Sanctions can help in the end

sir - Mr Joseph, in the second of the two letters I have seen, challenged the decision of the UK Methodist Conference to boycott Israeli goods. This decision was taken on Wednesday, July 7, and I am impressed by his turn of speed in getting a letter to the Herald on the subject.

The Methodist Church, along with many Governments and agencies, has concerns about Gaza and the illegal Israeli settlements. In 2009, the World Council of Churches called for an international boycott of settlement produce and services. The Methodist Church then commissioned a working party, which produced a 54-page report for this year’s Conference. The matter was debated and agreed, unanimously – illegal settlement produce and services are to be boycotted. As produce doesn’t come labelled ‘from illegal settlements in Israel’ it’s going to be a tough one. As with any boycott, innocent people may suffer, but I am mindful of other situations, where those most affected have urged tougher sanctions on those in power.

Sidmouth and Sidford Methodist Church have not yet received official news of the boycott as the documents from Conference material are still being published. Understandably, pro-Israeli groups have wasted no time in publishing their responses. When one looks at the internet, the reports are fierce and hostile towards the Methodist Church. But when one notices who is making the most noise in these reports, it is time for some reflection.

Recently a satirist on Radio Four was observing her dilemma in the supermarket while buying grapes. She noted “Israel or South African, my how times change”. Wide-ranging boycotts of South African produce and services made quite a difference while the struggle to end Apartheid was taking place. I don’t imagine for one moment that those who supported Apartheid were pleased by these actions, but, years later, South Africa is in a much better place.

Julian Kossoff, writing in the Telegraph, said “the Methodist Church’s latest move to heap criticism on Israel feels like being let down by a pleasant and respected neighbour”. The Methodist Church and Oxfam are not alone in wanting a resolution for Gaza.

How many pleasant and respected neighbours ‘let you down’ before you ask am I at fault here?

Rev Brian J Hadfield

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Minister at Sidmouth

Methodist Church