The Board of Deputies reflected Jewish communal opinion as a whole in observing:
“This outcome is extremely serious and damaging, as we and others have explained repeatedly over recent weeks. Israel is at the root of the identity of Jews and of Judaism, and is an expression of Jewish spiritual, national and emotional aspirations. Zionism cannot simply be ruled as illegitimate in the way that the conference has purported to do. This smacks of breathtaking insensitivity, as crass as it is misinformed. That this position should now form the basis of Methodist Church policy should cause the conference to hang its head in shame, just as surely as it will cause the enemies of peace and reconciliation to cheer from the sidelines.”“In the Bible we learn of the Chosen People”, said Rev Jones.
That, to most people’s ears, surely sounds like an endorsement of supersecessionist theology – avowing that Jews have been superseded as the Chosen People and a form of undermining the Jews' divinely-sanctioned entitlement to their ancestral land – and yet another weapon of choice in the “soft war” (which I referred to in my last blogpost) being waged with odious intensity on all fronts against the Jewish State.
“Who are they and what are they chosen for? Genesis tells us again and again that God choose Abraham and makes a covenant with Abraham and his heirs. A covenant being a two-sided agreement with obligations on both parties, like marriage. God’s covenant with the Children of Israel, Abraham’s heirs, is that he will be their God and they will be his people if they walk humbly before God, obey God’s laws and are a light to the nations....Of course, Israel today is not the same as Israel in the Bible: in the Bible, Israel refers to the people of Abraham’s descendants, who are in covenant with God. Israel today is a modern, secular state, created in 1948”.
Dr Leah, who as well as being a Methodist minister chairs the York branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, is a lyricist on the side – his muse aroused by anti-Israel spleen, he penned alternate words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, making that familiar carol a vehicle of invective against the Jewish State. Regarding the Methodist motion, Leah remarked: “I personally would like to have divestment going a little bit further into the full boycott of Israel, but I know how much I can get away with in the churches sometimes.... Churches are paranoid about being critical of Israel sometimes, they want to be balanced all the time, we must put pressure on church leaders.” (Hat tip: Seismic Shock).
Just recently, Terry Gallogly, Secretary of the York PSC, and also an advocate of a total boycott on Israel including its trade union movement Histadrut, suggested that anti-Zionists answer in the affirmative a Jewish Chronicle website poll regarding the far-right ostensibly Israel-supporting English Defence League (EDL) in order that it would appear that the Jewish community approved of forging links with the EDL: "People might like to vote in this poll if only to embarass Hoffie [Jonathan Hoffman] and the Zionist Federation”, advised Gallogly conspiratorially. As far as is known, and despite his calling as a man of the cloth, Leah has yet to distance himself publicly from Gallogly’s immoral tactics (hat tip: Harry’s Place & Seismic Shock)
In the wake of the boycott resolution, a Methodist Friends of Israel group has been formed, and, pro-Israel Methodist minister David Hallam – who on his blog (take a look at his many interesting posts regarding this sorry situation www.methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/ )calls upon Leah to distance himself from Gallogly’s vote-rigging proposal – has announced his intention to mount a legal challenge to the resolution.
As was said of the Bourbons, the Methodist boycotters have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Despite the protests of anguish that came from many Jewish leaders – including the Chief Rabbi – and from mainstream Jewish groups (who, significantly, are not given to crying “wolf” often) they continue to revel in their shameful stance. That Mr Hallam is putting noses out of joint is evident from some of the remarks Methodist Church members have been making of late, attempting to justify their singling out of Israel for obloquy and punitive measures and mounting a cyber warfare against Mr Hallam that is not entirely free from ad hominem attacks. His opponents are insisting – despite online challenges from myself and others, including the Zionist Federation’s feisty co-vice-chair and a highly articulate Orthodox Jew from Jerusalem who has not held back with some home truths – that opposing Zionism is not antisemitic. They have gone onto the defensive, trying to redefine antisemitism so that it sits comfortably with their anti-Israel rhetoric and reviving old blogposts about Israel and Jews. They have also, in their desperation, invoked the example of some of their anti-Zionist Jewish heroes to justify their own standpoint.
