Methodist set up Friends of Israel group

A Methodist preacher has set up a Methodist Friends of Israel group as a response to her church's call to boycott Israel.

Earlier this month the Methodist conference passed a report calling for a boycott of goods from "illegal" West Bank settlements, and for political lobbying to end Israel's occupation and the "siege of Gaza".

The decision was widely criticised and the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council said the church should "hang its head in shame".

Pam Smith, a preacher in Monmouth, South Wales, created a website and Facebook group to gain support for Israel.

Ms Smith said: "After the recent conference accepted the report I felt it was necessary to encourage and support those Methodists who support Israel.

"It is also to help Methodists to access links that will give the facts, instead of just accepting the very biased, flawed media report. We want to support Israel by buying goods from the land and showing our Jewish friends that we do not agree with the conference resolution.

"I have received a lot of feedback as the news of MFI has spread. So far it has been very positive.

"Jews and Christians, of all denominations, have sent mail on their own behalf, or on behalf of organisations, offering support, encouragement and help. I realise that there will probably be opposition, but so far it has not materialised."

Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice chairman of the Zionist Federation, welcomed the creation of the group, and said: "I hope this will be the start of a grass-roots movement within the Methodists to reverse the motion passed at the Methodist Conference, which was theologically invalid, maligned Zionism and demonised Israel."

    Last updated: 12:47pm, July 29 2010