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Hillary Clinton: ‘Make countering BDS a priority’

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a visit to the California African American Museum in Los Angeles on May 5, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CLINTON-BDS, originally transmitted on May 9, 2016.

(RNS) On the eve of her religious denomination’s quadrennial meeting, Hillary Clinton wrote a letter to Jewish agency heads saying she opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel that the meeting will consider.

“I believe that BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict. This is not the path to peace,” Clinton wrote in a letter Monday (May 9) to David Sherman, chair of the Israel Action Network, and Susan K. Stern, vice chair of the Jewish Federations of North America.

The Democratic presidential candidate is a lifelong Methodist and may be watching the workings of the General Conference, the denomination’s top policy-making body, from afar. The conference begins Tuesday (May 10) in Portland, Ore.

Clinton has spoken against the BDS movement before, calling it “alarming” in her speech earlier this year to American Israel Public Affairs Committee.


RELATED: 5 faith facts about Hillary Clinton: Social Gospel Methodist to the core


Divestment is one of the top issues to be considered at the conference. Four resolutions would require the denomination to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard — companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands — and other investments that relate to illegal settlements. The church already opposes the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Friends Fiduciary Corporation already have divested from companies supporting Israeli occupation.


RELATED: 6 things to watch at the Methodist General Conference


“Your voice is very much needed this week,” wrote Stern and Sherman to Clinton in a joint letter. “We hope you will again speak out forcefully against the divisive and destructive BDS movement.”

Here is the full text of Clinton’s response:

Dear David and Susie:

Thank you for your letter, and for your organizations’ continued leadership in confronting so many of the important issues and challenges our world faces.

More than three decades ago, my husband, Bill, and I took our first trip to Israel, walked the ancient streets of Jerusalem’s Old City, and fell in love with the country and its people. Israel became a special place for us, and I am lucky to have had many opportunities to return and to make many dear friends there over the years.

As Senator and Secretary of State, I saw how crucial it is for America to defend Israel at every turn. I have opposed dozens of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, the Human Rights Council, and other international organizations. I condemned the biased Goldstone Report, making it clear that Israel must be allowed to defend itself like any other country. And I made sure the United States blocked Palestinian attempts at the UN to unilaterally declare statehood. Time after time, no matter the venue, I have made it clear that America will always stand up for Israel. If I am fortunate enough to be elected president, the United States will reaffirm we have a strong and enduring national interest in Israel’s security.

It is because of my longstanding commitment to the Israeli people and to the security of Israel that I am writing to express my opposition to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement, or “BDS,” the global effort to isolate the State of Israel by ending commercial and academic exchanges. I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority, and that we need to work together—across party lines and with a diverse array of voices—to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel. It would be a serious mistake for the United States to abandon our responsibilities, or cede the mantle of leadership for global peace and security to anyone else. The Jewish state is a modern day miracle—a vibrant bloom in the middle of a desert—and we must nurture and protect it.

I believe that BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict. This is not the path to peace. I remain convinced that Israel’s long-term security and future as a Jewish state depends on having two states for two peoples. But that can only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians; it cannot be imposed from the outside or by unilateral actions. As Secretary of State, I convened the last round of direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders; I know how hard this will be, but it is an effort to which I would be committed as president.

Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival. Fighting for Israel isn’t just about policy; it is a personal commitment to the friendship between our peoples and our vision for peace and security. Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world, we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism has no place in any civilized society—not in America, not in Europe, not anywhere. We must never tire in defending Israel’s legitimacy, expanding security and economic ties, and taking our alliance to the next level.

Please know that I am grateful for your work, and that I stand ready to be your partner as we engage all people of good faith—regardless of their political persuasion or their views on policy specifics—in explaining why the BDS campaign is counterproductive to the pursuit of peace and harmful to Israelis and Palestinians alike.

