Methodist Conference 2010 resolution on Israel/Palestine

In view of the controversy over the Methodist Conference report “Justice for Palestine and Israel”, I thought it worthwhile to extract the section of the report relating to Israel which was adopted by the Conference as the agreed position of the Church.

7.4.1 that the Methodist Church should affirm the following:
In the belief that peace and reconciliation depend upon justice, fairness and mercy, the Methodist Church has consistently expressed its concern over the illegal Occupation of Palestinian lands by the State of Israel. That Occupation continues not only compounds the state’s illegal and immoral action but also makes any accommodation with the Palestinian people and future peace in the region much less possible. The importance of the Israeli-Palestinian confl ict in affecting the peace of the whole Middle East,
not to say the peace of the world would indicate the responsibility of other nations not to exacerbate the situation by supplying arms to any party. The Goldstone report into the recent confl ict in Gaza indicates the seriousness of actions taken by both sides and requires urgent attention if there is to be any progress towards peace. The proposed visa restrictions which limit entry to Palestinian Authority areas damage Israel’s reputation abroad and the current “Citizenship and Entry into Israel” law restricting the residential rights of married couples will lead to separation of such couples or the withdrawal of citizenship for one partner.
The Methodist Church, therefore:

  • calls upon the government of Israel to end the Occupation and engage in discussion with Palestinian authorities with a view to withdrawal from settlements, which are illegal under international law, and from other occupied areas including East Jerusalem.
  • reaffirms its opposition to the Separation Wall that divides families, deprives people of agricultural land and denies Palestinians access to health care and repeats the call of the Methodist Conference for the Separation Wall to be pulled down beginning with, as an urgent first step, the very extensive portions located in occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem
  • repeats its call for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza which, as highlighted by the UN and aid agencies, is causing great suffering.
  • calls for a full arms embargo against all sides in the conflict.
  • expresses its objection to the proposed visa regulations limiting entry into Palestinian Authority areas
  • expresses its objection to the current laws restricting residential rights for Palestinians and calls upon the government of Israel to rescind them.
  • expresses its concern that the Goldstone report has been rejected by parties to the Gaza conflict and believes that the recommendations of the report should be implemented in full.
  • calls for Muslims, Christians and Jews, wherever they may live within Israel/ Palestine, to be able to freely travel to and peacefully worship at their holy sites
  • reiterates its deep concern that the rights of Palestinian refugees should be upheld.

In a complex and ever developing situation, it is important that opinion should be adequately informed. Therefore, the Conference calls upon the Methodist people to keep up to date with information about the situation in Israel/Palestine, to reflect on the theology that is needed to form the basis of a proper Christian approach to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and study what it means to be peacemakers in their own context.
In listening to Church Leaders and our fellow-Christians in Israel Palestine as well as leaders of Palestinian civil society we hear an increasing consensus calling for the imposition of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a major strategy of non-violent resistance to the Occupation. The Conference notes the call of the WCC in 2009 for an ‘international boycott of settlement produce and services’ and calls on the Methodist people to support and engage with this boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements (some Methodists would advocate a total boycott of Israeli goods until the Occupation ends).

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Andy 10.15.10 at 1:40 pm

I can understand why this has provoked such controversy and a threat of legal action.

The view that Israel is an “illegal occupier of palestinian lands” is an extremely contentious one and many people consider that it has no foundation in fact. There has never been a palestinian state so how can it be occupied? As I understand it, the underlying legal document is the British Mandate for Palestine, which implemented the Balfour Declaration, and effectively authorised the creation of the State of Israel in an area then known as palestine (which incidentally included what is now Jordan).

There is no mention of palestinian violence or terrorism, the reasons why the separation barrier has been built (to stop murderous terrorism), the fact that Gaza is controlled by Hamas which wants to see all Jews dead, and the fact that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and was rewarded with thousands of rockets. It also falsely claims that there is great suffering in Gaza.

So, in short, this resolution is factually incorrect and totally biased against Israel. As someone else said, Methodists should hang their heads in shame that it was passed.

2

Daphne Anson 11.24.10 at 4:47 pm

Well said, Andy.

And what precisely does this mean: ?reiterates its deep concern that the rights of Palestinian refugees should be upheld.

