Meet the Methodist Friends of Israel

A few weeks ago the Methodist Church’s annual conference did a very courageous and praiseworthy thing. It voted to boycott products from Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine, regarded as illegal under international law, and to encourage Methodists across Britain to do the same.

“The decision is a response to a call from a group of Palestinian Christians, a growing number of Jewish organisations, both inside Israel and worldwide, and the World Council of Churches,” said the press release.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships, remarked: “This decision has not been taken lightly, but after months of research, careful consideration and finally, today’s debate at the Conference. The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region.”

Predictably the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which calls itself “the chief voice of British Jewry”, blew a gasket. In a joint statement with the Jewish Leadership Council they said the Methodists should “hang their heads in shame”. The Chief Rabbi led the verbal assault warning that the implications would “reverberate across the hitherto harmonious relationship between the faith communities in the UK”.

What seemed to have inflamed the Chief Rabbi this time was the report ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ submitted to the Methodist Conference. Its recommendations include the following…

In listening to Church Leaders and our fellow-Christians in Israel Palestine as well as leaders of Palestinian civil society we hear an increasing consensus calling for the imposition of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a major strategy of non-violent resistance to the Occupation. The Conference notes the call of the WCC [World Council of Churches] in 2009 for an ‘international boycott of settlement produce and services’ and calls on the Methodist people to support and engage with this boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements (some Methodists would advocate a total boycott of Israeli goods until the Occupation ends).

Elsewhere it says:

The Methodist Church has consistently expressed its concern over the illegal Occupation of Palestinian lands by the State of Israel. That Occupation continues not only compounds the state’s illegal and immoral action but also makes any accommodation with the Palestinian people and future peace in the region much less possible.

The Chief Rabbi nevertheless denounced the report as “unbalanced, factually and historically flawed” without saying in what way it was inaccurate. Actually it is a very well put together document, which hits the mark and is hard to fault.

The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council said the authors of the Methodists’ report had “abused the goodwill of the Jewish community, which tried to engage on this issue, only to find our efforts were treated as an unwelcome distraction”. Here is the full text:

Statement on the Flawed Document Endorsed by the Annual Methodist Conference

This is a very sad day, both for Jewish-Methodist relations and for everyone who wants to see positive engagement with the complex issues of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Methodist Conference has swallowed hook, line and sinker a report full of basic historical inaccuracies, deliberate misrepresentations and distortions of Jewish theology and Israeli policy. The deeply flawed report is symptomatic of a biased process: The working group which wrote the report had already formed its conclusions at the outset. External readers were brought in to give the process a veneer of impartiality, but their criticisms were rejected. The report’s authors have abused the trust of ordinary members of the Methodist Church, who assumed that they were reading and voting on an impartial and comprehensive paper, and they have abused the goodwill of the Jewish community, which tried to engage with this issue, only to find that our efforts were treated as an unwelcome distraction.

This outcome is extremely serious and damaging, as we and others have explained repeatedly over recent weeks. Israel is at the root of the identity of Jews and of Judaism, and as an expression of Jewish spiritual, national and emotional aspirations, Zionism cannot simply be ruled as illegitimate in the way that the Methodist Conference has purported to do. This smacks of breathtaking insensitivity, as crass as it is misinformed. That this position should now form the basis of Methodist Church policy should cause the Conference to hang its head in shame, just as surely as it will cause the enemies of peace and reconciliation to cheer from the sidelines.

Empty barrels, they say, make the most noise.

If arrogance is the only response to serious concerns about Israel’s unending barbarity towards Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land, it’s time that implications did indeed “reverberate” across the faith communities, not only in the UK but around the world.

Zionist cuckoos in the Methodist nest

Lo and behold, before the dust could settle another new product from the Zionist drawing-board popped up, calling itself Methodist Friends of Israel. “We are Christians who are members or adherents of the Methodist Church, who love Israel and want to bless her and who fully accept God’s everlasting covenant with His chosen people,” they announced. “While recognising that the nation of Israel is, like all nations of the world, an unrighteous nation that does not always get things right, we firmly stand with her at all times and continue to support her in an increasingly hostile world. We will not turn our backs as so many did in the 1930s.

