The Chief Rabbi has called on the Methodist community to reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel after the church affirmed its support for parts of the campaign.
Writing online, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “I am deeply disappointed and saddened to learn that The Methodist Church Conference has again voted in favour of BDS, a move which further seriously erodes relations with the Jewish community in this country and abroad.
“BDS does not in any way advance the cause of peace. I call on the Methodist community to invest its efforts instead in constructive engagement with Israel and its society.” Rabbi Mirvis’s Facebook post came after delegates at the Methodist Church conference in Telford were presented with a motion to support BDS.
Much of the motion text was based on Cry For Hope, a controversial statement released by Palestinian Christians and recommended for “prayer and study” by last year’s Methodist conference.
In their official reply to the motion, the Methodist conference notes that since 2010 the Church has endorsed aspects of the BDS programme, and continues to endorse a boycott of goods from settlements in the occupied territories. It does not support the boycott of goods from other parts of Israel.
Since 2021, following a report from the Methodist Council, the Church has pursued a policy of divestment from firms operating in settlement areas.
Again referencing a 2021 resolution, the reply says: “In view of the illegality of the occupation the Conference calls on the UK government to suspend the right of Israeli defence companies involved in the occupation to tender for Ministry of Defence contracts.” They note that Israeli defence company Elbit Systems has won multi-million-pound UK defence contracts in “strategic aspects of defence”.
The text ends: “The Conference therefore invites the Methodist people to support the above measures in relation to boycott, divestment and sanctions until such time as Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and complies with the precepts of international law.”
The Methodist Church has been contacted for comment.