I Am Glad For Rev. Sizer.

Rev. Stephen Sizer has put out this statement:

“In response to the CCJ Statement, I welcome the news from Surrey police and CPS that, having “carried out a thorough and extensive review of the material in question” they have concluded that “no criminal offences have been committed. The matter has now been closed and no further action is being taken,” a conclusion which will come as no surprise to those who know and work with me.

My support for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, based on international law and recognised borders, achieved by peaceful and democratic means, has unfortunately left me open to what can only be described as an unbalanced and targeted campaign from certain quarters, a situation which is deeply regrettable.

I care passionately about the safety of the Jewish people. I repudiate racism, anti-Semitism as well as Islamophobia. I would not have posted a link to a website I knew to be anti-Semitic. Having consulted a number of Jewish friends, I now keep a small list of websites to avoid in future. I will be more careful about the origin of material I post on my blog and Facebook, and welcome opportunities for discussion with members of the Jewish community to move forwards in a spirit of mutual respect. “

I am glad that Rev. Sizer has put out this statement.

I am glad that he says he’s going to be more careful in the future, and some might think it would be churlish to asked why he made those mistakes in the past, but let us look to the future.

I hope Rev. Sizer sets an example to others and makes sure not to link to racist or extremist material, directly or indirectly.

I have thought for many years that it is a great pity that the Palestinians’ cause is so often sullied by association with anti-Jewish racism. They deserve much better.

I should point out that criticising the Israeli government, in and of itself, is not racist, as long as dual standards are not applied, historical myths perpetuated or offensive imagery used.

The Israeli government should be open to criticism, as with every government, for their actions, however, it is, how you do it, that is the issue.

When Western supporters of the Palestinians’ cause associate with known racists or push their material they bring it into disrepute, as with Baroness Tonge and the conspiracy theorist, Ken O’Keefe.

Nor should we be naive enough to assume that anti-Jewish racists do not try to exploit grievances in the Middle East to foster hatred against Jews. They do, it is their agenda.

That is what Western supporters of the Palestinians’ cause need to engage with.

Some have belatedly seen the issue and try to repudiate it, which is to be commended, but as the PSC conference showed us there is still a problem.

Let us hope that Rev. Sizer, and like-minded individuals, will remember how racists will exploit any conflict with Israelis. That there is a serious need to become sensitive to anti-Jewish racism. To avoid any, however tenuous, connection to racists, extremists or their material. Finally, that ignorance is no excuse.

I welcome Rev. Sizer’s statement and hope others follow that example.

(H/T: Phil Groom)

About soupyone

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29 Responses to I Am Glad For Rev. Sizer.

  1. A very clear summing up. Thank you.

  2. Phil Groom says:

    Soupy One, I salute you. On this, we agree. Thank you.

  3. Soupy One says:

    Phil,

    We might have had our disagreements, but I hope that you will acknowledge that I give credit when it is due.

    Remember that Western supporters of the Palestinians’ cause need to take extra care, avoid *any* connection to racist material, etc double check their links and be aware of the Far Right (people who hate Jews) usage of the conflict in the Middle East.

  4. Pingback: Soupy One – glad for the Rev Stephen Sizer « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism

  5. This is all fine and good, but what about when the supporters of the Palestinian cause themselves hate Jews? I’m not accusing Rev Sizer of that – I think his attitude is more one of religious condescension in the spirit of traditional Christian supercessionist theology – but there are certainly Western advocates of the Palestinian cause who repeatedly use standard anti-Jewish tropes in their advocacy (I’m thinking here of the writers for Mondoweiss, among others, who seem to be obsessed with what they consider to be the malign force of “Jewish power” and who use phrases like “Jewish supremacism,” which was invented by David Duke, the Ku Klux Klansman).

  6. Soupy One says:

    Rebecca,

    Not sure if that’s a question best answered by Phil and others?

    But if it was for me. I am not sure.

    There certainly is a lot of *seepage* and I, too, noticed by that awful expression “Jewish supremacism,” came over from the Extreme Right into wider usage.

    You might add to that list the use of the terrible word “Judaisation”, which is used by PSC supporters in the West.

    I have pointed out its offensive nature to a PSC supporter, but without getting any considered response.

    I think it is incumbent on PSC supporters, or those genuinely concerned with the welfare of the Palestinians, to inform themselves of the lexicon of the Far Right and avoid such expressions.

  7. s4r4hbrown says:

    http://lensforchange.weebly.com/

    This young man, who has spent an unpleasant few days in an Israeli prison (he did nothing wrong), deserves much better advocates. He is restrained in his own criticism of Israel and most certainly not antisemitic.

  8. Phil Groom says:

    I can only speak for myself, not for Stephen Sizer or anyone else, alas not even in any official capacity for CCJ, although I am a member of CCJ (and apart from this unfortunate episode, normally proud to be so).

    Certainly there are supporters of Palestine who are antisemitic, just as there are supporters of Israel who are anti-Palestinian. I would distance myself from both: Israel and Palestine must both acknowledge the other’s right to exist, and must begin to treat one another with mutual respect as fellow human beings.

