Israel boycott movement 'down in flames' at United Methodist conference

Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has declared her opposition to the BDS movement.Reuters

Efforts to bring resolutions to the United Methodist General Conference advocating divestment from Israel were thwarted over the weekend.

Four divestment or investment screening resolutions were rejected by committees and did not make it to the conference floor, according to Religion News Service (RNS).

Activists had wanted the UMC to divest from three companies that pro-Palestinian campaigners have accused of working with Israeli security forces to sustain Israel's West Bank settlement enterprise. They are Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola.

John Lomperis, the director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy's United Methodist Action Program and an opponent of divestment, said the resolutions "pretty much went down in flames".

Supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) want to use the UMC's economic leverage to put pressure on Israel to improve conditions for Palestinian people and move to a two-state solution. Opponents see BDS as a way of delegitimising Israel and believe it is counter-productive.

The pro-BDS Kairos Response group had prepared four resolutions related to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory, all of which were rejected. It is now supporting an ammended petition that commends the denomination "for developing investment policies that address human rights violations around the world," according to co-chair Susanne Hoder.

Hillary Clinton, front-runner for the Democratic US presidential nomination and a member of the UMC, said last week she was opposed to BDS as it was unfair to Israel. She wrote to Jewish leaders in response to an appeal from the Israel Action Network to respond to the church's BDS resolutions: "I believe that BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict.

"When anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world, we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.

"We must never tire in defending Israel's legitimacy, expanding security and economic ties, and taking our alliance to the next level."

The UMC pension fund removed five Israeli banks from its investment portfolio in January.