The BoD turns the screw, how the Methodist BDS survey was wrecked

Israeli Embassy

Israeli Embassy

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Board of Deputies

Board of Deputies of British Jews

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Council of <s>Christians</s> and Jews

Council of Christian Zionists and Jews

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Christian Zionist Bruce Thompson

Christian Zionist Bruce Thompson

We have seen how, between 2010 and 2013, the Board of Deputies gradually wore down the Methodists to the point where they secured a veto on theological debate within the Church here.

We have also seen how the 2013 Methodist conference was ambushed here.

Many Methodists are, of course, extremely angry at how an organisation that functions as little more than an extension of the Israeli embassy, has secured a stranglehold over Methodist business and determined what theological issues they will be allowed to address.   Seemingly, as a sop to those disturbed by the failure to produce the long awaited report on Christian Zionism, and by the success of Bruce Thompson’s disgraceful antics at the 2013 conference, the leadership decided it would invite submissions and arguments for and against BDS.  These submissions would provide the basis of a briefing document for the 2014 conference.  Whilst we have our doubts about the wisdom of the idea, it can be justified if it plays a part in raising awareness of the issues, and IF it produces honest responses reflecting genuine and freely arrived at perspectives.

Needless to say the Hasbarafia, and in particular, the BoD, hate it.

Now, the survey is open to participation by any individual or organisation, including of course the BoD.  True to form and their incurable narcissism, the BoD are not content to either complete the survey or ignore it, as they please.  Rather, speaking from both sides of their mouths at once again, they, at one and the same time, seek to subvert the enterprise and also to discredit it, as insurance against an unfavourable weight of response.

On October 9th, the Jewish Chronicle announced that the irrepressible and obsessive Arkush had declared the enterprise “flawed from the very beginning“ and that the Board of Deputies were to to meet “senior figures“ in the Methodist Church.

Why was such a meeting necessary?  Well, we attempted to find out and are sad to report that it all turned out to be even worse than we feared.

We engaged in an email exchange with the Church.  Not wishing to personalise this, we have removed names from the transcripts of the correspondence, and just refer to “the Methodists”.

We wrote…..

Sent: 09 October 2013 12:01
To: enquiries@jointpublicissues.org.uk
Subject: The Board of Deputies and the Methodists

Dear XXXXXXXX,

 Myself and my colleagues are extremely concerned that despite having obtained all kinds of concessions, the Board of Deputies still continues its seemingly tireless attempts to bully the Methodist Church.  Jonathan Arkush, Vice President of the Board of Deputies goes so far as to publicly discredit the survey on boycotts of Israel/settlements by saying “the process is flawed from beginning to end”.

The Methodists responded…

On Wednesday, October 9, 2013 10:58 AM

Dear XXXXXXXXXXX,

Thank you for your concern.

We are seeking to work constructive with all faith groups in this area of work and are listening carefully to concerns expressed from various places.  Everyone has the opportunity to present their perspectives on this matter and we are pleased that the consultation so far has received responses expressing a wide range of views.  I would want to stress that as far as process is concerned, this comes under the direction of the established accountability structures of the Methodist Church in Britain.

The Methodist Church and the Board of Deputies will be issuing a joint statement shortly.  This should be read in the context of the dialogue that is taking place with a number of interested parties.  We are only too acutely aware of the sensitivity of the subject matter of this consultation and are primarily concerned that dialogue is undertaken with care, respect and understanding.

While you have made contact through the Joint Public Issues Team you are probably aware that this particular piece of work is being undertaken by the Methodist Church in response to a Notice of Motion at Methodist Conference and therefore (unlike most of the work of the Joint Public Issues Team) it is not a collaborative undertaking with the Baptist Union of Great Britain and United Reformed Church,

Incredulous, we wrote back:

Dear XXXXXXXX,

Thank you very much indeed for the courtesy and the speed of your response.  We very much appreciate it.  We fully concur that all dialogue needs to be undertaken with care and understanding.   We are equally aware of the sensitivity of the subject matter.  We note that dialogue is taking place with a number of interested parties, and we assume that the Methodist church will be issuing joint statements with each of these other interested parties as well.  We will, of course, read these joint statements in the context of the dialogue that is taking place.  Once again, thank you for your speedy response.

On October 9th, the joint statement was published.  It contained the following paragraph.

The Board and the Church agreed to explore approaches distinct from the BDS consultation on which the Church is presently engaged, including investing in peace, dialogue and reconciliation projects. The Board and the Church will work collaboratively in this aim alongside other interested parties.”

