By Stuart Littlewood
Why is the United Methodist Church apparently making such heavy weather of voting for divestment from corporates – specifically Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard – that profiteer from the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine?
Americans can surely learn from their British brethren who blazed a trail through this minefield at their annual conference nearly two years ago. They voted to boycott products from Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine, regarded as illegal under international law, and to encourage Methodists across the country to do the same.
Been There, Done That
Their action answered a call from Palestinian Christians, a growing number of Jewish organisations both inside Israel and worldwide, and the World Council of Churches.
Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships, explained: “The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region."
Yes, they got some flak. Right on cue, the Board of Deputies of British Jews blew a fuse. In a joint statement with the Jewish Leadership Council they said the Methodists should "hang their heads in shame". The Chief Rabbi led the charge warning that the implications would “reverberate across the hitherto harmonious relationship between the faith communities in the UK”.
Ah, those precious inter-faith relationships… The truth is, Israeli Jews simply don’t do “harmonious relationship” out there in the Occupied Territories. Terror, oppression and dispossession are more their style.
What upset the Chief Rabbi most was the report ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ submitted to the Methodist Conference. Its recommendations included the following…
“In listening to Church Leaders and our fellow-Christians in Israel Palestine as well as leaders of Palestinian civil society we hear an increasing consensus calling for the imposition of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a major strategy of non-violent resistance to the Occupation. The Conference notes the call of the WCC [World Council of Churches] in 2009 for an ‘international boycott of settlement produce and services’ and calls on the Methodist people to support and engage with this boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements (some Methodists would advocate a total boycott of Israeli goods until the Occupation ends).”
It also said that the Methodist Church had consistently expressed its concern over the illegal Occupation of Palestinian lands by the State of Israel, and that its continuation not only compounded Israel’s illegal and immoral action but also made any accommodation with the Palestinian people and future peace in the region less likely.
The Chief Rabbi declared the report “unbalanced, factually and historically flawed” without saying in what way it was inaccurate. The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council said the authors of the report had “abused the goodwill of the Jewish community”. Here is their full text:
“This is a very sad day, both for Jewish-Methodist relations and for everyone who wants to see positive engagement with the complex issues of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Methodist Conference has swallowed hook, line and sinker a report full of basic historical inaccuracies, deliberate misrepresentations and distortions of Jewish theology and Israeli policy. The deeply flawed report is symptomatic of a biased process: The working group which wrote the report had already formed its conclusions at the outset. External readers were brought in to give the process a veneer of impartiality, but their criticisms were rejected. The report’s authors have abused the trust of ordinary members of the Methodist Church, who assumed that they were reading and voting on an impartial and comprehensive paper, and they have abused the goodwill of the Jewish community, which tried to engage with this issue, only to find that our efforts were treated as an unwelcome distraction.
“This outcome is extremely serious and damaging, as we and others have explained repeatedly over recent weeks. Israel is at the root of the identity of Jews and of Judaism, and as an expression of Jewish spiritual, national and emotional aspirations, Zionism cannot simply be ruled as illegitimate in the way that the Methodist Conference has purported to do. This smacks of breathtaking insensitivity, as crass as it is misinformed. That this position should now form the basis of Methodist Church policy should cause the Conference to hang its head in shame, just as surely as it will cause the enemies of peace and reconciliation to cheer from the sidelines.”
If Israel is at the root of their identity you’d think they’d demand from the regime the sort of conduct that projected a better image. For 46 years the “goodwill” of the Jewish community has counted for nothing in securing justice for the Palestinians and bringing to an end their misery at the hands of the State if Israel. Who are they to talk of “breathtaking insensitivity”?
If arrogance is the only response to serious concerns about Israel’s barbarity towards Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land, perhaps it’s time that implications did indeed “reverberate” across the faith communities, not only in the UK but around the world including (and especially) the US.
Infiltrators Avidly Support “Unrighteous Nation” of Israel
It’s no surprise to hear that the United Methodists, and even their legislative body, have been infiltrated by Zionists. They should expect it and be ready to throw them out.
Over here the grit in the Methodists’ vaseline call themselves Methodist Friends of Israel. "We are Christians who are members or adherents of the Methodist Church, who love Israel and want to bless her and who fully accept God’s everlasting covenant with His chosen people,” they say. “While recognising that the nation of Israel is, like all nations of the world, an unrighteous nation that does not always get things right, we firmly stand with her at all times and continue to support her in an increasingly hostile world. We will not turn our backs as so many did in the 1930s.
"We see that anti Semitism is on the rise throughout the world with synagogues and graveyards vandalised and Jews being attacked both verbally and physically and that there appears to be a direct relationship between the increased attacks on Jews and the blanket condemnation of Israel by the media, many charitable organizations and world bodies such as the UN. We are concerned that the whole, true picture of what life is like in Israel is given to the world rather than the biased half truths, distortions and lies that are presently reported.
"We are concerned that many churches are going down the politically correct line of condemning Israel’s policies and are thus contributing to the strong anti Semitic views of the world."
Note that they are concerned only with “what life is like in Israel”, not the hell Israel has created in the Occupied Territories for Christian and Muslim Palestinians. They blame others for rising anti-Semitic sentiment and fail to see that the lawless thuggery of the Israeli regime is the problem.
What else do these deviant Methodists believe in?
• They believe the Scripture prophesy restoring the Jews to the land of Israel. What we see today is a fulfilment of the prophecy and it is a privilege to witness this fulfillment.
• They believe Israel is central in the enactment of God’s purposes as we move in these “last days”.
• They believe in blessing Israel however possible including buying goods and produce from Israel and resisting all calls for boycotts.
• They believe in supporting Israel’s defence of its people and their right to live without the threat of missile attacks, homicide bombings etc.
• They believe in standing against libelous attacks against Israel.
• They believe in fully supporting Israel’s right to the land given them by God.
Needless to say, the Methodist Friends of Israel website reads like pages from some Zionist propaganda rag. At this very moment they are running a tour of Israel. Of Israel, mark you, not Palestine. What sort of view of the Holy Land will that give their pilgrims?
Enough of This Inter-faith lah-di-dah?
Having taken their bold decision at the conference and bravely flown through the flak, UK Methodists let themselves down somewhat by turning wimpish. They began trying to mend fences with the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Why bother, one is tempted to ask. Why demean themselves? Have the Board of Deputies ever condemned or punished the Israeli regime’s crimes against humanity?
Until they do, let them stew.
Nevertheless the President of the Methodist Conference wrote to the Board of Deputies and the President of the Board of Deputies, we’re told, welcomed the opportunity for a constructive conversation. They explored in particular, said a statement, the need to clarify the use of specific words and phrases such as Zionism and Christian Zionism. And they expressed their gratitude for the support given by the Council of Christians and Jews.
So they’re friends again and all’s well that ends well. Which must be gratifying for Palestinians as they continue to starve under the jackboot and fry or be parted from their limbs under almost daily air-strikes.
It’s not good enough. True Christians everywhere – not just the Methodists – need to stiffen the sinew and toughen up. Why continue this inter-faith lah-di-dah with religious delinquents? Decent and sensible people from all faiths get along just fine without help from religious busybodies and loudmouths.
But if the irredeemable hardcore are determined to stir up “reverberations” they are of course free to do so, within the limits of the law.
– Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.