By Jerome Taylor, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
The Methodist Church today voted to boycott all products from Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories becoming the first major Christian denomination in Britain to officially adopt such a policy.
The decision was made at the church’s Conference in Portsmouth, an annual gathering which decides Methodist policy. The official stance of the church, the fourth largest Christian denomination in Britain, will be to boycott any products made on Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Lay Methodists will also be encouraged to follow the church’s lead.
The move will inevitably put Methodists on a collision course with Britain’s Jewish community. The Board of Deputies of British Jews had already expressed concern over a 50-page report which had been compiled by a Methodist committee and sent to all its churches before the conference explaining why a boycott was justified.
In December, Defra introduced new advice on labelling, recommending that packaging of products imported from the West Bank should distinguish between Palestinian areas and Israeli settlements.
Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relationships, said, “This decision has not been taken lightly, but after months of research, careful consideration and finally, today’s debate at the Conference. The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice. It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region.
Ben White, campaign coordinator for ‘A Just Peace for Palestine’, said: “This is a clear show of support from Jews and Christians who understand that a real peace for both peoples requires justice. It stands in stark contrast to the disingenuous threat that listening to the call of Christian Palestinians and upholding international law and human rights will damage ‘inter-faith relations’ – on the contrary, inter-faith dialogue is not facilitated by ignoring serious questions about injustice.”