Views of Israel, Palestine

As a Jew by birth, daughter of Holocaust refugees, Christian by choice, Mennonite for over 30 of my 55 years since baptism (though I no longer have a Mennonite church in the United Kingdom), I found much to resonate with in Lisa Schirch’s article, “Improving Mennonite support for a just peace in Israel and Palestine” (June). I have been to Israel twice as a pilgrim, meeting Palestinian Christians, and I sponsored a Palestinian schoolgirl for 13 years. I still feel with fellow Jews who see Israel as the ultimate refuge but have come to be ashamed of what Israel has become in recent years. Thank you, Lisa, for offering a more balanced view than I, even as a Jew, find myself able to achieve at the moment.

Veronica Zundel, London


Lisa Schirch says Mennonite protests against Israel’s policies are double standards because the same concerns related to human rights standards are not shown for other countries. I agree with her that we need to speak out against injustices wherever they occur, but there is something different when billions of our dollars feed a country’s military. There is something different when U.S. weaponry supports a country’s expansionist policies. I will protest. But that does not mean I am unaware of the Jewish narrative. 

Dave Osborne, Hesston, Kan. 


I concur with Lisa Schirch that Mennonites have work to do to come to terms with often unrecognized antisemitism in our theology. And we have reckoning to do with roles played in the Nazi agenda. But this cannot allow us to be ambivalent in the face of genocide against the Palestinians of Gaza. I would like to challenge some of the assumptions and premises in Schirch’s comparison of Palestinian narratives and Israeli/Jewish narratives. I do this not to argue which one is correct but to find elements of truth in both. 

Jews have ties to the land, but that can’t justify expelling or subjugating Palestinians who also have ties to it. The fact that Jews from anywhere in the world can go to Israel to claim citizenship, while not offering any plan of return for Palestinians, is unjust. The Palestinians were not responsible for the Holocaust nor for the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. If Zionism didn’t insist on Jewish supremacy, it would not be seen as a threat to Palestinian existence. To break the cycle of violence, the occupation must end. But that is just the first step toward creating safety for all — a process that must consider the needs of both parties equally. The existence of 50 Muslim and 50 Christian states, but only one Jewish state, is irrelevant to Palestinian claims. I hope we can lend our voice for what is right, rather than who is right. A military solution is never the answer. “Never again” must mean justice and security for all.

Suzanne Gross, Edmonton, Alberta


Lisa Schirch is right that Mennonites should acknowledge the trauma experienced by both Jewish people and Palestinians and speak out against all injustice and violence. However, over the past 76 years, the suffering is much greater for the Palestinians. To bring peace, the Israel government must stop killing the innocent in Gaza, indefinitely jailing children/young adults and stop the seizure of land to build Jewish-only settlements pushing out Palestinians. New leadership for both Israel and the Palestinians will be needed to forge a just peace. And the U.S. must stop providing the weapons used by Israel to conduct this brutal war. 

David Janzen, Goshen, Ind.


In her list of Israeli and Jewish narratives, Lisa Schirch says one meaning of Zionism is that “Jews have a right to a state, to practice their culture as a majority and to feel safe.” This majority can only be maintained by violating international law and has resulted in an ethno-nationalist supremacy imposed with staggering brutality against Palestinians. Christian Zionism misuses scripture and history to justify an occupation that should shock every conscience. The Israeli oppression of Palestinians is sustained with American money and political protection. It is right that Mennonites condemn it. Other settler colonial projects, like those in South Africa and the United States, have moved, however slowly and imperfectly, to create one land with equal rights for all. This is an alternative that the Israeli state refuses to contemplate and that this article does not address.  

Mary Hershberger, Brentwood, Md.


Lisa Schirch responds: Some who have responded to my article seem to think I am trying to stop Mennonite protests. That is not my intent. At the beginning of the article, I say, “Compassion for Jews and Palestinians does not require us to stay silent during today’s mass atrocities.” I believe we must oppose Israel’s policies. Because I call attention to Jewish narratives, people often assume I believe only the Jewish narrative. I articulate the Palestinian narrative because I believe it is true. I believe there is truth in both narratives. I believe the occupation must end, and I’ve said that publicly in Congress and in Washington policy circles as a leader in support of Palestinian rights.

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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