Responding to David Hallam, Methodist Preacher

by Richard on October 6, 2010

The first thing, if you’re tempted to visit the Methodist Preacher’s blog, is to be aware of this warning notice which my netbook threw up last night. (Yes, I’ve tried to make David aware of it) I’ve no idea how seriously it should be taken.

His latest post is headed From the Methodist morning hate mail. His opening is, frankly, bizarre: “Sunday’s story about the Methodist preacher who is mounting a legal action…” Why does he not write “…about my legal action…”? Can anyone explain to me why, on a personal blog, someone would try to distance themselves from their own actions?

He goes on to make a couple of claims that I have to challenge. He says that many of the comments on this blog have been offensive. It isn’t the first time he has made such a claim. Over the years I’ve asked him to point to specifically offensive comments, but so far he has refused to do that. So I’m asking you: if you have time, look through the comment threads that relate to the issue at hand. If you find anything that goes beyond robust disagreement, do tell. In any case, in the years since our paths first crossed, my experience has been that David has never been afraid to make disparaging comments about others. It seems to me that he is on very thin ice shouting “Abuse! Abuse!” But putting that to one side, if there is stuff here that you believe is gratuitously offensive to David point it out.

Secondly, David makes the claim that “one of the comments was so offensive and defamatory that the blog publisher was forced to removed it”. No. I edited one comment (and one of my own posts, incidentally) because I thought it got the wrong tone under the circumstances. I made the edits voluntarily and before David came demanding them. I’ve been blogging for a long time now — getting on for 9 years I think — and I’ve always tried to make sure that the conversation here is courteous and honest. I probably haven’t always got it right. But over those years I have managed to build friendly relationships with a range of people with whom I have the most profound political and religious disagreements. He is trying to undermine that and yes, to be honest I resent it.

I notice that in the section headed ‘Report’, David does at least acknowledge Israel’s “military occupation of parts of the West Bank and illegal settlements”. He misunderstands — or deliberately misrepresents — what Conference ‘receiving’ a report means, which is strange, because he points to the FAQs on Israel-Palestine debate on the Methodist Church website which says

6. Do all the things said during the Conference debate represent the Church’s views?
Not necessarily. The section 7.4.1 which was adopted by the Conference is an agreed position of the Methodist Church. The report to the Conference and speeches made are there to stimulate debate following which the Conference votes. The resolutions are not binding on Methodist Church members but are there to give guidance for informed action.

(You can read 7.4.1 here if you need reminding)
Does that sound like the sort of sustained political campaign that David appeared to be claiming in the Telegraph article? He has not explained how it is that he believes his offerings are being misused by the church, nor has he been able to point to this ‘campaign’. I’ve made this point several times now and still neither he nor anyone else has been able to demonstrate just how it is that the Methodist Church is supposed to be pursuing this alleged vendetta against the Jews of Israel. Just what funds is he claiming are being inappropriately spent?

Answering the charge that the Conference was motivated by anti-semitism is harder to answer because, as a commenter here noted, it isn’t easy to see into one another’s hearts. We have to judge by what results. In this case that means to treat the report with integrity. To dismiss some sections (as David has done) as ‘weasel words’, implying that statements about justice and peace for all in that region are somehow a veil for a spirit that would assent to and collude with another Holocaust is beyond offensive. It is plainly monstrous, and I’d be very surprised if there is a court in the land who could be persuaded otherwise. Mind you, there is still no word on exactly what the Methodist Church is being charged with: the story in the Telegraph remains, as far as I know, the story of a threat of action rather than of action actually being taken.

Update: Dave Warnock has responded in similar vein

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1

methodist preacher 10.06.10 at 10:55 am

Richard, You keep saying that I am claiming “the conference report was motivated by antisemitism”. You have made this assertion several times in the last few days.

Way back on the 6 July you made a similar comment on your blog and I replied “I have looked through all my posts on the subject and not once have I accused any Methodist of being anti-Semitic.”

