2021 Methodist Conference debate on 'Cry for Hope'

‘Cry for Hope: A call to decisive action’

On 1 July 2021, the Methodist Conference discussed and then adopted the draft Reply to four Memorials from Methodist Circuits or Districts that responded to the Kairos Palestine call “Cry for Hope”.

The Conference Reply to the memorials states that: -

The Conference commends for careful and prayerful study by the Methodist people the document “Cry for Hope”. The Conference invites readers to use discernment with respect to the various aspects of the call.   

The Cry for Hope can be read here: - https://www.cryforhope.org/

 

What was Conference being asked to do?

Methodist Circuits and Districts had presented four memorials to the 2021 Methodist Conference. A draft Reply was printed in the Agenda of Methodist Conference and subsequently adopted in the vote at the 2021 Methodist Conference held in Birmingham and online (Memorials to the Conference, pages 898 to 902).

The Conference was asked: -

  • To commend the “Cry for Hope’ to the Methodist people, encouraging them to endorse it and act on its recommendations, including through divestment and sanctions in relation to companies supporting the Occupation in any way;
  • To strongly urge the Central Finance Board to act immediately on the decisions of the Methodist Council in January 2021 to update their investment policy, and divest from any company profiting from the Occupation;
  • To call upon the British Government to end support for military contracts with Israel whilst that country remains in violation of international law

 

What did the Methodist Conference say?

  1. On the situation in Israel and Palestine

On many occasions over two decades, the Methodist Conference has expressed deep concern for all who live in the region.  The 2021 Conference recalled its previous statements, reiterating that “the desire for a lasting peace can only be based on trust, security and freedom from fear for all people in the area”.

  1. On the recognition of apartheid

Cry of Hope argues that it is time for the international community to recognise Israel as an apartheid State in terms of international law. Apartheid has a precise definition under international law and not all situations of apartheid with be identical to that of apartheid South Africa. On this question Methodist Conference has not taken a view. The Reply did note that the unilateral de facto annexation of a large part of the West Bank presents a very different situation to that which has guided the Methodist Conference in the past.

  1. On boycott, divestment and sanctions

The Conference did not make any new position on boycott. In 2010 the Methodist Conference urged Methodists to avoid purchase of products from Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories that are considered by most governments (including the UK) to be illegal under international law. 

The Conference was not asked to adopt a new position on divestment, as the work requested in this area is already underway. In January 2021, the Methodist Council (in response to a Conference memorial in 2020) asked the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment to review investment policy with respect to Israel and Palestine and the outcome of this review will be reported to Methodist Conference in 2022.

  1. On Antisemitism

The Methodist Conference Reply highlighted the increase in antisemitism in the UK in recent years.  The Methodist Church has made clear its abhorrence of antisemitism on many occasions over 75 years,[1] and most recently in a memorial to Methodist Conference in 2018.[2] As a church we seek to address antisemitism in a number of ways including through our Equalities and Diversity toolkit.[3] The Conference Reply appealed for solidarity with all and for constructive dialogue that is alert to presence of racism and anti-Semitism in the UK and beyond.

  1. On the call to end support for military contracts with Israel

The Methodist Conference accepted the request to call upon the British Government to end support for military contracts with Israel whilst that country remains in violation of international law.

 

Points of clarification and frequently asked questions

  1. Is the Methodist Church judging Israel by standards not applied to other nations?

There have been more resolutions at Methodist Conference on Israel and Palestine than there has been on any other international conflict. This has led to the suggestion that the Methodist Church in Britain does not treat Israel by the standards applied to other nations.

However, it will be observed that the Methodist people are passionate about countering injustice in the UK and worldwide. Our members benefit from the accounts of our global relationship partners in this respect. A number of resolutions at the 2021 Methodist Conference had an international justice theme. (See for example the Notice of Motion 202 on Myanmar). We consider fundamental human rights to be universal, although their realisation may look different in various contexts. The Central Finance Board of Methodist Church (CFB) investment policy with respect to Israel and Palestine has at its foundation the investment policy on Human Rights and Conflict. This outlines principles that are common to engagement work of the CFB and JACEI in all jurisdictions.

  1. Doesn’t calling for an arms embargo while Israel is being attacked by Hamas suggest that the Methodist Church does not support the right of the State of Israel to exist?

The Methodist Church has called for an end to violence by all sides and for explicit acceptance by both Hamas and the Government of Israel of the right to peace, security and prosperity for all Israelis and Palestinians. The Methodist Church has spoken out against acts of violence against innocent civilians and ‘unequivocally affirms the right of Israel to exist as an independent state and in security and peace alongside a Palestinian state’.[4]

The UK government’s reports on human rights have repeatedly detailed violations by the Government of Israel of human rights and international humanitarian law in the context of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.[5] The UK arms export criteria require that arms are not exported if there is a risk that they may be used to further contraventions of international law. The Methodist Church holds the view that the existing limited UK arms embargo does not go far enough.[6]

  1. What has been the response of the Methodist Church to the demolition of 60 olive trees by the Israeli Defence Forces on the farm of the Tent of Nations that was awarded the World Methodist Peace Prize in 2018?

The Methodist Church was sorry to learn of an arson attack (the motivation behind this attack is unclear), and later the destruction of 60 olive trees by the Israeli Defence Forces bulldozers.[7] The farm near Bethlehem has been in the Nassar family for generations and they have had their legal title to the land upheld by the Israeli Courts. The dispossession is a part of a pattern of action against Palestinians as recently witnessed in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, but documented by human rights groups such as B’tselem across the West Bank. A letter of solidarity was written in the name of the Conference to Mr Daoud Nassar and his family at the Tent of Nations.

 

 

[1] The 1943 Methodist Conference adopted the following statement as part of its response to the persecution of Jews: “The Conference affirms that anti-Semitism is utterly incompatible with the Christian doctrine of man [sic], and is a denial of the Christian Gospel. Malicious gossip and irresponsible charges against Jews, no less than active persecution, are incompatible with Christian standards of behaviour. Accordingly, the Conference calls upon the Methodist people everywhere to resist attempts to rouse antagonism or prejudice against the Jewish people.”

[2] https://ccj.org.uk/node/106

[3] The EDI Toolkit describes antisemitism as follows – “Any belief, policy or action that discriminates against or incites hatred towards Jewish people, either by race or religion, or caricatures Jewish people and culture. This can include denying the right of Israel to exist, or judging it by standards not applied to other nations.”

[4] https://www.methodist.org.uk/downloads/news-at-methodist-071210.pdf

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/human-rights-and-democracy-reports

[6] The call on “the British Government to end support for military contracts” is not entirely new. In 2010 the Methodist Conference called “for a full arms embargo against all sides in the conflict”.

[7] https://worldmethodistcouncil.org/category/methodist-liaison-office/


Share this