A new report by the Methodist Church weighing up whether to boycott Israel appears to confirm suspicions that the denomination is preparing to back the move at a national level later this year.
The highly anticipated briefing document, advising Methodists of the pros and cons of supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, does not conclude one way or the other.
However, it sets the groundwork for a decision later this year in favour of joining what is widely seen as an anti-Israel movement.
With a series of pre-emptive arguments, the report says: “When a Church criticises the policies of Israel it can be perceived as hatred and victimisation of the Jewish people, although the intention may be very different.”
It continues: “Some might see that the intention of those supporting BDS is to challenge the existence of the State of Israel. This would be an unreliable characterisation of the supporters of BDS and an over-simplification of a difficult issue.”
Jewish communal bodies were less than impressed with the reasoning, however, with the Board of Deputies issuing a strong statement against the publication.
“It confirms our earlier fears,” read a Board statement. “The report is skewed and problematic for a whole host of reasons.”
Board Vice-President Jonathan Arkush, who has been leading the fight against the Methodist consultation for over a year, said: “BDS is a maximalist movement that wants all the land and opposes dialogue or compromise. It seeks to unfairly punish all Israelis, including Israeli Arabs.”
He added: “People of good-will know that there is no future in a ‘Greater Palestine’ or a ‘Greater Israel’. Two peoples will need to share the land, and their consistent preference is for two-states. Achieving this will take the dialogue and compromise that is anathema to the BDS movement.”