Yes, it’s these mysterious, unseen, yet to arrive, other interested parties again.

We have not noticed, nor found any record of meetings by the Methodist leadership in this context and any other interested party.  No meetings and joint statements with the PSC, or with Jewish Voice for Peace, or Jews For Justice For Palestinians, or EAPPI, or any organisation that dissents from the BoD’s view of the world.  Just the BoD, backed up by its extension and gopher, The Council of Christians and Jews.

The most interesting thing about this statement is the word “reconciliation”.

On January 16th 2011, the Board overwhelmingly rejected the following resolution…

The Board of Deputies of British Jews…supports Israel’s efforts to seek a lasting negotiated peace with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution ensuring Israel’s security and respect for the welfare of all of the people in the region.”

So, given that the BoD specifically rejects both

a) the idea of “the well being of all the people of the region” and

b) the idea of two states for two people,

it is difficult to understand who they would have reconciled and to what.  We can only take it that they would have the Palestinians be reconciled to endless occupation and creeping dispossession.

Almost as interesting is the word “distinct“.   What does distinct mean in this context ?  Does it mean “as well as” or does it mean “instead of “ ?

On October the 11th, there appeared the following headline in the Jewish Chronicle.

Methodists Considering Abandoning Boycott After Talks With Board

The headline, content of the article, and subsequent statements by Arkush (particularly his call to arms to all deputies on October 20th) and subsequent developments, tell us clearly and plainly that the BoD and the terrified Methodist leadership have put together a joint plan.  The deal is that the leadership will work with the BoD to reverse the 2010 boycott of the illegal settlements resolution.  In other words, the boycott resolution will be replaced by some glib drivel about “investing in peace, dialogue and reconciliation”.  In return, the Board will quit shouting at them, calling them anti-Semitic and deem them to be “wise” (as per Laura Janner-Klausner, one of the “BoD representatives” on the recent propaganda trip to Israel).

In other words, all the signs are that the BoD and the Methodist leadership are colluding in a joint plan to stitch up the 2014 conference.

Obviously, the BoD’s gopher, The Council of Christians and Jews will be on hand to help pacify the rank and file.  Doubtless, Bruce Thompson will be briefed to pull another cheap stunt.

Dialogue and reconciliation are wonderful things of course, and essential to genuine peace.  The weakness of the “peace“ agreements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan is that they are mere agreements between self-interested governments, and there is no peace between and reconciliation of, the respective peoples.  That being the case, they will ultimately break down.

But, nor can there be peace between Israel and Palestine while one people is in a position of dominance over the other, and while the dominant people’s entire strategy involves the dispossession of the other.  As was pointed out to the United Methodists in the US by Jewish Voice for Peace….

No amount of Jewish and Palestinian musicians getting into a room and jamming together will impact on the occupation and advance the cause of peace without positive and urgent action.”

If the BoD and the Methodist leadership were serious about peace in the Middle East, they would engage in the kind of activities the BoD and the Methodist leadership intend to offer the Methodist people, IN ADDITION to not INSTEAD OF activities and positions that send clear signals to the Israelis that the colonising and military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, will no longer be tolerated, and the time for action on this issue is now. Reconciliation on any meaningful scale can take a lot of time, between peoples in a relationship of such disparate power.

Methodists need to continually remind themselves that The Board of Deputies of British Jews is, as the Board treasurer Laurence Brass ruefully acknowledges, an extension of the Israeli embassy.  For them, dialogue and reconciliation is not a preparation for a just settlement, but an attempt to head off conditions that might make such a settlement possible.  Does the Methodist leadership really want to collude in such a strategy ?

The issue is a simple one.  Those Methodists uncomfortable with the moral argument can take refuge in the legal one.

The colonising of Palestine is straightforwardly illegal.  See the 4th Geneva Convention and UNSC Res. 456 just for starters.  Any Methodist harbouring any semblance of doubt about this need only consult the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  In colonising Palestine, Israel displays all the attributes of a rogue state.  The boycott of everything to do with the illegal colonies is justified by a simple unwillingness to be complicit in what Res. 456 calls blatant lawlessness.

On the 24th October, the BoD’s complaints were given full front page exposure in the Methodist Recorder.  It was the same broken record, complete with sickening platitudes from the execrable Council of Christians and Jews and flamboyant histrionics from the dutiful Bruce Thompson.

In the same issue, the Recorder published a lengthy rambling letter from Arkush, full of the whining self pity we have come to expect.  A few weeks later, Arkush got another letter published. He seems to have unfettered access to the forum.

