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November 4, 2013 11:35 am

An Open Letter to Peter Tidey of the Methodist Church in Britain

avatar by Dexter Van Zile

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A view of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photo: Berthold Werner.

May it please the Kangaroo Court…

Peter Tidey:

I write to you in your capacity as the point person for the survey that the Methodist Church in Britain has posted online. I do so reluctantly and after struggling with a difficult question: How does one respond to an invitation to testify at a kangaroo court?

A quick perusal of the questions indicates that the church has already concluded that Israel is solely responsible for the continued existence of the Mideast conflict, and that the Palestinians (and their Arab supporters) bear no responsibility. The only question facing your church is how Israel should be punished.

So, like any kangaroo court, the survey presents a conundrum.

Should people submit their testimony and risk giving the kangaroo court unwarranted legitimacy?

Or should they ignore the proceedings only to risk being told, “You were given a chance to participate” when the church imposes its sentence?

Despite my misgivings, I decided to respond to your survey.

While I work for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, I am not writing on behalf of my employer. I am responding as a Christian who has grown disgusted with the monomaniacal focus of so-called peace and human rights activists in the West, who have hijacked church bureaucracies in their campaign to demonize Israel.

Below are my responses to your churches interrogatories.

Question One: What do you understand to be the motivation/inspiration behind the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in relation to Israel?

The BDS campaign has, as intended by its organizers, proven to be a powerful vehicle in the effort to enlist people to the demonization and de-legitimization of the Jewish State, which represents the gold standard for human rights in the Middle East.

Israel treats its enemies, dissidents, minorities, and its own citizens with far greater humanity and respect than any other country, regime, or political movement in the region and yet it is the country that is being targeted by BDS activists both inside and outside the Methodist Church in England. Anti-semitism is clearly part of the equation in the BDS movement.

If you doubt that anti-semitism plays a role in this campaign, consider the following:

Saudia Arabia is responsible for broadcasting Wahhabism, a radical form of Islam, to other countries in the world. In addition to oppressing women and minorities, and supporting jihadis who have killed Christians in Syria, the Saudi regime has funded the construction of mosques in North America and Europe whose leaders have made it harder for Muslims to integrate into Western society. (Inhabitants of England may have some knowledge of this problem.)

Iran has oppressed religious and ethnic minorities and supports Hezbollah, an organization that has intentionally murdered civilians throughout the world. It is, by many accounts, pursuing a nuclear weapons program to provide an atomic umbrella to its proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

Syria has been the scene of a deadly civil war where more than 100,000 people have been killed in just over two years. The Assad regime has used poison gas against civilians.

Turkey brutally oppresses Kurds and has refused to accept responsibility for the Armenian Genocide, which resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million people between 1915 and 1922.

Many goods produced in China are manufactured by slave labor. The country oppresses religious and ethnic minorities and has occupied and brutally repressed Tibet.

Moreover, Christians are being ethnically cleansed in Iraq, with hardly a word of protest from their co-religionists in the West, although to be fair, people are coming around on this issue. (Just not the Methodist Church.)

Why is there no BDS campaign targeting these countries? Where is the Methodist outrage over these misdeeds?

Question Two: In your view, what would be the essential elements of any peace agreement in Israel/Palestine?

Personally, I used to think that the Clinton Parameters would bring an end to the conflict. Today I’m not so sure.

The problem we face is that the current crop of Palestinian leaders who have encouraged their people to fight against Israel for the past several decades cannot obtain anything that wasn’t already offered to them previously on a number of occasions.

If they were to accept a peace treaty now that was largely similar to what could have been achieved in 1947, 1948, 68, or at Camp David in 2000, Palestinians would ask: “What was the point of all the suffering we endured over the past several decades? Why did you send us off to war? What did we achieve with the death of our children?”

As a result of this reality, one essential aspect of peace is the departure of the current crop of aged leaders from the Palestinian scene.

Other essential elements of peace include an acknowledgement of Israel as a Jewish state by Palestinian leaders and a repudiation of the anti-Jewish hostility that has animated Palestinian public life for decades (and which has only gotten worse since the Oslo Accords).

A normalization and routinization of daily life for both Israelis and Palestinians would also be necessary. That would require the cessation of rocket and other terror attacks against Israel, which in turn, would allow the reduction of security measures that Palestinians complain about. This is not possible until Palestinian leaders of all stripes abandon their efforts to exercise a veto of Jewish national life in a sovereign state.

Peace will also likely require tolerance for the presence of Jews in the West Bank. The West Bank will not and should not be Judenrein, even if it is part of a Palestinian state. Israel has a 20 percent Arab population. Palestinians will have to tolerate the presence of the other in their state, just as Israel has.

Can the Methodist Church in England encourage Palestinians to accept the Jewish other?

Question Three: Do you support a boycott of products produced within Israeli settlements?

