Dec. 2016 – UMKR has a (slightly) new name: United Methodists for Kairos Response
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1. What methods of mediation, dialogue, and negotiations have been attempted and evaluated?
On the international level, there have been attempts by the United Nations, the US government, and other countries of the world to encourage mediation and dialogue. There can be no more exhaustive attempt than that made by Secretary of State John Kerry to employ mediation, dialogue and negotiations in 2014.
On the church level, each company to be boycotted was contacted by UMKR by mail, with signatures required for receipt. We are certain that each chairman received the letter stating our concerns. In some cases, separate letters were sent and phone calls were made to other executives in the company. None of these responded to repeated efforts to engage in dialogue.
2. Have these means of intervention been publicized and shared with connectional leadership in the region of the conflict and other constituencies?
Yes. Letters sent to the companies are being published on the UMKR web site. Our United Methodist liaison in the Holy Land has been informed. All United Methodist Bishops and District Superintendents, the General Board of Global Ministries, the General Board of Church and Society, and the United Methodist Women are being informed of the boycott campaign and asked to support it.
3. Is the injustice of sufficient scope to warrant the mobilization of a boycott?
Absolutely. Thousands of Palestinian civilians have been killed this year alone by the Israeli military. Raids throughout the occupied West Bank during the summer of 2014 rounded up hundreds of people, including children, and traumatized Palestinians.xi Hundreds of children are being held in Israeli jails in conditions that violate international law.xii In late August 2014, Israel announced the confiscation of more land….the largest land grab in years….in the occupied West Bank. Much of this land is in the Bethlehem area, and its theft will isolate villages where the UMC has Volunteer in Mission projects. and a UM Community Development Project (CDP). More settlement building will take place on that land. The United States and most world governments have lodged strenuous objections. Thus far, nothing has dissuaded Israel’s government from continuing to expand the settlements. Christians in the Holy Land have asked churches to use nonviolent economic methods such as boycott, divestment and sanctions to end the occupation and restore their freedom.
4. Is a boycott a more constructive and effective means of achieving justice than more coercive means?
The most effective means of achieving justice would be for the United States to end all aid and arms shipments to Israel until it ends the occupation and withdraws the illegal settlements. Because Congress will not do that as long as so much of its campaign financing comes from settlement supporters, it is up to churches and civil society to lead the way. Boycott has been successfully used in other situations of injustice, and we believe it is the most effective tool available for ordinary Christians to have an impact on ending the occupation and achieving justice for all in the Holy Land.
5. What are likely to be the positive and negative consequences of a boycott?
The positive consequences are likely to be the exodus of manufacturing companies from the settlements, as the economic cost of remaining there becomes apparent. This has the positive side effect of reducing the terrible pollution resulting from the untreated hazardous waste, limestone, and other substances running down onto fields and into groundwater supplies in the occupied territories. It also can have the positive effect of reducing the lure of the settlements for Israelis who will now have to travel back inside Israel for their jobs. It has the positive effect of letting companies know the world is watching their practices, a message that can carry over into other areas of social and environmental justice.
A possible negative effect will be the short term loss of jobs by Palestinians in the settlement factories. However, all Palestinian labor unions have endorsed boycott to end the occupation. They value their freedom far more than the menial and often hazardous jobs they have been forced to accept in the settlements. The Palestinian economy, which was self-sustaining prior to the occupation, will be able to flourish when occupation is lifted, and jobs will be created in Palestinian companies alongside the agricultural jobs which traditionally sustained the population.
6. What will the effects likely be in the local community?
Many people in local communities and churches will welcome the opportunity to do something meaningful for peace. It has been two years since the UMC passed a measure calling on all nations to boycott products from the settlements, yet nothing has happened. It would be odd if we did not urge our own members to boycott, as we are asking all nations to do. This campaign has been expected and awaited eagerly by many United Methodists since 2012.