We see that anti Semitism is on the rise throughout the world with synagogues and graveyards vandalised and Jews being attacked both verbally and physically and that there appears to be a direct relationship between the increased attacks on Jews and the blanket condemnation of Israel by the media, many charitable organizations and world bodies such as the UN. We are concerned that the whole, true picture of what life is like in Israel is given to the world rather than the biased half truths, distortions and lies that are presently reported.

We are concerned that many churches are going down the politically correct line of condemning Israel’s policies and are thus contributing to the strong anti Semitic views of the world.

Note that they are concerned only with “what life is like in Israel”, not the hell Israel has created in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for Christians and Muslims.

And what else do they believe in?

  • They recognize that Israel is the land given by God to the Jews and Jerusalem is its only capital.
  • They believe that God’s word for, promises to, and covenants with Israel — people and land, through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) are everlasting and that the church has not replaced Israel.
  • They believe that Scripture prophesies the restoration of the Jews to the land of Israel and what they are seeing today is a fulfilment of prophecy. It is a privilege that they are witnesses to this fulfilment.
  • They believe that Israel is central in the enactment of God’s purposes as we move in these last days.
  • They believe in finding out from many sources the whole picture of what is happening in Israel so that they can pass on the facts to those whose view is based solely on biased media coverage, and so correct mistaken beliefs (achingly funny, this).
  • They believe in blessing Israel however possible including buying goods and produce from Israel and resisting all calls for boycotts.
  • They believe in supporting Israel’s defence of its people and their right to live without the threat of missile attacks, homicide bombings etc.
  • They believe in standing against libelous attacks against Israel.
  • They believe in fully supporting Israel’s right to the land given them by God

According to The Jewish Chronicle, the group was set up by preacher Pam Smith from South Wales in reaction to her Church’s call to boycott Israel. Naturally Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice chairman of the Zionist Federation, was overjoyed 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.”

Needless to say, the Methodist Friends of Israel website editorial reads like pages from some Israeli propaganda rag.

Have they not heard of The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, a statement by the Latin Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued in 2006? It is neatly summed up in its first sentence:

We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.

Those guys are on the ground, in the front line. They know the score. It’s time Preacher Pam visited Gaza and the West Bank (not by Israeli tour bus or as guests of Israel’s ‘establishment’) and got a grip on reality. She and others have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into supporting a sinister political movement that is intent on stealing the Holy Land from under our noses.

I wonder how long these cuckoos will be allowed to foul the Methodist Church’s nest.

Stuart Littlewood, after working on jet fighters in the RAF, became an industrial marketeer in oil, electronics and manufacturing, and with innovation and product development consultancies. He also served as a Cambridgeshire county councillor and a member of the Police Authority. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and has produced two photo-documentary books including Radio Free Palestine (with foreword by Jeff Halper). Now retired, he campaigns on various issues, especially the Palestinians' struggle for freedom. Read other articles by Stuart, or visit Stuart's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. teafoe2 said on August 12th, 2010 at 12:49pm #

    Speaking of BDS, Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions, Max, it’s alphabetical order — On the Olympia Coop BDS Petition site today, I see that only 2144 persons have so far signed the petition.

    It’s interesting: I see that Medea Benjamin has signed, but not Cynthia McKinney, Glen Ford or any of the BAR team. This week’s issue of BAR does not mention the Olympia Coop.

    There is likewise no mention of Noam Chomsky or of Jeff Blankfort’s article.

    Is it possible that the influence of Chomsky and his followers/defenders like this Hammond and our own Max S is one of the reasons so few activists have chosen to sign the petition? I guess I’ve been giving members of the “antiwar” movement too much credit; I would have expected that every single activist opposed to the attack on the Flotilla and/or the IOF warcrimes/crimes vs humanity inflicted on Gaza would have jumped at the chance. ??

  2. Rehmat said on August 12th, 2010 at 2:10pm #

    The churches should suggest Christians to study professor Israel Shahak and Jack Bernstein to find out how the Jews have been persecuting Palestinian Christians in the occupied Palestine – and expose the Zionist lies dished out by the Evangelic sell-out preachers.

  3. JoeJ said on August 12th, 2010 at 7:07pm #

    Screw the rabbi – no one can have honest relations with Zionism!

    The Chief Rabbi led the verbal assault warning that the implications would “reverberate across the hitherto harmonious relationship between the faith communities in the UK”.

