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Laurel Malkin     Elaine Goldstine

Ed. note: The following copy of a letter sent from the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg to the president of Canadian Mennonite University was received in our office Monday afternoon, April 23. It refers to a decision taken by the Canadian Mennonite University to play host to a contorversial speaker on April 25.

Dr. Cheryl Pauls, President
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd. Winnipeg, MB R3P 2N2 Canada

Dear Dr. Pauls,
We are writing to voice our strong objections to Canadian Mennonite University (CMU)’s decision to host Naim Ateek on April 25th for an event entitled The Bible, Justice, and the Palestine-Israel Conflict. This is the latest in a pattern of Canadian Mennonite institutions shamefully embracing a distorted, anti-Israel agenda and promoting those – including Ateek and the Sabeel Centre with which he is affiliated – who echo this bias.
Conflict resolution is about addressing the legitimate needs and rights of both sides. Instead, CMU and other Mennonite institutions undermine peace efforts by offering a hyperbolic and one-sided view of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. As a result, many in the Winnipeg Jewish community can only conclude that local Mennonite institutions are not only hypocritical but also plagued by an unhealthy, obsessive hostility toward the world’s only Jewish state.
Surely CMU knows that Ateek is a prominent advocate of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israelis, as co-author of the Kairos Palestine document that infamously promoted BDS. It is alarming that CMU would give a platform to someone at the forefront of such a toxic movement.
In targeting Israelis, BDS is a form of discrimination based on national origin. Just as boycotts targeted Jews throughout history, BDS activists call for a blacklist of the citizens of the world’s only Jewish state and the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. Many BDS leaders openly declare that their goal is not a peaceful, two-state solution but the destruction of the state of Israel. The BDS movement is not pro-Palestinian. It is simply anti-Israel.
BDS does nothing to bring the two sides together, promote peace, or improve the quality of life for the average Palestinian. Were BDS successful, it would threaten the livelihood of thousands of Palestinians employed by Israeli companies.

We are no less disturbed by Ateek’s past comparisons between Jesus and the Palestinian people. When serving as President of Sabeel, Ateek once penned an Easter message in which he said: Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him. It only takes people of insight to see the hundreds of thousands of crosses throughout the land, Palestinian men, women, and children being crucified. Palestine has become one huge golgotha. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. (Sabeel Easter Message by Naim Ateek, 2001)
This is an outrageous statement, given that Jesus was a Jew who was crucified by the Roman occupiers. The Romans then committed one of history’s worst genocides against the Jewish people, murdering hundreds of thousands and expelling the survivors from their indigenous land for the next 1,900 years. To claim that Palestinians are the new “Jesus” is to distort one of the most painful chapters in Jewish history and use it to demonize Jews today. Worse, accusing Israelis of “crucifying” Palestinians evokes the spurious antisemitic blood libels and allegations of deicide that have led to the murder of countless Jews throughout history.
The CMU website states: CMU’s self-understanding as a church-related university is grounded in relationships of trust and in commitments to ongoing, open dialogue and inquiry. To host such a speaker directly damages trust and open dialogue between Mennonites and the Jewish community. To be blunt, this event does nothing to affect change in the Middle East, but it directly harms interfaith relations here in Canada.
Our community values interfaith relations and open conversations on contentious issues. But demonization is not dialogue. We will not be silent when Israelis are demonized, nor when the basic rights of Israelis to security, peace and acceptance are challenged.
We look forward to your response.

Laurel Malkin, President                      
Jewish Federation of Winnipeg    

Elaine Goldstine, CEO  

Jewish Federation of Winnipeg        


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#1 PresidentJohn Froese 2018-09-20 15:06
I am of Mennonite background and attended the presentation at CMU. Sadly I couldn't agree more with you in your assessment of what took place at this event. It was an embarrassment cloaked in religious piety, and pity without any investigation as to why some of the "atrocities" described took place. It reminded me of a typical spat between two small children. If you only hear the point of view of the one child and take no effort to determine the point of view of the other child, you would be foolish to make an assessment as to what really happened. That is exactly what took place at this event. I think I can speak on behalf of most of the Mennonites I know, that this event is a typical North American university position and would not reflect the point of view of the majority.