Monday, 7 January 2013

David Carter Responds to anti-Semitism Allegations

31st December 2012

Dear Bishop Christopher,

I am writing with regard to the complaint made by the Board of Deputies of British Jews against Revd. Dr. Stephen Sizer. In the three years I have known him I have never heard or read a word that could be construed as anti-Semitic. The allegation that Stephen has published anti-Semitic material is extremely serious. Having accessed the complaint and evidence from the BoD website and spent some time evaluating it may I make the following comments.

First, the claim by BoD to be the 'representative organisation of the United Kingdom Jewish Community' would be challenged by, for instance, 'Jewish Voice for Peace', 'Jews for Justice for Palestine' and 'Independent Jewish Voices'. So, their claims must be balanced by other Jewish voices who take a different view.

Second, the complainant has to show that the websites Stephen has linked to are anti-Semitic. On this they clearly fail. It is not sufficient to show that they contain material critical of Israel: criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic; it has to be demonstrated that the criticism is applied either to all or a large majority of Jews, as Jews.

Third, the complainants must show that the specific articles to which Stephen provided links are both anti-Semitic and obviously untrue. Not only does the 'Evidence' fail in demonstrating this is it is mendacious. For example, its entry for 14th October 2011 (actually 2010) backed by a screenshot on page 7 of the Appendix refers to a post by Stephen on Helen Thomas. The BoD text is:
“Rev Sizer posted comments on his blog from Helen Thomas, the former White House correspondent forced to retire after telling Jews in Israel to go ‘home’ to Poland, Germany or America. He prefaced the comments with:

“Helen Thomas is one gutsy 90 year old lady to take on the Israel Lobby.” And ended them with “Bring it on.” “
A comparison between what Helen Thomas actually said and what BoD reports her to have said reveals their true colours. She did not tell “Jews in Israel to go 'home'...” she said, (and it's on Stephen's post, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine”. (we might object to the language but the sentiment is in line with international law!). To be clear, Thomas is referring to Israel in Palestine, not “Jews in Israel”.

As to Stephen's end comment, “bring it on” which BoD wants to link with the “go home” comment; in context it seems much more logically associated with Thomas' desire to “work again”. Perhaps the BoD could be invited to explain why they have distorted the item to read this way?

Fourth, the complainant has to show that, in making these links and comments Stephen did so from a position of racial hatred. It is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel, nor is it anti-Semitic to criticize individual Jews, or even to criticize a collective of Jews who represent a particular viewpoint, such as Zionist extremism; if such were the case no comment would be possible on anything involving people!

Should you wish I can provide my own analysis of the 'Evidence' and its 'Appendix'. Frankly, I view this complaint as an attempt to silence a godly man who works for peace with justice in the not- so-holy-land. As Christians we are called to speak out against injustice wherever we see it, and we do so echoing Israel's prophets. That is what Stephen does: as critical of anti-Semitism as of Islamophobia. To their shame many of our forebears forgot or ignored the call of righteousness and they persecuted Jews. That wrong cannot be righted by doing injustice to Palestinians.

What the BoD complaint and evidence demonstrate is that any criticism of Israel is regarded as anti-Semitic. That surely is the kind of idolatry that Israel's prophets spoke against. The Board of Deputies is uncomfortable with hearing truth spoken about Israel's behaviour, and want to limit freedom of speech to exclude criticism of Israel. This cannot and must not be allowed.

I pray that you will reject their complaint.

Yours Sincerely

David J Carter

Director, Middle East Evangelical Concern

See other letters from:

Right Revd Riah Abo El Assal, 13th Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem
Dr Bishara Awad, Founder and President Emeritus, Bethlehem Bible College
Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
David Carter, Director, Middle East Evangelical Concern
Anne Clayton, Coordinator, Friends of Sabeel UK
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Lampeter University
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Katherine Cunningham, Moderator, IPMN, Presbyterian Church USA
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Patron, Friends of Sabeel UK
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Hank Hanegraaff, President, Christian Research Institute
Revd Phil Hill, Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder of the Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University
Manfred W. Kohl, Ambassador Overseas Council
Dr Attorney Jonathan Kuttab, Chairman of the Board, Bethlehem Bible College
Venerable Michael Lawson, Chairman, Church of England Evangelical Council
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Embrace the Middle East
Diana Neslen, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University
Revd Jack Sara, President, Bethlehem Bible College
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain
David Toorawa, Chair, Friends of Sabeel UK
Revd Dr Donald Wagner, National Director, Friends of Sabeel North America
Revd John Woodger, Retired vicar of St Mary's Watford

Anthony Julius is chairman of the London Consortium and a Visiting Professor at Birbeck College, University of London. His book Trials of the Diaspora, is a magisterial 800 page examination of the history of Anti-Semitism in England. In the final chapter which deals with the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, Julius writes,
"He has recently explained, however, that he 'categorically reject[s] any position that threatens the territorial integrity of Israel as a sovereign nation.... Stephen Sizer's work has the merit of clearly setting out the issues that divide the two sides, and furthermore doing so without the rancour or sheer nastiness of tone typical of the polemics in the conflict." (p.571)
It is ironic that much of the "rancour or sheer nastiness", it seems, comes from those unable to distinguish between two.

And see also these articles from other news sources:

Phil Groom (member of CCJ): Jeremiah's Underpants
Phil Groom (member of CCJ): Dr Sizer is cleared
Church of England Newspaper: Sizer complaint
Church Times:  Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times:  Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite
Jewish Chronicle: Sizer: I am ready to meet the Board of Deputies any time