The Jewish blogosphere has been full of condemnation of what the UK Methodist Church termed a “background document” on Israel and Palestine. This article on the official website, “Jewish and Muslim Perspectives on the Land of Israel-Palestine”, was written by Dr. Elizabeth Harris while she was Inter Faith Coordinator. Harris claims that Israel uses Yad Vashem as a propaganda tool to indoctrinate young Israelis. She opposes the alleged creation of an “Ethos of Victimhood” also among “Oriental” Jews she saw there—whose families, the author claims, were unaffected by the Holocaust. This was the worst section of an article that was full of bias and misrepresentations.
Yet, when exposed, these Methodists functionaries simply whitewashed their statements without admitting they had promoted offensive lies.
In March I wrote to the current Inter Faith Coordinator and Dr. Harris with documentary proof that Nazis persecuted and murdered non-Ashkenazi Jews in Greece, North Africa, and Iraq (during the brutal June 1941 Farhud pogrom in Baghdad). I respectfully requested that they correct or retract their document.
Neither of these things happened. Only Harris wrote back to me, saying she didn’t mean that non-Ashkenazim weren’t “welcome” at Yad Vashem—as if it were a tea party. And when I re-read the article, the racist assumptions jumped out at me—one, that she and her quoted colleague Michael Ipgrave could tell who was and who wasn’t “Oriental”, and two, that Jews are racially divided and should not concern themselves with each other’s problems. Only someone wholly unfamiliar with Jews and Israeli society could say this. (Ask any new mother how many people have given her unsolicited advice.) We are one people.
Feeling that I was hitting a brick wall, I sent the article to Rabbi Abraham Cooper at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, along with other anti-Israel material issued by the church. Rabbi Cooper published the story and condemnation of the article spread through the blogosphere.
Suddenly, once the article was exposed, I got mail. Harris claimed that she didn’t even know the article was still on the website, and that it would be removed as part of routine removal of material which was no longer current. But within a day—once it was a public embarrassment—the article link was killed. Harris also claimed that I misunderstood her “grammatically”, and that when she referred to Orientals, she meant “some” and not “all”.
In her email the current Inter Faith Coordinator, Joy Barrow claimed that the document was never official, and was only a set of personal “reflections”.
These replies constitute a total whitewash of a clearly biased article. The article absolutely reflects the position of the Methodist Church elites who promote a hard-core pro-Palestinian agenda—although many of the rank-and-file are pro-Israel. To put the official anti-Israel bias in context, representations made by Harris in her article are remarkably similar to official positions of the Church documented in their current Conference Report.
In June of 2010 the UK Methodist Church Conference formally adopted a wide-ranging and highly biased policy report titled “Justice for Palestine and Israel”. UK media maven Tom Gross commented, “Here was a group of almost stereotypically ordinary, middle-class, English Christians calmly reciting every hackneyed anti-Israeli calumny in the book.”
A committee of Methodist leaders drafted the report which, among other things, called for a boycott of Israeli goods, and adoption of Sabeel’s Kairos Palestine Document. KPD is not only a theological rejection of the Biblical linkage of the Jewish people with the land of Israel, but a rejection of the Old Testament for political purposes. KPD wholly resurrects the old anti-Semitic Christ-killing charge but with a change. As Sabeel’s founder Naim Ateek said,”Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around Him…The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily”.
The conference ultimately adopted a settlement goods boycott only, but wholly accepted the committee’s anti Israel, anti-Semitic endorsement of KPD. The Report includes this quote from an activist, “When I lived in Bethlehem I understood what I had always known. Jesus was born, lived and died under Occupation and this is what it is like”. .In light of this highly biased political orientation, it is clear that Harris is entirely consistent when she engages in Holocaust trivialization and claims that Holocaust education for young Israelis is an obstacle to peace. “Peace groups have to work against this backdrop”, she states in the article.
When Harris claims in the introduction to her article that “Jews who seek justice for all - Jews and Palestinians” will reject Biblical history after Noah, she is remarkably consistent with the adopted Methodist Conference Report—after all, she was on the committee. Despite claims of the Methodist elites that the article was “unofficial”, it’s pretty hard to see how it differs much from the anti-Israel, hard-line radical policies it openly endorses and funds.