The Methodist Church in Britain claims they are preparing a report on BDS. They are preparing prepare a briefing document for Methodists on the arguments for and against the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement. We must take them at their word and make sure the anti BDS arguments are well represented.
Five Minutes for Israel responds
Everybody, Take the survey online. Responses are required by 08.00 am, Monday 4 November 2013.
There is no need to copy anyone’s responses but mine may give you some ideas. As usual, 5MFI responses are in green.
The wider context around Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
- What do you understand to be the motivation/inspiration behind the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in relation to Israel?
- BDS is the enemies of Israel using the language of human rights as an auxiliary to plans to destroy Israel.
- In your view, what would be the essential elements of any peace agreement in Israel/Palestine?
- The Muslim-Arab-Palestinian world must recognise Jewish rights in Israel in the same manner as Nelson Mandela recognised the rights of the Afrikaners as ‘the white tribe of Africa’.
- The Muslim-Arab-Palestinian world must declare, publicly, both in Arabic and other languages that what ever agreement is made will be final and the end to all claims and demonstrate their commitment by ceasing all incitement in schools, the media they control and international bodies.
- The unique inheritable refugee status that Palestinians possess must be abolished and a definition of how and when refugee status lapses must be accepted. The UNHCR rules that apply to everyone else must be applied.
- Do you support a boycott of products produced within Israeli settlements?
- NO. The boycott is nothing more than hypocritical symbolism that targets easily replaceable and luxury items. It will only harden Israeli objections to any compromise; increase unemployment of Palestinian workers employed in enterprises on either side of the 1948 disengagement lines and removes the Methodist Church from any serious claim to neutrality. In addition, Palestinians claim all of Israel is a settlement, so the distinction is fairly meaningless, other than as an indication that the Methodist Church has taken sides in the war against the Jews.
- Do you support the call for a wider consumer boycott of all Israeli products?
- NO. There are approximately 192 countries in the world, most with far worse human rights records than Israel, and the Methodist Church boycotts products from none of them. Many of them specifically target Christians for attack. Yet the Methodist church is silent.
- If you answer ‘Yes’ to Question 4, what changes would you need to see to be content to end your boycott?
- I was tempted to say YES. Israeli research is so ubiquitous that virtually every computer, copying machine or mobile phone is crammed with Israeli innovation. The 2015 report on the implementation of the boycott would have to be written on a typewriter and mimeographed.
- What are the arguments against a consumer boycott of all Israeli products? What are the risks?
- The most basic argument is that the charges against Israel are exaggerated, hypocritical or simply false. They do not take into account the real threats and actual attacks against Israeli citizens that make some unpleasant actions reasonable, moderate, understandable and considerably less harsh than other liberal democracies have taken under similar conditions.
- Without claiming Israel is perfect, it by far approaches the ideal of a Western orientated liberal democracy better than any of its neighbours. Boycotting it and not those neighbours reduces incentive for them to strive towards democracy.
- No boycott is mounted against other countries with horrific human rights records. China executes between 5,000 and 6,000 people annually yet there is no call to boycott the thousands of Chinese products imported to the UK. It is also in belligerent and far harsher occupation of Tibet. Most Arab/Muslim oil producers have far poorer records than Israel yet no oil boycott is planned. Singling out Israel labels the Methodist Church as hypocrites.
- Unlike the purely cosmetic boycott campaigns that BDS conducts a general consumer boycott would really hurt the consumers, if seriously attempted. As mentioned in Question 5. most high-tech articles, which are a part of modern living include Israeli innovations to the point that they are inoperative without them. Would the Methodist Church recommend that its members forgo life-saving medical procedures on the grounds that the technology was developed in Israel? The deeper the boycott goes the less likely it will be for members of the church to implement it in their personal lives.
- A general boycott punishes the innocent as much as the guilty.
- Some 20% of Israelis are not Jewish and they will be disproportionately harmed by a general boycott. In addition it punishes those residents of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza who are employed or conduct business with Israel. About 80% of Palestinian exports are conducted through Israeli marketing bodies, particularly in agricultural products which are the easiest to boycott.
- Such a call for boycott would be seen by Israelis (and Palestinians) as taking sides and remove the Methodist Church from any consideration as a neutral organisation.
- If you do not support the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, could you ever see yourself supporting such a call in the future? Under what circumstances?
