Don’t boycott, back co-existence, Methodists told

The Board of Deputies has published a 36-page paper in its efforts to stop the boycott campaign spreading among the churches.

The document has come specifically in response to an online consultation
launched by the Methodist church last month, ahead of a debate on boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) due to take place at its conference next year.

It says that BDS is “negative, divisive and counterproductive” and instead argues that the Methodists should support projects to promote co-existence between Jews and Arabs.

Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board, said that it was “a robust response to BDS, which expresses the Jewish community’s broad consensus that BDS has the unacceptable aim of delegitimising Israel, encourages the rejectionists of peace, hurts moderates and sows divisions.”

The paper, written by Board public affairs officer Joseph Moses, notes that some advocates of boycott support a one-state, rather than a two-state, solution. It also warns that “one-sided” pressure on Israel will be counterproductive.

It sets out the case against comparing Israel with apartheid South Africa and also gives a critique of Kairos Palestine, a call for action issued by Palestinian Christians which has proved influential among Churches abroad.
The BDS campaign “unfairly places sole blame for the conflict and its continuation on Israel”, the Board paper says.

The boycott, it states, “actually hurts some the most constructive voices on the Israeli side, and damages the employment prospects of the tens of thousands of Palestinians who work for Israeli companies on either side of the 1967 border.”

Adopting boycotts sends a wrong signal to the Palestinians that “they will not have to make the painful sacrifices all parties must inevitably make to achieve compromise,” the paper says.

It adds: “Given that no other country in the world is being singled out for such treatment in the present Methodist inquiry, or by the BDS movement at large, this ‘exceptional’ treatment of Israel reinforces the sense of racism borne out by the history of the Jewish people, which breeds a feeling of isolation, mistrust and a siege mentality which militates against the desire of the government and the majority of the Israeli population to take risks for peace.”

A boycott of settlements will still have a harmful effect on the peace process, it argues. “The settlements are an important issue, but they are crucially only one of many significant issues that need to be resolved.” Instead, it calls for supporting groups which promote dialogue among Israelis and Palestinians, such as One Voice, The Parents Circle-Families Forum and the Peres Centre for Peace.

The paper says, “We can work together towards something more positive and more constructive. We can form a coalition to fund and support vital projects that lead to the building of dialogue, empathy and trust between Israelis and Palestinians within their respective societies, providing an alternative to hatred.”

To read the paper, click here

Last updated: 12:00pm, November 7 2013