Statement from the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines June 2, 2015
Antisemitism draws rebuke from the Methodist Bishop of Iowa
When presented with an example of blatant antisemitism authored by a United Methodist staff member, Iowa United Methodist Bishop Julius C. Trimble responded quickly and authoritatively. As a bridge-builder for peace, the bishop acknowledged and denounced the antisemitism as evidenced.
A keynote speaker at an upcoming program of the Iowa Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, United Methodist staff member Janet Lahr Lewis recently called for a boycott of Holocaust museums in protest of an alleged Palestinian holocaust by Israel.
In a column posted by Ms. Lewis to The United Methodist’s General Board of Church & Society website, she wrote: “ Don’t visit a Holocaust museum until there is one built to remember the other holocausts in the world: the on-going Palestinian holocaust, the Rwandan, the Native American, the Cambodian, the Armenian…You could be waiting a long time.” Ms. Lewis serves as the Peace and Justice Program Associate at the General Board of Church & Society, and is a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.
As analyzed by the Jewish Federation, the problems of Ms. Lewis’ statement are as follows:
1. Ms. Lewis implies that it is solely up to the Jews to memorialize the genocides of history – and that the Jews are somehow blocking the memorialization of other genocides. Outside of the fact that Holocaust museums, especially the major ones, do in fact recognize, study, memorialize and call for action against genocides worldwide, the questions arise: Why are the Jews uniquely responsible for this, and how are Jews blocking others from doing so? Singling out Jews in this manner is antisemitism.
2. Contending, as Ms. Lewis does, that Israel is committing genocide or a holocaust against the Palestinian people is not only inaccurate in analogy, but is also defamatory. It is a charge that demonizes Israel by insinuating that the intention of Israel is to annihilate the Palestinian people and casts Israelis as Nazis. Demonizing Israel is antisemitism.
3. Finally, by advocating that Methodists boycott Holocaust museums, Ms. Lewis is targeting Jews and not Israel. When people take out their anger at Israel by targeting Jews in general, that is antisemitism.
When presented with what a staff member was advocating, Bishop Julius C. Trimble issued a message of assurance in response to our concerns. In his letter, which is now available online in order that he not be taken out of context, the bishop reaffirmed that his denomination denounces all acts and expressions of anti-Semitism, along with all forms and expressions of hatred, racism.
The bishop implicitly advised that it is unwise to promote the boycotting of Holocaust museums. “I have visited the Holocaust Museum in Israel and Beachwood, Ohio on several occasions. I have found them to be deeply moving, education and painful experiences. Knowing the history of the Jews, and many others who were killed and their lives before the Holocaust, serves to deepen my own desire for peace.”
Bishop Trimble asserted, quite rightfully, we believe, that “we cannot build bridges between communities by comparing atrocities…but we can denounce hatred, racism and anti-Semitism wherever it surfaces.”
In accordance with his stated guideline, Bishop Trimble then proceeded to note: “Accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian people is anti-Semitism; that is wrong, because it is defamatory.”
We thank Bishop Trimble for his forthright evaluation of the hurtful sentiments expressed by Janet Lahr Lewis, and we call upon Ms. Lewis to desist from using such defamatory means to promote her agenda.
We moreover request the Iowa Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action to publicly repudiate their keynote speaker’s use of antisemitism.Antisemitism cannot be used as a political tool. It cannot legitimately be used to advance an argument.