As the United Methodist Church prepares to vote on divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s military occupation in Palestine, Hillary Clinton has penned a letter condemning the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
The Democratic presidential frontrunner and lifelong Methodist was responding to a joint letter from two leaders of major Israel lobby organizations – David Sherman, chairperson of the Israel Action Network, and Susan Stern, vice-chair of the Jewish Federations of North America – urging her to “speak out forcefully against the divisive and destructive BDS movement” ahead of the Methodist vote.
“Your voice is very much needed this week,” they wrote.
The vote is set to take place during the quadrennial United Methodist Church General Conference, which begins today in Portland, Oregon.
The church delegates will be voting on four proposals to divest from three companies that profit from Israel’s occupation: Caterpillar, Motorola and HP.
Supporters of Palestinian rights have reasons for optimism. In January, the UMC voted to divest its $20 billion pension fund from Israeli banks in accordance with its ethical investment policy.
The United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA have also divested from companies complicit in Israel’s occupation – despite strenuous opposition from anti-Palestinian groups including the Israel Action Network.
“BDS seeks to punish”
Whether Clinton’s letter makes an impact has yet to be seen, but given the momentum behind church divestment efforts, it is unlikely to have much influence.
Neverthless, Clinton wasted no time no time in responding with her usual over-the-top pandering.
“The Jewish state is a modern day miracle — a vibrant bloom in the middle of a desert — and we must nurture and protect it,” Clinton writes in her letter.
BDS is “counterproductive,” “seeks to punish Israel” and is “harmful to Israelis and Palestinians alike,” she continues, ignoring the fact that the movement is spearheaded by the BDS National Committee, the largest Palestinian civil society coalition.
“This is not the path to peace,” Clinton insists.
So what is the path to peace? For Clinton, it consists of “defending Israel’s legitimacy, expanding security and economic ties and taking our alliance to the next level.”
Clinton also implies that BDS, and by extension her own church if it votes to divest, is anti-Semitic, saying, “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.”
Reading Clinton’s letter, it is easy to forget that United Methodist Church is voting on divestment from three enormously profitable American companies which make a killing off an occupation that denies basic rights to millions of Palestinians based solely on their ethnicity.
And it is made possible by unconditional support from US politicians like Clinton.
To be fair, Clinton was simply fulfilling her promise to billionaire media mogul Haim Saban, who has donated over $6 million to her presidential campaign and has openly stated that his number-one objective is influencing US policy in Israel’s favor.
Last year, Clinton wrote a letter to Saban vowing “to make countering BDS a priority” if she wins the presidency.
Saban’s support is an example of how Clinton has become the flag-bearer for the most pro-Israel elements in the Democratic Party. Even as the party’s liberal base becomes increasingly sympathetic to Palestinians, Clinton won’t budge.
Clinton’s Democratic opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, does not necessarily support BDS.
But he has expressed no interest in obstructing it and has advocated for Palestinian rights more forcefully than any major presidential candidate in recent memory – a likely response to his progressive base, which is full of BDS proponents.
Sanders, perhaps not coincidentally, has relied entirely on small donors, eschewing the support of the millionaires and billionaires who fund Clinton’s campaign.
But given their current delegate counts in the ongoing primary races, Clinton will almost certainly win the Democratic nomination and face presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in the general election.
Trump stoked controversy earlier in his party’s primary battle when he pledged to be “neutral” in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
After relentless attacks, including from Clinton, he adopted a more right-wing position.
Last week, Trump called on Israel to build more settlements on Palestinian land.
All of Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, are illegal under international law.
Adelson is also a key ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a major financier of anti-Palestinian lobby groups.
Following a rare public conversation between Saban and Adelson in 2014, the moderator joked, “After the election in 2016, one of you will get me a private tour of the White House.”
It looks like he was right. The US presidential election is a horse race for billionaires – no matter which party loses in November, Israel wins.