestinians cities, targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in hopes of deterring suicide bombers. Few would deny Israel the right to protect itself from terrorism, but many question Israel's true motive behind building the wall.
This passage is emblematic of the video's essential flaw. Israel's stated motive for building the barrier - the need for security - is called into question; the stated motive for Palestinian terror attacks - revenge for IDF attacks - is not examined at all.
The film's opening narration is equally dishonest:
Since the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting over the right to live on the land. In 2002, a new era of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began with the start of a separation wall on the West Bank. While the Israeli government claims that the wall is needed for security reasons, Palestinians see it as a continuation of policies to drive them off their land.
Of course, recognizing the Arabs right to live on the land, the Jewish leadership has repeatedly consented to divide the land, including acceptance of the 1947 Partition Plan, offers to negotiate after the 1948 and 1967 wars, and the unprecedented Camp David/Taba peace proposal of 2000. The Arabs, on the other hand, habitually rejected these proposals to share the territory, choosing instead to reject Israels existence.
In "Children of the Nakba," released in 2005, the MCC again questions the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty. The images in this video are the same as the first two - Israeli soldiers menacing Palestinian civilians, who mourn the loss of their homes caused by the war in 1948. Predictably, the film makes no reference to the approximately 800,000 Jewish refugees who fled or were expelled from Iran and the Arab world after Israel's creation, nor is there any acknowledgement that many of the Arab refugees are deliberately kept in miserable conditions by Arab dictators throughout the Middle East. Again, their suffering is blamed on the existence of Jewish sovereignty in a land of their own.
In a striking scene near the end of the video, pro-Palestinian activists confront a clearly agitated man who shouts at them in Hebrew. The man's arguments are not translated for the viewers, but the narrator does intone that the message of the human rights activists concerned for Palestinian suffering is not a message everyone wants to hear.
If the video's producers were honest enough to translate what the man was saying into English they would hear him make a very reasonable and rational argument: Arabs have 22 states!
It's a legitimate point, but it's not one the MCC can afford to acknowledge. The MCC is not interested in promoting Arab well-being, but rather denying the Jews their homeland.