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Why Did the Mennonite Central Committee Fund a Booklet Calling on Israelis Not to Serve in the IDF?

The move is the latest in a series of commitments to anti-Israel causes

Asaf Romirowsky
June 12, 2018
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem on May 9, 2018.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem on May 9, 2018.Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) was founded in the 1920s and currently is supported by 15 separate church groups as “the relief, development and service arm” of the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in the United States and Canada. They are closely related to that other, better known group of Anabaptists, the Amish. According to their mission they, “seek to demonstrate God’s love by working among people suffering from poverty, conflict, oppression and natural disaster.” But in recent years, the MCC has emerged as a strong supporter of anti-Israel causes, including a group that calls on Israelis not to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

Earlier this year, the MCC has helped the group, New Profile, produce a guide on how to resist the mandatory IDF draft. New Profile is an Israel-based radical-left group advocating for a demilitarized Israeli society.

The MCC does not provide clear and readily available data pertaining to the organizations it funds, and did not return Tablet’s request for comment. But research by NGO Monitor reveals that the organization is a strong supporter of organizations opposed to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, including Zochrot, which calls for the immediate return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes in Israel. The MCC is also an active partner in the international BDS movement, and is listed as a national campaign partner with several pro-BDS groups including the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P) and, “No Way to Treat a Child.” They are also funders of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, the leading purveyor of Palestinian Christian supersessionist theology, where they have been working to promote an extremist political campaign of delegitimization and anti-normalization. According to NGO Monitor, the MCC spent $1.25 million on anti-Israeli causes in 2015, the last year for which data is available.

Even with such a robust portfolio, New Profile stands alone, undermining not a particular Israeli policy but one of Israel’s basic institutions. Israeli public opinion is hardly monolithic, but an overwhelming majority of Israelis regardless of politics agree to serve in the IDF because they believe it protects their lives. The IDF as an institution is also formally apolitical—elected officials do not serve in the reserves in order not to influence politics surrounding the military. And for all its real and imaginary flaws, the IDF has also evolved into the largest melting pot in Israeli society: Jews, Christians, and Muslims, men, women, and LGBTQ, Druze and Bedouin, all serve in positions throughout the IDF. This reality is only one of the things the MCC and New Profile are attempting to minimize. And above all, at its core the IDF’s doctrine is to defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel and all its citizens and communities.

It is sad to see shrinking Protestant denominations and peace churches which have long jettisoned any serious Christian theology in favor of standard liberal tropes and a veneer of pacifism. And it’s troubling to witness the MCC, like the Quakers, spending more and more of its energy and budget targeting Israel and Zionism, undermining the very institution an overwhelming majority of Israelis see as central to their safety and survival.

Asaf Romirowsky is Executive Director of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).