The Methodist Church of Great Britain with its 6,000 churches has around 300,000 members. Although the Church already supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), it has now launched a public consultation with a questionnaire about the subject. The results will be debated next year at the annual Methodist Conference which has engaged in debate on Israel and Palestine frequently over the past 15 years. Background notes and the questionnaire are available at http://www.methodist.org.uk/bdsbriefing
An explanatory note advises that respondents should not feel obliged to address all the questions as some may have one or two key observations that they wish to make in which case they may leave many of the questions unaddressed.
Anti-Israel organizations have been quick to urge their followers to strongly support BDS in their responses.
Below is a copy of a memorandum I sent to the MethodistChurch
Memorandum from Maurice Ostroff
To members of the Methodist Church of Britain
October 23, 2013
Consultation on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions BDS)
Congratulations on your decision to consult with the public on your support for BDS
I refer to your question 13 in which you ask the very important question “What actions other than BDS might members of the Methodist Church take to encourage a political process that could deliver a just and sustainable resolution in Israel and Palestine?”
This question is vitally important because BDS is effectually an obstacle to the Christian objective of a just and sustainable resolution of the conflict.
It will come as a surprise to many that the objective of BDS is not a peaceful two state resolution, but in common with Hamas, its aim is “euthanasia” for Israel as expressed by BDS co-founder and leader Omar Barghouti in an article published on Electronic Intifada. Rather than Israel and Palestine existing side by side within agreed borders, he looks forward to a Palestine state next to a Palestine state. Moreover, when asked whether BDS would end if the “occupation” was brought to an end, Mr. Barghouti replied with an emphatic NO!
The above statements are borne out in this video clip in which Mr. Barghouti explains some of his true views to selected audiences.
In another article Mr. Barghouti wrote:
“In the West Bank you have a largely quisling [traitor] government” and “The PA government there has illegally appropriated the PLO’s authority to conduct Palestinian diplomacy and set foreign policy..”
The BDS attitude to President Abbas and the Palestine Authority (PA) conflicts fundamentally with that of the MethodistChurch. During a BDS conference at BethlehemUniversity on August 6, 2013, BDS speakers severely criticized the PA, the PLO, Yasser Abed Rabbo and even PA President Abbas for cooperating and negotiating with Israel. When PA minister of national economy Jawad Naji tried to defend the PA, BDS he was actually forced to flee with his entourage to angry shouts of “get the minister out” and “collaborators!”
Compare this with the Methodist Church’s constructive advice in paragraph 4 of your explanatory notes;
“Firstly, we want to encourage Methodists to engage in regular well-informed inter faith dialogue and also in prayer for the region and all who live there. Seek out interfaith groups locally to open dialogue for a greater understanding of the region“.
But your recommended dialogue and BDS are mutually exclusive. Dialogue is obviously impossible while BDS promotes the boycott of all forms of political, commercial, cultural, scientific and civic dialogue and cooperation. The MethodistChurch could however advance the above principles by reinforcing its own constructive recommendations in place of BDS. It would be constructive for example to establish a forum in cooperation with religious bodies of all faiths to engage in serious intellectual dialogue promoting peace, not only between Palestinians and Israelis, but among all of G-d’s children. For a start I recommend supporting and encouraging existing organizations that are already actively promoting cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians such as Search for Common Ground.
I suggest too, with great respect that your questionnaire would be enhanced by adding the following questions.
Question 1. Would you support BDS if you knew that its true objectives are incompatible with the peaceful solution advocated by the MethodistChurch, the UN, the US, the EU and Russia, namely two states, Israel and Palestine, existing side by side within agreed borders?
Question 2. Is the Israel apartheid accusation justified?
The Israel apartheid label is the most powerful weapon in the armory of the BDS movement cynically used by its leaders in the full knowledge that it is unjustified. . Even Mr. Barghouti admits that the description is inaccurate. He has said,” We don’t have to prove that Israel is identical to apartheid South Africa in order to justify the label apartheid.”
This is what Israel’s most publicized critic, Judge Richard Goldstone wrote in the NY Times on October 31, 2011 under the title
“Israel and the Apartheid Slander”; “It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations’.
Israel’s founding document ensures that all have equal rights. Eleven Arabs sit in Israel’s Knesset, three are deputy speakers and Arab students including Mr. Barghouti study in Israeli universities.
DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO. While Mr. Barghouti vociferously demanded that the world cut contacts with all academic institutions in Israel, he exempted himself and enrolled for a PhD at Tel Aviv University (TAU). As he holds a degree from Columbia University and travels widely it was obviously not through lack of choice that he chose TAU.
