Will Western churches back the BDS movement?

Stuart Littlewood
Stuart Littlewood
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“Reverberations” expected as Methodists go out to consultation on BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions)

The Methodist Church in Britain has invited individuals, NGOs, faith groups and government organisations in the UK, Israel/Palestine and beyond to take part in a consultation exercise and answer questions on what it calls “the wider context around BDS.”

The aim is to produce a briefing document for the Church’s 2014 conference setting out the arguments for and against applying BDS to Israel. It will be used to help Methodists decide how to respond to the call of the BDS movement.

If the inevitable showdown is coming, let’s all be part of it.

Stuart Littlewood

British Methodists will be remembered for blazing a trail through the BDS minefield at their annual conference three years ago. They voted to boycott products from Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine, regarded as illegal under international law, and to encourage Methodists across the country to do the same.

This followed a call from Palestinian Christians, a growing number of Jewish organisations both inside Israel and worldwide, and the World Council of Churches.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships, explained at the time: “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.”

The end of Jewish goodwill?

The Board of Deputies of British Jews promptly blew a fuse. In a joint statement with the Jewish Leadership Council they said the Methodists should “hang their heads in shame” and warned that the implications would “reverberate across the hitherto harmonious relationship between the faith communities in the UK.”

What upset them most was a report, “Justice for Palestine and Israel,” submitted to the Methodist Conference. It said, among other things, that in listening to Church leaders and fellow-Christians in Israel and Palestine, as well as leaders of Palestinian civil society, “we hear an increasing consensus calling for the imposition of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a major strategy of non-violent resistance to the occupation. The conference notes the call of the WCC [World Council of Churches] in 2009 for an “international boycott of settlement produce and services” and calls on the Methodist people to support and engage with this boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements (some Methodists would advocate a total boycott of Israeli goods until the occupation ends).

It also said the Methodist Church had consistently expressed its concern over the occupation of Palestinian lands, and its continuation not only compounded Israel’s illegal and immoral action but also made any accommodation with the Palestinian people and future peace in the region less likely.


The Chief Rabbi called the report “unbalanced, factually and historically flawed” without saying in what way it was inaccurate. The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council said the authors of the report had abused the goodwill of the Jewish community. “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.”

"The deeply flawed report is symptomatic of a biased process... as crass as it is misinformed. That this position should now form the basis of Methodist Church policy should cause the conference to hang its head in shame, just as surely as it will cause the enemies of peace and reconciliation to cheer from the sidelines.”

For decades the “goodwill” of the Jewish community has been worthless in securing justice for the Palestinians and ending their misery at the hands of the so-called “Jewish State.” If such a tirade is the only response to legitimate concerns about Israel’s barbarity towards Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land, the shame is theirs, not to mention the “breath-taking insensitivity.”

Crunch-time for Christendom in the Holy Land

As for those threatened “reverberations”, maybe that's exactly what's needed, not only here in the UK but around the world including (and especially) the U.S.

A further initiative by the Methodists is therefore welcome. This time they hint at a total boycott. I hope they realise that Israel’s high command has recruited an army of cyber-scribblers and professional obfuscators for its propaganda unit and trained them in the despicable “arts” of deception, distortion and defamation. Not that this should put the Methodists off, but they will need to beef up their own communications and public affairs capability and brace themselves to withstand maximum interference and vilification between now and the conference next June.

If the inevitable showdown is coming, let’s all be part of it. These are the questions the Methodists want answered. The scope is good and figuring out suitable responses quite fun, so go visit the website and follow the link to the online survey.

Everyone will have different ideas on how far BDS should go and the forms it should take. So rally round and help the Church out. Join in the spirit of the game and submit your views.

Well done, Methodists. That's my two cents worth.


Stuart Littlewood is a marketing specialist turned writer-photographer in the UK. He is a regular contributor to Al Arabiya English website and the author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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