A while back I wrote about a rally in Highland Park in front of the Ten Thousand Villages store.
One of my friends, Harry Glazer, was one of the organizers of that rally. He wrote the following letter to the Highland Park Mirror (a local newspaper), explaining the nature of the rally (and graciously agreed to my posting the letter on my blog):
As one of the organizers of the rally held in front of the Ten Thousand Villages store in September, I hope to clarify.
The Mennonite Central Committee has hosted [Iranian President Ahmadinejad] for dinner not once, not twice, but three times as of his September visit. His pronouncements and actions have only become more menacing in the years since he’s hobnobbed with the Mennonite Central Committee and other like-minded peace groups.
And if the purpose of dining with an enemy is not influence their views or acts, then how does a faith community justify showing respect to someone who espouses such blatant religious hatred?
Our protest was held in front of the Ten Thousand Villages store in recognition of the fact that the store sends a significant portion of their profits to their parent organization, the Mennonite Central Committee. So in a very real sense, a purchase at Ten Thousand Villages supports the Mennonite Central Committee’s legitimization of Ahmadinejad, as well as other activities by the group that demonstrate a complete lack of balance with regards to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
I have no problem with the fact that Ten Thousand Villages sells goods made in Palestinian areas or that the Mennonites send humanitarian aid to those areas. I do take issue with the attitude of the Mennonites that the conflict is mostly Israel’s fault.
I can say, as well, that it pains me to have to oppose Ten Thousand Villages, since I respect and value ideals of the store – to sell handcrafted goods that are manufactured by workers in underprivileged areas across the globe, thereby providing income to those struggling to support themselves and their famillies. This is a noble mission and, sadly, few other avenues exist to support these artisans in the same honorable fashion.
With sorrow, though, I recognize that I cannot shop at Ten Thousand Villages because some of the money spent there goes to defame a struggling democracy, Israel, which is regularly besieged by enemies with no regard for civilized rules of conflict. Worse yet, the funds spent at Ten Thousand Villages also contribute to efforts to honor a mortal enemy of my friends and relatives, an enemy currently seeking nuclear arms to make good on his word.
A cause may seem noble on the surface, but sometimes when you find out more on how the money is spent, one gets more cautious about giving.