    As for Stephen: I do not read him as supporting supercessionism. On the contrary, he has repeatedly emphasised – as in his statement above – his support for “a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, based on international law and recognised borders, achieved by peaceful and democratic means”.

    I concur with that sentiment.

  9. Soupy One says:

    Phil,

    “there are supporters of Palestine who are antisemitic, just as there are supporters of Israel who are anti-Palestinian. “

    Must always one be qualified by the other?

    If you want me to admit there’s racism in Israel I would freely admit it, if you want me to admit there are racists in Israel, I would freely admitted, that is the **evidence**.

    However, trying to drag out of Western supporters of the Palestinian’s cause the idea that antisemites (who don’t actually support Palestinians cause, but pretend to) might actually exploit this issue (in spite of the mountain of evidence) is like pulling teeth with a pair of old pliers, very hard.

    And here’s another question, how much of that racism is a consequence of the conflict, or a more deep-seated hatred?

    And Phil, I would like your considered answer on that? Bearing in mind that antisemitism has existed for thousands of years, with the compliance, and active support of Western Christians.

    Phil, will you acknowledge that anti-Jewish racism is an issue, even occasionally, in the **West**?

    If you’re in some doubt, then you might want to ask why the PSC had a Holocaust denier in its midst the years and why 1/5 of conference delegates didn’t see that as a problem?

  10. Phil Groom says:

    Sadly, yes: these two realities exist alongside one another and, to some extent, feed off one another. Any attempt to deal with one without dealing with the other is to simply give ground to the other.

    I have never disputed the fact that antisemitism is a problem; were it not so, I would not be a member of CCJ, which exists largely to combat that problem. As we state on the Hillingdon branch website, for which I am responsible as webmaster:

    Combatting prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and antisemitism are still CCJ’s primary aims. It encourages Christians and Jews to appreciate and respect each other’s distinctive beliefs while recognising their common ground.

    Also sadly, I believe that CCJ has lost the plot somewhat in its pursuit of Stephen Sizer, chasing shadows instead the real thing.

    A question for you: the Ugly Truth website is hosted by WordPress. Why do you and those who have been critical of Stephen’s linking to that site not mount a campaign to persuade WordPress that hosting such sites is wrong? Surely that would be a more effective long term strategy than batting away at those who make the mistake of linking to such sites? And if you are so vehemently opposed to such sites why do you support WordPress by using them to host this blog?

  11. Soupy One says:

    “I have never disputed the fact that antisemitism is a problem; “

    Well Phil,

    As far as I can recall (and please do correctly) I have never heard you remark on the issue of Westerners posting to antisemitic sites or material and why they do it.

    It is a point I’m trying to understand, and trying to get your perspective on this (believe it or not).

    I am interested in your views, I want to hear why you think this happens (and forgive me if I press this point).

    Why the Western supporters of the Palestinians cause so frequently link either to racist web sites, sites that publish anti-Jewish racism or extremists?

    [that’s not a rhetorical question, I would like your thoughts on it]

  12. Phil Groom says:

    I’m as puzzled as you are. I guess in some cases they don’t realise what they’re linking to; in other cases, perhaps they simply don’t care, possibly taking the attitude that given Israel’s behaviour, a certain level of antisemitism is to be expected; in more extreme cases, perhaps there is even some degree of endorsement of antisemitism…

    But that’s just me thinking out loud: I don’t know goes on inside these people’s heads anymore than you.

    My question to you was not rhetorical either, by the way: why do you not mount a campaign to have the Ugly Truth website taken down by WordPress? Are you truly content to share a platform that hosts such sites? For that is surely a much more important issue than simply linking to such sites: if the amount of energy that has been invested recently in vilifying Stephen Sizer for inadvertently linking to such a site was invested in challenging those who host those sites, surely they would be obliged to take notice? After all, if the sites were not there, no one could link to them…

  13. Soupy One says:

    Phil,

    Good points, but surely if this keeps on happening it is a bit more than simple mistakes?

    The nub of my question is, why do otherwise intelligent people, who don’t think of themselves as racist, link to such questionable material?

    If it were a one-off I could agree with you (and I am not for the moment focusing,on the prejudiced I expect them to do that), but it is intelligent, thoughtful, individuals that so often do this.

    It happens time and again, so I am wondering what is the underlying issue?

  14. s4r4hbrown says:

    I think there is a huge gulf between identifying a site which people who aim to be vaguely respectable shouldn’t link to, and certainly shouldn’t seem to endorse, and seeking to shut that site down. So – to take one figure who has been widely condemned – Gilad Atzmon – it wouldn’t even occur to me to want to stop him expressing himself on his blog, and I wouldn’t bother to call attention to any of the bizarre things he says – it’s only if a group which, for example, is endorsed by the trade union I belong to seems to be developing links with him that I think it worth taking note.

  15. Soupy One says:

    “why do you not mount a campaign to have the Ugly Truth website taken down by WordPress? “

    Never thought about it like that, Phil.

