Methodist boycott of goods from illegal Israeli settlements

1. What has the Church decided to do? 

On 30 June, 2010 the Methodist Conference (the governing body of the Methodist Church in Britain) called for a greater engagement of the Methodist people with those living in Israel and Palestine. The Conference report Justice for Palestine and Israel  highlighted the impact of occupation on Palestinian communities in Gaza and the West Bank.

2. Why do you describe Israeli settlements in the West Bank as "illegal"?

However the status of Israeli settlements is described we must appreciate that a process of patient and careful dialogue will be necessary to arrive at solutions that meet the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians. The Methodist Church fully recognizes the right of Israel to exist as an independent state within secure borders. We affirm the UN resolution that the provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention apply to the occupied Palestinian territories. This includes the principle that the occupier should not transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territories that it occupies. The expansion of the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and associated infrastructure pose a serious challenge to International law. It has contributed to making life intolerable for many in the West Bank and makes a sustainable peace accord around a viable two-state solution more difficult to achieve. In July 2004 every European government and most other governments affirmed their support for the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Separation Barrier. The UK Government describes the settlements in the West Bank as "illegal".

3. Why Israeli settlement goods? Why not boycott other countries?

We are taking this particular action in response to requests from Palestinian Christians and the World Council of Churches and a growing number of Jewish organisations both inside Israel and worldwide. It is in our tradition to challenge and draw attention to situations that we believe are unjust, and the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories continues to make a lasting peace in the region more difficult to achieve.

4. What should Methodists do?

Firstly, we want to encourage Methodists to engage in regular well-informed inter faith dialogue and also in prayer for the region and all who live there. Seek out interfaith groups locally to open dialogue for a greater understanding of the region.

Secondly, some may wish to write to their MPs, MEPs and Government ministers to call for urgent help to be given to those who are suffering as a result of the present situation in Israel and Palestine.

Methodists are also encouraged to visit the region for themselves where possible, to meet with Palestinian Christians and others and to share their experiences on their return.

Finally, check the labels of products you buy to see whether they originate from Israeli settlements. These can include everyday purchases such as herbs, dates, avocados and olive oil. In December 2009, Defra (the UK Government department responsible for policy and regulations on the environment, food and rural affairs) introduced new advice on labelling, recommending that packaging of products imported from the West Bank should distinguish between Palestinian areas and Israeli settlements. The Methodist Church has written to major supermarkets to ask whether they are complying with this guidance.

5. Why is the Church conducting research on Christian Zionism?

As previously stated, the Methodist Conference has unequivocally affirmed the right of Israel to exist as an independent state and in peace. Members of the Jewish community use the word Zionism to describe this belief.

However, some Christians have a theological belief that links events in the Middle East to the Second Coming of Christ as foretold in the New Testament. The phrase 'Christian Zionism' is often used to describe this theological position. The decision to ask the Church's Faith and Order Committee to do some further work on Christian Zionism arises from a belief that this theological position is not well enough understood by the Church. The schedule and scope of this work has not yet been determined.

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.

Update on the 2010 Conference Report

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