The abdication of the Methodist Council and an unholy alliance

Ruth Geejonathan-arkush2

A few days ago, minutes of the last Methodist Council meeting appeared on the Church’s website.

Some of the content can only be described as very strange indeed.

They explain that the Council expect a report on the the BDS survey when they next convene in late January, 2014. Astonishingly, the report is to be delivered ORALLY.  That is, nothing in writing.  This is extremely exceptional behaviour. Methodist Church members might wonder why the report is not to be in a form that enables it to be posted on the web site, in line with established practice.

Even more curious, the Council goes on to seemingly abrogate its responsibilities in respect of this matter as follows…

That the appointment of a reference group to consider the responses to the consultation, and the balance of subsequent reports to the Methodist Council and the Conference be delegated to the Presidency.”

In other words, the Council washed its hands of its constitutional responsibility and passed it over to a President who is, by now, hopelessly compromised so far as this matter is concerned.  In view of subsequent developments, the Council  might wish to reconsider the wisdom of this move.

Has President Gee appointed this reference group already?  And if so, who are its members? If she hasn’t, who will she appoint?  Fellow converts? (see below)

At a Board of Deputies plenary on Sunday 19th January, the Board’s arch-hasbarafioso, VP Jonathan Arkush, was asked about the ill advised joint BoD/Methodist jolly to Israel.

He announced that it had been a great success and went on to boast….

We made some significant converts.”

He can only be referring to President Gee and Doug Swanney.

He then told of what great friends they were with Bruce Thompson’s Methodist Friends of Judaism.  Yes, we know.

It could be that this represents an explicitly stated position of President Gee’s, though it is not impossible that Arkush was attempting an assumptive close.  Either way, it was not very bright of him to publicly embarrass the Methodist leaders in this way.

That President Gee has become a convert is consistent with her behaviour since her return from Israel, particularly the astonishing interview she gave to Karen Burke in which the MLO was “disappeared”.

Either way, the Methodist rank and file are entitled to an explanation.

Why did she choose a BoD tailored trip in preference to the well established and highly professional in-house Methodist resource, MLO?  Why did she  accept a gratuitous and loaded gift from a group with an obvious and predictable agenda?  And last but not least, why all the reticence and secrecy?  The Methodist church deserves an explanation, or does President Gee feel that she is the Methodist church?   Or does she think her elected status gives her the right to accept such a gift from a body with less than honourable intentions?  Intentions, which, at this stage of the affair, must have been clear to her.

There seems to be the highly familiar BoD tactic of  “divide and conquer” at work in all this. One of the BoD’s oft used tactic is to separate the leadership of an organisation from the rank and file.   Drive a little wedge into a cohesive group and watch it splinter over time.  They famously did this within the Council of Christians and Jews.  It resulted in the inevitable back lash by the membership and a painfully acrimonious 2012 AGM.

The BoD is using this tactic on the Church of Scotland too.  Incredibly, after a lengthy period of hurling the most outrageous abuse at the Church, they changed gear, went into flattery mode as per the hasbara manual, and arranged for the Church Moderator to be  installed as a President of the BoD’s extension, the execrable CCJ.

This will end in tears too.

So far the little “divide and conquer” exercise is working out nicely in the case of the Methodists as well.  However, the story still has a long way to run.

The paucity of the experience offered to, and swallowed by, President Gee and her colleagues, is well illustrated by comparing it to the experience of a group of Jewish lawyers who recently went on a Yachad led visit to the occupied territories.  These were not “usual suspects”, but committed Zionists.  One, David Middleburgh, wrote of their experience, in the Jewish Chronicle.  You can and should read his account below.


He calls a visit to the West Bank military courts the “centre piece”.  He describes how the guilt or otherwise of the child prisoners is entirely beside the point, since the system is part of the wider system of keeping the Palestinians in a state of fear and uncertainty.  He ends with an urgent call for action ….

If we do nothing can we complain if we awake one day and Israel has sleep walked into the status of a pariah country?”

By contrast, all the Methodist Church can relay from their experience is that “it’s complicated”.

With all the commotion created by the BDS survey and the subsequent “loaded” responses, large numbers of them effectively written by the BoD itself, the tactics would have been foreseen by anyone without either fear in their hearts, or blinds over their eyes.

Hopefully President Gee has come to an understanding of the sheer and compromising foolishness of allowing herself to be seduced into a trip to Israel as guests of and under the supervision of  a Board selected agency.

After an initial wobble, the Quakers now seem to have got dealing with the BoD more or less right.  In particular, we have recently been told, any further compromising of the EAPPI programme as a result of BoD harassment is ” highly unlikely “.  Perhaps the Methodists might, belatedly, learn something from the Quaker experience.

The rules of the game seem to be:

1.  Accept no gifts.  If you or your org. didn’t pay for it, it most likely has strings.  If the trip to Israel was funded by FODIP (as we are pretty sure it was), it was a gift from the BoD.

2.  Use your own structures where they exist.

3.  Recognise other Jewish perspectives, other than those of the BoD, which, as we have seen, is merely an extension of the Israeli Embassy.

Such as these:

and  these……

Young, Jewish, and proud

“We won’t be won over by free vacations…….”  

4.  Understand that onslaughts from the BoD can only go so far before it reflects back upon them, and their single minded obsession with preventing Israel from bearing the natural consequences of its immorality, becomes apparent.  While it may be painful in the short and medium term, the pain is as nothing, compared to the long term loss of self respect and independence.  The storm simply has to be weathered.