Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said he was “saddened” to learn that Methodists in the UK had once again voted to support the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
There are around 170,000 Methodists in the UK and at the Church’s annual conference in Telford last week, they voted to continue supporting BDS, which Mirvis said would “further erode relations with the Jewish community”.
The Chief Rabbi added that “BDS does not, in any way, advance the cause of peace [in the Middle East],” adding that the Methodist community “should invest in constructive engagement with Israeli society”.
An Israel/Palestine Working Group was established by the Methodist Conference in 2009. In 2010, the Conference “adopted a resolution supporting a consumer boycott of settlement projects” and called for “the actions of companies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to be taken into account in investment decisions”.
In 2013, the Conference requested a briefing document setting out the arguments “for and against BDS”, which was produced in July 2014, coinciding with military action against Hamas in the Gaza Strip by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), which led to the death of 2,251 Palestinians, according to the United Nations.
At last year’s Conference, Methodist leaders blamed the Israeli government for “the deteriorating situation” for Christians in Gaza and the West Bank and even debated a motion accusing Jerusalem of “self-promotion” over its Covid vaccine roll-out.
Despite the difficulties, Jewish-Methodist relations have been maintained. In 2020, the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) built on six years of Middle East dialogue to work with the Methodist Church on an Israel/Palestine resource, following a Methodist grant.
That year, the Board of Deputies met Methodist representatives “to discuss faith community responses to Covid-19, as well as other domestic and foreign policy issues”. They also attended the Methodist Friends of Judaism’s conference “to build bridges and discuss challenging topics”.
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