Established in 1920 and headquartered in Akron, Pennsylvania, the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist denominations and has offices in more than 50 countries across the globe. Describing itself as “a relief, service, and peace agency of the North American Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches,” MCC’s mission is “to demonstrate God’s love by working among people suffering from poverty, conflict, oppression and natural disaster, [and to serve] as a channel for interchange by building mutually transformative relationships … by sharing our experiences, resources and faith in Jesus Christ.”
MCC’s founders were North American Mennonites who wished to provide humanitarian aid to fellow members of their faith who were starving in Russia. After pursuing this objective for five years, the Committee briefly went dormant before reactivating itself to help Mennonite refugees from Russia make their way to Paraguay. During and after World War II, MCC provided humanitarian aid to regions of Europe that had been decimated by combat.
Today MCC administers several major initiatives:
* Its Education program aims to increase access to schooling for children from low-income families, “especially girls, ethnic minorities and those affected by disabilities, HIV or violence.” It also funds teacher-training programs, the production of educational materials, vocational training for young people, and the establishment of campus “peace clubs.”
* The Health program is focused on teaching prevention and care techniques vis-a-vis HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases; supporting the development of medical clinics and health training; and improving the quality of water, sanitation, and hygiene practices around the world.
* The Peace program, founded on the premise that “God calls us to a life of peace and nonviolence,” teaches “conflict resolution skills” and “peacebuilding strategies”; addresses “systemic injustices that can lead to violence”; facilitates “interfaith dialogue and relationship-building across cultural, racial and ethnic divides”; and helps people “heal” from all manner of “trauma.”
* The Migration program seeks to address “the root causes of migration”; educate churches about “migration issues”; and advocate for immigration and migration policies that are “more just.”
* The Restorative Justice program aims to “bring together people who have experienced harm or conflict to respectfully hear each other’s experiences and emotions” and “agree on appropriate consequences.” It also trains individuals and congregations on “issues of oppression and colonization” as a precursor to “restoring justice to Indigenous people.”
* The Relief program provides funds for emergency food and shelter for people trapped in “situations of conflict or disaster.”
Particularly significant has been MCC’s relief work in the Middle East, which started in 1949, following what the Committee calls the “war and the creation of the state of Israel, which left 700,000 Palestinians as refugees.” As NGO Monitor notes, “The context of the Arab invasion [against Israel] in 1948 has been erased from this distorted background.” Context was likewise absent from the “Bridges Not Walls” campaign that MCC began supporting in the early 2000s, an initiative that exhorted U.S. politicians “to call upon Israeli and Palestinian leaders to build bridges for peace, not walls that divide”—a disparaging reference to the security barrier that Israel had constructed in the West Bank in response to a relentless wave of Palestinian terror attacks.
Likewise turning a blind eye to Palestinian terrorism were the contents of MCC’s Peace Office Newsletter (PON), a publication that in 2013 was replaced by Intersections. For example, various PON pieces described the 1948 creation of the state of Israel as “the Nakba, or catastrophe,” and as “a violent imposition on the native population”; likened Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank to the Berlin Wall and to aspects of South African apartheid; claimed that the barrier’s purpose was to “allow Israel to maximize its control over the occupied territories while avoiding any responsibility for the Palestinian population”; and alleged that “time and again Israel has ignored United Nations resolutions and international law.” A noteworthy contributor to PON was Jeff Halper, coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
Highlighting the enormous double standard that has characterized MCC’s coverage of events in Israel, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) states: “[A]t the height of the Second Intifada, the MCC produced three videos … devoted to the Middle East, all of which portrayed Israel as the primary source of suffering in the region [where a few thousand people had died in the Arab-Israeli conflict]. Meanwhile the MCC has produced no videos whatsoever about violence in Central Africa which has killed several million.” “What really sets the MCC apart from other American church organizations,” adds CAMERA, “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.”
One of MCC’s anti-Israel videos was a 2005 production titled Children of the Nakba, portraying the Zionist endeavor as one that was motivated exclusively by a desire to drive Arabs out of Israel and form an “ethnically pure Jewish state.” The film also asserts that from 1947-49, Israel forcibly displaced “upwards of 900,000 Palestinians.” As the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) points out: “[M]any of the Palestinian refugees were not forcibly displaced, but encouraged by Arab leaders to leave their homes to make way for Israel’s destruction. [And the film’s characterization of Zionism] ignores numerous statements from the movement’s founders … expressing hopes of living in peace and cooperation with Arabs in Palestine…. At no point does the film address the repeated calls for Israel’s destruction by Palestinian leaders, the virulent anti-Semitism broadcast on state-controlled media throughout the Middle East, or the expulsion of approximately 800,000 Jews from countries in the rest of the region.”
On September 25, 2008, MCC co-sponsored an interfaith dinner in New York City with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had repeatedly issued public calls for the permanent annihilation of Israel.
A staunch supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions movement against Israel, MCC has provided financial subsidies to a number of pro-Palestinian political groups including BADIL and the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. Among the Committee’s partner organizations are the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
MCC’s U.S.-based sponsoring denominations include the Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches, the Brethren in Christ Church, the Conservative Mennonite Conference, the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches, the Mennonite Church USA, and U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.