Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has been very open about her lifelong affiliation with the United Methodist Church, but as the leaders of her denomination gather this week for its quadrennial General Conference, she finds herself at odds with one key issue.
She opposes the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions Movement, and she reaffirmed that opposition Tuesday with a letter addressed to the Jewish Federations of North America. In response to a letter from the organization, calling on her to denounce the BDS Movement, she wrote:
More than three decades ago, my husband, Bill, and I took our first trip to Israel, walked the ancient streets of Jerusalem's Old City, and fell in love with the country and its people. Israel became a special place for us, and I am lucky to have had many opportunities to return and to make many dear friends there over the years.
As Senator and Secretary of State, I saw how crucial it is for America to defend Israel at every turn. I have opposed dozens of anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N., the Human Rights Council, and other international organizations. I condemned the biased Goldstone Report, making it clear that Israel must be allowed to defend itself like any other country. And I made sure the United States blocked Palestinian attempts at the U.N. to unilaterally declare statehood. Time after time, no matter the venue, I have made it clear that America will always stand up for Israel. If I am fortunate enough to be elected president, the United States will reaffirm we have a strong and enduring national interest in Israel's security.
It is because of my longstanding commitment to the Israeli people and to the security of Israel that I am writing to express my opposition to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement, or "BDS," the global effort to isolate the State of Israel by ending commercial and academic exchanges. I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority, and that we need to work together—across party lines and with a diverse array of voices—to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel. It would be a serious mistake for the United States to abandon our responsibilities, or cede the mantle of leadership for global peace and security to anyone else. The Jewish state is a modern day miracle—a vibrant bloom in the middle of a desert—and we must nurture and protect it.
I believe that BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict. This is not the path to peace. I remain convinced that Israel's long-term security and future as a Jewish state depends on having two states for two peoples. But that can only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians; it cannot be imposed from the outside or by unilateral actions. As Secretary of State, I convened the last round of direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders; I know how hard this will be, but it is an effort to which I would be committed as president.
Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival. Fighting for Israel isn't just about policy; it is a personal commitment to the friendship between our peoples and our vision for peace and security. Particularly at a time 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. Anti-Semitism has no place in any civilized society—not in America, not in Europe, not anywhere. We must never tire in defending Israel's legitimacy, expanding security and economic ties, and taking our alliance to the next level.
Please know that I am grateful for your work, and that I stand ready to be your partner as we engage all people of good faith—regardless of their political persuasion or their views on policy specifics—in explaining why the BDS campaign is counterproductive to the pursuit of peace and harmful to Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Clinton has been very vocal about her support for Israel and her opposition to BDS. But the United Methodist General Conference is set to consider four separate resolutions related to the BDS agenda.
The United Methodist Church already opposes Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. It also opposes the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which it calls "illegal."
Its position "does not support a boycott of products made in Israel," but does call upon on "all nations" to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. It also asks that companies profiting from the settlements "stop any business" that supports the ongoing military occupation.
The BDS Movement has picked up the support of a number of mainline denominations in the past few years. These include the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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