For activists and Christians opposed to the so-called Israeli occupation, two key votes by the United Methodists will certainly serve as a discouragement. On Wed., May 2, the denomination twice voted to reject resolutions that called for a divestment from companies accused of assisting Israel in the ongoing dispute over Middle Eastern lands.
To the chagrin of those supporting these proposals, both votes failed by a large margin. About two-thirds of the 1,000 delegates that were gathered in Tampa, Florida, for The United Methodist Church's General Conference voted "no." Similar rejections were also given when the same general proposals were made back in 2008, Religion News Service reports.
This is not to say that there wasn't plenty of support for Palestinians during the conference. The Rev. Bon Long, a delegate from Oklahoma, as quoted by RNS, stated his view that support for both Israel and Palestine is understandable.
"Of course we care about the Palestinians, and what they’ve been through,"he said during the debate. "But we also care about the Israelis and what they’ve been through."
RNS continues, capturing the views of some of the others who supported and opposed the initiative:
This year, high-profile activists, such as Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, had lobbied in favor of divestment.
“Such action made an enormous difference in apartheid South Africa,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate wrote this week in the Tampa Bay Times. “It can make an enormous difference in creating a future of justice and equality for Palestinians and Jews in the Holy Land.”
But many American Jews had strongly opposed the divestment resolutions, calling them unfair and politically naive.
“A one-sided approach damages the relationship between Jews and Christians that has been nurtured for decades,” about 1,200 North American rabbis wrote in an open letter. “It promotes a lopsided assessment of the causes of and solutions to the conflict, disregarding the complex history and geopolitics. Furthermore, it shamefully paints Israel as a pariah nation, solely responsible for frustrating peace.”
Despite the failures of the divestment proposals, on Wed., delegates did approve a measure that stand in opposition to Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.
In the end, the debate over this issue will likely continue, as denominations, like United Methodists, weigh the odds of cutting financial ties with Israeli businesses.