July 19, 2010

Lions, and Tigers, and Methodists! Oh My!

Robin Shepherd has this to say about the Methodist Church of Britain’s recent decision to boycott products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank:

The fact that an institution professing allegiance to values of love, truth and justice should have succumbed to an agenda of hatred, hypocrisy and barbarism is sadly emblematic of the degraded spirit of our times, and of the moral inversions which blow through them.

But who, these days, can really be surprised about such happenings in modern Europe? It is only the banality, to appropriate Hannah Arendt, of this particular evil that still has the power to shock us. (“The banality of Methodist evil,” Jerusalem Post, 4 July 2010)

Shepherd—described by Wikipedia as “a prominent British-born political commentator and analyst”—proceeds to tell us about “the discussions at the Methodist Conference which approved the boycott.” Although, he writes, “there was little in the way of the visceral hatred of Israel which we have become so accustomed to seeing,” here was a group of anti-Semites nonetheless. “Here was a group of almost stereotypically ordinary, middle-class, English Christians calmly reciting every hackneyed anti-Israeli calumny in the book.” And what, you might be wondering did they have to say? What did these hateful, hypocritical, barbaric English Methodist anti-Semites have to say?

“What is happening in Palestine today is what was happening in South Africa in the recent past,” one delegate said. Another spoke of the “66 percent of 9- to 12-month-old babies [that] are anemic in Gaza.”

Yet another described a picture, which she held up in front of her, of a small boy “with large eyes” and “deep pain” in those eyes. “This little boy lives in Gaza,” she said ominously, adding (without irony) that the conference should “speak and act for those whose voices are not heard.”

Later, the point was repeated with one speaker lamenting the position of the Palestinians who have “no one to tell of what they’re going through.”

There was a lecture on the Old Testament, the Jews as “the chosen people,” the children of Abraham, and the revelations of Jesus: “Jesus... never speaks of the land or owning it; he speaks of the kingdom and joining it,” said the delegate joyfully. “...He teaches us God is not a racist God [her emphasis] who has favorites. God loves all his children [her emphasis] and blesses them.”

Yes, shocking, I know. Here we are, only sixty years since the Holocaust, and English Methodists—of all people, English Methodists—have the audacity to suggest that Arabs have rights, that God loves all people, yes, all people, equally. Shocking, I know. Outrageous, I know. A bunch of “hackneyed anti-Israeli calumny” if I’ve ever heard any.

Now Shepherd never tells us why he finds the above viewpoints so horrible. He never tells us why Israel isn’t an apartheid state, why the delegates’ concern for the Palestinians is objectionable. Nor does he tell us why it’s wrong to boycott goods coming from West Bank settlements. The Methodist Church, it should be emphasized, isn’t boycotting goods coming from Israel, just goods coming from West Bank settlements, many of which have been built on expropriated land, all of which have been built in clear violation of international law. Shepherd huffs, and he puffs, and, as we’ve seen, he calls the Methodists all sorts of names, but he never explains why their viewpoints or why their boycott is wrong.

Instead, he complains that the church isn’t targeting any other countries and relates the following conversation he had with Methodist Church spokeswoman Anna Drew:

“Do you have any boycotts of other countries in the world, Saudi Arabia for example, where Christianity is banned?” I asked.

“Almost certainly not,” she said.

“So why have you singled out the Jewish state?” I asked.

“We have not singled out the Jewish state,” she replied, saying that the boycott was not against Israel, merely against the occupied territories.

And so the conversation went on, going round and round in circles as Drew summoned up every ounce of conceivable pedantry to argue that singling out the policy of a particular country was substantially different from singling out the country itself, even though such a boycott applied to no other country or its policies.

Again, Shepherd never explains why the Methodist Church’s boycott is wrong. He never tells us why, contrary to popular belief, the Palestinians aren’t suffering. He never tells us why, contrary to the 2004 decision of the International Criminal Court, Israeli settlements are not a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. All he does is complain that the Methodist Church is being inconsistent by only boycotting goods from Israeli settlements.

Now Shepherd himself never utters a word against Israel. He practically condemns the Methodist Church to hell for being inconsistent, but he doesn’t offer a single criticism of the Israeli government, which continues confiscating land in the West Bank, driving Palestinians from their homes, imposing its blockade on Gaza, etc., etc. Israel gets a pass while the Methodist Church is condemned to hell. Talk about being inconsistent.


Anonymous said...

I can tell you why "contrary to the 2004 decision of the International Criminal Court, Israeli settlements are not a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention." Oh, not relevant, but it was the ICJ, not the ICC. Procedurally, first, it was an advisory opinion with no force of law. Second, they have no authority to hear the case in the first place, they broke their own rules to hear it. Third, the decision was a political one, not based on sound legal analysis. Almost everyone on the panel simply assumed what they were supposedly determining.
As to the substance of the question: First, according to the 4th GC itself, most of the 4th GC applies only to “high contracting parties” (the countries that signed the GCs, which does not include the Palestinians). They also apply to people that haven’t signed it, but act as though they have, which does not include the Palestinians, they violate the rules of the GCs regularly. The 4th GC specifically excludes citizens of countries that violate the GCs from being "protected persons". The sections that mention "protected persons" only apply to citizens of signatories and others who obey the GCs. All of the sections about "occupied territories" apply only to protected persons. Thing about the GCs, they have their own incentive to join. You play by the new rules of war (no targeting civilians), and you get the benefits of the new rules (like you get your land back). Play by the old rules (e.g., no red-cross visits for POWs, have a policy of targeting civilians, etc.) and you don’t get the benefit of the new rules. The Palestinians want it both ways, they want to be able to violate the GCs (take all of Israel if they win), but still be protected by them (welsh on the bet if they lose).

Anonymous said...

Second, if you want to get around that by saying that the Palestinians aren’t a country, then suddenly there are no occupied territories, since "territories" are lands under the sovereignty of a country. So, either the Palestinians are a country that violates the GCs, and are therefore not protected by the provisions about occupied territories, or the Palestinians are not a country and are therefore have no territories. Either way, no violation.
Third, the court cited a provision that is intended to stop forcible transfer of the occupiers’ population, not voluntary migration and twisted it to include voluntary migration.

Only one judge even attempted to analyze whether the 4th Geneva convention even applies to the Palestinians, and he got it wrong. His theory was that because the West Bank is occupied from Jordan, and Jordan is a signatory that the 4th GC applies. Unfortunately for that theory the West Bank wasn’t Jordanian territory, almost no countries acknowledged their sovereignty over it. Also, the Jordanians dropped their claims.

Don Emmerich said...

Thanks for your comments.

I'll try to respond in a future post.