Institute on Religion and Democracy
October 16, 2000
The United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), at its first directors meeting for the 2000-20004 quadrennium, voted to condemn Israel for its actions against Palestinian rioters on the West Bank.
In their resolution, the GBGM directors called the “popular protest” of the Palestinians an “expression of deep frustration” that resulted from “ongoing disrespect, dehumanization, and denial of their basic human and national rights by an unjust political system.”
Palestinians have been rioting since retired Israeli General Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in September. Muslims revere the site, where the Dome of the Rock is located, and they worship there at the al-Aqsa Mosque. Jews also revere the site because the ancient Temple of David was located there.
Palestinians and their supporters claim Sharon’s visit was a provocation. Israel and its supporters claim that Palestinian leaders have exploited Sharon’s visit to incite violence that might pressure Israel into more territorial concessions.
The GBGM statement largely ignored the complexities of the situation. Although the statement did ask the Palestinians to “refrain” from small-arms fire, it aimed most of its criticism at Israel. It essentially asked Israel to capitulate to all Palestinian demands: that Israel desist from any further military action, that all Israeli forces be removed from “occupied Palestinian territories,” and that the U.S. Government halt the sale of new armaments to Israel. The statement also requested intervention by the United Nations, which has been hostile towards Israel for several decades.
The resolution did not mention the mob lynching of Israeli soldiers. Nor did it mention incitements to violence by Palestinian state-controlled media. Nor did it mention official Palestinian publications that still deny Israel’s right to exist. Nor did it mention the Palestinian prohibition against Jewish Israelis from worshipping at Jewish holy sites in areas controlled by Palestinian authorities. Nor did it mention that territories so far ceded to the Palestinian authorities have largely become a dictatorship controlled by Yasir Arafat.
There was no discussion about the substance of the resolution. But the Rev. Bill Hinson, a director from Houston, Texas, asked why there was no resolution criticizing the terrorist attack against a U.S. Navy destroyer in Yemen that killed several U.S. sailors. Some directors and GBGM staff expressed reluctance to address that issue. But the Rev. James Mooneyham, a director from Snellville, Georgia, added his support to Hinson’s proposal. “Those people gave their lives so we could have the freedom to have this discussion,” Mooneyham said of the dead U.S. Navy personnel.
Other directors added their support for Hinson’s proposal. In the end, a short resolution was prepared that said GBGM “deplores the recent act of violence against the U.S. S. Cole and extends our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those sailors who were killed or injured.” It also called upon “all parties in the Middle East to cease hostilities immediately.”
For several decades GBGM has been controversial for its political pronouncements. Often GBGM press statements have sharply criticized the U.S. and allied governments while ignoring aggression and human rights violations by Third World governments hostile to the West. Official United Methodist statements regarding the Middle East have typically focused on Israel’s failures while ignoring human rights problems under Arab governments. GBGM has about 90 directors, who meet twice a year. Resolutions are typically written by GBGM staff and routinely approved by the directors.