Methodist BDS Consultation, Christian Responses

My organisation, among others, has submitted a response to the British Methodist Church’s open consultation on boycotts against Israel (BDS). You can read our paper here.

The 2010 resolution of the Methodist Conference that supported boycotts of Israel caused some stir among pro-Israel Christians in Britain. The caucus of such Christians who are members of the Methodist church is very small and those of us outside that denomination could only look on, helpless to make any comment on the decision in either direction.

Of course, there was no reason why non-Methodists should have been asked to contribute to the deliberations that led up to the original resolution and its vote. It was purely an internal affair within that denomination, albeit one that reverberated through the pro/anti-BDS debate. Those of us “outside the fold”, as it were, were dismayed at the narrow breadth of sources used to compile the resolution document. There was a lack of objective analysis of the omissions in the Palestinian Christian Kairos Document and strong implication that British pro-Israel Christians are all extremist Christian Zionists – an assessment made from pure ignorance of the British Christian pro-Israel scene; an ignorance stemming from a reluctance (refusal?) to enter into face-to-face dialogue.

All this made the decision of the denomination to open up its discussion to include non-Methodists very welcome. I have a feeling, however, that they may not have expected many people outside the Christian world to take much notice and they are probably reeling now at the amount of material that is rumoured to have been submitted from Jewish and secular sources as well as Christian.

It has been a good opportunity for the pro-Israel Christians in Britain to put the record straight on their theology and to offer not only reasons why BDS is not something Christians should be involved with, but also to make suggestions of other ways of helping peace to break out between Israel and the Palestinians.

While non-Christians are welcome to have their say, this is essentially a church issue that must be decided between Christian leaders and their constituencies. Christian attitudes towards Israel and the Jewish people have been a controversy in the Church for centuries. BDS has added an unhelpful political aspect to the debate, rendered more so because BDS methods and wild claims are antithetical to Christian ethos and theology. Christians should be looking for the truthful and honourable path to justice and peace and not buying into untrue and deceptive claims of “apartheid state”, “ethnic cleansing” and other such unsupportable and dishonest accusations.

Christian Middle East Watch, among other Christian organisations, submitted a paper to the consultation. In it we offer a broad Christian perspective on BDS. We describe the deceptive base on which the BDS movement stands, give a number of reasons why Christians should not support BDS and offer a number of other, more “Christ-like” options, by which Christians can support and work towards genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

We trust that the volume of responses to their consultation will help and not hinder Methodist considerations and will lead to an objective and balanced response to the issue of boycotts against Israel!

About the Author
Nick Gray is the Director of Christian Middle East Watch (CMEW), a British Christian organisation bringing factual and balanced information and opinions to the discussion on Israel and the Middle East.
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