Mennonite Church USA Executive Director signs letter to oppose “Israel Anti-Boycott Act”

April Fools!(Mennonite Church USA) — Mennonite Church USA Executive Director Ervin Stutzman joins leaders representing seventeen churches and church-based organizations in signing a letter urging Congress to oppose the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act.” The letter was sent to all members of Congress on November 6, 2017.

“This legislation would put legal obstacles in the way of nonviolent peaceful action meant to bring about social change,” the letter states, “and would legislate against the freedom to make choices in the stewardship in our financial resources.”

The “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” was introduced both in the Senate (S.720) and the House (H.R. 1697) in March of this year and prohibits certain restrictive economic practices or boycotts against Israel.

“We are troubled by the bills’ intent to penalize or criminalize the use of economic measures as a legitimate means of opposing policies that inhibit human rights, in this case, of the Palestinians,” the letter to Congress states.

The letter says that the bills “conflate Israel and the settlements, erasing the important distinction between Israel and its illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” and that the bills “further imply that opposition to Israel’s practices in the territories is the same as being anti-Israel.”

“Having just traveled to Israel-Palestine last week, I’m keenly aware of the sensitivity of these issues ‘on the ground,’” said Stutzman. “We must find ways to legitimate the right of Israel to exist as a nation, while pressing them to demonstrate justice for the Palestinian people, who also have a right to exist in the land that has been theirs for millennia.”

The leaders clarify in the letter that their opposition to the bills comprise “an effort to change unjust Israeli policy toward Palestinians, not to delegitimize the State of Israel, nor to marginalize or isolate our Jewish neighbors, or their enterprises.”

“As churches and church-related organizations,” the letter says, “we all share a hope and desire for an end to occupation, an end to violence and terrorism, and for equal rights for all people.”

This letter to Congress comes several months after the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly in Orlando passed the resolution on “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine.” One of the commitments of the resolution is to avoid economic support for the military occupation of Palestinian territories.

Among the other leaders who signed this letter is J Ron Byler, Executive Director of Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

The full list of organizations with leaders signing the letter include American Friends Service Committee, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Church of the Brethren, De La Salle Christian Brothers of the Midwest,  Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Mennonite Church USA, National Council of Churches in Christ in the USA, Pax Christi International, Pax Christi USA, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church of America, The United Methodist Church, and United Church of Christ.