Boycotting Israel

The matter of how Christians regard Israel is a contentious one, just as are their attitudes toward Islam / Muslims. As if I needed to be reminded, several events and exchanges in recent days have made this quite evident. Putting it rather unfairly and too simplistically perhaps, but with more than a grain of truth, there is a camp that is anti-Israel and pro Islam / Muslims and one that is pro-Israel and anti Islam / Muslims. Sadly, and as a result of the gospel preaching, community activist path I feel compelled to follow, I find myself between the two camps and having to be mindful of what I say in case I break the peace that we (Christians) are called to strive for and create harmful schism. But truth is paramount, and such matters cannot be avoided altogether. Without wanting to be boring, I have set my position out in recent blogs on both Israel and Islam.

It happened that the other day I visited a church, where I have excellent relations, that falls in the latter camp, and picked up a copy of the pro-Israel magazine “Israel Today”, which embarrassingly has gone astray since I wanted to read the contents before blogging on its headline article, which was about boycotting Israel. I suspect the arguments would be along the lines we shouldn’t and there are even more valid reasons why we should boycott some of the (usually Arab) anti-Israel regimes in the world, and maybe sold the idea that by opposing Israel we may be opposing God. In one sense, the arguments either way are immaterial to what I wanted to say. But I have been mindful in my regular news watching that there is a growing momentum toward advocating boycotting Israeli goods.

My mind went back to 1970, the very first day I started out on my university studies. Upon exiting the Mile End tube station to complete my 5-10 minute journey to the college, I was (nicely) accosted by some pretty girls, who were representing Barclays Bank and trying to encourage freshers such as me to set up an account with the bank. It so happened that I had joined that bank earlier (although hadn’t got the freebies on offer, which I later remedied) and I proceeded onto my college. A little later in the day, in his address to the students, the president of the student union strongly advised the fresher cohort NOT to deal with Barclays. The reason he gave was that Barclays were investing in South Africa and the only way to bring down apartheid was to boycott South African goods and British institutions that support this evil regime I was later to find that this plea extended into all sorts of areas, notably sporting ones. My own view at the time was that while I did not support apartheid, I was ambivalent regarding the actions that were being proposed and I felt there were bigger issues to attend to, although, looking back, the action had more than a nominal affect in bringing about many of the changes the anti-apartheid people advocated.

As to whether the policies practiced by the Israeli government amounts to apartheid, or something as bad or even worse, remains a debatable subject, and I have no doubt the Christian camp one may find oneself leaning toward may have a bearing on one’s views. My own view is that Israeli injustices perpetrated toward the Palestinian people are not isolated, they are systemic. I also have no doubt many of those recognized as representing the Palestinian people are not good people and some of what goes on in many of Israel’s Muslim dominated neighbouring lands is also unjust, maybe in different ways. So regarding whether or not to boycott Israeli goods and services, the jury is out as far as I am concerned. However, the offer I made a number of times in the past, to weigh the evidence from the growing lists from all sides of the argument and understand the perspectives of all sides, and come to a balanced view, remains.

This brings me to another point that really deserves its own blog entry, and that concerns differences found among Christians and churches. Often individual Christians find themselves out of sync with the opinion setters of the church they attend, thus creating a dilemma. Often it results in them not joining with any church and it seems to me the result is all are losers. I have mentioned the attitude one might take regarding Israel and Islam / Muslims, but there is a long list, and this can be (and is) upsetting to many. I would like to say there is a simple solution like adopt the adage, attributed to Augustine of Hippo: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”, but life is not so simple, and I won’t figure out the definitive right answer in this life. However, I can seek out the truth and report on my findings (hopefully graciously) not fearing the possible backlash and I will try (by God’s grace) to love my brothers and sisters (for that is what my fellow Christians are) irrespective of their views, knowing truth will eventually prevail.

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3 thoughts on “Boycotting Israel

  1. Dear John Baber
    You wote: “But I have been mindful in my regular news watching that there is a growing momentum toward advocating boycotting Israeli goods”.

    Do you agree with the latter?
    I have been reading your publications for some time now, and appreciate them very much, but concerning your view on the BDS-campaign against Israel I am sorry to say that I think those advocating boycotting Israeli goods from Samaria and Judea lack some basic information about international law, for instance The San Remo Conference Resolution from 1921-22, that gives the Jews politiical supremacy in the British Mandate. It is still forceful being called the Jews’s Magna Carta, which was adopted by the UN in 1946.The Bible also says something about the promised land, Canaan. I am both a Christian and a historian and will encourage you to read the documents from this conference,.
    Yours sincerely Roald Øye

  2. Dear Roald

    Thank you for your kind words and the challenge.

    As you know, I have blogged several times concerning Israel and rather than repeat here, I suggest refer to these. I can only affirm that I love Israel because God does, yet God also hates unrighteousness.

    Boycotting is a tried and test method to change the way regimes act. I gave South Africa as an example and change happened to a large extent due to imposing sanctions. If the Israeli government are acting unjustly and if they are ignoring international outcry, this may be a tactic worth considering.

    However, as you will have noted I have not come down one way or another. Part of the reason is I am not convinced precisely where the right lies in these matters. Another part is to be consistent we would need to do the same against other unjust regimes. As I say, I welcome honest debate.

    • Thank you, John, for your honest reply. I think we have much in common regarding faith and political outlook, myself comIng from a humble socilal background. When speaking of Israel, I tend to excuse their political leaders for applying too harsh methods in curbing the Palestinian terror. Because of the unfair treatment I think they get in Norwegian media because of the journalists’ historical ignorance, I have taken part in the public debate, using my professional skills as best I can in an attempt to bring better balance in the unbalanced critisism of only one of the two contenders.The Palestinans are leading in the propaganda war, and that explains my sometimes onesided views. Best regards Roald

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