Others, especially those who have not witnessed the oppression in the occupied territories first-hand, may be angry. Those who profit from the cheaper goods being imported from the illegal settlements may also be angry. However, since the mainstream media has carried more about the plight of Palestinians this year, we have found more openness to learning about the occupation, and expect understanding of this initiative to be greater than it might have been a few years ago.
In launching this campaign, we will use as many eyewitnesses as possible; there will be opportunities for dialogue and sharing what United Methodists have seen. This will open the door for education about the occupation. The sharing of information is one of the goals of this campaign.
7. Are the issues adequately clarified so as to provide support for a boycott?
Yes. These issues had to be clarified before the General Conference passed the measure calling for boycott in 2012. Since then we have gathered import records showing that these products are shipped to the United States and falsely labeled “Made in Israel.”xiii We have been able to identify stores that are selling them and we have pictures of many of the factories where they are produced inside the illegal settlements. The ability to sell these products abroad helps keep the settlement factories in business, and this in turn sustains the settlements to which the church is opposed.
8. How can negative stereotyping of contending parties be avoided?
We plan to work closely with Jewish Voice for Peace, whose rabbinical council has endorsed boycott, to avoid any negative stereotyping of Jews. In all our literature we are careful to say that many Jews oppose the occupation. We also work closely with Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace for our research, and acknowledge their help.
We are doing all we can to inform people about the Palestinian people in ways that defy the stereotypes held by many Americans. UMKR helped arrange a speaking tour for farmers from the village of Wadi Foquin to talk about what is happening in their region and let people see past the stereotypes of Muslims. We also brought Rev. Alex Awad and other Palestinian Christians to the General Conference 2012 so people could learn more about them. We helped bring Palestinian Christians to the 2014 conference “Walking with Palestinian Christians”, to help defy the stereotypes.
Engaging in the boycott will send a powerful message of hope to the Palestinians and will hopefully dispel negative stereotypes for them about Americans whose tax dollars fund the occupation. It will be a big contribution toward letting them know we care.
V. Develop a written document detailing the theological foundation for the action, the intended objectives of the boycott, and the relationship of this action to other strategies being used to achieve the goal.
1. How will these objectives be shared with the disputing parties?
Letters have been written to the companies being boycotted. Christians in the Holy Land who called for the boycott will be notified in writing through a letter to Kairos Palestine, which published the call for action. Rev. Alex Awad, a United Methodist missionary in the Holy Land, will be asked to share the action with Palestinian Christians and civil society groups who called for this action.
2. Is it clear as to how the objectives of the potential boycott relate to other strategies being used by this or other church bodies?
It should be clear that requests for change rarely succeed unless there is a consequence for inaction. The United Methodist Church has called for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land for many years. Adding economic leverage, such as a boycott of products produced in the settlements, will enhance other strategies, such as dialogue, which are ongoing.
3. Are these objectives in harmony with the theological, ethical, and social principles? (See criteria I and III.)
Yes. See Section I above.
VI. Develop a plan and identify resources for carrying out a potential boycott, including mechanisms for:
1. communicating to church constituencies the objectives of the boycott; the issues as seen by the various parties; and the biblical, theological, and ethical imperatives for involvement;
We have developed a PowerPoint presentation to inform United Methodists about the boycott and reasons for it. We have sent a letter to Bishops, the UMW, and the General Agencies informing them of our objectives and plans. We are drafting an article for Faith in Action to communicate these objectives and issues. This background report will be published on the UMKR web site.
2. informing disputing parties of an intention to call or participate in a boycott;
We have written to each company that manufactures the products to be boycotted and explained our reasons. We have made sure the letters were received and given them a chance to respond. We will also alert the Palestinian Christians who called for the boycott.
3. coordinating efforts with other United Methodist bodies, interfaith coalitions, and groups dealing with the issues;
UMKR will inform interfaith coalitions, other United Methodist bodies and interested groups about the boycott. Some of our members are involved with the Ecumenical Action Group which meets in New York to discuss economic actions that can help end the occupation. They will be informed.
4. monitoring the progress of the boycott (see VIII);
We are reading Israel’s business news (The Marker) and working with the Coalition of Women for Peace, who have observers on the ground in the settlements, to be sure we know what progress is being made by the companies toward withdrawal.
