Methodist friends of Judaism

For me BDS clearly fits Natan Sharansky’s “three Ds” for anti-Semitism: delegitimizing, double standards and demonizing the State of Israel

PRO-PALESTINIAN protesters hold a banner 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
PRO-PALESTINIAN protesters hold a banner 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The consultation on BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) presently being conducted by the Methodist Church of Great Britain could have very serious consequences and, for those of us keen to develop greater awareness across the faithful in both Judaism and Christianity, a matter of grave concern.
For 15 years I have been a member of the Council of Christians and Jews and earlier this year a small number of us founded Methodist Friends of Judaism. We had come to believe it necessary to focus more sharply on the Methodist/Jewish relationship in Great Britain.
We simply intended to build bridges and cross them to shake hands, maybe even embrace, but certainly, given the opportunity, to enter into dialogue.
Our aims are as follows: • To celebrate the contribution of Judaism to not only Christianity but also to the world at large.
• To raise awareness of the historic and continuing presence of anti-Judaism within the Christian Church.
• To challenge anti-Semitism in whatever guise it manifests itself.
We are also charged with carrying out activities appropriate to the delivery of these aims.
We were and remain keen to fulfill our aims which are theological, historical and cultural, not political in any partisan sense. It was never our intention to become embroiled in debate on Israel/Palestine, but I guess it was inevitable.
So, following a notice of motion at the 2013 Methodist Conference calling on the church to draw up a report that presents the arguments for and against BDS a number of us became part of the consultation.
For me BDS clearly fits Natan Sharansky’s “three Ds” for anti-Semitism: delegitimizing, double standards and demonizing the State of Israel. It is therefore difficult for anyone supporting BDS to avoid the charge of anti-Semitism.
It is clear that singling out the only Jewish state in the world for such action is utterly reprehensible and blatantly immoral.
It is extraordinary that at a time when the civil war in Syria is costing the lives of tens of thousands, when ancient Christian communities are being persecuted and destroyed, when there is so much injustice in the region, let alone across the globe, that anyone should consider boycotting the only Jewish state in the world.
During the 60th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz the then- British prime minister Tony Blair said that the Holocaust began not with gas chambers but broken shop windows. Members of the BDS movement have protested outside shops simply because they are owned by Jews. This is not the sort of action any of us should allow without the strongest possible condemnation.
I am reminded of a Jew, two millenia ago, who walked on roads made by slave labor without apparent reference to them. He certainly didn’t boycott them. I am reminded of a Jew who warned against making judgments regarding others without acknowledging our own faults. It is the teaching of that Jew, Jesus, I seek to follow.
It is highly fashionable to don a keffiyeh in the West and to sign petitions against Israel.
But none of this is new. Nor is telling lies about Jews.
In every generation anti-Semitism has found different ways of expressing itself. For many centuries of course it was religiously based. Post enlightenment it became racially based. Today it is politically based. Others have more eloquently described it as a virus that mutates each time a version of it is seen for what it is.
There is a wonderful story about a conversation from the time of the Vietnam War between Henry Kissinger and the preacher William Sloane Coffin. Following an attack on the conduct of the war Kissinger responded by challenging Coffin to tell him what he would do given the circumstances and Coffin replied, “Sir, my job is to say to you ‘let justice roll down like mighty waters.’ Your job is to get the plumbing in place.”
The Israel-Palestine conflict has challenged the greatest diplomatic minds for decades and it is not for those at a distance to engage in the plumbing necessary for justice and peace to flow. Campaigners can be as prophetic as they like but when they do not reside in a country they should leave the governance of that country well alone.
To quote an old proverb, “you were a keeper of vineyards; you should have kept your own.”The author is a reverend and chairman of the Lincolnshire Methodist District. Blog: