Board of Deputies concern over Methodist Conference boycott plans

Concerned: Board vice-president Jonathan Arkush

Concerned: Board vice-president Jonathan Arkush

The Board of Deputies has expressed its concern after the Methodist Church's annual conference voted to investigate the "arguments for and against" a boycott of Israel.

Conference delegates in London had been expected to vote on a motion expressing concern over the "deteriorating situation in the West Bank".

It would have highlighted settlement expansion, the Israeli detention of Palestinian children, and home demolitions in east Jerusalem.

But a revised version was adopted on Thursday. It requests church officials to "prepare a briefing document for the Methodist people on the arguments for and against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement".

A report based on the briefing will be put before the 2014 conference.

Board vice-president Jonathan Arkush said: "We are deeply concerned that the UK Methodist Church is seeking to involve itself yet again in the politics of boycotts against Israel.

"The resolution is ill-considered. It was adopted after a debate lasting less than five minutes."

Jewish leaders cut off all ties with the Methodist hierarchy in 2010 after that year's conference voted to adopt a policy which was highly critical of Israel.

Mr Arkush added: “Having recently decided to terminate its productive interfaith office, it appears odd that the Church would be asked once again to embrace divisive religious politics.

“We urge the Methodist Church to embrace sincere dialogue in wisdom with the Jewish community to export lasting solutions to a troubled region, rather than importing the conflict into our faith communities.”

Doug Swanney, Methodist Connexional Secretary, said: “All care and consideration will be taken by the Joint Public Issues Team to ensure that the briefing paper they have been asked to prepare is scrupulously fair to arguments for and against the BDS movement.

"A consultation will ask for views from interested persons, groups and organisations. The briefing document is due to be presented to the council which will decide on a report to go the conference in 2014.”

Last updated: 9:08am, July 12 2013