I have however reported that many Jews feel the report was a response to an underlying antisemitism because I felt it important that Christians understood the feelings that this report evoked.

In media interviews this week I have been an pains to make it clear that I did not believe the Methodist Church is antisemitic. However I am advised that we are now acting in a discriminatory manner. That is not the same as saying the conference was “motivated by antisemitism”

In fact the historical evidence of Methodist-Jewish relationships is the opposite: Keith Pearce’s wonderful little book “The Lost Jews of Cornwall” makes the point that the Methodist dominance of the county and the tolerance that it practiced, enabled a Jewish community to thrive.

Please Richard can you please stop putting words into my mouth?

2

PamBG 10.06.10 at 11:32 am

I quote from the Israel National News: “Diamond, an expert on human rights law and religious law, is expected to argue the church’s resolution violates European human rights laws and European Union directives on racism. The attorney will reportedly accuse the church of deliberately discriminating against Israel by focusing its attention solely on the beleagured Jewish State, rather than including in its boycott other countries with human rights records that are undeniably horrendous.”

Is that untrue, then?

Did you say “The Methodist Church seems to think it has a God-given right to tell Jews how to run their affairs,” or did we just imagine reading that? (Again, here, you haven’t distinguished between ‘Jews’ and the ‘State of Israel’.)

3

Richard 10.06.10 at 11:51 am

Come now David. The fact that you have never said “The Methodist Conference was motivated by anti-semitism” does not mean that this hasn’t been the thrust of your blog since Conference. You even tried to imply some sort of link with a Methodist minister who is alleged to have colluded with the holocaust, saying “Anti-Semitism is a problem for the Methodist Church”. And you are quoted in the Telegraph as saying “What I object to is money which I am putting on the collection plate on a Sunday being used to fund a political campaign against the Jewish state. This is both discriminatory and a misuse of a charity’s funds.” If a discriminatory campaign against Jews is not anti-semitism, what is it? But I notice you haven’t answered my questions: How is Methodism misusing your money? Where is this ‘political campaign’? Exactly what laws are you saying the church has broken? And, while we’re on the subject, have you actually taken any legal action yet or is this still just a threat?

4

Richard 10.06.10 at 11:53 am

Oh, and one more thing, David.

Why have you been so reluctant to link your name with this on your own blog?

5

Dr Harold Goldmeier 10.07.10 at 11:08 pm

Let me report full disclosure: I have children and grandchildren who live in Israel, and a third served on active military duty with the IDF; my wife and I have made more than a dozen trips with extended stays in Israel. Now my opinion. I find the rhetoric against the State of Israel, the disinvestment campaigns, and the boycotts of goods produced there by the Methodist and Presbyterian churches in particular to be racist and anti-semitic in the emotional, intellectual, and practical spheres of life. No such rhetoric or actions are leveled against other states like against Israel and my people. This is not the place to review history; that Methodist universities in America excluded or at best had quotas for Jewish applicants until recently suffices for now as an example of what you think of us. The saving grace to us is that like so many other religions that persecute the Jews, your declining numbers and influence suggests that Jews will look back in history and say,” whatever happened to those fabissin Methodists and Presbyterians who tried to destroy us? Where they now?”
Dr. Harold Goldmeier, Chicago
Consultant in public/social policy, writer and speaker

6

Kim 10.08.10 at 8:52 am

Dr. Goldmeier, the broad brush with which you could paint the history of Christian Anti-Semitism would present an accurate, horrific picture of which the Church is deeply, deeply ashamed and repentant. But you will need to use a finer stroke over the question of the state of Israel and its treatment of the Paletsinians. This is the issue we are addressing and about it you say nothing. And the issue is, precisely, persecution.

Finally, the matter of boycotts is more complex than you allow, not least because it relates to tactical questions of effectiveness. But the massive boycotts against the Republic of South Africa in the eighties, which churches spearheaded - it would be interesting to know your take on this phenomenon in terms of it being anti-, well, -whom?