Throughout it all, there is, as usual, the conflating of the BoD with the “Jewish Community” and the tedious insistence by the BoD, that it represents such.

JUST WHO DOES THE BOARD REPRESENT ?

The BoD claims to be the only democratically constituted representative body of British Jews. In reality, it is a gathering of appointees and volunteers.  It is no more “democratic“ than pre Reform Act parliaments complete with rotten boroughs et al.  It is interesting to reflect on just who the BoD does NOT speak for.

The representative base is synagogal.  So, the Board does not represent attenders of synagogues not affiliated to it.  Nor does it represent Jews not associated with any synagogue (secular Jews if you like), probably the majority.  Of the one hundred and forty plus synagogues that send deputies, less than a dozen send them following a contested election, a clear indication of the lack of enthusiasm for, and interest in, the BoD, even among attenders of affiliated synagogues. The deputies are largely therefore, self- appointees.   Inevitably, those that put themselves forward include many that are rabid advocates of the occupation and Greater Israel.  This explains why the January 16th 2011 resolution didn’t have a hope in hell.

The numbers are padded out by deputies “representing“ other organisations.  We now have deputy positions reserved for Israelis.  The first, Anat Koren, explains, “ It is time to include Israelis in the decision making process of Jewish life in this country”.   She presumably means Israelis in addition to the Israeli embassy.

To a large extent, the BoD does not speak for the ultra-orthodox.  This sector is the fastest growing sector in the Jewish population.

The BoD emphatically does NOT speak for the large number of Jews that genuinely wish to create conditions under which peace and justice can prevail in the Holy Land.  Many have formed themselves into organisations such as Jewish Voice For Peace, Jews For Justice For Palestine and Yachad.

Further, the BoD’s star is waning, as the JLC tightens its grip on Jewish influence, and its take over of the BoD gathers pace.  The handful of people making all the noise and intimidating the churches, are people you will no longer be hearing about within a couple of years, as they are people that Mick Davis and other JLC grandees couldn’t possibly work with.  Certainly, Jonathan Arkush, the BoD’s front man for its Christian intimidation activities, is, after stupidly making an enemy of Mick Davis, Chairman of the JLC, and screwing up the vendetta against Stephen Sizer, a dead man walking so far as community politics is concerned….see here.  Davis has already taken off the BoD, the representation of the attitude of British Jews to Israel and is running with it himself.

After the BoD officially turned its back on a two state solution and respect for the well being of all the people of the region, there was a massive back lash from informed and constructive members of the community, particularly the younger ones.  Hannah Weisfeld, the progressive and solution oriented director of Yachad was prominent in the reaction.

An open letter was written with over a thousand signatories, asking the BoD to revisit the resolution, but this was ignored.  A couple of weeks later, Arkush and Wineman met with around a hundred of the signatories of the letter.  Wineman and Arkush made it clear that the rejection of the resolution stood, and the matter would not be revisited.

The issue of representation dominated the discussion.  The question was asked, “how was it that 78% of this community backs a two state solution and those that purport to represent it say differently ?”  Asked but not answered.

Anthony Tricot, an under 35 Deputy, said that the BoD is wholly unrepresentative.  A recurring theme was “the Board does not represent me.”

Barend Wellman said that as a result of the BoD rejecting a two state solution, some synagogues were reconsidering affiliation to it.

Hannah Weisfeld said that …

There was an impassioned plea from the floor for an organisation that could represent a strong pro Israel, pro peace voice on the basis that the Board is not the place to do this”.

THE WRECKING JOB ON THE SURVEY

On 20th October, Arkush wrote a letter to all deputies re: the BDS survey.  He started in his usual whiny full of self pity style, telling how the whole thing is skewed etc., etc., and then goes on….

On a more positive note, the Methodist Church has agreed to explore with us, an alternative to BDS, giving support to projects that build bridges and support peace. It is important that the Methodist conference is given this alternative course of action to BDS and we shall do everything possible to bring this about. “

And then…

As we have been presented with the opportunity to express our views on BDS it is important to respond to the invitation in a reasoned and well thought out manner.”

And then…

I would urge you and as many of your constituency members as possible to participate in the consultation – we need to ensure pro-Israel voices are heard.  It is also our understanding that submissions that are made by organisations and responses that have been well referenced will receive greater weighting.  The BoD’s office will give all the assistance and advice it can, and we need your speedy help in ensuring that your BoD constituency acts and that you and as many individuals as possible also act by responding to the Methodist consultation.”

He then goes on to give advice on how to respond.