  4. hayate said on August 12th, 2010 at 8:36pm #

    Hmmmm…rabbis and “Jewish spokespeople” are upset about Methodists not wanting to support israeli crimes. Heinous crimes, that are recognised as such, all around the world.

    What does that tell one?

  5. mary said on August 13th, 2010 at 5:08am #

    Whatever these Krazies get up to in Wales as they prepare for the Rapture, the International boycott of Israel is growing:-


    Victory: Activists charged with blockading Israeli-owned beauty shop acquitted in court – demonstration this Saturday

    Four activists charged with aggravated trespass for blockading the Israeli-owned cosmetics shop, Ahava, in Covent Garden, London, in 2009, were today acquitted of all charges against them.

    The four – Bruce Levy, Tom Ellis, Jo Crouch and Taherali Gulamhussein, all from London – had locked themselves to concrete-filled oil drums inside the shop, closing it down for a day each time in September and December 2009.

    They appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, London, this week, and were acquitted this afternoon when the primary witness for the prosecution, Ahava’s store manager, refused to attend court to testify, despite courts summons and threats of an arrest warrant.

    Protes outside Ahava: Saturday 14 August 2010, 12-2pm, 39 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9DD

    International Transport Federation calls for Action on Illegal Israeli Settlements

    The International Transport Federation (ITF) passed a resolution at its 42nd congress in Mexico, calling on transport workers to stop ‘providing services’ to illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The resolutions calls on ITF to ‘take action against multinational companies providing transportation to settlements’.

    The ITF represents 759 unions, with over 4,600,000 transport workers in 155 countries.

    The resolution was tabled by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and seconded by the RMT – the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.

    RMT General Secretary and PSC patron, Bob Crow, said the vote was unanimous, with full support from all represented unions including railway and shipping unions.
    H&M is doing it again! BDS H&M call for international protests

    H&M’s establishment in Israel is continuing. A new men’s department is opening in H&M’s store in Haifa on the 18th of August and on the 26th of August they are opening their fourth store, this time in the Israeli city of Kfar Saba, despite worldwide criticism of Israel’s continued ignorance of international law.

    The “H&M – Don’t buy into occupation” campaign will be organising actions in Sweden on the 18th and 26th of August to make customers aware of H&M’s continued establishment in Israel.

    PSC Weekly Update

    PS I read that H&M have several stores in the US and in many other countries. They are Swedish owned and have their garments made in China, Bangladesh, India, Turkey etc.

  6. MichaelKenny said on August 13th, 2010 at 6:09am #

    Well I’ll be damned (if you’ll pardon the expression)! Stuart Littlewood doesn’t think Israel is winning any more! Things are looking up, Palestinian friends! Per ardua ad astra! Of course, the Methodists represent only about 300 000 people in the UK (compared to 13 million in the Church of England and 5 million Catholics, for example), so I wouldn’t exaggerate the effects of this, one way or the other. And there’s more good news: Mr Littlewood accepts that the Latin Patriarch (i.e. the head of the Catholic Church in Palestine) isn’t in Israel’s pocket. This from a man who frantically tried to convince us that the Patriarch’s “boss”, Pope Benedict, was an Israeli stooge! Gives me a whole new perspective on Friday 13th!

  7. woody said on August 13th, 2010 at 7:11am #

    The Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem is certainly no Zionist stooge – at least the last one – Michel Sabbah – wasn’t (not sure about the new one). But who knows what goes through the mind of the chap luxuriating in the ivory tower of the gilded Vatican Palace. He wouldn’t face down the Zio-nasties who barred him from visiting his flock in Gaza. So he still needs to convince me he isn’t one of them, as does that rabbi hobnobber the Archbishop of Canterbury.

  8. mary said on August 14th, 2010 at 3:33am #

    The position of the Methodist Church on their boycott of goods from illegal Israeli settlements is under six headings here –

    1. What has the Church decided to do?
    2. Why do you describe Israeli settlements in the West Bank as “illegal”?
    3. Why Israeli settlement goods? Why not boycott other countries?
    4. What should Methodists do?
    5. Why is the Church conducting research on Christian Zionism?
    6. Do all the things said during the Conference debate represent the Church’s views?