5. suspending/terminating the boycott when objectives are met (see IX, X, XI);
We have informed each company that we plan to discontinue a boycott of their products as soon as they withdraw from the illegal settlements.
6. developing ministries of reconciliation between aggrieved parties, during and following the boycott action.
If by aggrieved parties you mean the United Methodists who endorse the boycott and those in the community who oppose it, we have guidelines for outreach to explain our initiative and engage in dialogue. We are giving talks around the country to answer questions and create understanding of our goals.
If you mean the Palestinians and the Israeli settlers, we know that many peace groups in the region are undertaking that task. We will offer to meet with the companies during and after the boycott if that would be helpful.
7. deciding what resources and plans have been made to ensure that the potential boycott will be carried out effectively and responsibly; and
We have developed a resource called "Seizing the Mandate" which explains the settlements, the products produced there, and the impact on Palestinians in the region. It also includes ideas for implementing a boycott campaign in churches. We have drafted sample letters for church members to send to companies producing and selling the products. We have resource people in each conference who can answer questions and monitor progress toward our goals.
8. providing the presiding bishop(s), council director(s), superintendent(s), pastors, and membership in the region with the opportunity to participate in the development of this plan.
Since the region of the conflict is the Middle East, and the UMC has no churches in the Holy Land, this does not seem applicable. Numerous UMC pastors in the US, as well as those serving in the Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem, past and present, have helped in preparing the way for boycott.
VII. On the basis of the information obtained in I and II above, decide whether a boycott action is merited and determine the most effective time to initiate or join the boycott.
1. Why is this the best time for this decision-making body to enter the boycott?
It has been two years since the UM General Conference passed a boycott resolution. It has been five years since Palestinian Christians issued their urgent plea for tangible economic action to end the occupation. This summer brought death to more than 2,100 Palestinians (including 495 children) and 64 Israelis (including one child). This does not include Palestinians killed in Israel’s raids on the West Bank. It is evident at this point that Israel is continuing its settlement expansion and that peace talks have failed. It therefore falls to churches and other religious bodies, as well as civil society groups in the region to act to bring about change.
2. Is the boycott likely to achieve the stated objectives and assist in resolution of the dispute?
VIII. If a boycott is called, a monitoring group should be established by the decision-making body with the goal of evaluating progress toward the stated objective; reporting to the appropriate local, regional, and/or national bodies; and coordinating activities with other ecumenical, interfaith, and coalition partners. [This includes:]
1. regular evaluation and reporting of progress toward the stated objective;
2. regular written reporting of such progress to the local area affected and to the constituencies of the decision-making bodies through appropriate denominational channels;
3. reporting substantial changes in the conditions under which the boycott is being carried out;
4. a process for issuing public statements; and
5. coordination with designated coalitions and interfaith groups.
A Boycott Committee has been established within UMKR for this purpose. UMKR will issue public statements through the media and within the denomination. UMKR also will coordinate with designated coalitions and interfaith groups.
IX. In those cases where circumstances have changed, making it unclear whether the objectives of the boycott are being met, in consultation with the designated coalition and/or participating groups that are coordinating the boycott action, the decision-making body, or its designate, may call for suspension of the boycott while monitoring and evaluation continues.
We have a committee which will closely monitor whether the objectives of the boycott are being met. We would welcome participation from designated staff of the Council of Bishops in this committee.
X. When the clearly stated written objectives of the boycott have been met, in consultation with the designated coalition and/or participating groups that are coordinating boycott action, the decision-making body or its designate shall terminate boycott participation.
Members of the Boycott Committee are 100% committed to doing this.
XI. Notification of suspension/termination shall be made in writing to all parties in the dispute and should be widely publicized to all constituencies of the decision-making body.
See above. This is part of our commitment.
XII. Following this notification, monitoring of compliance with objectives and ministries of reconciliation shall be continued by the decision-making body for a responsible period of time.
