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Methodists vote to cut ties with group some consider anti-Israel

Delegates pause for a moment of prayer at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference. From left, Vasylyna Babych from the Ukraine-Moldava Provisional, and Alexander Pererva and Alexandr Meinikov from the Southern Russia Provisional. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS)  United Methodists, voting at their General Conference, have called on their church’s mission agency to withdraw from a group founded to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Critics see the group as more anti-Israel than pro-peace.

The petition asking for the agency’s withdrawal from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation passed 478-318.

It called the U.S. campaign a “one-sided political coalition” that seeks to isolate Israel “while overlooking anti-Israel aggression.”

“Blaming only one side while ignoring the wrongdoing of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran will not advance the cause of peace,” the petition continued, naming groups that have stated their aim to destroy the Jewish state.

RELATED: Methodist supporters of Israel-related divestment regroup after setback

The vote — though nonbinding — disappointed many delegates who had wanted to increase pressure on Israel to withdraw from lands it has occupied since the 1967 war that pitted it against Jordan, Egypt and Syria.

The Rev. Armando Arellano, a delegate from Ohio, said it would be a mistake for the church’s General Board of Global Ministries to leave the U.S. Campaign, a group he described as “neither pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel, but pro-equal rights for all.”

“By withdrawing from the coalition,” he continued, “we are withdrawing our commitment to be an agent of peace and justice.”

The vote Tuesday (May 17) was not the first disappointment at the conference for delegates who support divestment and other tactics to pressure Israel over the occupation, which most of the world deems illegal. Over the weekend, a church committee rejected four divestment or investment screening resolutions related to the occupation.

Resolutions to call attention to Israel’s occupation have gained traction within some mainline Protestant denominations. Though the Episcopal Church has rejected such efforts, the United Church of Christ in 2015 and the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2014 voted to divest from companies they consider complicit in the occupation.

In January, the United Methodist Church dropped five Israeli banks from its pension fund investment portfolio.


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.

About the author

Lauren Markoe


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  • It would not be the first time the leaders of Methodists were found to be on the wrong side of oppression, racism, apartheid, and settler-colonialism. Maybe they should learn about the plight of Palestinians instead of relying on misinformation, bullying, and hasbara anti-Palestinian rhetoric.
    Instead of divesting from an apartheid regime, Methodists are divesting from a reputable human rights organization?

  • “most of the world deems illegal. ” REALLY? I would love to see the objective data that supports this. If you actually knew the history of the 6 day war, you’d know Israel didn’t start it, but they finished it. I side with Israel and I am not Jewish or Israeli. Go search the newspapers from 1 day to 2 years after the war and read your history there. Our current “history” of the event has been changed.

  • I expect that you would also say . . .

    ” Maybe they should learn about the plight of Palestinians Islamic State instead of
    relying on misinformation, bullying, and hasbara anti-PalestinianIS rhetoric.”

  • Not unless I was confused between civil and human rights for Palestinians; and the reaction of Sunni Arabs in Syria and Iraq to mistakes from Sykes-Picot, Years of living under autocratic rule, then misinformed US invasions/occupations.
    I’m not sure if your confusion lies in not knowing geography and confusing different people based on their ethnicity, or you have a blatant anti-Palestinian bend.
    It’s time to get real that Israeli occupation of the West Bank , Gaza ,and East Jerusalem is illegal under international laws,
    And has a lot of semblance to apartheid.
    Also refugees have rights to go back to their residences or be compensated once tensions fall. Israel has been violating this particular law as nauseam for almost 70 years.
    And the Methodists just voted in support of supporting Israel with very little conditions and based on hasbara

  • There is no occupation of Gaza. It’s very tough to plead victimhood when one deliberately poses a threat to those blockading them.

    Imagine how much non wingnuts would care about the plight of Hamas suddenly wanted to make peaceful overtures.

    In the west bank there are legitimate gripes with Israel. But let’s be brutally honest. As much of an abomination the wall is, cross border terrorism is nearly nonexistent since its completion.

  • I’ve lived in Israel and everything you’re saying is based upon ignorance and just good old-fashioned Jew-hatred.
    Face it Ahmed–if everyone in Israel en masse converted to Islam, you and your other Jew haters wouldn’t have a problem with Israel’s existence.

  • “Occupation?” Funny how these hypocrites who complain about Israel’s “occupation” were silent when Judea/Samaria was occupied by the Ottomans, Great Britain, and Jordan.
    It’s always the same, No Jews = No News–unless Jews/Israel can somehow be blamed.

  • It’s extremely PC to be anti Israel now. It’s the new and improved form of anti Semitism. But every bit as hateful.
    70+ years ago these hypocrites were screaming “Jews back to Palestine”. Now they’re screaming “Jews out of Palestine”. What they really hate is Jews being sovereign and having control of their own destiny. That is the real reason they hate Israel.

  • “Wrong side of history” means you KNOW you are right and unwilling to listen to anyone else’s ideas. It is highly self-righteous and arrogant. NO reason to read anything anyone types after that. Only close minded people use it.

  • Which was my point (after the comma) It is a massive insult to concepts of international diplomacy. However, it has slowed if not stopped terror attacks.

