A REPORT by the Methodist Church examining the Boycott,
Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been criticised by the
Israeli Embassy and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The briefing was prepared by the Church in response to a request
by the Methodist Conference last year. The BDS campaign calls for
an international boycott and disinvestment from of Israeli goods
and companies, especially those commercially involved with
settlements inside the occupied West Bank.
While the briefing does not recommend that the Methodist Church
join the BDS movement, it was condemned by the Israeli Embassy as
an attempt to "legitimise the extremist BDS political
A spokesman from the embassy said: "This is a troubling
departure from the Methodist Church's long tradition of genuine
listening and promoting reconciliation and justice."
Since 2010, the Methodist Church has supported a limited boycott
of goods and services from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It
also has a policy of avoiding investment in companies which are
involved in such settlements.
The briefing examines arguments in favour of a more general
boycott and divestment regime, but states that it does not make a
judgement on the BDS movement.
The report says that the Methodist Church recognises both the
Palestinian right to self-determination and the national
aspirations of the Jewish people. It says: "As, sadly, given the
increasing levels of anger and frustration, the prospect of a new
armed conflict cannot be ruled out, the need for effective
non-violent strategies has never been greater.
"Among the strategies for non-violence, BDS has come to be
regarded by many Palestinians and others as particularly
The report suggests that everyday life for Palestinians is
overshadowed by occupation in the West Bank, and blockade in the
Gaza Strip, and that by continuing to build settlements in the West
Bank, Israel has jeopardised hopes for a successful two-state
solution. It also acknowledges the fact that a general boycott of
Israel would be likely to cause Palestinians to lose jobs and
Among Methodists, there is no consensus on the Israel-Palestine
conflict, the briefing concludes. Some Methodists are Christian
Zionists who wholeheartedly support Israel; others are sympathetic
to the Palestinian cause; many are unsure.
Despite the cautious tone of the briefing, it was criticised by
the vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews,
Jonathan Arkush. "In view of the clear and present dangers to the
peace process today, the last thing we need are more ways to prise
apart the two national communities. Achieving [a peaceful two-state
solution] will take the dialogue and compromise that is anathema to
the BDS movement."
The report was flawed, Mr Arkush said, because it did not offer
alternative courses of action to a boycott. "We look today at a
Middle East . . . where Christians flee for their lives, and where
the Israel-Palestine conflict seems more intractable than ever.
"It is a challenge to Methodists, to Jews, and to all people who
say that they want peace - both in the UK and in the region itself.
The challenge is this: if you want peace, go out and make it
happen. Build bridges, not boycotts. Don't divest and divide.
Invest in peace and dialogue."
A spokeswoman for the Methodist Church declined to comment on
the Board of Deputies' criticism.