REVISED AND READOPTED 2000 AND 2008
Resolution #195, 2004 Book of Resolutions
Resolution #187, 2000 Book of Resolutions
See Social Principles, ¶ 163B.
i http://www.kairospalestine.ps/ Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth
ii http://www.kairospalestine.ps/ Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth
iii http://peacenow.org.il/eng/content/settlement-are-built-private-palestinian-land Etkes, Dror and Ofran, Hagit, Settlement are built on Private Palestinian Land, March 14, 2007
iv https://www.scribd.com/doc/111205869/Employment-of-Palestinians-in-Israel-and-the-Settlements-Restrictive-Policies-and-Abuse-of-Rights Employment of Palestinians in Israel and the Settlements: Restrictive Policies and Abuse of Rights
vhttp://www.whoprofits.org/sites/default/files/palestinian_workers_in_settlements_wp_position_paper.pdf Palestinian Workers in the Settlements, a WhoProfits Position Paper
vi http://electronicintifada.net/content/palestinian-workers-exploited-west-bank-settlement-factories/7745 Nieuwhof, Adri “Palestinian workers exploited at West Bank settlement factories” The Electronic Intifada, 5 October 2008
vii http://electronicintifada.net/content/palestinian-workers-exploited-west-bank-settlement-factories/7745 Nieuwhof, Adri “Palestinian workers exploited at West Bank settlement factories” The Electronic Intifada, 5 October 2008
Shalom Rav, a blog by Rabbi Brant Rosen
x http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2014/04/29/group-israel-upped-settlement-work-during-talks/VabpgagM6K5gf8zq3I7nVK/story.html “Israel increased settlement work four-fold during the latest round of peace talks.”
xi http://www.msf.org/article/west-bank-clashes-raids-and-arrests-damage-palestinians%E2%80%99-psychological-health “West Bank: Clashes, raids and arrests damage Palestinians’ psychological health”
xii http://www.btselem.org/statistics/minors_in_custody Statistics on Palestinian minors in the custody of the Israeli security forces
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/blogs/lifestyle/10063-the-reality-of-palestinian-children-in-israeli-jails Zulfikar, Muhammed “The Reality of Palestinian Children in Israeli Jails”
xiii UMKR subscribed to a service called Import Genius, which provides bills of lading and records of imports to the United States from foreign countries. www.importgenius.com
Dec. 2016 – Please note that this document has been updated with UMKR's new name: United Methodists for Kairos Response.
Boycott Boycott Resources
Preparation for a Boycott of Products Made in
Illegal Israel Settlements
Based on Resolution #4011, Guidelines for Initiating or Joining an Economic Boycott,
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PREPARATION FOR A BOYCOTT
I. Identify in writing the biblical and theological imperatives that address the issues involved in this particular conflict.
A. Theological Imperatives
From our United Methodist Faith:
When we profess our faith as United Methodists, (page 34 UMC Hymnal) we are asked,
"Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin? and "Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?"
Our boycott campaign is a conscious way for us as United Methodists, and as Christians to be proactive in resisting the evil of the Israeli occupation, which our church has condemned. God not only asks us to resist evil, but gives us the "freedom and power" to do so. The boycott campaign provides a collective action that allows us to walk faithfully with God in accordance with what we profess to believe.
From Christians in the Holy Land:
The Kairos Palestine Document, prepared by Christians in the land where Christ was born, provides a careful examination of theological imperatives for actions like boycott. It is highly recommended for its exploration of theological understandings. i It identifies the ethic of love as foundational in encouraging us to engage in boycott activities:
4.2.5 "Resistance to the evil of occupation is integrated, then, within this Christian love that refuses evil and corrects it. It resists evil in all its forms with methods that enter into the logic of love and draw on all energies to make peace." ii
B. Biblical Imperatives
From the Old Testament:
“the mirth of the wicked is brief…..
he will not enjoy the profit from his trading.