Please enlighten us, Richard.

3

Kim 11.24.10 at 6:16 pm

Andy and Daphne, you guys speak of yourselves as dealing in “facts” and those who dissent from your “facts” as holding “views”. Unless you are simply ignorant and unware that a positivist understanding of “facts” (bruta facta), except in a trivial sense, is taken seriously today by no responsible historian, only an ideologist - unaware, that is, that there is no such thing as a history of “facts”, rather historians take things that they have good reason to think have happened, and then convert them into evidence in support of an argument in which interpretation always plays a constitutive role - then you are simply purveyors of propaganda.

Add to this foolishness or knavery (I reckon it’s knavery because no one can be that stupid) not only your peremptory dismissal of international law regarding “occupation”, but above all your vile moral pedantry in suggesting that only a state, but not a land, can be occupied, as if, in Nakba denial, thousands upon thousands of Palestinians were not forcibly expelled from their homes and towns before, during, and after the inception of the state of Israel - and, for good measure, throw in your insufferably patronising tone - and you ask Richard to “enlighten” you? P-lease.

4

modernity 11.24.10 at 7:22 pm

Rev. Kim,

Can I ask you two direct questions and obtain some direct answers?

1) Do you believe in a One state solution or two?

2) Supposing that Israel withdraws from the West Bank, etc and agrees some lands swaps, etc etc along the lines of the Geneva Initiative, would that be largely agreeable to you? And if not, why not?

[I am trying to understand where your views start and end...]

I hope you will indulge me with a degree of directness :)

5

Joseph W 11.24.10 at 10:51 pm

“Unless you are simply ignorant and unware that a positivist understanding of “facts” (bruta facta), except in a trivial sense, is taken seriously today by no responsible historian, only an ideologist - unaware, that is, that there is no such thing as a history of “facts”, rather historians take things that they have good reason to think have happened, and then convert them into evidence in support of an argument in which interpretation always plays a constitutive role - then you are simply purveyors of propaganda.”

That’s an interesting point Kim, I suppose it does make more sense that what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe said:

“‘We do [historiography] because of ideological reasons, not because we are truth seekers… ‘there is no such thing as truth, only a collection of narratives’.”

And also:

“Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about facts. Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truthseekers. “

And finally my favourite:

“The debate between us is on one level between historians who believe they are purely objective reconstructers of the past, like [Benny] Morris, and those who claim that they are subjective human beings striving to tell their own version of the past, like myself. “

Pappe’s books form the bulk of historical narrative used in the Methodist report on Israel.

6

Kim 11.25.10 at 12:07 am

Thanks for that, Joseph. Very helpful.

I know Pappé’s work only second hand, but I am acquainted with Avi Shlaim’s work, so I am aware that Shlaim has great respect for Pappé’s work, compared, say, to Benny Morris’. Of the former Shlaim writes: “Pappé’s aim is neither to provide a narrative of events nor to buttress one national version against another, but to explore the dynamics of the conflict. In so doing he has added significantly to our understanding of a formative period in the Arab-Israeli conflict.” Of the latter Shlaim says: “He now has the courage of his prejudices.”

However, Pappé’s “there is no such thing as truth, only a collection of narratives” - that makes me nervous if it suggests the relativism that any narrative is as good as any other, which I take to be false. The evil reductio ad absurdum of such a view is Holocaust denial (or, for that matter, Nakba denial). My own view is not relativist, but perspectivalist. No one can claim to be telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth - human finitude, let alone human sin, sees off that bit of arrant intellectual arrogance. Truth always looks different from here (wherever “here” happens to be). Truth is never tasted neat; it is indeed mediated through narratives; it is always a contested site; our historical reconstructions will always be partial and provisional. Which, however, is not a call to abandon an asymptotic approach to objectivity but to be ever aware of our own subjectivities at best, and ideological blind-spots at worst, by being perpetually self-interrogative.

As a rule of thumb, I think one of the best aids to this way of doing history is to grant an epistemological priority to the perspective of the victim and the powerless (inasmuch as, until quite recently, the grand narratives of history for public consumption have been written by the winners and the powerful, who have marginalised and repressed the versions of the losers and the poor). As a Christian, my ultimate basis for this methodology is Christology, specifically a theologia crucis. As Luther wrote, crux probat omnia. Hence, when it comes to Israel/Palestine, while I understand where the hounds are coming from, my sympathies are with the hare (Edward Said called the Palestinians “the victims of victims”).

