Some anti-Israel activists in the United Methodist Church (UMC) are so radical, even Hillary Clinton felt compelled to vocally criticize their efforts on the eve of General Conference. On May 9, Clinton said that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel was “not the path to peace” in a letter to the heads of the Jewish Federations of North America.
“I believe that BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict,” Clinton wrote.
She continued that peace could “only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians; it cannot be imposed from the outside or by unilateral actions.” She concluded that that the BDS movement was “counterproductive to the pursuit of peace and harmful to Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
Although she never directly mentioned the UMC, Clinton is a life-long Methodist and the timing of the letter could not send a clearer message. The UMC’s General Conference began meeting today (May 10), and one issue which delegates will debate includes divestment. Proposed measures would target companies that are supposedly “profiting from the Israeli occupation.”
It speaks to how radical the BDS movement has become that Clinton felt the need to publicly oppose it. Indeed, the campaign has developed a shrill and alarming tenor.
“The BDS movement within and beyond the UMC has been extremely callous in its willingness to resort to anti-Semitic rhetoric and completely dismiss concerns about victims of anti-Israel terrorism,” guest blogger Katy Kiser wrote in a post for Juicy Ecumenism in September.
John Lomperis, UMAction director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, testified last November before the UMC’s General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits when it was considering divestment. He said that divestment was the “wrong solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because it “misrepresents the basic problem.” He explained that the BDS movement mischaracterized Israel’s actions as part of a colonial occupation of Palestine rather than an attempt to secure the Israeli homeland.
In January, the Pension Board divested from five Israeli banks. It lumped Israel with the “worst of the worst” human rights violators like Iran, North Korea, and China.
As shocking as this move was, proposals at General Conference go even further. Resolutions target companies as diverse as Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard.
[RNS national reporter Emily McFarlan Miller included the entirety of Clinton’s letter in her March 9 article. You can read it here.]