Methodist Church divestment group forcefully rejects American Jewish Committee attack

Members of United Methodist Church have responded forcefully to an attack from Rabbi A. James Rudin, the “senior interreligious adviser” of the American Jewish Committee, just as the Church’s upcoming national conference is to vote on a major initiative to divest from companies profiting from Israeli occupation and human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Writing in The Washington Post, Rudin belittled the divestment initiatives in the Methodist and other Protestant churches as “pointless,” and deployed the now standard tactic of trying to divert attention away from Israel by berating church members for a “biased double standard that judges Israel much more harshly than its neighboring nations and terrorist organizations including Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.”

Not taking the bait

United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR), a group organizing in favor of the divestment initiative rejected Rudin’s criticism in a statement sent out by email:

“It’s unfortunate that Rabbi Rudin chose to avoid addressing the substantive issues around divestment, like Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestinian land and denial of Palestinian freedom, instead focusing on canards like the size of church membership,” said UMKR member Connie Baker. “If Rabbi Rudin is truly interested in inter-religious dialogue as he claims, we invite him to meet with us to discuss what we are doing and why we are doing it, instead of publishing op-eds attacking us.”

UMKR also refused to take the bait, implied in Rudin’s article, that church divestment initiatives were motivated by anti-Jewish sentiment:

UMKR members have always been, and remain, dedicated to inter-religious dialogue and cooperation with Jewish and other religious groups. In fact, the United Methodist divestment proposal has support from many Jewish groups around the world. UMKR has worked with Jewish and Israeli partners from the beginning of our efforts on divestment. The struggle to end Israel’s occupation, like all civil rights struggles before it is an interfaith effort. Deep and lasting interfaith friendships are being formed as we stand together for equality and human rights.

According to its website, UMKR is “a grass roots effort to respond to the ’Kairos Palestine Document.’ This document is an urgent plea from Christians in the Holy Land for decisive action in support of a just peace.  It is a powerful call to churches around the world to stop talking about peace and take real steps to make peace happen.”

Assadwashing

Rudin’s editorial attempted to use what Jamil Sbitan has dubbed “Assadwashing” to distract attention from Israel:

Why are some Protestant church leaders so intent to single out Israel for financial punishment and public condemnation while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is slaughtering his own citizens? While Egypt’s once promising quest for democracy is threatened by the extremist Muslim Brotherhood? While Hezbollah effectively controls the fragile Lebanese government?

Of course the obvious answer is that whatever anyone thinks of those countries or movements, the United States government imposes varying degrees of unilateral and international sanctions on them.

Israel, meanwhile, receives billions of dollars per year from the US government and enjoys complete diplomatic, political and legal impunity and even encouragement as it commits crimes. It is that unique impunity – the singling out of Israel for special treatment by the United States government – that has compelled Methodists to act.

Tags

Comments

picture

Our faith calls us to see in every person the image of God, and to respect, love, care for and aid all persons. I applaud the courage of the United Methodist Church in its decision, and believe that nonviolent protest can induce Israel to do what is right for the Palestinians and, ultimately, for itself as well.

picture

Those in the Methodist church involved in BDS ought to be ashamed of themselves. They obviously have no clue what's in their Scriptures concerning the Jews. That's what happens when a person is ignorant of the Truth that is in God's Word...they'll fall for anything and follow anybody.

picture

Congratulations, United Methodist Church for obeying the Scriptural command to do justice. Thank you for your faith and courage in addressing what is clearly the greatest injustice since World War 2, the violent occupation and ongoing theft of Palestinian land by Israel.

picture

If, for instance, there is criticism of the assault on the people of Palestine the question then becomes why haven’t you criticized Bosnia; or if there is criticism of the Israeli program of nuclear and biological weapons, why haven’t you criticized Russia’s program; or if there is criticism of the Israeli discriminatory citizenship status of Jews and Arabs, why haven’t you criticized discriminatory practices in the United States; etc., etc.

It is a pattern of exceptionalism that serves the purpose of diverting the attention from the criticism of the primary target to the author of the criticism. This clever transition is reflected in the consequence of Rudin's response in the Washington Post.

It is similarly standard fare of Netanyahu's responses to United Nation's resolutions against the assault on the Gaza sector of Palestine

In short, it is defensive standard fare that ridiculously requires that you write a treatise on all bloodcurdling invasions to describe the invasion of Lebanon, or write a treatise on all terrorizing, humiliating, debilitating occupations to describe the occupation of Palestine, or write a treatise on all historical attempts at world domination to write about the newest attempt expressed and implemented in the Project for a New American Century.

Rudin should continue with his verbosity, it suits his deceit.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.