Mennonites, Israel, and Palestine

West Bank

Lisa Schirch is a Mennonite who runs the Tokyo-based Toda Peace Institute and serves as a senior policy advisor at the Alliance for Peacebuilding in Washington D.C.   Over at The Mennonite, Schirch has written a very interesting piece about Mennonites and Israel.  Historically, Mennonites have supported Palestinian rights and have criticized Israel as an “abusive colonial power.”  Schirch, however, calls her fellow Mennonites to task for taking such a narrow position.  Here is a taste:

Many Israelis and Palestinians are eager for outsiders to demonize the other side. Mainstream media and Christian Zionists often portray Israeli policies as unquestionably noble. News media project images of Palestinians as terrorists and often fail to provide any history to help understand Palestinian grievances.

Mennonites have done important work to support Palestinian rights. Unfortunately, many Mennonites have significant gaps in how they understand Israel, Jews and Judaism. Too often Mennonite advocacy for Palestinian rights carries antisemitic tones that portray Israel as simply an abusive colonial power. Portraying Jews as only voluntary colonialists delegitimizes the millions of Jews who came to Israel as refugees fleeing persecution. In most Mennonite churches I have observed, little to nothing is taught on Mennonite roles in the Holocaust and antisemitism, how Jews understand Israel, or on Judaism or Jesus as a Jewish rabbi.

The 2017 MC USA Resolution on Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine identified important steps in addressing Mennonite participation in a long history of antisemitism and in seeking justice for Palestinians. This more balanced approach recognizes the truth and trauma in both Palestinian and Jewish narratives and writes Mennonites into the story of Israel and Palestine.

Read the entire piece here.


One thought on “Mennonites, Israel, and Palestine

  1. I am afraid that Ms. Schirch’s description of ways to avoid anti-Semitism while advocating on behalf of Palestinians is itself a bit one-sided. Of course, it is wrong to confuse the state of Israel with Jews and Judaism. No one should be attributing the crimes of Israel to all Jews, or disparaging Judaism when they critique Israeli policies. Early Zionism was not monolithic. There were multiple strains of Zionism that strongly disagreed with the brand of “political Zionism” that has ruled Israel for decades. Ms. Schirch overlooks those Zionist voices that strongly opposed the brutal, colonial tactics of political Zionism. When I criticize modern Israel as a settler-colonial state, I stand with Hannah Arendt, Martin Buber and Judah Magnes, (among others) who also condemned the inhumane policies adopted by David Ben Gurion and his ilk in the creation of the state. While I applaud Schirch’s desire to be even-handed, I am afraid that her lists of recommendations only confuse the issues at stake.

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