Modernity asks me whether I favour a two-state solution. I favour whatever solution will open up the possibility for a peaceful sharing of the land based on equality and dignity. Until recently that would mean a two-state solution. Now, frankly, with all the Israeli settlements on the West Bank - the building to be cynically continued, I predict, after any temporary moratorium - frankly I think the Palestinians are pretty fucked. I suspect only massive non-violent civil disobedience by Palestinians and, above all, by peace-movement Israelis, might surprise us all.

7

Joseph W 11.25.10 at 4:41 pm

Interesting points Kim about Pappe.

However you also write:

“Hence, when it comes to Israel/Palestine, while I understand where the hounds are coming from, my sympathies are with the hare (Edward Said called the Palestinians “the victims of victims”).

Why would you see an entire nation of people as “hounds”? I assume if you are calling “the hare” the Palestinians you are calling the Israelis “the hounds”. Don’t you think that comes across a bit racist? (I’m sure that’s not your intention)

” frankly I think the Palestinians are pretty fucked. I suspect only massive non-violent civil disobedience by Palestinians and, above all, by peace-movement Israelis, might surprise us all.”

The thing is, the BDS movement fucks the Palestinians even more. If Disconnect Now got their wish, Palestinians and Israelis wouldn’t be able to talk to each other by phone.

How about a peace movement for Israelis and Palestinians? Surely this isn’t too much to ask!

8

Kim 11.25.10 at 7:29 pm

It’s a metaphor, Joseph: the “sport”/game of “hare and hounds” (hounds in plural, hare in singular). I mean, really, must you throw in the “racism” - i.e. anti-Semite - slur, even “a bit”, even with the “I’m sure that’s not your intention”? I’ve come to respect your comments. Do I have to think again?

And: How about a peace movement for Israelis and Palestinians? Surely this isn’t too much to ask! Isn’t that just what I said? And who said anything about Disconnect Now? Different thread. Please listen to what I say.

Pax,
Kim

9

Joseph W 11.25.10 at 9:45 pm

Kim - I’m just extending the metaphor logically, I know perhaps not all metaphors are perfect. I didn’t say it sounded anti-Semitic, it just could come across as anti-Israeli - which I my view would be racist (in as much as you can have anti-French or anti-Palestinian racism).

I don’t want you worrying about whether I’m calling or insinuating you’re an anti-Semite - I’m not. I just didn’t like your analogy, but anyway, it is just that so we can let it go.

Re. Disconnect Now - I understood BDS was an essential part of “non-violent resistance”, hence my mention of Disconnect Now - I only mentioned Disconnect Now because it seems to be the only instance of BDS specifically featured on this blog. I assumed that’s what you meant by non-violent resistance, but of course I’m more happy to withdraw that.

“I’ve come to respect your comments. Do I have to think again?”

Of course - in anyone’s comments you can respect what you think is true and challenge what you think isn’t, I wouldn’t want it any other way :)

10

modernity 11.25.10 at 10:43 pm

“Now, frankly, with all the Israeli settlements on the West Bank - the building to be cynically continued, I predict, after any temporary moratorium - frankly I think the Palestinians are pretty fucked. I suspect only massive non-violent civil disobedience by Palestinians and, above all, by peace-movement Israelis, might surprise us all.”

Rev. Kim,

It might surprise you, but I would tend to agree. That’s not an unreasonable position to hold, in my opinion.

I think non-violent civil action is a good way forward, but the problem is that such an attitude is in a minority.

Sadly, the attacks on Israelis by Hamas and the like minded only plays into rejectionism on both sides.

By the same token when Israelis read proposed boycotts from Europeans it has echoes of the past, the 1930s, and that isn’t helpful either.

More often than not those proposing the boycotts of Israelis invariably come across as rejectionists, having no truck with Israeli society whatsoever, and make no differentiation between hardline governments and active Israelis who tried to assist the Palestinians, etc etc

Such “activism” in Europe tends to exacerbate the problems, not help them.

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