For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute;
he has seized houses he did not build. (emphasis added)
Companies that operate in the illegal settlements have “oppressed the poor and left them destitute.” They pay low wages… well below those required by Israeli law…after taking away their livelihood by seizing their land. They offer poor and dangerous working conditions, and they pollute the agricultural land around the settlements with untreated waste. The settlements are largely built on private Palestinian property, and Palestinian homes are often destroyed. In the Book of Job, we read that the person who cooperates in these things is not to enjoy the profit from his trading. Boycott is a nonviolent way of assuring this happens.
Leviticus 19:11 ESV
“You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.”
The settlements are built primarily on land that has been stolen from Palestinians.iii Settlement companies deal falsely with US and other governments by declaring their products are made in Israel, when they are not. This allows them to take advantage of tax exemptions meant only for Israeli goods. They also frequently lie about wages. Israeli labor rights organization Kav LaOved writes that Barkan Industrial Park is “away from the eye of the law. Israeli employers have found ways of evading the high court ruling by for instance issuing pay slips with false attendance reports. The normal practice is to register fewer working days than those actually worked, so it appears that the minimum wage is being paid.”
Sodastream has lied to its shareholders and the public by making a video claiming Palestinians are glad for the opportunity of working there, despite the candid testimony of individual workers that says otherwise. Sodastream also lies when it claims most of its manufacturing is done at its plants inside Israel. Israeli researchers at the Coalition of Women for Peace (WhoProfits.org) have examined this claim and state that only minor functions like printing of labels are done inside Israel, while the major production site is still in an illegal settlement.
Royalife has lied to the courts by claiming it does not exploit its Palestinian workers. 47 Palestinian workers took the unusual step of bringing their charges of exploitation to Israeli courts. Based on evidence, the courts have found in favor of the workers in a number of cases.
Smartfab has dealt falsely with American consumers by implying that its products are made in America. Its web site says: “Smart-Fab® Inc. is the distribution and marketing arm of an industrial group specializing in manufacturing of disposable fabric substitutes, with more than three decades of technological know-how and business experience. Headquartered in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Smart-Fab® Inc. creates colorful, innovative products…” Actually Smart-fab is produced by a company called Dispobud in the Barkan Industrial Zone, which is part of an illegal settlement in the West Bank. It is shipped to a warehouse in Alabama and then distributed to buyers by the Illinois office of Smart-Fab.
Ram Quality Products deals falsely with Toys R Us and with American consumers by putting “Made in Israel” on its packaging. The toys are actually made in the Barkan Industrial Zone, which is part of an illegal settlement. They take advantage of tax exemptions from the US government intended only for products made in Israel.
Ahava also deals falsely with consumers and with the US government by labeling its products “Made in Israel” when they are made in the illegal West Bank settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. The company violates the Hague Conventions and the Geneva Conventions by extracting natural resources from occupied territories and selling them for profit abroad.
Keter Plastics deals falsely with consumers and governments by putting “Made in Israel” on all its products manufactured in the West Bank settlement zone of Barkan.
More Old Testament verses (on treatment of employees):
“Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.”
“Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.”
Royalife has had lawsuits brought against it by 47 workers for withholding wages and creating hazardous working conditions, and the courts have ruled in favor of many of them.
From the New Testament:
James 5:4 NIV (New International Version)
“Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.”
Kav LaOved, the leading Israeli labor rights group, states: “Israeli employers in the settlements and industrial zones in the West Bank continue to routinely deny the rights of their Palestinian workers on a much larger scale than they do their Palestinian brethren working in Israel. The vast majority of workers earn less than the minimum wage, their wages are withheld from time to time, their social rights are denied and they are exposed to dangers in their workplaces, as the State Comptroller has also pointed out.” iv
Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace states: “Palestinian workers lost their land and livelihood to the Israeli occupation. 11% of Palestinian workers in settlements work on confiscated lands originally owned by their families or one of their relatives. Providing Palestinians with jobs on their own stolen land is another humiliating insult that they are forced to bear in order to provide for their families. The settlement industry's revenues are a direct result of shameless exploitation of Palestinian land, labor and resources. The industry's existence on occupied land enables, deepens and perpetuates the Israeli occupation.” v (WhoProfits web site)
Adri Nieuhof, a Dutch specialist on the occupation, has examined the ways in which employers in the settlements evade labor laws: vi
“Amongst the companies whose labor practices were criticized in the Kav LaOved report was Royalnight, a textile manufacturer owned by Royalife. In 2003, Royalife established a factory in the Barkan Industrial Park located near the Ariel settlement in the northern West Bank. Royalnight’s sheet sets, bed skirts, quilted blankets, and decorated pillows are exported to and marketed in the United States and Europe. According to Kav LaOved’s report, Palestinian workers who come from all over the West Bank have to work under poor health and safety conditions at Royalnight’s textile plant. To evade liability, work permits are issued under the name of a different employer, and workers employed through a Palestinian contractor are paid less.
