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
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.