With best wishes, I am

Sincerely yours,

Hillary Rodham Clinton

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

36 Comments

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  • Let’s be clear, neither the United Methodists, nor any of the other denominations named, are considering “joining the BDS movement” in full. They have only passed, or considered passing, a resolution to divest from 3 companies that have benefited from the illegal (yes, illegal) settlements. United Methodists have already gone on record opposing the settlements. Why should they profit from 3 companies that have made the most from that development? Methodists are not debating a boycott of Israel in any way, shape or form; they are not considering the entirety of the BDS movement. Clinton doesn’t oppose the settlements, though she says she supports a two-state solution (Netanyahu does not.) I do not believe setting Clinton’s letter to another organization beside the story of UMC vote is helpful.

  • If Hillary wants to fight BDS with “information and advocacy” then fine. Let her do so. However, if she wants to use the power of the government to punish or penalize BDS supporters then she will be violating the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled in NAACP vs Claiborne Hardware Co. that we have a right to boycott. Boycotting has a long tradition in our country. And if we erode the way to boycott here–if we let government punish boycotters, then we will erode the right to boycott in other areas. If BDS proponents are punished through the heavy hand of government today, then what is to prevent a Republican government from punishing boycotters protesting say–an anti-LGBT law in a state like North Carolina tomorrow?

  • “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy.

    Same goes with peaceful resistance to military occupation. You can’t oppose peaceful resistance and then go and condemn violent resistance without being an utter hypocrite.

  • Maybe that confusion arises from the law, as the Security Council has deemed the settlements to be illegal (resolutions 446, 452, 465, 471 and 476), which in turn led to the International Court of Justice to declare them illegal as well (2004 advisory opinion on the subject). Or from the articles 2 and 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which are held by the entire international community as foundation of their illegality, including the US and the UK -Israel is truly alone in the subject. That’s not even mentioning the UNSCR 242: it did not provide for a legal basis towards settlement, as it is forbidden under general principles of international law following WWI, and administration of the territory cannot lead to transfer of population, voluntary or otherwise.
    You can like or dislike either of the two parties, but you can’t seriously argue that settlements are not illegal. If truth matters to you, please, educate yourself.

  • Some day, some way people will understand that ever since Mrs. Clinton has been involved in politics she HAS ALAWAYS said one thing and then did the opposite. Those hurt by her power controlling history then say ‘Well, she MEANT to help us.’ This entire Party is satisfied with PROMISES whether they are fulfilled or ignored.

  • I will not engage in discussion with someone who clearly do not understand the very meaning of what he reads. The very preamble of UNSCR 242 clearly states the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every State in the area can live in security”, which obviously mean that no state could, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, could claim territory, even on a temporary basis. Settlements are obviously a way to pave claims on the territory, as it has become clear by the political process in Israel, country that is now asking for the handover of those territories to itself de jure.
    The lack of recognition of Palestine is no argument in this case; only a twisted legal mind would have come with the extreme absurd of claiming that an unrecognized territory could be subjected to continual settlement and concurrent displacement.
    And the prevailing legal resolution is that the settlements are illegal under international law.

  • Any “Christian” supporting Israel and it’s current behavior is NOT following scripture, and has been brainwashed by paid Televangelists who in turn get paid by Zionist antichrists who are wicked, and disobey God. America has NOT been blessed, and it’s deplorable and frightening that this woman is threatening to use Government to punish people who boycott her master’s. We are reaching a boiling point watching you continually meddle in our government and manipulate people.

  • Neither was killing over 500 children in Gaza in 2014. Neither was the killing of over 300 children in Operation Cast Lead. Neither is abducting children from their West Bank homes in the middle of the night and dragging them off to jail inside Israel. Neither is settlers throwing rocks at Palestinian school children. You need to do some reading.

  • “As Senator and Secretary of State, I saw how crucial it is for America
    to defend Israel at every turn. I have opposed dozens of anti-Israel
    resolutions at the UN, the Human Rights Council, and other international
    organizations.”
    I think that says all we need to know. Hillary Clinton will defend this racist regime and be a further impediment to peace-period. No matter what they do, she will defend them. If they kill American activists, that’s even fine with her. Has she opened any new investigations in to the USS Liberty attack, or the death of Rachel Corrie, or the attack on the Freedom Flotilla? How about the recent incident when an American teen was left to bleed to death on the side of a road, by the IDF? No, no. This woman will never get my vote-ever!

