Methodist Clerics Try To Justify Israel Boycott

This is a cross-post by Joseph Weissman.

Yesterday, the President of the World Council of Churches praised the Methodist Church for offering ‘more than words‘ on Israel. Disturbingly, many Christian clerical establishments are now intent on fully boycotting Israel: a boycott which ironically would have prevented Christianity from spreading in the first two centuries AD.

In her justification of the Methodist boycott of Israel, the media officer of the Methodist Church Karen Burke writes on CommentIsFree:

The Revd Graham Carter, chair of the working party that compiled the report, acknowledged the history was not complete and that, given the time constraints for the compilation of the report, the working group had to present what it believed was a fair selection from a variety of narratives.

If this were truly the case, then why did the Methodist Church agree to form a working group on the document ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ at last year’s conference, in which the Church agreed:

Requests have been received that the group should be “balanced” and contain members who are not in agreement with Conference statements. This is not believed to be a constructive approach given the remit of the group.

So a year before this report was published, the Methodists had already decided not to present a fair or balanced narrative! So why would they now cite ‘time constraints’?

Furthermore, the boycott was instigated by Dr Stephen Leah, who criticised churches for being “wanting to be balanced all the time”, and justified theologically by Nichola Jones, as her god is angry with Jewish people for worshipping a racist deity.

Thus, to those who have observed how this report has come together, Burke’s justifications appear inaccurate to say the least.

Burke also offers this sentence:

The Methodist Church has a long history of interfaith relationships; it greatly values the relationship it shares with its Jewish brothers and sisters and hopes that that relationship will continue to flourish.

Of course, if the Methodist Church truly values its relationship with the Jewish people, it will reflect on why it has recommended the writings of Stephen Sizer to laymen wishing to learn more about Christian theology and Jews, given Rev Sizer’s many known links to Holocaust deniers, including a citation to white supremacist Dale Crowley in his PhD thesis on Christian Zionism (pp.16-17).

Rev Sizer is a trustee of the virulently anti-Zionist Amos Trust, which takes Christmas rather than Easter as its central religious event to remind people of the wickedness of Israel both in ancient and modern times.

If the Methodist Church truly values the relationship it shares with its Jewish brethren, it would wonder why Dr Leah has contributed to the Amos Trust’s anti-Zionist Christmas 2008 “Bethlehem Pack“, in which Leah re-writes Psalm 23 as a celebration of the International Solidarity Movement and ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ as an anti-Zionist protest hymn.

In the same pack we find a poem written by Chris Rose of the Amos Trust: “Did Rachel Weep?”, where we read:

Has there been so much pain that you cannot find it in your heart to care for the Palestinians? Have the centuries of anti-Semitism and persecution been too much to bear? Have you become as cold and hard as the Separation wall that cuts you off from Bethlehem’s residents?

Here the Biblical “Rachel” is first recognised by the Amos Trust as the representative of all Jews, and then accused of coldness and inhumanity.

Sadly it is no surprise to see that Dr Leah has worked with the Amos Trust against Israel. Nor a surprise that the Methodist report recommends the Amos Trust, or that the Amos Trust has employed Ben White as its spokesperson regarding the Methodist Church’s document on Israel/Palestine (more on Ben White’s attitudes towards Jews here).

Surely if the Methodist Church were truly concerned about its relationship with Britain’s Jews, it would not have trusted Dr Stephen Leah with such a sensitive topic.

Karen Burke asserts in her article that:

Israel should not be singled out above all other countries for opprobrium and international sanction.

Yet this is precisely what the Methodist Church has chosen to do.

There is much I would like to say here from a Christian perspective, but I will keep my counsel for now. What I will say is this:

Christianity is a religion in which the believer recognises he is fragile and weak and sinful, and is dependent on God’s mercy. If God were to boycott Christians based on our indiscretions, we would be without hope. So for Christians to turn around and boycott another people group – a  nation itself home to thousands of Christians – is a hypocrisy of the highest order, and makes a mockery of our faith.

As the Psalmist writes,

If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.