- Probably not. A call to cut the United Kingdom and European Union support of Palestine until they accept proper and transparent management of those funds; end incitement to violence, particularly by children and the persecution of local Christians might actually be effective.
- What message does the call for a consumer boycott of Israel communicate to the general public? (please specify whether you are answering with reference to the public in the UK, in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or elsewhere)
- Many of the Israeli public will read the call as a continuation of two thousand years of Christian antisemitism and far from encouraging the changes the boycott is supposed to engender will harden opposition.
- Many in the Palestinian Authority (calling it Occupied Palestinian Territories is itself seen as form of bias) will see this as a sign of traditional Christian servitude to Islam and a sign that conversion of the UK to Islam is progressing. As it requires nothing from the Palestinians either in relation to Israel or domestically it reinforces the opinion that the world demands nothing from them in return for billions of aid and support from bodies like the Methodist Church.
- Do you support an academic boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.
- NO. Academic boycotts are rarely desirable, in principle. They damage the United Kingdom particularly in medicine and the sciences by hindering research of mutual benefit. As with a consumer boycott they are completely hypocritical when no other country is targeted.
- Do you support a cultural boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.
- NO. Ironically, left-wing support for pressure on Israel seems to believe in is highest in the Israeli media and entertainment, although academia is also high. Cultural boycotts will only damage the small minority of Israelis who actually support the Methodist stand. Disrupting a concert or a ballet, as BDS are wont to do, achieves nothing more than the discomfort of those who bought tickets. Posturing for posturing’s sake with no price to the boycotter.
- Under what circumstances, if any, should the Methodist Church divest from companies operating in Israel.
- Only if those companies are directly and knowingly involved in a crime. Selling equipment that may have a secondary use in an action the Methodist does not approve of is hardly direct enough. Would the Methodist Church boycott Boeing because some of its products are used in the American army in Iraq? Would it refuse to fly in their civilian airplanes? What is the Methodist Church doing in business, anyway?
- Should the UK government or European Union impose trade or other restrictions on economic relationships with Israel or alternatively limited restrictions on economic engagement with settlements? If so what form should such sanctions take?
- NO. Trade is a two way process. Real restrictions hurt both sides. They should engage in such efforts only in the most extreme cases. Israel isn’t this. Boycotts and restrictions on the settlements are so marginal in the greater scheme of Israeli trade relations that all sides see them for the hypocritical symbolism they are. Otherwise the same comments as in Question 3 and 6 apply.
- What actions other than BDS might members of the Methodist Church take to encourage a political process that could deliver a just and sustainable resolution in Israel and Palestine?
- I am not sure there is any so long as the Methodist Church wears blinkers about the crimes and actions of the Palestinians in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority. This survey is entirely slanted on how to pressure Israel to take steps it sees against its own interests and possibly survival and ignores that this conflict as most conflicts has two sides. Few groups are more to blame for their situation than the Palestinians.
- Is there any further theological or other comment that you would like to make in relation to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or are there papers or other resources that you would highlight?
- Deuteronomy 14:2
- From the 1780 A Collection of hymns for the Use of the people called Methodists.
- Almighty God of love,
Set up th’ attracting sign,
And summon whom thou dost approve
For messengers divine;
From favoured Abraham’s seed
The new apostles choose,
In isles and continents to spread
The dead-reviving news.
- Them, snatched out of the flame,
Through every nation send,
The true Messiah to proclaim,
The universal Friend;
That all the God unknown
May learn of Jews t’adore,
And see thy glory in thy Son,
Till time shall be no more.
- O that the chosen band
Might now their brethren bring,
And, gathered out of every land,
Present to Zion’s King!
Of all the ancient race
Not one be left behind,
But each, impelled by secret grace,
His way to Canaan find.
- We know it must be done,
For God hath spoke the word;
All Israel shall the Saviour own,
To their first state restored;
Rebuilt by his command,
Jerusalem shall rise,
Her temple on Moriah stand
Again, and touch the skies.
- Send then thy servants forth,
To call the Hebrews home,
From east, and west, and south, and north,
Let all the wanderers come;
Where’er in lands unknown
The fugitives remain,
Bid every creature help them on,
Thy holy mount to gain.
- An offering to their Lord
There let them all be seen,
Sprinkled with water and with blood,
In soul and body clean;
With Israel’s myriads sealed
Let all the nations meet,
And show the mystery fulfilled,
Thy family complete.
- Almighty God of love,