Chief Rabbi slams Methodist report

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2010
Lord Sacks said he was distressed by the report

Lord Sacks said he was distressed by the report

The Chief Rabbi and other Jewish presidents of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) have expressed their concern about a report on Israel prepared by the Methodist Church.

The document, 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".

The Methodist Church has already faced criticism for demonising Israel from Jewish organisations in London and Manchester.

The 54-page report states that Israel’s “occupation of Palestinian territory” is the "key hindrance to security and a lasting peace for all in the region,” and fails to mention Hamas’ desire to eliminate Israel.

The Chief Rabbi, one of five Jewish CCJ presidents, warned it will damage interfaith relations in Britain.

Lord Sacks said he was distressed that the Methodist Church considered the report, entitled “Justice for Palestine and Israel”, an acceptable publication.

He said: “It failed completely to present Israel’s case in an even handed manner, and represents a one sided judgement of one of the most complex conflicts in the world.

“The report will do nothing to advance the cause of peace”.

Liberal Judaism’s chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich urged the Methodist Conference to cancel the report, which he said he had studied in detail.

He said: “Whilst there are some aspects of the report which require a reflective response, the balance will not, in our view, meet its objective.”

He said they should “explore ways of creating a document which will garner widespread support amongst Jews, Christians and others who seek a just settlement in the Middle East, based upon the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to live in secure national entities.”

Rabbi Tony Bayfield and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, respectively the Reform and Masorti Presidents of CCJ, said that while they were not enthusiasts for the settlement movement, they were "deeply concerned" about the impact of the report on Jewish-Christian relations in Britain.

Urging the Methodist Church to reconsider they added: "This document goes far beyond legitimate criticism of Israeli actions and policies and appears to attack the very legitimacy of the Jewish state.

"It seeks to begin a theological process that would demonise supporters of Zionism in both the Jewish and Christian communities."

But Ed Kessler, executive director of the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge, said the document might strain relations but it would not cause long-term and tangible damage.

He said: "There is more a general feeling of annoyance and sadness at its lack of balance and ignorance."

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

He said it was "designed to facilitate a stimulating and wide-ranging debate concerning justice for Israel and Palestine."

Last updated: 5:01pm, June 23 2010