Uproar over Methodist Israel report

Jewish leaders have condemned a "skewed" report on Israel prepared by the Methodist Church, warning it could set back interfaith relations for years.

The report, which is to be debated at the church's national conference later this month, calls for a boycott of goods from "illegal" West Bank settlements, and political lobbying to end Israel's occupation and the "siege of Gaza".

Over the past few days, Jewish organisations in London and Manchester have protested about its contents in meetings with Methodist representatives.

In a joint statement, Jon Benjamin and Jeremy Newmark, chief executives of the Board and the Jewish Leadership Council, said: "We left them in no doubt of the strength of feeling on our side."

The report, they said, was "a document replete with omissions and outright misrepresentations which does nothing to advance understanding and reconciliation in the region. If it serves any purpose, it is to give succour to those who demonise Israel. That should not be a position with which the Methodist Church associates itself."

The 54-page report was produced by a working group chaired by the Rev Graham Carter, a former president of the church.

It states: "The key hindrance to security and a lasting peace for all in the region is the occupation of Palestinian territory by the state of Israel, now in its fifth decade."

It omits mention of Hamas's desire to eliminate Israel, saying only that the movement had "not unambiguously accepted Israel's right to exist".

The report also asks the church to examine whether Zionism, and in particular Christian Zionism, is compatible with Methodist beliefs.

David Gifford, chief executive of the Council of Christian and Jews, said the CCJ was "amazed" and had written to the head of the Methodist Church. "Why on earth they chose to do this I don't know. Rather than calling for this kind of action it would have been far better to direct people to support co-existence projects for Israelis and Palestinians."

Mr Carter said that the report was "designed to facilitate a stimulating and wide-ranging debate concerning justice for Israel and Palestine".

Last updated: 4:02pm, June 17 2010