Jewish leaders brace for new boycotts

07/04/2010 01:31

UK Methodist decision seen unlikely to trigger domino effect.

In the wake of last week”s decision by the UK”s Methodist Church to boycott Israeli-produced goods and services from the West Bank, concern is growing among Diaspora Jewish interfaith leaders that this “new front” against Israel will be adopted elsewhere in Europe.

Such a wider campaign, The Jerusalem Post was told over the weekend, could threaten interfaith efforts all over Europe.

UK church to boycott Israeli goods
‘Boycott efforts worsening in Britain’

At this stage, the danger is not deemed to be acute, and there is an assessment that the Methodists” vote will probably not trigger a domino effect within the Christian community in Britain or beyond.

The Methodists, said to be the fourth largest Christian denomination in the UK, are seen as representing a relatively small and declining community. And to date, the Post was told, mainstream churches are not jumping on the bandwagon; still, the success with the Methodists is expected to prompt similar efforts to win church support for boycott campaigns in every European country.

The Methodists” vote is seen by worried interfaith activists as a consequence of a highly organized recent outreach effort by Palestinian Christian leaders, centered around last December”s Kairos Palestine Document, which was endorsed by numerous patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem.

This document declared, in the name of Palestinian Christians, that “the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity.” It rejected “any theology that legitimizes the occupation” as being “far from Christian teachings.” And it urged all Christians to adopt “boycott and disinvestment” efforts en route to “the longed-for resolution to our problems, as indeed happened in South Africa and with many other liberation movements in the world.”

Speaking to the Post on Friday, meanwhile, Britain”s chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, urged an intensification of interfaith dialogue, including with Britain”s Methodist Church, as the path to reversing the UK Methodists” decision.

“It is a disturbing development, but I do not believe we should consider it a lost battle,” said Sacks. “I would urge the Methodists themselves, having seen the strength of the reaction on the part of the Jewish community, to now begin a serious dialogue with us which will allow them to hear the other side of the case. I think we should strengthen our work in the interfaith field and not despair of it.”

Sacks”s “intensified dialogue” response differs sharply from a joint statement issued by the UK Zionist Federation and Christian Friends of Israel last week, which asserted that “interfaith dialogue between Jews and Christians on the one hand, and those Methodists who supported the motion on the other, is impossible until this report is withdrawn in its entirety, and a more balanced approach to this extremely difficult subject is adopted.”

Sacks noted that general relations between the British Jewish community and the British Christian community had “improved out of all measure in recent decades,” and that relations with “other faith communities” had greatly improved too.

He said he would be urging “our congregations and communities to be more active in interfaith and community relations,” in the hope that this would prevent the “further occurrence” of such episodes.

Sacks had earlier made plain his view that the report upon which the Methodist conference last week based its boycott call was “unbalanced, factually and historically flawed,” and that it provided “no genuine understanding of one of the most complex conflicts in the world today.

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