UK Clergyman Finally Defrocked for Antisemitic Behavior – What Took So Long?
Last week on January 30th, former Church of England Vicar Rev. Stephen Sizer was found guilty on four out of eleven complaints brought before an Ecclesiastical court of the Bishops Disciplinary Tribunal for the Diocese of Winchester.
The complaints were filed by Marie van Der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. In the introduction to the Decision of the Tribunal it states, “The nature of the complaint is that between 2005 and 2018 (Stephen Sizor’s) conduct was unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders in that he provoked and offended the Jewish community and or engaged in Antisemitic activity. The four complaints in which the former Vicar was found guilty are as follows:
The first charge concerned his meeting with Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a senior commander of the military wing of Hezbollah in about the summer of 2006.
At the meeting, a photograph was taken of Stephen Sizer with Sheikh Kaouk, which Sizer then posted on his website, thus purposely linking himself to the Sheikh. Hezbollah is an Iranian-backed Shi’a militia terrorist organization.
In an on the record conversation I had yesterday with Dexter Van Zile, Managing Editor of the Middle East Forum’s Focus on Western Islamism and expert on Christian Antisemitism, Van Zile stated, “Stephen Sizer is a useful infidel who is being used by Islamists to advance efforts to destabilize Western democracies. He has demonized the Jewish state and facilitated a campaign of psychological warfare against Jews in Western democracies. This campaign against Jews has long term strategic consequences. When Jews are driven from public life, it is a disaster for civil society.”
It is troubling – disheartening really – that the Disciplinary Tribunal concluded that Sizer’s conduct in meeting with a senior commander of Hezbollah and posting their photograph on his website was not an act of “engaging in antisemitic activity.” Advertising a meeting with a terrorist intent on demonizing and murdering Jews is not related to Antisemitism? Strange.
The second charge is related to Sizer posting a link to an article entitled “The Mother of All Coincidences.”
The articles author, Eric Margolis, raised the idea that the September 11th terrorist attack was a plot designed by Israel. The Tribunal found Sizer guilty of “giving the oxygen of publicity to such an article” but that promoting the possibility that Jews were involved in 9/11 (in the Tribunal’s opinion) was not enough to determine Sizer “was engaged in Antisemitic activity.” Again – a troubling and bizarre conclusion.
The third charge relates to Sizer promoting the idea that Israel was behind the terrorist attacks on September 11th by posting a link on Facebook in January 2015 to the article entitled “9-11/Israel did it” that blamed Israel for the attacks.
In his Facebook post, Sizer states, “Is this antisemitic? If so, no doubt I’ll be asked to remove it. It raises so many questions.” In this charge, the Tribunal found Rev. Sizer “was engaged in Antisemitic activity.”
It’s puzzling that the September 2010 posting of “The Mother of All Coincidences” was not found to be Antisemitic, but Sizer’s Facebook posting of “9-11/Israel did it” was. The Tribunal explains their conflicting conclusions by stating, “In fact, he had posted the article written by Eric Margolis in 2010, which raised the question of Israel’s involvement, albeit not specifically referring to Jews.” So, according to the Church of England Tribunal, demonizing Israel and questioning whether or not it was involved in the September 11th terrorist attack is not Antisemitic.
Natan Sharansky, Chair of The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) has developed the “Three Ds” test to determine if criticism of Israel is Antisemitic or not: “Demonization – When Israel and its leaders are made to seem completely evil; Double Standards – When criticism of Israel is applied selectively and in a grossly unfair manner and Israel is singled out when clearly immoral behavior of other nation-states is ignored; Delegitimization – When Israel’s fundamental right to exist is denied alone among all peoples of the world.”
Raising the question of Israel’s involvement in 9/11 would therefore be, according to Sharansky, an act of demonizing the state of Israel and is Antisemitic – a point of which the Tribunal overlooked or dismissed.
The fourth charge regards an interview on March 30th, 2018, on Australian radio in which Sizer defends the link he posted to the article blaming Israel for the September 11th terrorist attacks.
This fourth charge in which Sizer is found guilty is, in my opinion, the most egregious. The Tribunal was concerned with Rev. Sizer’s motivation for posting the article: “…the particular article was a list of Israelis who had benefited from 9/11 and I simply put it out there and said this is serious; it’s got to be considered.” It was also concerning to the Tribunal that Sizer came to the defense of the article by stating, “so far, no one has come back to me and contradicted anything that was in the article.” These allegations made by Stephen Sizer disgracefully demonize Jews. However, though the Tribunal found Sizer guilty of conduct unbecoming for an ordained minister in this fourth charge, it did not conclude he was engaged in Antisemitic activity – another incomprehensible conclusion.
The great searching of heart it took to finally give justice to the Jewish community and formally convict Stephen Sizer makes the Church of England seem indifferent to the issue of Antisemitism. More concerning is the fact that during the Tribunal’s proceedings, Mr. Sizer had a long line of academics, clergymen – even a Bishop – who testified in his defense which leads me to believe Replacement Theology – the anti-Judaic and Antisemitic heresy inspired by the early Church fathers that demonizes Jews and wrongly proclaims the church has replaced Israel – is deeply rooted in the Church of England.
Let’s hope the statement made last week by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury will be heard by his Bishops and clergy:
“It is clear that the behavior of Stephen Sizer has undermined Christian-Jewish relations, giving encouragement to conspiracy theories and tropes that have no place in public Christian ministry and the Church. I renew my call for the highest possible standards among ordained ministers of the Church of England in combating Antisemitism of all kinds.”