It is important that the Methodist Church is aware of the number (his emphasis) of people who find this discourse unacceptable”.

He gives a heading……

Key arguments to make

The fundamental problem with the entire framework of this consultation which is one-sided and skewed

That boycotts are divisive and do not assist with the prospects of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.  On the contrary, they perpetuate one-sided narratives and encourage intransigence which makes reconciliation even harder.

A boycott of Israel harms both Israelis and Palestinians. (You can just see his heart bleeding for the Palestinians as he presents his “we have the happiest blacks in Africa”) argument.

That boycotts ultimately target the people, not the government.  An academic boycott would discriminate against individuals restricting academic freedom and growth through discussion and the sharing of ideas.  It would discriminate against people because of their nationality, irrespective of their views.

The impact of a boycott on the UK Jewish community.

The true impact on the lives of many, including in the UK, of boycotting Israeli technological and medical advancements.

That the Methodists should instead invest in positive peace-building initiatives that bring Israelis and Palestinians together.

He goes on…

Please ensure that you and your constituency now respond to the consultation and use the opportunity we have been offered to tell the Methodist Church what we feel about BDS.  Once again, the Board’s office is here to help if you need it.  Please contact joseph.moses@bod.org.uk

Now, there is nothing wrong with encouraging participation, but this is rather more than that.  Arkush’s intention, and the inevitable result, is that the Methodists will receive several hundred responses, effectively all written by one hand.

This is typical Arkush narcissism and another example of his complete inability to enter honestly into the spirit of any enterprise, whatsoever.  A character trait he has demonstrated over and over again, notably during the Stephen Sizer conciliation process.  One of his more infamous sleights of hand was his asking the Bishop of Guildford if Gavin Lightman could be one of the conciliators in the Sizer case.  The Bishop agreed.  Of course, he forgot to mention that Lightman was an old mate of his and had been his tutor at University.  Arkush and Lightman were spotted socialising together during the process.

It may seem harsh and unkind to point it out, but the simple inescapable reality is that Arkush’s integrity is something in which it would be unwise to invest too heavily.

The letter to every deputy will not be the sum total of the attempt to skew and wreck the survey. In fact, it will only be the tip of the iceberg.

This campaign, though thoroughly dishonest, is not without its humorous side.  In connection with it, Cllr. Brian Coleman wrote an email to Jonathan Hoffman, the most rabid member of Arkush’s Defence Division.  Or rather, he thought he had written an email to Jonathan Hoffman.

For those unfamiliar with Brian……he is a Methodist Borough of Barnet Councilor and former member of the London Assembly and an absolute legend in the borough.  He has twice been charged with bringing the council into disrepute for abusing constituents.  He is given to referring to female Barnet journalists and bloggers in the council chamber’s public gallery as “the hags up there”.  He is widely credited with destroying many local businesses by a stifling parking policy.  He has recently been convicted of assaulting a local female café owner who tried to photograph him trying to park outside her café in contravention of his own parking regulations.

The London Assembly seat that Brian contests is very, very marginal and in order to court the votes of the large number of Jewish constituents, he proclaims his commitment to Zionism long, loud and often.

The email he thought he had sent to Hoffman expresses outrage about the BDS survey, tells how he had completed the survey telling what he thinks of BDS in no uncertain terms, and that “those who support Methodist Friends of Israel have done likewise” .

Along with the email he thought he had sent to Hoffman, was a forward to him from Pam Smith, the founder of Methodist Friends of Israel.  This is a similar call to arms as Arkush’s, and the same offer of “help“ in completing the survey.  The points to be made available on the MFI website.

Leaving nothing to chance, an all expenses paid visit to Israel for a bunch of Methodist leaders was set up in the company of what the Methodists described as “representatives of the Board of Deputies”, all part of the process of tightening the screw.

Essentially, the Methodist leadership is now in the service of the Board of Deputies.  They probably rationalise this fact away by telling themselves that they can serve two masters. Unfortunately, they cannot.  They cannot serve the Prince of Peace and a handful of extremist, obsessive and idolatrous worshippers of The State of Israel, however urbane and seductive they may be.

To assume that they can, is to sell out other Churches and Christian organisations who will badly need support and positive precedents when the BoD turns on them, as they certainly will.  The behaviour of the Methodists is likely to have a domino effect.  It is also to sell out the people of Palestine.  It is also to sell out those Israelis that genuinely seek a just accommodation.  It is also to sell out the many UK Jews that seek the same.  It is also to sell out their fellow Christians in Palestine.  Last but not least, it is to sell out their own faith.