A corollary illustrates the complete academic freedom to which Israel is committed. In 2009, a petition was submitted asking the university to expel Mr. Barghouti because of his damaging activities. Rector Zvi Galil’s response rejecting the petition illustrates the falsity of the apartheid accusation. He said;
“A university campus should be a place that encourages and tolerates free speech, no matter how offensive the expressed opinions may be to the majority of students and faculty at that institution, or indeed to the public at large. Our university has adopted a similar policy also in previous occasions….The University cannot and will not expel this student based on his political views or actions. He will be assessed only on the basis of his academic achievements and excellence…”
As with every country in the world, there is much about Israel that justifies criticism, but apartheid is not among its warts as would be observed by any intellectually honest visitor who is able to suppress preconceived ideas and as confirmed by those who have experienced real apartheid and who know Israel for example as spoken by South African MP Dr. Kenneth Meshoe in this video.
The Methodist Church’s acceptance of this apartheid canard can probably best be understood as a tribute to the power of advertising (or more plainly propaganda) as a result of daily exposure to the persuasive and eloquent misleading exhortations in all the media since 2004.
And this is not surprising. The BDS campaign is abundantly funded. How else could it pay for the hugely expensive events around Israel Apartheid Week in over 250 cities across the world with huge billboards, lectures, music shows, films and workshops that are superlative examples of the scientific marketing principles practiced by international commercial institutions? The no-expenses-spared nature of the events, and the extensive professional organization involved, are mind-boggling.
Question 3. Is there a need for greater consistency?
Your explanatory note makes reference to the need for greater consistency and since consistency implies intellectual honesty I trust you will allow me to deal with this concept at some length. It is highly relevant to the Methodist boycott call as there can be no gainsaying the obvious lack of consistency in singling out Israel.
Let’s look at just one example of many. The MethodistChurch regards Israeli settlements as illegal in terms of the 4th Geneva Convention principle that an occupier should not transfer parts of its own population into the territories it occupies. Surely consistency demands that the same criteria be applied to Northern Cyprus which has been occupied illegally by Turkey since 1974. In 1983 the Turkish held area declared itself the TurkishRepublic of Northern Cyprus a status recognized only by Turkey, which keeps around 30,000 troops there.
As about 150,000-160,000 Turks who have transferred to Cyprus are regarded as “illegal settlers” by the Republic of Cyprus, how does one explain the application of the Geneva Convention to Israel and not to Turkey, bearing in mind that Israel has the defense that the territories were gained in a defensive war, unlike the unprovoked Turkish invasion of Cyprus?
Inconsistently singling out Israel is not confined to BDS. The UN general assembly annually passes more than 20 resolutions against Israel and only four against the rest of the world combined. While the anti-Israel voting pattern at the UN can be understood in terms of the unbalanced voting blocs, the focus on Israel by the MethodistChurch probably results from the propaganda described above.
Question 4. Are Methodists focusing on the most important needs?
By rejecting the two state solutions, BDS identifies with the openly declared policy of Hamas and by singling out Israel, BDS promoters are diverting attention from neglected areas that cry out for action by Christians such as the persecution of Christians by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and its offshoot Hamas.
According to AP, after defeating Fatah in 2007, Hamas extremists focused their attacks on Christians in Gaza. They ransacked, burned and looted a school and convent, crosses were broken, a statue of Jesus was damaged and prayer books were burned. In June 2013 a law banning co-ed schools has left Christians fearful that their schools are in danger of closure. According to the Guardian, Christians in Gaza face intimidation and arrest over Christmas celebrations and Christians in Gaza are suffering ‘forced’ conversions to Islam.
The number of Christians in Gaza has shrunk from some 3,500 to about 1,500. By contrast the Christian population in Israel is growing at a rate of 1.3% annually.
Connecting the dots, Hamas whose objectives coincide with those of BDS, has been declared a terrorist organization by the EU, the USA, Canada and Japan. It is an offshoot of the MB which is linked to al-Qaeda and which, according to several news reports is linked to the Somali terrorist group Al Shabab that was responsible for the recent Nairobi mall massacre during which the attackers announced that only non-Muslims were their targets. Shoppers were asked by the terrorists to name the Prophet Mohammed’s mother. Those who failed to give her correct name, Amina, were shot dead.
On August 22, the Daily Beast reported that the MB is engaged in a terror campaign against Egypt’s Christian minority, attacking Christian homes, shops, schools and churches throughout the country in the worst violence against the Coptic Church since the 14th century. And Catholic World News reported that in the Egyptian city of Dalga which has been taken over by the MB, Christians live in terror. Churches have been attacked, a monastery burned and Jizya, the special tax on non-Muslims has been imposed on the 15,000 Coptic Christians who remain in Dalga.
Not only Christians but all non-Muslims are threatened by radical Islamic rule. Freemasons, Rotary clubs, Lions and similar organizations should also beware as the Hamas Charter promises to obliterate these organizations.
Obviously, the powerful misleading, albeit highly professional BDS propaganda campaign is successfully diverting the attention and consciences of sincere well-meaning Christians away from the crying needs of innumerable sufferers from injustice around the world.