Methodist Debate on Israel Begins (UPDATE: Divestment Loses)
I’m watching the United Methodist General Conference as they debate the first of the resolutions on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Here it is:
We join with Palestinian Christians as well as our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters in feeling a deep sense of rootedness to the land that has special meaning for our three religious traditions. We celebrate the diversity of religious customs and traditions throughout the Middle East.
Jerusalem is sacred to all the children of Abraham: Jews, Muslims, and Christians. We have a vision of a shared Jerusalem as a city of peace and reconciliation, where indigenous Palestinians and Israelis can live as neighbors and, along with visitors and tourists, have access to holy sites and exercise freedom of religious expression. The peaceful resolution of Jerusalem’s status is crucial to the success of the whole process of making a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
We seek for all people in the Middle East an end to military occupation, freedom from violence, and full respect for the human rights of all under international law.
WHEREAS, the prophet Isaiah cautioned against coveting the lands and homes of one’s neighbors: “Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!” (Isaiah 5:8); and
WHEREAS, the continuing confiscation of Palestinian land for construction of settlements and the building of a separation wall violates fundamental human rights, subverts the peace process, destroys the hope of both Israelis and Palestinians who are working for and longing for peace, and fosters a sense of desperation that can only lead to further violence; and
WHEREAS, continued and often intensified closures, curfews, dehumanizing check points, home demolitions, uprooted trees, bulldozed fields, and confiscation of Palestinian land and water by the government of Israel have devastated economic infrastructure and development in the West Bank and Gaza, have caused a massive deterioration of the living standards of all Palestinians ... and an increasing sense of hopelessness and frustration; and
WHEREAS, targeted assassinations, suicide bombings, and attacks against civilians by both Israelis and Palestinians heighten the fear and suffering of all, and have led to many deaths of Palestinian and Israeli children; and
WHEREAS, people in the United States, through their taxes, provide several billion dollars in economic and military assistance to the State of Israel each year, which allows for the building of bypass roads and settlements that are illegal according to the Fourth Geneva Convention;
WHEREAS, a number of Israeli and international companies profit from the building and maintaining of Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands in a variety of ways, and many churches and Christians have funds invested in some of these companies; and
WHEREAS human rights organizations have documented that private foreign donors, including Jewish and Christian individuals and non-profit organizations, have provided financial support for settlements and that some of these donations are tax-deductible; and
WHEREAS, the church continues to work with ecumenical and interfaith bodies to advocate for Palestinian self-determination and an end to Israeli occupation; to affirm Israel’s right to exist within secure borders; to affirm the right of return for Palestinian refugees under international law; to call for region-wide disarmament; to urge Israelis and Palestinians to stop human rights violations and attacks on civilians, such as targeted assassinations and suicide bombings; and to urge the U.S. government to initiate an arms embargo on the entire Middle East region;
Therefore, be it resolved, that The United Methodist Church opposes continued military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a “Greater Israel” that includes the occupied territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surroundings.
We also affirm the call by our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers, in their “Kairos Palestine” document (December 2009), for an end to military occupation and human rights violations through nonviolent actions.
Be it further resolved, that we urge the U.S. government to end all military aid to the region, and second to redistribute the large amount of aid now given to Israel and Egypt; to support economic development efforts of nongovernmental organizations throughout the region, including religious institutions, human rights groups, labor unions, and professional groups within Palestinian communities.
The United Methodist Church requests that all governments, especially that of the United States, to work cooperation with the United Nations, to urge the State of Israel to:
1. cease the confiscation of Palestinian lands and water for any reason;
2. cease the building of new, or expansion of existing, settlements and/or bypass roads in the occupied territories including East Jerusalem;
3. lift the closures and curfews on all Palestinian towns by completely withdrawing Israeli military forces to the Green Line (the 1948 ceasefire line between Israel and the West Bank);
4. dismantle that segment of the Wall of Separation constructed since May 2002 that is not being built on the Green Line but on Palestinian land that is separating Palestinians from their land and farmers from their fields.
We also urge the Palestinian Authority and all Palestinian religious leaders to continue to publicly condemn violence against Israeli civilians and to use nonviolent acts of disobedience to resist the occupation and the illegal settlements.
