Friday, 1 February 2013

Council of Europe and Anti-Semitism

Jeremy Moodey writes, "Labour MP Michael Connarty has used an address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to defend my friend Stephen Sizer against baseless accusations of anti-Semitism from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Connarty describes Stephen as "a humanitarian defender of the Palestinian people in Israel" (sic) and suggests that the BOD should be focused on challenging genuine anti-Semitism instead."

Fifth sitting
Wednesday 23 January 2013 at 10 a.m.

Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – I want to speak about anti-sectarianism and the confusion that arises when distinguishing between people who criticise the Government of Israel and its behaviour and those who stand accused of anti-Semitism.
I am against sectarianism of any kind, as is this Assembly. I am against anti-Christian statements and actions in Muslim states, against anti-Semitic statements and actions worldwide, and against Christian sects attacking other Christian sects. My life is blighted, as are the lives of many of my constituents, by sectarianism between Catholic and Protestant across Scotland and in many parts of the United Kingdom. I am against those things. As a humanist, although not an anti-religious person, I support and work with all people of faith, supporting the right to individual belief for all.
I want to raise the case of Reverend Stephen Sizer, who is a Church of England priest and a humanitarian defender of the Palestinian people in Israel. He sent a link to an article criticising the Government of Israel, but it was not an anti-Semitic article. Unfortunately, the article was printed on a website that contained anti-Semitic statements made by others in the past, which Reverend Sizer did not know about. In fact, he has spoken very strongly against that, as a humanitarian and a person who is not anti-Semitic.
Unfortunately, the Board of Deputies of British Jews raised a complaint against Reverend Sizer with the Church of England, which will end up in the courts. That could lose him his job and his livelihood and his ability to work in the job that he does at the moment across the world.
This case has serious implications, particularly in respect of things we have discussed in the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. In an internet age for all, are those who link to one article to be held liable for every article that is hosted on the website where that one article is contained?
I support the right of the Board of Deputies of British Jews – and that of any of the hierarchies of the churches across the world – to take on and challenge those who put sectarian and anti-Semitic articles on to a website, and to take on those people who host such articles. Of course, that is who the Board of Deputies of British Jews should be taking on – not singling out a humanitarian person who has worked diligently for the last 15 years, to my knowledge, in a broad and non-anti-Semitic way, to raise questions about the behaviour of the Israeli Government, as I do myself in my Parliament.
We have a question here. If people link to a website, are they liable for everything on the website? I hope that the Council of Europe will look at this through the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media and try to get some common sense into this debate.
 Source: Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe