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American Methodists must be fearless about divestment from Israel

NOVANEWS

By Stuart Littlewood

Stuart Littlewood calls on US Methodists to be courageous and ignore pressure from Christian Zionists by supporting divestment from companies that profiteer from the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine, arguing that British Methodists had “blazed a trail through this minefield” nearly two years ago and voted to boycott products from the illegal Zionist colonies.

Why is the United Methodist Church apparently making such heavy weather of voting for divestment from corporations – 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

“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.”

Their action answered a call from Palestinian Christians, a growing number of Jewish organizations 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”. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks led the charge, warning that the implications would “reverberate across the hitherto harmonious relationship between the faith communities in the UK”.

Ah, those precious interfaith 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.

“If Israel is at the root of Jewish identity you’d think Jews would demand from the Israeli regime the sort of conduct that projected a better image.”

The chief rabbi declared the report “unbalanced, factually and historically flawed” without saying in what way it was inaccurate. The Board of Deputies of British Jews 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 Jewish identity you’d think Jews would demand from the Israeli 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.

Methodist Friends of Israel “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.”

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, adding:

While recognizing 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 vandalized 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 fulfilment.
  • 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, suicide bombings, etc.
  • They believe in standing against libellous 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 interfaith lah-di-dah?

“True Christians everywhere … need to stiffen the sinew and toughen up. Why continue this interfaith lah-di-dah with religious delinquents? Decent and sensible people from all faiths get along just fine without help from religious busybodies and loudmouths.”

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 of British Jews, 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 interfaith 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.

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