Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Diana Neslen Challenges CCJ Allegations

9th April 2012

Dear Bishop Christopher,

The Reverend Stephen Sizer has been a respected colleague on the interfaith group for morally responsible investment. I attend this group as an executive member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, a network of Jews who oppose Israeli policies that undermine Palestinian civil and human rights and who demand that Israel abide by international law and international human rights law.

Unlike the Council of Christians and Jews, many Jews of my acquaintance are deeply concerned at the stance of those who are unwilling to criticise the egregious actions and policies of the state of Israel, while condemning those who stand against the human rights abuses perpetrated daily by Israel in the name of all Jews.

It is through the interfaith group that I have come to know and indeed respect Stephen Sizer as a brave and often lone voice challenging the distortions of a Christian Zionism that supports Israel because the final battle in Armageddon will take place there and all those Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity will be consumed by fire. Many Jews, myself among them, regard this theology as profoundly anti-Semitic. It is indeed a source of much distress to many of us that mainstream Jewish voices, rather than challenge these theological distortions, and indeed these anti-Semitic views, chose to cleave to representatives of this organisation because it supports Israel’s policies.

It is with profound shock that I now learn that Stephen Sizer has been accused of anti Semitism and that the Council of Christians and Jews have reported him to the Surrey police alleging ‘hate crime’. I carefully scrutinised the ‘evidence’ produced to attack Reverend Sizer and it seemed that he linked in his face book page to an article published on what is an obvious anti-Semitic web site. The article itself was not anti-Semitic and has been comprehensively circulated.

Linking to an anti-Semitic web-site is of course an appalling error of judgement but I have heard from Stephen that once the matter was brought to his attention, he immediately removed the link. It seems that he had been remiss in reading some previous correspondence about the link because he was wary of the correspondents themselves who had not in the past been supportive of his views. Perhaps all that is needed in this instance is a reminder to Reverend Sizer to be more careful about the links he chooses.

The question that needs to be posed is whether this is a sign of true anti-Semitism. It would seem that far more evidence needed before any suggestion of anti-Semitism can be made. In my dealings with Stephen I have always found him to be a man of humanity, with a horror of all manifestations of racism and a clear perspective on anti-Semitism as expressed in these words from his book ‘Zion’s Christian Soldiers
It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited anti-Semitism and even attacks on Jewish people. Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples with oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as anti-Semitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate anti-Semitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognized by the international community. But like many Jews, I disagree with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world while denying the same rights to Arab Palestinians born in the country itself.
However it seems to me that there is something inconsistent about the furore over the Reverend Sizer. There is an evangelical Pastor, John Hagee, who stated in ‘"Jerusalem Countdown", that "anti-Semitism, and thus the Holocaust, was the fault of Jews themselves -- the result of an age old divine curse incurred by the ancient Hebrews through worshipping idols and passed, down the ages, to all Jews now alive."

Further according to Pastor Hagee, Adolph Hitler was a "hunter," sent by God, who was tasked with expediting God's will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel. These statements are in my view examples of extreme anti-Semitism and clearly should go ‘beyond what is tolerable’.

Last year Pastor Hagee was due to speak in Birmingham and no complaints were raised by the Council of Christians and Jews about ministry of this man, nor have they made any suggestion that he should be refused entry to this country in September when he proposes to speak in County Durham and in Peterhead Scotland. Perhaps this is because Pastor Hagee provides unqualified support to the state of Israel.

It would therefore seem that the complaints are not about anti-Semitic speech, of which I have found no record with respect to Stephen Sizer, but rather about his relationship to the State of Israel and his refusal to tow the line of support for its policies. Thus we are talking here about political attacks on someone who is a thorn in the side of those who provide unqualified support for Israeli policies.

Surely it is not in the interests of the Council of Christians and Jews to show such political partisanship and perhaps the time has come for constructive dialogue rather than destructive point scoring.

Yours sincerely

Diana Neslen

Executive member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, in a personal capacity.

See also letters from:

Right Revd Riah Abo El Assal, 13th Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem
Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
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
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
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
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain
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" comes from Zionists unable to distinguish between two.

And see also these articles from other 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