LONDON – After lengthy internal consultations, Britain’s Methodist Church has published guidelines effectively endorsing its previous stance favoring a pro-BDS approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even though it claimed it was making no recommendations.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews made strenuous efforts to influence the process and steer the 800,000-strong Church into a more neutral approach on boycott, divestment and sanctions, or at least one which had a more muted line, but it was clear the board’s attempts had failed.
In the just released nine-page briefing paper, the Methodists stressed that having considered 2,500 responses and undertaken a joint Jewish-Methodist mission to Israel, they acknowledged that while a BDS approach is “likely to entrench division,” the way forward for their church was one of implementing a nonviolent line so that the government of Israel “must understand that failure to respond to international concerns over compliance with international law with respect to the occupied territories will come at a cost.”
They attempt, however, to allay Jewish and Israeli concerns about a pro-boycott stance by saying that there are Jews and Jewish organizations that “support some form of BDS,” implying that view is commonly held or even a majority view.
And they are dismissive of claims that a consumer boycott of Israel could cause economic hardship for Palestinians.
“Endorsement of the BDS movement by major Palestinian trades unions and farmers unions indicates that many Palestinians take the view that the pain inflicted by BDS is necessary to achieve rights in the longer term.”
Their report will be submitted to the Methodists conference due to take place in June. Its authors appear to just take note of Jewish community concerns before arguing that the benefits of a “pro BDS” line, regardless of its origins, is one worthy for the Church to follow.
A spokesman for the Israel Embassy in London maintained that the Methodists report was “harmful and divisive” and would help neither Palestinians nor Israelis in their quest for peace.
The Board of Deputies reflected on the “flawed process” followed by the Methodists as they had “only considered BDS” and not alternatives which promote peace.
“It only deepens divisions,” the board said.
The report was both “skewed and problematic,” the board said. But the board, which had already severed ties with the Church over the issue, appears still to believe it could influence its outlook, but as of now trying to win over the British Methodists in the battle against the advancing tide of BDS has failed.