We further call on all nations to prohibit:
1. any financial support by individuals or organizations for the construction and maintenance of settlements; and
2. the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
We ask all companies that profit from and/or support settlements through their business activities to examine these and stop any business that contributes to serious violations of international law, promotes systemic discrimination or otherwise supports ongoing military occupation.
The United Methodist Church does not support a boycott of products made in Israel. Our opposition is to products made by Israeli companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories.
We urge all United Methodists in the U.S. to:
1. advocate with the U.S. administration and Congress to implement the aforementioned steps;
2. urge the U.S. government to examine the role played by donations from tax-exempt charities in support of discriminatory and other illegal aspects of Israeli settlements, and develop recommendations to ensure that tax-exempt funds do not support settlements and other violations of international law.
We urge all United Methodists to:
1. read and study the “Kairos Palestine” document,“A moment of truth: faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering,” written by Palestinian Christians, and take up its call for nonviolent actions seeking an end to military occupation.
2. encourage members of each congregation to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from all perspectives by inviting speakers to church events, reading books, using audio-visual resources in educational forums, and getting information from Web sites. We especially commend the 2010 British Methodist Church study, “Justice for Palestine and Israel” that includes a call “on the Methodist people to support and engage with [a] boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements,” as well as a call for nonviolent actions issued by several Annual Conferences.
3. provide financial support to the Palestinian people through contributions to the General Board of Global Ministries;
4. support, and participate in, the work of international peace and human rights organizations, such as the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine & Israel and Christian PeacemakerTeams, to provide protection for Palestinians and Israelis seeking nonviolently to end the occupation; and
5. reach out to local synagogues, mosques, and Christian faith groups by engaging in interfaith and ecumenical dialogue on how nonviolent ways to promote justice and peace in the Holy Land; and
6. That the General Board of Global Ministries, working together with the General Board of Church & Society and interfaith organizations, develop advocacy packets for use in local congregations to promote a just and lasting peace and human rights for all in the region.
The committee chair is making his final statement after a desultory and unenlightening debate—three for, three against. He’s holding up a map that you’ll find here, put out by leftist supporters of the Palestinians, that is patently wrong. He’s also mischaracterized it. What a pathetic excuse for debate on an important issue. And they voted to support this. I’ll look more closely at this later.
This is being followed up by a discussion of the main resolution on divestment. A member of the committee that passed it is speaking and offering the rationale for the changes. She’s then opposed by someone who contends that engagement will make no difference, a fellow who glosses over Palestinian violence by saying that 70% of Israeli Jews want to end the occupation, and that 51% would end it today if there was a Palestinian renunciation of violence. But of course there hasn’t been one! The fact that some favor non-violent action rather than violence doesn’t change the actual dynamics. Debate from the floor follows.
Lay delegate from Western North Carolina: we should divest because Rachel Corrie stepped in front of a bulldozer and was killed for her impertinence. Heaven help us.
Lay delegate from Texas: Divestment has the effect of punishing the makers of products, rather than those who misuse them. Also makes the point that the only ones even potentially hurt by divestment are the beneficiaries of the pension and other funds of the denomination.
Vote on substituting the original call to divest from Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and Motorola for the resolution approved by the committee: 307 yes, 614 no. That means, as one tweet from a delegate put it seconds later, “divestment goes down in flames.” And if the Twitter feed from GC (completely dominated by liberals and anti-Israel activists, from the look of it) is any indication, there are heads exploding in multiple locations around Tampa and across the leftist world.
UPDATE: I have got to include some of these tweets:
hawkiiiii: #GC2012 So sad…where’s the prophetic voice for justice and human rights? Someone please take these Zionists to Palestine!
revmelissa: RT @pastorbecca: So for clarity, #gc2012 doesn’t support occupation of Palestine on principle, but does with money. At this point, such hypocrisy is expected.
TheoDramatist: RT @jabulani1125: #GC2012 As UMC clergy, I can no longer allow my pension 2 support occupation of Palestinians. Will u join “Not with my Pension!” Campaign?
pancakedrawer84: @sfoles but the state of Israel, like the us, is based off of stolen land and the murder of native peoples.Some are more culpable.
JareerKassis: RT @samioj: There’s nothing “complicated” about a system that discriminates and oppresses an entire people.
Oh, and as they begin the debate on the majority report, the first speaker compares Israel to Nazi Germany. Nothing like heading straight for the gutter.
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