[April 4] A website entitled "Understanding United Methodist Divestment" ("UUMD") recently appeared on the internet identified as a joint effort by (unnamed) "clergy and lay volunteers" from several UMC conferences. It contains pernicious accusations aimed at the state of Israel and serious misrepresentations about Fair Witness.
For example, UUMD accuses Fair Witness of proffering "false information" including "claims that Presbyterians and the UCC were persuaded by [Fair Witness] to reverse their earlier stances on divestment."
"UUMD provides no citation for this allegation and with good reason -- it is untrue," states Sr. Ruth Lautt, Fair Witness National Director. "Fair Witness did not work within the Presbyterian Church on the divestment issue and never claimed to. We were present at the 2007 UCC Synod which adopted a resolution acknowledging that they may have overlooked many aspects of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and obligated the UCC to conduct a balanced study to obtain a deeper understanding. But we never described it as a reversal of divestment, nor did we claim to have 'persuaded' the UCC to do anything."
"Whoever is responsible for this website should have checked facts before leveling false and possibly defamatory accusations at us," adds Sr. Ruth.
Equally disturbing are rampant factual errors such as an allegation that President Clinton and Robert Malley ( incorrectly identified as Clinton's chief negotiator at Camp David) both contradicted Fair Witness' lament that the Palestinians made a grievous error by not accepting the Clinton parameters in 2000/2001. In his book Pres. Clinton said:
It was historic: an Israeli government had said that to get peace, there would be a Palestinian state in roughly 97 percent of the West Bank, counting the swap, and all of Gaza, where Israel also had settlements. The ball was in Arafat's court.
(Bill Clinton, My Life, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004, p. 938).
"Robert Malley explains Yasser Arafat's refusal to accept a peace deal in the context of many factors including Arafat's fear of being trapped by the Israelis and misgauging Barak's negotiating style," explains Rev. Dr. Roy Howard, pastor of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church (USA). "But the UUMD website misuses a quote from Malley in an attempt to make it appear that his narrative contradicts Fair Witness' description of the Clinton parameters. It does not."
Robert Malley notes that "strictly speaking, there never was an Israeli offer" because the ideas offered at Camp David were "orally conveyed" and "presented as U.S. concepts." (Hussein Agha and Robert Malley Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors August 9, 2001).
Arafat turned down the Camp David offer. Malley quoted President Clinton telling Arafat:
If the Israelis can make compromises and you can't I should go home. You have been here fourteen days and said no to everything.
(Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors).
Months later (in Washington D.C.) the Clinton parameters (more generous than the Camp David proposal) were presented. Barak accepted them, Arafat did not. Rather than cherry pick isolated sentences in the service of distorting history we invite the architects of UUMD to read Mr. Malley's statement which is in agreement with the facts as we (and both President Clinton and his chief negotiator at Camp David, Dennis Ross) have expressed them:
Under the settlement outlined by the President, Palestine would have sovereignty over 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank and it would as well have land belonging to pre-1967 Israel equivalent to another 1 to 3 percent of West Bank territory. . . . In Jerusalem, all that is Arab would be Palestinian, all that is Jewish would be Israeli. Palestine would exercise sovereignty over the Haram and Israel over the Western Wall . . .
(Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors)
Rev. Dr. Archer Summers, Senior Minister, First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, California says "calling this conflict complex is not a 'tactic' as the UUMD charges. There is widespread misinformation as a result of the very sort of material that appears on this website."
Rather than addressing each of the myriad misrepresentations on the UUMD website, we invite United Methodists to visit the front page of our website Christians for Fair Witness in the Middle East for further information.
Sr. Ruth Lautt, OP, Esq.
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East
475 Riverside Drive, Ste 1960
New York, NY 10115
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