This all needs to be done *quickly.* We are less than 3 weeks away from the Methodist Conference, so time is of the essence. Can you start this week? Yes, I know you’re busy, but how thrilling will it be to have been a part of history when we win?
With those words, left-wing Jewish political activists Anna Baltzer of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Sydney Levy of Jewish Voice for Peace encouraged others to get in on their effort to influence decisions of the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. It’s part of the tactics encapsulated in the “Toolkit: Action for Church Divestment” that has gone out to their enablers in recent weeks.
Right at the start, they make clear that this is only part of a larger political campaign:
What’s going on? What are our goals? Between now and early July, after more than eight years of hard work, two large Christian denominations — the United Methodist Church (of the world!) and the Presbyterian Church USA — will vote on divestment from companies involved in Israel’s occupation and its oppression of the Palestinian people. These churches are under attack for the courageous decisions they are about to make. With your help, we can help strengthen their resolve.
What’s the significance/importance?
*These could become the largest divestment victories in the US to date.
*They will inspire divestment efforts in other institutions and they build on other campaigns like “Stop Caterpillar,” “Hang Up on Motorola,” and the “We Divest” TIAA-CREF Campaign.
*Divestment is the right thing to do. It is a moral, nonviolent response to the immoral daily violence of the Israeli occupation.
Stepping stones: that’s how the USCEIO and JVP see the churches.
Baltzer and Levy then go on to list five things that their allies can do, the first three of which are important:
1. Contact voting delegates/commissioners before the conferences.
***This is the most important thing that we need.*** We need to reach out to these delegates to support them in doing the right thing and answering questions/concerns they might have. Phone calls and in-person meetings (if you have time and happen to live near a delegate) are recommended.
More on this in a moment.
2. Come to Tampa and/or Pittsburgh! We need tons of help at the conferences themselves. There will be opportunities to interact with delegates during breaks and to participate in special events. Other needs include tracking legislation, media, tabling, hospitality, leafleting, and more. A strong presence in favor of divestment at these conferences is really important.
You’d think these people were lobbying Congress. The fact that they have no intrinsic connection to the institution, and that many, perhaps most of the people they have there won’t either, doesn’t make the slightest difference to them. All they care about is the politics.
3. Find allies who can help speak to delegates or come to the conferences. Methodist, Presbyterian, Palestinian (esp. Palestinian Christian), and Jewish supporters are especially important.
Three responses: 1) Why bring Presbyterians to the Methodist GC? Because the denominational and polity differences don’t matter to the political activists. 2) Any Palestinian Christian that are brought are likely represent a Sabeel-approved agenda. They also will do all they can to make life under Muslim rule sound idyllic. 3) Jewish supporters of the activists anti-Israel agenda are designed to give Gentile Christians cover. They figure, “hey, if there are Jews who support this, it can’t really be anti-Israel.” Would that it were so.
Now, back to item 1. The Baltzer/Levy Legion has been give some guidance in how to approach the Methodist delegates:
1. DON’T alienate. Keep history, acronyms, politics, and attitude in check.
2. DO engage. Stay positive and build on shared values. We support freedom and equality for all people.
3. DO focus on the narrative and story you are telling. If you are Jewish or Palestinian, say so. If you have traveled to Israel and Palestine, explain what you saw. Make it personal.
4. DO listen. Pay attention to what the other person is saying. Ask questions. Do not interrupt, even if the speaker says something you do not like. When speaking with delegates, pay double attention. We will want you to report back what you heard — what do they believe, what are the obstacles they may have (if any) for voting yes, and what kind of follow-up may be needed.
“Keep history in check.” Because an informed person will know that the USCEIO-JVP version of history will distort reality beyond recognition. “Keep politics in check.” Convince them that you aren’t motivated by politics, but by a touching concern for Methodism. “Make it personal.” Because personal experience trumps truth, history, and the bigger picture.
Oh, and for any delegates to the General Conference who may be reading this: note well that what you say will be passed on to the activists.
In making calls, the Legion is provided with a script, just in case they can’t keep the talking points straight. You can find the whole thing here, but let’s look at a sample:
Hi, this is _____________. I’m a (insert: member of ______, Palestinian Christian, Jewish American,
person who has traveled to Israel/Palestine, local teacher, etc). I hope you had a Happy Easter! Do you have a moment to chat?
So I’m a person who’s a delegate to the General Conference, and I get this call from someone who tells me first thing, “I’m a Jewish American” or “I’m a local teacher” (huh?) My first thought is going to be, “and you want to talk to me why?”
(If you’re from the same area geographically, mention it here.) I’m calling because I was so happy to learn about the resolution that is being considered at General Conference to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation. I’m a strong supporter of divestment. Do you know much about the resolution? Do you have any questions that I could answer?
“So, you’re a local teacher or you’re Jewish and you want to talk to me about General Conference business? Why exactly are you sticking your nose into my church’s business? What makes you such an expert on the United Methodist Church? And why do you think you know more about our business than I do?”
If they don’t know about the resolution:
Methodist peace-seekers are working to align the church’s investment policies with your stated positions on ending the Israeli occupation.
“Well, I’m glad to hear that it is so important to you that my denomination be consistent in its political stances, even to the point of advocating that we take a specific action that conforms to your ideas of consistency.”
There are over 3,000 people around the country who have signed a petition endorsing the resolution, including many Jews, Palestinian Christians, and others.
“So 3000 people, all of whom could be members of Code Pink, and many of whom are not Methodists, have endorsed this resolution. Why exactly do they think that they are entitled to weigh in on Methodist business?”
If there are questions you can’t answer:
I don’t know the answer to that question off the top of my head but I could definitely send you the answer.
I’d be willing to bet that if the question hints at anything that runs counter to the activists’ narrative, this will happen:
If they are clearly hostile:
Thanks very much. Have a good day… (and hang up!)
They also offer a sample voicemail message that callers could leave if no one is at home:
I’m calling because I was so inspired to learn about the resolution that is being considered at General Conference to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation. I’m a strong supporter of divestment, along with lots of Christian leaders like the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and many Jews and rabbis – there’s actually a new letter of support from rabbis at http://www.rabbisletter.org.
See what I mean about the way Jewish support for divestment is made front and center? It’s mentioned over and over, to give those who might otherwise have doubts cover.
That aspect of their lobbying comes up as well in a video chat that took place about ten days ago. You can find it here, if you have an hour to kill. If you don’t, consider these comments in the chat bar that goes with the video presentation:
Jeffrey Mendelman from SF: You said “I’m Jewish-American”
Felice Gelman from United States: Exactly. Should we say that we are part of a campaign rather than sounding like an individual?
Jeffrey Mendelman from SF: To counter anti-semitic claims against hte movement
Craig Hunter from Denton: My suggestion as a Presbyterian — if you are Jewish, I think it is very important to mention that.
Benjamin Douglas from Sacramento, CA: I would assume he was pandering, just to get someone whom he thinks is an angry Zionist off his back.
Rochelle Gause: not acting is an action.
Katharine Davies Samway from Oakland: Why don’t we mention the huge, unbalanced response of the US, our government
You can also take a look at the training video that United Methodist Kairos Response (the tools who are being used by the activists to gain access and cover to the General Conference) has put out.
So there you have it: a concerted, organized, detailed, and intrusive effort by left-wing anti-Israel activists to infiltrate the highest decision-making body of the United Methodist Church for the purpose of manipulating it in support of their political agenda.
Tomorrow: Final thoughts.
(Cross-posted at Stand Firm.)