  • When you look at a problem remove your visor and then walk ALL of the way around the problem three times. Get into the problem. Get out of the problem. Some dead leaves on a maple tree do not make the maple tree ugly. Today people make a decision who is right and who is wrong in a problem before they even look at the problem. Look at Ireland and how finally a few people knew how to end the death and killing. L-O-O-K at the problem.

  • “Singling out,” is not the case. The UMC has a Socially Responsible Investment Policy, Here it is. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/investment-ethics. It seeks to invest within the guidelines of that policy, and that is the issue here.

    I repeat: The Church is considering disinvesting from 3 companies. It’s not disinvesting from all of Israel, and its not yet advocating for BDS. For all I know it may have Israeli avocado farms in its portfolio. The issue at hand are 3 companies, which profit from building illegal settlements. And sometimes destroying Palestinian homes.

    The fact that this cannot be kept straight in some people’s minds concerns me. It means, “if you aren’t with us,” — in every single thing we do, –“you’re against us.” You are not even allowed to question aspects of another country’s policies. But I expect and hope for the same in this direction. I’d be glad if Israeli organizations divested from fossil fuel companies, from American clothing companies which have repeatedly used child labor, and all the rest. And I would not consider that to be “punishing” America.

  • I don’t see how Clinton can claim with a straight face she supports a two state solution but then brags about opposing Palestine’s efforts to achieve statehood at the UN. It’s clear from this that Clinton doesn’t see the Palestinians as humans who deserve the same equal rights and protections as Israel does and her attempts to demonize anyone who supports BDS as somehow anti-Semitic should be disturbing to all progressives.

  • Israel has killed 100 Palestinian children per 1 Israeli Jewish child killed during the last five years.

  • You are correct that the UN has made Israel responsible for the humane administration of the territories it occupies, “UNTIL A LASTING PEACE IS IN PLACE”. It’s also true that the UN has resolved that pre ’67 Palestine was occupied through an act of aggression in contradiction of international law and that the settlements are a continuation of that illegal aggression, to say nothing of the countless other violations of that law by the occupying force, Israel.
    The US will not go so far as to agree with the rest of the world that the settlements are illegal but it’s been a small step forward that we at least acknowledge them a destructive of the peace. I wouldn’t expect an Israel apologist to respect the spirit of the law any more than they respect any goyim opinion but I pray for the day when we finally face the facts as a nation and protect Israel and US from ourselves.

  • Which Ireland you mean? Shall we get peace by Israel handing back some 70 % of historic Palestine (Republic of Ireland) or shall we get peace by PLO joining Israel’s cabinet on equal terms (Northern Ireland).

  • You’re being ableist for using mental illness as an insult and claiming I’m the one who’s bigoted when Clinton is the one who thinks Israel is the only one who can defend themselves.

  • Thank you; I appreciate your willingness to address my
    comments. And I will return the favor.

    You’ve contradicted two things I said. First, that Palestine is a state with borders. While technically you may be correct that it wasn’t and isn’t from a US/Israel point of view, actually you are not according to the INTERNATIONAL bodies I referred to. When Palestinians began calling themselves Palestinians, I don’t know but they did as subjects in the Ottoman Empire. And they were recognized as such under the British Mandate.

    Before Israel preempted a lawful partitioning and declared
    itself a state (de jure), a Palestinian state with borders had been worked out with the UN. In my opinion and in the
    Palestinian’s it was, de facto, a state. There have been several explanations for why Palestine wasn’t immediately partitioned along with neighbors like Syria and Iraq but what they all have in common is Israel and its machinations with allies such as US and GB and much of the time much of Europe, aimed to forestall implementing UN res 181.

