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September 24, 2009

Ahmadinejad Dines Alone?

In 2007 and 2008, the Mennonite Central Committee helped organize interfaith dinnners with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier who has called for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. MCC officials had hoped these meetings would have a moderating influence on Ahmadinejad, but they did not. In addition continuing to deny the Holocaust and for the destruction of Israel, A-jad has apparently added stealing elections to his résumé.

It appears that in 2009, Ahmadinejad will dine without the company of the Mennonite Central Committee. CAMERA asked the MCC's spokesman Ed Nyce about its plans to dine with Ahmadinejad this year. Nyce's response: "MCC was not part of meetings this year that included the Iranian president."

A summary of the MCC's interactions can be found in an article published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs ("Key Mennonite Institutions Against Israel"). This article details "MCC's campaign to portray Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a legitimate partner in dialogue and a victim of bad publicity."

The article reads in part:

In February 2007, the MCC played a leading role in bringing a group of Christians to dialogue with Ahmadinejad in Iran. During the trip J. Daryl Byler, then serving as director of the MCC's office in Washington, described Ahmadinejad to an Iranian newspaper as "seeming reasonable," as having "a measured tone," and "a witty personality." Four days after this meeting, Ahmadinejad told an audience in Sudan that "Zionists are the true manifestation of Satan."

In September 2007, MCC officials helped organize an interfaith dinner between Christians and Ahmadinejad during his visit to the United Nations in New York.[43] And in the following year, the MCC cosponsored yet another dinner with the Iranian president, after which executive director Arli Kassen and Byler, now serving as the organization's representative for Jordan, Iran, and Palestine, asserted that Ahmadinejad's "public comments have moderated somewhat over the past two years" and that his statements "about wiping Israel off the map" merely indicated his support for a "‘one-state' solution...in which Israelis and Palestinians elect a single government to represent both peoples."

The fact that MCC leaders regard Israel's elimination as a reasonable way to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict-despite overwhelming historical evidence that Jews in an Arab- and Muslim-majority state would be about as safe as Mennonites were in sixteenth-century Europe-speaks volumes about the organization's indifference toward Jewish wellbeing. Equally outrageous is their suggestion that Ahmadinejad has moderated his rhetoric. On 20 February 2008, Ahmadinejad condemned world powers for establishing Israel, "this filthy bacteria, the Zionist regime, which is lashing out at the nations in the region like a wild beast."

On 8 May 2008, Ahmadinejad stated that "Those who think they can revive the stinking corpse of the usurping and fake Israeli regime by throwing a birthday party are seriously mistaken." Israel, Ahmadinejad said, "is on its way to annihilation" and "has reached the end like a dead rat...." Although such language serves to incite and justify violence against Israel, the MCC has defended Ahmadinejad and helped rehabilitate his reputation.

Given the organization's efforts to rehabilitate Ahmadinejad's reputation, it should come as no surprise that it was unable to do anything more than ofer up an anemic "Call to Pray for Iran" in response to the violent clampdown on supporters of Mirhossein Mousavi who protested in the streets against an apparently stolen election on 13 June 2009. Instead of condemning the regime for killing its own citizens, the statement did little more than tell people that bad things are happening in that country and that people should pray for its inhabitants.

All this raises some obvious questions. How can Mennonites, who belong to a religious and ethnic community with a long history of being persecuted and murdered in the name of religion, work to mainstream a man who has incited genocidal religious hostility against Jews in the Middle East? By what right do Mennonites living in the comfort and safety of North America support institutions and activists who maintain that peace can be achieved when Israeli Jews abandon their sovereign homeland? Why should Jews be expected to risk and sacrifice their wellbeing to affirm Mennonite teachings about nonresistance and peacemaking?

Read it all.

Posted by dvz at September 24, 2009 03:26 PM

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