Thursday, July 31, 2008

Methodists and Quakers

Significant actions have been taken by the United Methodist Church in their strong, principled responses to human rights abuses of Palestinians and other oppressed groups. PIAG's Anne Remley has put together a comprehensive (and continually updated) list of Methodist actions supporting Palestinian human rights, several of which are described below.

The Methodists' vigorous discussions around human rights in Palestine/Israel and the actions they have agreed to take bring up a central set of questions that Quakers have wrestled with throughout their history:

Does Quaker faith and practice require us to be a-political, that is, to concentrate on relieving immediate suffering rather than "taking sides" in a conflict?

If we are not to take sides, what does it mean to "speak truth to power"?

Shall we hold that "truth" is always partial and relative, and that each person, group, or nation, has one version of the truth, that all versions should be respected and taken into account?

Or should we align ourselves with human rights advocates who insist there is a bottom line of fair, humane treatment that every human being deserves, and that those who violate human rights should be called out and, through nonviolent action, restrained from violence and oppression?

Or shall we imagine a third way, one that persuades aggressors to change by addressing fundamental needs and grievances and fears that they themselves have, while at the same time seeking to say, "We will not cooperate with your actions in any way, and we will speak up about the wrongness of those actions"?

We encourage readers, Quakers and otherwise, to give their own views on these questions using the comment function below.

The United Methodist Church General Conference has established a "socially responsible investment task force" focusing on Sudan, China, and the Middle East to examine how church investments may avoid linkage with companies involved in human rights abuses in all of these lands.

Some regional conferences now expect to continue their own ethical investment action to end corporate support for the Occupation under long-standing guidelines in the Methodist Book of Discipline that ask churches, regions, and agencies to avoid "investments that appear likely, directly or indirectly, to support violation(s) of human rights."

For example, in June, 2007 the Baltimore-Washington Conference "join[ed] a significant number of regional Methodist bodies in calling for a vigorous response to the occupation. Their declaration states that "our General Rules hold us first accountable to 'Doing no harm.'" But "financing the oppression and violence caused by the military occupation . . . with our investments harms every Israeli and Palestinian, including Christian, child, woman and man." The Conference joined "a proven means of non-violent protest to actively promote a peaceful resolution to the political violence [that is] harming, maiming and killing Israelis and Palestinians" -- violence that in fact "violates Christian principles, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and international law." The Conference called upon Methodist boards of pensions and health benefits, administrators, and financial councilors to determine which corporations supported by Methodist investments profit from the Occupation, as by demolishing homes, constructing the wall, or supporting violence against Israelis or Palestinians. They are to engage such corporations to end such practices and, if they fail, they are to sell the investments and notify all member churches. The Conference concluded with the prayer that these actions "will give hope to Palestinians and Israelis . . . including our Christian brothers and sisters in the region who have not been forgotten."


  1. Anonymous10:54 PM

    how can we not support Israel? this is an issues of self denfense. the palestinians do not have any historic claim to the land as Israel does, are consistanly sending missiles into civilian areas, and they refuse to acknowledge Israels right to exist. everytime Israel gives more land it is met but more violence and i find it a real lack of spiritual discernment for the world to contine to seeming condem Isreal for protecting themselves, which i think i would take more extreme measures to do so. please forgive me if i sound overly aggressive on this issue, as some who attends a Friends Church and University i do get somewhat confused about what appears to be such a reservation about taking a stand on social issues. thanks for allowing me to vent.

  2. Methodists and Quakers.


    Of course we support Israel. Unfortunately, support is not so simplistic a concept. Blind support like blind faith is of little value at best and at worst manifestly destructive. There are no clear cases of self-defense outside of television. In real life, it takes two to tango. Any parent that has heard the endless argument of “he started it” knows the futility of that formula. For every Munich there is a Kfar Qibiya. For every Entebbe there is a Deir Yassin. Land claims are equally many and varied in their validity. All of those methods of resolution have been tried with equal success. The kernel of the dilemma is that every person living in that geographical area is equally a child of God and entitle to consideration as such. It is in no one’s interest to support oppression, destitution and murder and in everyone’s to oppose them. When we support peace and equal rights for all in the West Bank and Gaza, we do not oppose Israel in any way shape or form. It is central to our conscience and our mission to support peace and justice. To us equal rights and protection under the law is inherent to our concept of justice.
    Equally, it is fruitless to make sweeping generalizations wherein all Palestinians are encompassed in a reference to “they.” There is no “they.” In fact, the majority of Palestinians DO accept and recognize the right of Israel to exist. Reciprocally, the majority of Israelis support a two-state solution and withdrawal, approximately to 1967 borders. Poll after poll after poll authenticate this. There is no path to peace in supporting the extremists of one side over the opposing extremists. In fact, by supporting peace, we specifically oppose extremism that places the value of an acre of land over the life of an individual.
    When you make a study of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians from the original British Mandate in Palestine, the Balfour Declaration, United Nations resolution 194, The Mufti of Jerusalem, Irgun, The Stern Gang, Hebron and Kfar Qibiya, Yassir Arafat and Baruch Goldstein, you will realize that there is no profit in pointing fingers of blame. That approach will not save or improve lives. No military method will. There will be no path to peace until all of the people living in that geography are equally valued and protected.
    You should make an effort to familiarize yourself with each of the terms in the list provided before you claim again to know who is at fault in the conflict.
    Steve Connor

  3. Sol Metz8:40 PM


    The Palestinians have a recent and a strong claim for the occupied territories and indeed all of Israel. It is the Zionist claims on the land that are very weak. The Palestinian people along with a small population of Jews have lived continuously in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River for hundreds of generations until the middle 1940s when they were violently expelled. See "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" by Israeli academic Ilan Pappe. The case for Jewish claims are very weak an rely on Jewish residence on the land which mostly ended 2000 years ago.

    I know of no case where Israel has given land to the Palestinians, but there are cases every day of Israel confiscating Palestinian land, destroying houses, and uprooting orchards and olive groves.

    Israel always feels free to attack Palestinian areas with the latest military weapons given to it by our country. These weapons include Jet fighters, cluster bombs, phosphorus shells, Hellfire missiles, helicopter gunships, tanks, and armored bulldozers. They have used these weapons to attack schools, mosques, UN compounds, police stations, electric generation stations, homes with civilians in them, hospitals, ambulances, and unarmed civilians including women and children. Hamas and other Palestinians have fired crude, inaccurate, short range missiles at Israeli towns.

    Hamas has said at that it will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The key phrase is 'as a Jewish state'. That makes it quite different from not recognizing Israel. It has also said that it would abide by any settlement approved by a plebiscite of the Palestinian people. Israel has never agreed to recognize any Palestinian state.

    With all that said, the loss of life in the region is outrageous, but it is worth noting that more than 1300 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza massacre compared to 13 Israelis.

    In Peace,
    Sol Metz