    If by 1948 we’re not correct in calling Palestine a nation state with borders then perhaps we could in 1967 with UN res 242. It declares that Israel must remove from the territories seized through warfare. A war, by the way and to your second contradiction, there is much disagreement about with regard to who transgressed. At any rate the wording of the resolution itself is de facto (ipso facto if you prefer Groucho) recognition of Palestinian statehood. But if you still won’t allow a Palestine then perhaps you would consider accepting that “The Roadmap” clearly states there is agreement that there will be a Palestinian State, roughly along the green line, with swaps.

    Still not good enough eh, then perhaps de jure statehood in
    1988. Hey it was good enough for Israel in ’48; of course they had a little help from their friends. So okay how about “nascent state” status granted by the UN in 2005, or officially given “de facto” state status in 2015? No, and I suppose the fact that three quarters of the UN members have recognized Palestinian statehood doesn’t grab you either. How about the fact that it won’t be long before it’s only US, Israel and some of the more dysfunctional members of “the coalition of the willing” left, who don’t recognize Palestine?

    At least consider for a while whether there might be some
    good in valuing “the spirit of the law”.

    Thanks again.

  • Democratic Fail:
    2-12-16: CONGRESS FAIL: Congress voted to invade Palestine on 2-12-16 including millions of dollars to Israel, military equipment and nuclear weapons for Israel to occupy Palestine by saying Israel includes all of the Palestinian land and can do what they want. Worse yet it puts in play the US Military against public and peaceful protests of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement supported by the United Nations. This illegal act of war is sponsored by AIPAC – Israel’s right wing billionaire lobby.
    WARHAWK DEMOCRATS include President Obama, Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and the 25 Democrats who voted against approving the Iran deal were Reps. Brad Ashford (Neb.), Brendan Boyle (Pa.), Tony Cardenas (Calif.), Ted Deutch (Fla.), Eliot Engel (N.Y.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), Gwen Graham (Fla.), Gene Green (Texas), Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Steve Israel (N.Y.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Nita Lowey (N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Grace Meng (N.Y.), Grace Napolitano (Calif.), Donald Norcross (N.J.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), David Scott (Ga.), Brad Sherman (Calif.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Albio Sires (N.J.), Juan Vargas (Calif.) and Filemon Vela (Texas). http://mondoweiss.net/2016/02/obama-to-sign-aipac-promoted-trade-bill-that-legitimizes-israeli-occupation-and-fights-bds/

  • There is no way on God’s green Earth that I will vote for Hillary Clinton. BDS until Israel grants all people living in that land a full and equal measure of human rights!

  • Then tell Hamas to stop using kids as human shields.
    Go on Youtube and search for.

    Hamas spokesman defends policy of using civilians as human shields

  • Do the Palestinians have a soul?

    Hamas, Fatah Officials Praise Terrorist Who Killed Israeli Baby in Jerusalem.
    OCTOBER 24, 2014

    Palestinians across the political spectrum are praising Wednesday’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem, which resulted in the death of a three-month-old Israeli baby. A car driven by a suspected Hamas member crashed into a crowd at a light-rail station, killing the baby girl and injuring eight others.

    An official Hamas statement refers to the infant as a “female settler,” and urges Palestinians to “escalate the confrontations” against Israel in various locations, a translation by the Investigative Project on Terrorism shows.

    “The Islamic Resistance Movement ‘Hamas’ praises its son, the hero martyr Abd al Rahman Idris al-Shaludi (23 years) implementer of the operation of running over the settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem, which led to the death of a female settler and the injury of 8 others,” the Hamas statement reads.

    Moreover, Sultan Al-Einein, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, praised the terrorist, referring to him as a “heroic Martyr,” a Palestinian Media Watch translation of his official Facebook page said. Shaludi was shot by police and later died from his injuries

    Al-Einein has glorified terrorists in the past, leading five members of Congress to demand that Abbas fire him and condemn his views. Abbas has ignored the American pressure.

    Abbas’ Fatah party also glorified the terrorist’s actions, posting an obituary on its official Facebook page.

    “The Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah)-Silwan branch accompanies to his wedding the heroic Martyr Abd Al-Rahman Al-Shaludi, who carried out the Jerusalem operation, in which settlers in the occupied city of Jerusalem were run over. Rest in peace! We are loyal to you,” the Fatah statement said.