Thus, a Methodist minister in North Wales scrapes the bottom of the barrel when on his blog (theconnexion.net/wp/) he posts a comment from a member of a marginal Israel-bashing organisation composed of “as-a-Jews” that hardly represents mainstream Jewish opinion regarding Israel. “As a Jew, I fully appreciated the Methodist’s resolution ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’. I’m increasingly distressed by the unceasing determination of my fellow Jews in Israel, and in our diaspora, to never accept any criticism of their ill-treatment of Palestinians — who have historically been displaced from their lands by the Israelis in the name of their claimed God-given right”, wrote the habitual Israel-basher in question, claiming that “Israel is actually creating a world-wide anti-Semitism from which I and my fellow Jews will ultimately suffer.”
Evidently rankled by the fightback on the blog from Zionists, including yours truly, one boycott champion, who really doesn’t seem to like Israel or its champions very much at all, invokes the views of that well-known Jewish loather of Israel, Professor Avi Shlaim. ‘I was thinking of injecting a little Robert Fisk into the ongoing conversation on Israel-Palestine - though after the recent hurling of comment grenades by Hallam’s Army, I use the word “conversation” loosely - and I would no doubt have to jettison it altogether were I to cite Fisk. So I’ll try a little Avi Shlaim ...’ is the opening jibe, prompting one commenter to remark “it looks very much as if you want to showcase the Jews who support your argument to prove you’re not anti-Semitic. It reminds me of how the Mediaeval Church would wheel out its Jewish converts to participate in “debates” wherein Jewish religious communities were harshly denounced”.
“A very distressing and disturbed night. I have been following and participating in a blogged debate on the Church's report on Justice for Israel Palestine and the bizarre threat of one Methodist to take the Church to court over its contents.
There can be no doubt that the report has raised some emotive issues, but that is no excuse for the appalling lack of grace in some of the posts. When Christians slander one another, evil flourishes.
The charge being made against the Church and certain individuals is of Antisemitism.. a charge designed to raise the spectre of the Holocaust and shame us all into silence - regardless of what atrocities are currently being perpetrated. In a nutshell the argument is - Gentiles committed the holocaust therefore the Gentiles have forever forfeited the right to censor a Jew. Any and all criticism of Jews or of Israel by Gentiles is antisemitic.
This is, however, a shallow and dishonest definition of antisemitism. It mocks and makes a lie of the past by reducing it to a vacuous insistence that it is never politically, spiritually or socially 'correct' to criticize or question anything Jewish or Israeli....
It is not antisemitic to seek to be informed about the current plight of the ordinary Palestinian
It is not antisemitic to be offended by the wall
It is not antisemitic to question why human rights are being denied to Palestinians in Israel.
It is not antisemitic to ask what can we do to which might help Palestinians.
It IS antisemitic to not question or challenge any of these things, to hate the Jew so much that we would be prepared to stand by and watch whilst they perhaps commit crimes against You and against humanity which we know from our own bitter experience will only result in long-lasting spiritual, social and political damage.” (http://www.the-kneeler.blogspot.com/)In the face of all this, the admirable and courageous David Hallam is holding fast. All praise and all power to him. Make no mistake: in his intention to take the Methodist Church to court he deserves all the encouragement and support (moral and practical) that well-wishers of Israel can muster. Much rides on his legal challenge to the Methodist boycott. If that challenge succeeds, the ruling could mean the end of other anti-Israel boycotts emanating from England and Wales. I’m not a lover of alcohol – but I’ll gladly drink to that!
Postscript: for those who remain determined to boycott Israel, here's a must-see video (hat tip: Avraham Reiss) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saeky9I5T9c/