In 1999, the United Nations Economic and Social Council criticized the practice of Israeli companies, including most of those operating in the Barkan park, moving their factories to the West Bank to escape the higher health and environment standards applicable in Israel. Kav LaOved states in its report that the Royalnight textile plant is no different: “Health and safety standards are poor, the working environment is noisy and the air is full of fabric dust. Most work is carried out standing, and the workers take five minutes breaks at their own expense.”
The report adds: “[Workers] complain of exposure to dangerous cleaning substances and of working near cutting machines lacking safety devices. The company does not employ a Health and Safety official and the workers have received no instructions or cautions regarding possible dangers of operating machinery.”vii
For those who worry about a possible backlash to the churches from those who criticize the boycott or other principled action, we offer the following New Testament Scripture:
Luke 6: 20-22
Blessed are you... when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of man.
Luke 6: 24-26
“Woe to you...: ...when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”
Matthew 5:11-12 English Standard Version (ESV)
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
To those who still oppose boycott out of fear for generating controversy, we must ask:
• Are we in the churches so concerned about what others think that we refuse to endure persecution and false witness against us for the sake of Christ?
• Have we forgotten Christ’s command to stand for the poor and persecuted?
• Do we value the personal comfort we derive from interfaith harmony here at home over the very lives of people who are suffering daily under Israel’s occupation?
In the words of Rabbi Brant Rosen, “At the very least, will we put our money where our moral conscience is?”viii
II. Document the social-justice issues in the dispute with input from each of the major parties in the dispute, United Methodist and/or ecumenical leadership in the impacted region, and objective third parties.
Among the questions to explore in the discernment and fact-finding phase are:
1. How do the social justice issues affect various segments of society and the communities in the area?
The major social justice issue is the occupation and exploitation of one people by another. This was well documented in the “Whereas” section of the resolution “Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land,” which was passed by the UM General Conference in 2012.ix Similar resolutions were passed overwhelmingly by General Conferences in 2004 and 2008. Issues that were considered then have become even more acute today: allocation of water based on ethnic group, destruction of homes and orchards, segregated roads, segregated colonies on confiscated land, denial of freedom….especially freedom of movement for Palestinians within the West Bank. The World Council of Churches and all United Methodist personnel serving in the Holy Land, past and present, have endorsed economic actions that can end the occupation.
2. What sources of political, economic, or social power does each party in the dispute or alleged injustice have?
In the Holy Land and in the United States, the political, economic and social powers are held by people who support the settlement enterprise and the domination of Palestinian Christians and Muslims by Jewish Israelis. (We note that these supporters include many American Christians, and that many Jewish Israelis oppose this.) However, there is another important kind of power: the power of Truth that is shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims who are willing to sacrifice their time, energy and, if necessary, their reputations, to tell the world what is really happening under Israel’s occupation and to end it. We have seen the Holy Spirit moving in these people for whom the only benefit is the knowledge that they have helped end the oppression of their fellow human beings.
Christians have, in addition, the all important power of Christ. We have the example of His life, which was dedicated to ending suffering and oppression. United Methodists do not have to decide whether to stand for or against Jews in this struggle. We have to decide whether to stand for Jews who are well informed about the occupation and work to end it, or for Jews who deny the realities of occupation and work to keep the status quo.