    Abbas’ refusal to reprimand Al-Einein and failure to hold other officials accountable lends tacit approval of the terrorist glorification sentiment that is prevalent throughout senior ranks of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah.

  • Palestinians don’t understand what is peace. They will never agree to peace. They teach their children that death is more then life. Their ultimate goal is to die for the course. They live a lie and die for a lie. They live to destroy Israel but in the end they will destroy themselves .

    The sad truth is that the Egyptian terrorist Arafat like his corrupt, anti-Semitic terrorist successor Abbas have never been interested in presiding over the 23rd Arab/Islamofascist state, so much as destroying the only Jewish one.

    Let them rot in their cesspool of hate, mediocrity and misogyny.

  • Palestinians don’t understand what is peace. They will never agree to peace. They teach their children that death is more then life. Their ultimate goal is to die for the course. They live a lie and die for a lie. They live to destroy Israel but in the end they will destroy themselves .

    The sad truth is that the Egyptian terrorist Arafat like his corrupt, anti-Semitic terrorist successor Abbas have never been interested in presiding over the 23rd Arab/Islamofascist state, so much as destroying the only Jewish one.

    Let them rot in their cesspool of hate, mediocrity and misogyny

  • If only the British would have realized to use this argument back in 1776 and we could have been saved from the United States ever existing. The ‘Founding Fathers’ surely would have realized the error of their ways and surrendered to be hanged, because no United States of America had ever existed before!

    Palestine did exist as a mandate state in 1920-1948, in equal status to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa until Westminster agreement in 1931, and in equal status to Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos Islands etc now.

  • “BAD GATEWAY” to your site. And you’re right, Palestinians habitually reject bad deals that fall far short of what’s just and would only serve to fracture Palestinian civil society and lead to a failed state.
    Which type of state, by the way, is the only type Israel will ever allow, because it’s the kind that will lead back to their goal of a “Greater Israel”

  • Sort of like when settlers set that Palestinian teen on fire, alive. Or the Palestinian baby that was burned alive in his crib, after a settler threw a Molotov cocktail in to the family’s home. Or the American Palestinian teen who was shot and left on the side of the road to bleed to death, as the IDF refused to let an ambulance pick him up.
    In other words, try again. That Hamas is not just a great group of guys is obvious. But these settlers are just as much terrorists and the IDF is a terrorist organization funded by U.S. tax dollars. Over 3 billion a year to be specific. Meanwhile, as another homeless veteran HERE commits suicide…

  • Were you high when you wrote this? It reminds me of the scene in “Happy Gilmore” when the golf “guru” is telling him the ball just wants to go home. “Send him to his home”. From another great Sandler comedy, I say “I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul”.

  • Over the past 23 years, we’ve seen what the Palestinians have done with the autonomy generously granted to them by Israel. They’ve slaughtered Israeli grandmothers and toddlers, pregnant women and elderly rabbis. They’ve set off their nail-studded, rat poison-laced bombs in shopping malls, disco’s, pizzeria’s, cafe’s and university cafeterias. These Palestinians which Gayle supports turned Jewish school buses into blazing infernos, invaded home and shot mothers and children in their beds.

    These Palestinian Islamo Nazis murdered 3 month old Jewish babies like Chaya Braun by deliberately running her over with a car. They’ve slaughtered Rabbis praying in Jerusalem and celebrate this by handing out candy.

    The Pali’s dragged 13-year-old Jewish boys to caves and stoned them to death. Those Palestinians who don’t actually pull the triggers, detonate the bombs or do the stoning, celebrate the atrocities in the streets of Ramallah and Jenin, as they danced in those same streets when other Arabs crashed two planes into the World Trade Center.

    These Arab sadists even built an exhibition celebrating the Sbarros massacre. When do you think the Arabs will realize, that murdering Israeli pizza-eaters, dance-club people, school kids, teenagers and sleeping five-year-olds is barbaric. Do these Arabs have any humanity?

    It is becoming increasingly obvious, that the followers of Muhammed are not human beings.

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