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May 3, 2012

Desmond Tutu: Endorsement of BDS Veers into Religious Anti-Semitism

In an open letter to members of the United Methodist Church, retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu endorsed a proposed resolution calling for Church divestment from companies “that sustain Israel’s occupation.”

Although the resolution was rejected at the United Methodist Conference currently underway in Tampa, Florida, Tutu’s last ditch attempt to avert defeat veered into classical religion-based anti-Semitism when he speaks of the punishment of the Jews in the past who “disobeyed G-d:”

Hebrews…were oppressed as slaves in another land. As time moved on, this people disobeyed God and time and time again the prophets had to call them back to their deepest values.

Tutu then calls on activists to take action to punish Israel for their policies today:

But God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, neither slumbers nor sleeps. Prophetic voices have been calling this empowered people who were once oppressed and killed, to their deepest values of justice and compassion, but they have refused to listen even to the most reasonable voices. The human community cannot be silent in the face of the gross injustice being meted out to the people of Palestine. If international courts and governments refuse to deal with this matter, we in the churches and in the rest of civil society really have no choice but to act in small ways and big ways.

Tutu also uses shocking language about the Holocaust, including an apparent condemnation of the very founding and existence of the State of Israel:

The Jewish Holocaust, engineered and implemented primarily by Europeans, gave some ideologues within the Jewish and Christian community an excuse to implement plans that were in the making for at least 50 years, under the rubric of exceptional Jewish security. In this way began the immense oppression of the Palestinian people, who were not at all involved in the Holocaust. Not only is this group of people being oppressed more than the apartheid ideologues could ever dream about in South Africa, their very identity and history are being denied and obfuscated. What is worse, is that Europe and the USA are refusing to take responsibility for their actions with regard to both the Holocaust and the over-empowering of the Israelis, their disregard for the international conventions and regulatory framework of the nuclear industry and their continued oppression of the Palestinian people.

Tutu is a prominent supporter of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanction) campaign against Israel and a generally harsh critic of Israel. He has declared time and again that Israeli policies towards Palestinians are the same or worse than those imposed against black South Africans under apartheid.

Tutu’s April 26 letter, posted on the website of “United Methodist Kairos Response” (Kairos is a highly problematic anti-Israel document prepared by Palestinian Christians), is a retread of many of his old accusations and assertions.

Tutu appears to be engaging in an all-out campaign to further his anti-Israel agenda. In a May 1 op-ed in The Tampa Bay Times he endorsed action by the Methodist Church, called the 1,200 American rabbis who had signed an open letter to “our Christian neighbors” opposing Church divestment initiatives, “sadly misguided” and said “it is long past time for them to remove the blinders from their eyes and grapple with the reality that Israel becoming an apartheid state or like South Africa in its denial of equal rights…”

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April 26, 2012

Divestment Effort at the Methodist General Conference in Tampa

Should the United Methodist Church divest from its investments in “companies that sustain the Israeli occupation?”

The answer to that question will be decided in Tampa, Florida, at this year’s General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC). The conference began on Tuesday and is scheduled to take place through May 5, 2012.

The UMC includes on its agenda a list of “major issues” that will be addressed at the conference, including the church’s stance and efforts regarding abortion, gay rights, bullying and immigration. Also included in the agenda is a resolution on divestment from three American companies – Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard – until they “end their involvement in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.” The resolution further calls on “the United Methodist Church boards and agencies, annual conferences, local churches and individuals to prayerfully consider corporate involvement in Israel’s occupation when making investment decisions.”

The resolution is being presented to the General Conference by the United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR), an anti-Israel contingent that was formed in 2010 following the release of the “Kairos Palestine Document.” That document, which calls for a global BDS campaign, denies Jewish connection to the Holy Land and justifies terrorism.

If the resolution is passed, UMC general boards will be required to present reports on their respective progress at the church’s 2016 conference.

UMKR has a document on its website listing individuals and groups that support the resolution and it takes care to specifically highlight the Jewish anti-Zionists who support BDS. This is likely an attempt to obviate allegations of anti-Semitism. The resolution has received support from Jewish Voice for Peace, a variety of Israeli anti-occupation activists and two anti-Zionist Holocaust survivors, Hedy Epstein and Hajo Meyer. In his statement, Meyer claims that, as a survivor of Auschwitz, he “[refuses] to belong to a group which is a perpetrator, and therefore I do not agree to allow the state of Israel to commit its crimes in the name of Judaism.”

In addition to the divestment resolution, participants at the conference may be asked to vote on other virulently anti-Israel resolutions, including one regarding endorsing the Kairos Palestine Document.

Efforts by Methodist anti-Israel activists to divest from Israel began in 2008. Then, the UMC voted to continue to allow its agency staff to make comparisons of Israel to the apartheid regime that existed in South Africa and participate in the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. The General Council did not, however, vote in favor of divesting from Israeli companies.

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