British Methodists boycott settlement goods

July 4, 2010

WASHINGTON (JTA) — British Methodists voted to boycott goods manufactured in West Bank settlements.

“This decision has not been taken lightly, but after months of research, careful consideration and, finally, today”s debate at the Conference,” said a statement June 30, the day the Methodist Conference voted on the matter at a conference in Portsmouth. “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.”

British Jewish groups condemned the boycott, saying that the report adopted at the conference was composed solely by Israel critics and reflected a biased account of Israeli history, mentioning only in passing Arab rejectionism; that outsiders invited to review the report had their recommendations rejected; and that the report included a recommendation to reassess Zionism.

“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,” said a joint statement by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council. “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.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the British chief rabbi, said the adoption of the report would “reverberate across the hitherto harmonious relationship between the faith communities” in Britain, the London Jewish Chronicle reported.

Separately, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is scheduled to consider over the weekend similar reports recommending a suspension of aid to Israel. A number of Jewish groups have urged the Presbyterians to reject the recommendations.

B’nai B’rith International is circulating a letter to the Presbyterians from Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli Cabinet minister who is among the country’s most prominent doves and critics of the current policies of the Netanyahu government.

In the letter, Beilin urged the Assembly to “decline adopting materials and proposals that place inordinate blame on Israel for the conflict, without due appreciation for the extent of the physical threats — both rhetoric and deeds — that its people face. As much so, the singling out for censure or punitive measures of businesses engaged with one side to one complex conflict is highly counterproductive.”

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