7

Cotswold Quaker 10.26.10 at 2:01 am

Welcome to the Alice in Wonderland world that so many Zionists inhabit. It’ll make you dizzy!
The threatened use by the methodistpreacher to use the EUMC statement on anti-Semitism to attack the Methodist church does not come as any surprise to anyone who has been alert to this document. It is a wonder it has taken so long for Zionists to make use of it. It accurately reflects the double speak logic of so many who criticise the critics of Israel on the basis of justice and relies on the perpetuation of ignorance about racism and antisemitism in our society in order to utilise it to fend off criticism of injustices carried out by the Israeli state against Palestinians.

Lets look at few points about the document here:
In the process of drawing up the document, most Jewish groups critical of Israel or stated anti Zionists were not consulted, such as the European Jews for a Just Peace, nor were many authoritative EU academics who you’d expect to have been, though the American Jewish Congress WAS consulted.

On content, problems begin with the very ‘working definition’ provided. Of course antisemitism is ‘a certain perception of Jews’ – but what perception? Nowhere is this discussed, yet what perceptions are allowable, what is unacceptable is surely key to any working definition of antisemitism? The earlier EUMC definition recognized that the ideological content of that perception is central to the usual meaning of the word ‘antisemitism’ and outlined that content. Leaving this out opens the door to confusion by failing to distinguish between different kinds – and sources – of hostility to Jews today. The definition contributes to the very problem it should be solving.

The problem is compounded by the list of ‘contemporary examples of antisemitism’, since they are all preceded by the rubric that they ‘could, taking into account the overall context’ be such examples. Equally, one supposes, they might not be. Yet the very inclusion of all of these as examples appears as clear evidence of antisemitism – otherwise why are they there?

This list is then followed by a separate list giving no fewer than five examples of how ‘antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context’.
Some of the points in this second list are highly questionable and we should protest vigorously about them..

For example:
‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination’ assumes that all Jews equate self determination with Zionism. Not only is this not true today, it has never been true. There is a long and respected tradition in Jewish history and culture among all those who have wished or wish today for cultural, religious or other forms of autonomy falling short of a Jewish state; for a binational state in Palestine as did Martin Buber and others; or for a one-state solution today, whatever form it might take – a minority view in Israel today to be sure, but held by numbers of respected Jews. To make the assumption that all Jews hold the same views is in itself a form of antisemitism.

‘Applying double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation’. This is a formulation that allows any criticism of Israel to be dismissed on the grounds that it is not simultaneously applied to every other defaulting state at the same time. As it campaigns for a just peace in the Middle East, and an end to the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, the Methodists are discovering that this is a charge thrown randomly to stifle any and all but the narrowest criticism of acts of the Israeli government that are in clear breach of clause after clause of the 4th Geneva Convention.

Or again, the democratic norm that all citizens in a state should be treated equally sometimes sits uneasily with some notions of Israel as a ‘Jewish state’ and it is not antisemitic to point this out or to suggest that Israel should, indeed, be a ‘state of all its citizens’.

‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’. This is the flipside of a position, frequently expressed by many Zionists, that refuses to make any distinction between the interests of Israel and those of Jews worldwide. Why is it ok for them to make this equation but evidence of antisemitism when others do so is? It might even be taken as evidence of double standards. In reality it is all too often Zionist rhetoric which fuses the notion of Israel’s interests with those of Jews worldwide and thus fuels what the EUMC identifies (other things being equal) as a potential indicator of antisemitism.
Decide for yourself if the methodistpreacher has a case. Of cause he hasn’t, for all the reasons you and David Warnock have already made trenchantly plain. This document will not help anyone know if he has or not. As I said, welcome to Alice in wonderland!
The document is available to view at
http://fra.europa.eu/fraWebsite/material/pub/AS/AS-WorkingDefinition-draft.pdf

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