  • Hey Ahmed! Did you hear that Isreal withdrew from Gaza? (or that they left a viable green house business that Gazans could be using to create a good economy for themselves instead of always looking for a hand out. ) Oh, I forget, they first have to destroy another country before they can begin to take responsibility for themselves. And they wrecked the green houses too.

    BTW, to say Israel is like aparteid is not only ignorant of the reality there but it is an insult to South Africans who really did live under aparteid. But people like you will say anything to win because you aren’t interested in truth or peace or Palestinians for that matter. Only in hating Jews.

  • Oddly, South African leaders who were involved in their apartheid history, say there is no comparison of Israel to South Africa in terms of what apartheid included. Israel even rescued black Ethiopian Jews from atrocity in Ethiopia, the only white nation to do so. That Palestinians vote, are included in the Knesset, Supreme Court, and have their own schools and courts in Israel, is overlooked.

  • And I wonder why no concern with Chinese decades old occupation over Tibet. Are there not enough Chinese made goods we could boycott? Jews are from Judea, Arabs are from Arabia. Sometimes, names are important as facts.

  • these hypocrites” would be 100 years old since Balfour, invasion of Jerusalem ending 973 years of Muslim rule>1917.

  • Zionism was sposta free Jews from walled cities>Origins of Christian Zionism by Don Lewis

  • completely obvious statement I dont understand. Israel is profane to Judaism.

  • Says the Gentile who knows only about the Neturei Karta and thinks they speak for all Jews and Judaism.

  • And it’s people like you and the ones you support which is why we have to live behind walls again.

  • Most of them would(yael58 included) be reluctant to reject, or even to attenuate, the
    authority of a Chofetz Chaim or a Brisker Rov, a Satmar Rebbe or a
    Lubavitcher Rebbe, all of whom articulated opposition to Zionism.

  • The Lubavitch are very pro Israel. And the rest of them who are anti Israel don’t speak for me or most Jews..
    But I do find it telling that you have a major problem with 7M Jews in the Middle East vs 350+ million Arabs.
    Yours is the mentality that wants a Judenrein Middle East as much as Hitler wanted a Judenrein Europe.

  • I, as a Christian and US citizen, am “concerned” with Zionist Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine because MY TAX DOLLARS ARE PAYING FOR IT. Your introduction of Tibet is a diversion intending to distract…a common Zionist tactic.

  • Hey ginavinci! (1) Israel withdrew only illegal settlers from Gaza in 2005 because it became too inconvenient and costly to maintain them there. The illegal settlers were illegally settled in the illegally occupied West Bank instead. Since 2005 and until today, every objective expert agrees that Gaza is still occupied 24-7 from the sea, land, and sky: Zionist watercraft shooting at Gazan fishing boats and crews; Zionist aircraft such as drones constantly in the skies over Gaza, jets bombing at will; continual shooting at Gazan farmers from the land. (2) Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said and re-said that the Zionists’ program of apartheid against all Palestinians is worse than South Africa’s apartheid.

  • How to eliminate Israeli drones, jets, watercraft etc. from your territory? Stop sending knife weilding murderers, suicide bombers, car driving assassins, rockets day and night, and incessant pali-wood lying photoshopped photos and videos and negotiate for a peaceful resolution instead of refusing every single deal that has ever been offered.

  • Robert Stiver- Your TAX DOLLARS are also going to pay for cement and construction materials that are intended for homes for the Palestinian people you claim to care about so much but 9/10 of it goes to building tunnels to perpetuate this violence. Not to forget the sumptuous life styles and bank accounts of the leaders. Any problem with that? Why don’t you learn about the complexity of the whole thing?

  • You may well be a Christian. Just like the Christians of Europe who murdered Jews or applauded those who did.
    Apparently you have no trouble with your tax dollars going to Palestinian leaders (most of whom are millionaires if not billionaires) who glorify death, mayhem, and the murder of Israelis.
    No doubt you think the very Jewish Jesus was a Palestinian.
    But please, don’t let me make you late for your Hitler Youth meeting or KKK rally.

  • That “anti-semite” trope is really wearing thin, ginavinci. How do you know that I’m “violent”? Am I “violent” in the same way that you might consider my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ “violent” for His resistance to wrongdoing and His justice-supporting dissidence 2,000 years ago? The Palestinians know “violence” — dealt out to them endlessly in myriad and ever-evolving ways by increasingly racist and criminal Zionist psychotics intent on denying their legitimate aspirations for truth, justice and peace. I readily and resolutely acknowledge that I am anti(Jewish/Christian/secular)-Zionist in the 20th and 21st Centuries’ era of Zionism’s militant-political-colonial manifestation. I myself have been suffering vicariously with the Palestinians since 1964, when I learned the Arabic language and culture for a year courtesy of the U.S. Army and became aware of “the other side of the story.” May good and moral human beings all over the world work to bring Zionism to an end…faster, please. (Zionism could help us by imploding from its own excesses — perhaps the current most likely scenario!)
    Palestine Is Still The Issue! I, too, am a Palestinian! Viva Palestine and its tormented, endangered (but so amazingly steadfast) Christians and Muslims!