Two groundbreaking events occurred in the UK this week:
1. "The Methodist Church of Britain voted on Wednesday to boycott Israeli-produced goods and services from the West Bank because of Israel’s 'illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.'”
2. "Five activists who caused £180,000 damage to an arms factory were acquitted after they argued they were seeking to prevent Israeli war crimes."
The move by the UK Methodists has caused concern by interfaith groups there, particularly the Council of Christians and Jews:
David Gifford, the chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews, said he was disappointed that the Israeli narrative was not heard during the debate.
“I was very disappointed at the emotive nature of the debate which again did not hear fairly also the pain and cry of the Israeli,” Gifford said. “It was right to hear the pain of the Palestinian but in the end the vote of the Methodist Conference was to boycott goods and services that originate from the West Bank. We shall have to see how this will affect future relationships of the Methodist Church with other churches, the CCJ [Council of Christians and Jews] and with the British Jewish community.”
But the UK Methodists' decision is in line with the view of the World Council of Churches:
“The Methodist Conference notes the call of the World Council of Churches in 2009 for an international boycott of settlement produce and services and the support given for such a boycott by Christian leaders in Palestine in the Kairos document, Palestinian civil society and a growing number of Jewish organizations both inside Israel and worldwide and calls on the Methodist people to support and engage with this boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements,” the church said.
Commenters at the Jerusalem Post article on the UK decision show rage:
The problem is that we have not made our case clear about the rights of the Jewish People to live in all parts of the Land of Israel, regardless of any political situation. Let's here a call from Jewish organizations in Britain and elsewhere to buy products from Israel - especially from Judea and Samaria.
Sure blame Israelis for the hatred that exists in Israel. The CHURCH has never done anything to help the Jewish people. My bible says "to the Jew first",and that's in ALL things. Christians are commanded to support them with finances, military,and prayers. I've witnessed the hatred the Arabs have for the Jewish people. Since you "methodist" don't read the same Bible I do, go ahead and boycot it will come back and slap you in the face.
So the Methodist Church is going to Boycott Israel. Wow,what a shame. Oh by the way, Methodist is no longer a church. Any 'church' that permits lesbian priests or whatever they call them is not a Bible believing, God fearing church. So in a way, Israel can consider their boycott to be a compliment.
The Jewish Chronicle, London's oldest Jewish newspaper, reports:
Delegates at the conference in Portsmouth overwhelmingly passed every recommendation of the report, which also included a call to review whether Zionism was compatible with Methodist beliefs.
The Reverend Graham Carter, who chaired the working party that produced the report, said that while some people had wanted a boycott of all Israeli goods, “we did not feel that was the right thing to bring to conference”.
The Presbyterian Conference begins in the USA this month, and they will be taking up this same issue.
Meanwhile, a court in Brighton in the UK has cleared five of seven activists who destroyed armaments bound for Israel during the early 2009 IDF attack on Gaza:
The five were jubilant after a jury found them not guilty of conspiring to cause criminal damage to the factory on the outskirts of Brighton.
The five admitted they had broken in and sabotaged the factory, but argued they were legally justified in doing so.
They believed that EDO MBM, the firm that owns the factory, was breaking export regulations by manufacturing and selling to the Israelis military equipment which would be used in the occupied territories. They wanted to slow down the manufacture of these components, and impede what they believed were war crimes being committed by Israel against the Palestinians.
After being acquitted, one of them, Robert Nicholls, told the Guardian: "I'm joyful really, at being a free man. The action was impulsive really, we just wanted to do something that would make a real difference to the people of Palestine."
Another, Ornella Saibene, said: "I've felt very peaceful all the way through the trial because I'm proud of what I've done. It was the right thing to do."
These are both remarkable events. They point toward increasing awareness among Christian organizations and among jurors of the gulf between Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank and the world's understanding of what this means in the context of so called "Judeo-Christian" values, or in understanding of what constitutes lawful action to prevent illegal war and war crimes.
Meanwhile, on the cultural front:
Update - Friday - 11:15 a.m: All the UK activists have now been acquitted:
The three-week trial at Hove crown court ended today when the final two activists, accused of causing the damage to the Brighton factory, were acquitted. The jury had found the other five not guilty on Wednesday.
The seven, who called themselves "decommissioners", had argued during the trial that they had a "lawful excuse" to smash up the factory, because it was manufacturing military equipment for the Israeli military, which was illegally killing Palestinian civilians, including children.