3. How will a boycott affect a potential resolution of the situation?
According to Christians in the Holy Land, Jews in Jewish Voice for Peace, Muslims in Palestinian labor unions and civil society, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other courageous leaders throughout the world: principled economic actions like boycott are the ONLY steps that can bring an end to the occupation and a just resolution of the conflict. Every time “negotiations” and “peace talks” have been tried, they have failed, and Israel has used the time taken by these discussions to increase settlements and deepen its hold on the occupied territories. The number of settlers in the West Bank has quadrupled during the “peace process.”
A boycott will send a strong message to companies that they can no longer profit from the exploitation of workers and the environment in the occupied territories. It will send a message to Israel that the days of Americans looking the other way while they oppress Palestinians and violate international law are over.
Finally, a boycott will send a message to Palestinians that their calls for nonviolent action have been heard. The church’s support for boycott, if it is well publicized, will provide hope to all who seek a just and lasting peace.
4. Are the leaders in the dispute or grievance supported by the persons for whom they speak, and are they committed to nonviolent action?
Palestinian Christians and Muslims, and their Jewish supporters, who have called for an economic boycott are committed to nonviolent action. The Israeli government is committed to military occupation, which is often violent, through its shooting of unarmed protesters, destruction of homes, denial of water and violation of basic human rights. The good news is the Israeli government is not supported by all Israelis. It speaks only for those who believe that one people should dominate another.
5. What denominational reviews have been made on this issue?
After careful review and debate, the General Conference in 2012 called on all nations to boycott products from Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. The boycott initiated by United Methodists for Kairos Response (UMKR) is in direct response to this resolution.
6. What groups, agencies, or governmental bodies have been seeking resolution in the conflict?
Peace talks between Palestinians and Israel’s government have been ongoing for more than 20 years, with the State Department, special envoys, and even the President meeting with both parties. During this time, the number of settlers in the West Bank has quadrupled. The United States published a Roadmap for Peace, hosted the Annapolis conference in 2007 and sent Secretary of State John Kerry to the region to broker peace. But the settlements have remained an obstacle to any resolution.
III. Evaluate the conflict described by the gathered information in relation to the theological, ethical, and social principles of Christian tradition and The United Methodist Church.
1. Is intervention needed, and what magnitude of response is appropriate to the scope of the injustice?
Settlement building increased four-fold during the last round of peace talks.x As new land expropriation is announced by Israel, as the killing of Palestinians continues weekly, as concerted US efforts to re-launch peace talks have failed, it is clear that intervention is needed. Another approach must be tried, and it must have the force of a tidal wave which removes all pretense that churches will continue to turn a blind eye to Palestinian suffering.
For guidance, we turn to our partners in faith, the Palestinian Christians, who in the Kairos Palestine Document, called on churches around the world “to say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.” They have clearly endorsed boycott and divestment as key nonviolent forms of solidarity that international faith-based organizations can use to make a difference, saying “We see boycott and disinvestment as tools of justice, peace and security …”
Bishop Desmond Tutu added to this discussion of what is needed in 2010, when he stated: “In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime.” He has compared the treatment of Palestinians under occupation with the suffering of South Africans under apartheid. A study funded by the Government of South Africa provided a careful analysis of these conditions in both countries and concluded that Israel’s actions toward Palestinians meet the definition of apartheid. This study was reviewed by UMKR before the boycott campaign was recommended.
2. Is the desired end clearly specified?
Yes. We have made it clear that the companies whose products we are boycotting need to leave the illegal settlements. If they do, the boycott of their products will end. When this happens, the settlements will lose their economic base of support and we anticipate that settlers will move back inside Israel, where their jobs are located. This will remove the need for segregated roads, checkpoints and walls inside the occupied territories.
IV. Generate a list of potential public and private means of intervention in the situation, and evaluate the probable results of each. Track attempts at mediation, dialogue, and negotiations and explore the likely positive and negative consequences of a boycott.