No. A boycott would undermine the ability of Palestinians who work for these companies to earn a living. In my response to question two, I stated that routinization of daily life would be a factor in promoting peace. Jobs and economic development are part of the process of normalization. “Normalization,” by the way, is a dirty word in Palestinian discourse.

Question Four: Do you support the call for a wider consumer boycott of all Israeli products?

No.

Question Five: If you answer ‘Yes’ to Question 4, what changes would you need to see to be content to end your boycott?

Intentionally left unanswered.

Question Six: What are the arguments against a consumer boycott of all Israeli products? What are the risks?

Please see my answers to questions one and three.

One risk you might want to consider is that it will not marginalize Israel, but the Methodist Church in England.

Question Seven: If you do not support the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, could you ever see yourself supporting such a call in the future? Under what circumstances?

No. My understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict does not presume Israel’s guilt for its existence as your church does.

Your use of the phrase “under what conditions” indicates that a boycott of some sort against Israel is the sine qua non of the church’s peacemaking efforts in the Middle East. It is a roundabout way of asking “So when are you going to let us boycott Israel, huh?” I am reminded of my children asking when they get to open their presents on Christmas morning.

It seems as if your church is looking for a set of circumstances to justify what it has wanted to do all along.

If that’s the case, then why ask for input?

Question Eight: What message does the call for a consumer boycott of Israel communicate to the general public? (please specify whether you are answering with reference to the public in the UK, in Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or elsewhere)?

The messages sent by a consumer boycott of Israel are that (1) the Jewish state is a singularly malign presence in the international system and (2) that Methodists in England have lost their minds. The first message is not true.

Question Nine: Do you support an academic boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.

No. I do not support the creation of an international ghetto bench.

Question Ten: Do you support a cultural boycott of Israel? Please explain your reasoning.

If the members of the Methodist Church in England were to stop using life-saving Israeli medical inventions in their daily lives, I would be less bothered by their decision not to buy the latest Matisyahu CD. A cultural boycott means nothing if it is not accompanied by a technological boycott.

Question Eleven: Under what circumstances, if any, should the Methodist Church divest from companies operating in Israel?

If The Methodist Church simply must divest from companies doing business with Israel, it should tell non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East that they are on their own – just like Israeli Jews. It would also be reasonable for the church to admit that divestment from Israel is an irrational and immoral decision, but that there is something about the Jews and their state that the Methodist Church simply can’t abide.

Question Twelve: Should the UK government or European Union impose trade or other restrictions on economic relationships with Israel or alternatively limited restrictions on economic engagement with settlements? If so what form should such sanctions take?

If the UK government and EU are intent on: (1) committing cultural and moral suicide, (2) siding with Islamists against the forces of civilization and enlightenment, and (3) divorcing themselves from all that is good and just, then sanctions against Israel are perfectly reasonable.

Such sanctions should take the form of taking all useful technologies – especially those invented by Israel – and throwing them into the English Channel. But before you turn England into modern-day Atlantis, please send us Yanks your original folios of Shakespeare and the original writings of Edmund Burke because you will not be needing them. Send us your unused copies of Orwell’s collected essays as well.

Question Thirteen: What actions other than BDS might members of the Methodist Church take to encourage a political process that could deliver a just and sustainable resolution in Israel and Palestine?

Embark on a campaign of self-education that results in the church achieving a better understanding of:

1. The problem of Muslim anti-semitism. See Neil J. Kressel’s “The Sons of Pigs and Apes”: Muslim Antisemitism and the Conspiracy of Silence (Potomac Books, 2012).

2. The impact of Muslim doctrine on the lives of Christians and Jews in Muslim-majority settings. (The word of the day is “dhimmi.” Look it up.)

3. The violence endured by Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. The fate of these communities might shed some light as to why Jews are so persistent in the defense of their state. Jews know better than many Christians (at least those in the West) what happens to defenseless minorities in Muslim-majority settings.

Question Fourteen: Is there any further theological or other comment that you would like to make in relation to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or are there papers or other resources that you would highlight?

It is time for the Methodist Church in England (and other churches) to assess the impact of theological supersessionism on Christian attitudes toward the Jewish state. Many Christians ultimately feel that Jews are an artifact of ancient history that contradicts the church’s witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. Their assessment is that, ultimately, the world would be better off without the Jews and that Israel is somehow an obstacle to this desired end state.

This attitude helps explain why Christian peacemakers have been so indifferent to Muslim anti-semitism. Simply put, Christians share many of the same suppositions about Jews that Muslims do and as a result cannot bring themselves to respond forcefully to Muslim anti-semitism.

It might help to take a look at the Barmen Declaration, one of the few Christian denunciations of Nazism. It does not mention Nazi antisemitism. Why is that? Why did the authors of this statement find Nazi anti-semitism unremarkable? For the same reasons that Christians currently find Muslim anti-semitism unremarkable?

Submitted under protest.

Sincerely,

Dexter Van Zile

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