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Methodist Church’s boycott of Israeli goods

by
13 October 2010

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From the Revd David Haslam

Sir, — As a fellow Methodist, I was greatly saddened to see the report (News, 8 October) that a local preacher, David Hallam, is intending to sue the Methodist Church over the boycott of Israeli goods produced in West Bank settlements. This is partly because, owing to the similarity of our names, I am from time to time mistaken for Mr Hallam. Indeed, I already have been over this matter.

There are several aspects to my sadness. First, we are enjoined in the New Testament not to take fellow Christians to law, but to settle mat­ters among ourselves. There are many parallels between the Israel-Palestine situation and the struggle against apartheid, and Mr Hallam’s initiative reminds me of when the Methodist Church was taken to court by another local preacher for contributing to the World Council of Churches’ (WCC’s) Programme to Combat Racism.

In that situation, eventually, everyone saw the light and became anti-apartheid, and that brother was as mistaken as Mr Hallam is in terms of understanding what is really going on in a context where the oppressors have a very well-funded and effective public-relations operation.

Second, Mr Hallam seems to think that this is a discriminatory action against all Jews. He appears unaware that many Jews are deeply unhappy about the policies of the Israeli government, and feel them to be fundamentally mistaken, even from a Jewish perspective. Some of them, like Gila Svirsky, an orthodox religious Zionist who lives in west Jerusalem, says: “The soul of our nation is being eaten away by this Occupation. If you want to be a true friend of Israel, strive for the ending of the Occupation. . . We need to mount boycott campaigns against products and goods from the settle­ments both within and outside Israel. . .”

Third, I wonder whether Mr Hallam has read A Moment of Truth, the Kairos document produced by 12 leading Palestinian Christians in December 2009, and supported by the Heads of Churches there, which also calls for a campaign of divest­ment and a boycott of settlement goods? This is supported by the World Council of Churches, too, as well as the Methodist Church.

Really, to be consistent, Mr Hallam should bring his case not just against the Methodist Church, but against the WCC, the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem, and Israelis such as Gila Svirsky.

In fact, of course, the real law-breakers in Israel are the settlers, aided and abetted by the Israeli government. There are now nearly half a million of them living in 130 settlements that are illegal according to international law. The Israeli government thumbs its nose daily at the international community by taking no action against these outlaws.

One final point: to be against extreme “the-Holy-Land-is-ours” Zionism is not to be anti-Semitic. Arguably it is to be pro-Semitic, because it wishes to see a just peace for all the peoples of Israel-Palestine, in which all have the land, water, peace, and security which is their human right.

DAVID HASLAM
59 Burford Road
Evesham WR11 3AG

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