The United Methodist Church, America’s largest mainstream Protestant denomination has voted against banning products used by Israel to protect herself in the Palestinian territories, along with the companies that makes those products.
Set against the backdrop of boycott, divestment and sanctions, an international anti-Israel movement aimed at delegitimizing the Jewish state, the church decided not to support the movement at their quadrennial convention taking place in Tampa, Florida. They did however decide to support a ban on other Israeli made products, calling for “all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.”
“We are all concerned about the suffering and the ongoing occupation, because it is hurting Israeli and Palestinian society. But what the church has said is we want a positive step, and we reject punitive measures as a way of trying to bring peace,” stated Rev. Alex Joyner from Virginia. Joyner is a member of the United Methodists for Constructive Peacemaking in Israel and Palestine Caucus.
American Jews, American Christians, and Israelis lobbied against the church supporting the boycott, including over 1,000 rabbis who wrote a letter preceding the convention, claiming the BDS movement “paints Israel as a pariah”.
“Though we did not get the decision we hoped for, we have succeeded in raising awareness about the persecution of Palestinian Christians and Muslims,” said Susanne Hoder, who supported the call for boycotting those companies and products helping Israel to defend itself from security threats in the region. ”We have awakened the conscience of the churches and pointed out the inconsistency between our words and our actions.”
The Presbyterian Church USA is scheduled to vote on similar measures in late June of this year.