"The urgency of the humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories cannot be overstated," the report stated. "Palestinians face soaring unemployment, malnutrition, restrictions on movement, denial of medical care, denial of access to their agricultural lands, humiliation at checkpoints and extended lockdowns called curfews."
The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement that the report "borders on anti-Semitism."
He added: "The authors of the report must be living in a bubble to ignore ongoing attacks on Israel and Hamas's violent takeover of Gaza to issue such an outrageous, biased report that focuses only on Israel."
Representatives for President Bush and Senator Clinton did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment on the Methodist divestment action.
The deputy director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Boston, Alan Ronkin, said his group would be meeting with local Methodists on the issue. "We are going to try to educate and let them know where we're coming from," Mr. Ronkin said. Efforts such as the divestment push, "delegitimize Israel, damage any chance to make progress in the Middle East, and are morally offensive," he added.
The report also drew criticism from within the United Methodist Church. A senior minister at First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, the Reverend Archer Summers, said he would work to get the next General Conference to reject a divestment move and to push the body to pass a resolution similar to the United Church of Christ's recent measure calling for "a balanced study" of the Middle East conflict.
"They're flat-out wrong. They went off the deep end this time," Rev. Summers said of the New England Conference. "The powers that be in the New England Methodist Church are clueless about how to bring about a just peace. The report would make it appear that there's some sort of animus on the part of the United Methodist Church toward the state of Israel, which undermines our credibility as an institution which preaches the good news of peace."
The Methodists' action comes as the United Church of Christ, another Protestant denomination, moved forward a resolution moderating its stance toward Israel. The UCC's "balanced study " measure is now being seen as a counter to the 2005 passage of both a "divestment" motion and a "tear down the wall" resolution, which urged the dismantling of Israel's security barrier.
Senator Obama who is a member of the UCC and who addressed the church's national gathering in Hartford last Saturday issued a statement saying he "strongly disagrees with the portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict presented by individual members of the church."
The Methodist report cited the following companies as targets for divestment: Alliant Tech Systems, Blockbuster, Boeing, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, General Dynamics, General Electric, Globecomm Systems Inc, ITT Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Magal Security Systems, Motorola, Northrop Grumman, Oshkosh Truck Corporation, Raytheon, Silicon Graphics, Terex, United Technologies, Veolia Environnement, and Volvo.
The Methodists' New England Conference is seen as a precursor to the church's General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, in April.