    I believe there are some campaigns on the Internet along those lines, not sure I would take that approach.

    I think it’s better to deal with individuals to ask them to question themselves, etc that leads to better results. I think Rev Sizer’s statement about taking more care will have more impact than we know.

    As you will have read my comments I haven’t vilified Rev. Sizer, but tried to understand why he chose such material. I am more interested in understanding individuals and how they see racism than dealing with big companies.

    I would imagine that such a campaign would ultimately be unsuccessful as WP is an American company and would apply the First Amendment, but for me the question revolves around individuals, trying to get them to understand racism and from me to understand why they make those choices.

    I’m not sure if that answers your question but that’s how I feel.

  16. Phil Groom says:

    Thanks; yes, that makes sense. As for why people link to those sites, I’m as mystified as you are.

  17. Soupy One says:

    Phil,

    Thinking on it, I am not so much mystified as puzzled (if there is such a distinction). I believe it comes down to a lack of sensitivity.

    Now I am only applying that to **some** individuals, as you pointed out there are people “perhaps they simply don’t care”, those like Rev. Sizer, etc who clearly are smart but don’t necessary have a, er, feel for anti-Jewish racism (and I don’t mean that in a nasty way, but that’s my gut feeling).

    I appreciate that is a bit woolly, but my sense is that, if people are influenced by inflammatory language, participate in a debate influenced by political malice or surround themselves by extremists (as with the PSC) then they tend to lose sensitivity towards racism, even though they might not notice it.

    Not sure of that makes sense, but it’s a bit like the debate you see sometimes in Britain on immigration, if that is an apt parallel (and I am not so sure). It doesn’t bring out the best in people, we can see the influence of extremists in the subject and it gets very heated, but fortunately most people step back from taking on the extremists’ language or agenda when in comes to the discussion of immigration in Britain.

    I don’t find that is the case when the topic goes elsewhere, particularly when it relates to Jews. That necessary sensitivity or appreciation that extremists and racists exploit such issue doesn’t seem to be there.

    I have seen smart people (apart from Rev. Sizer) who argue that they are NOT racist link to sites with really nasty racist material against Jews.

    There seems to be no switch in their heads which clicks on and says “Hang on, maybe I should check this material, perhaps it is not what it seems and I don’t want to appear a bigot by posting”

    That doesn’t happen around this topic.

  18. Soupy One says:

    [I would appreciate it, if first time posters stuck in the moderation queue would re-read this blog’s comments policy. Present company excluded.

    I do not want to turn a fruitful discussion on racism into a forum for pillorying of Rev. Sizer. He has said he going to be more careful and we should take him on his word.

    Please, unseen posters, moderate your language and links otherwise you will stay in the moderation queue.]

  19. Pingback: Rev. Sizer, Best Take Michelle Obama’s Advice « Soupy One

  20. Stephen Duke says:

    Why do people link to anti-Semitic and racist websites? I’m going to invoke the concept of a “goring ox”. Unpalatable as it may be, for those of us who abhor racism, I think the explanation is simple and straightforward: these people are racists. As much as we may wish it were otherwise, is that really such a far-fetched scenario?

    Some points to consider;

    1) Despite the genuine efforts of anti-racists (which is to be applauded) a large minority of western-Europeans still hold anti-Semitic views (according to surveys upwards of 20% in most western countries and in the Islamic world the figures are much higher). Is it so incredible to believe that anti-Jewish hatred is what motivates some in the Palestinian solidarity movement? (Before answering this question note what percentage rejected the notion of expelling a holocaust denier from the PSC).

    2) To self-identify as a racist in contemporary western discourse is to lose the argument before it has begun, at least in mainstream discussion. Might this explain the obfuscation, denial and mealy-mouthed statements of the likes of Rev Sizer, when challenged about anti-Jewish racism?

    3) Those who make these “innocent mistakes” are not the ill-informed but rather more likely to be highly educated (how many holocaust deniers have PhDs?) in discussions about Israel/Palestine, the most filthy racism is more often-than-not preceded by a denial (see point 2).

    4) There are dozens of historical examples of western anti-Zionists (Glubb Pasha is one) who denied that their anti-Zionism was based on antipathy towards Jews. Yet when one reads their posthumously-published memoirs, one finds that they believed all manner of anti-Semitic things. On what basis ought we conclude that contemporary anti-Zionists (or at least those who say or link to anti-Semitic things) are any different?

    5) The venerated texts of Islam and Christianity contain numerous anti-Semitic statements. It is not unfair to note that virtually every anti-Semitic trope in existence can find its origin in the New Testament. In addition, the works of many enlightenment (e.g. Voltaire) and left-wing figures (Bakhunin, for example) contain similar anti-Jewish sentiment. Ought we be surprised that some of those who hold these texts in high regard are also in agreement with their ideological or theological heroes’ anti-Semitism?

    6) Anti-Semitism, as with any other form of racism, is irrational: it always has been and always will be. No-one who wishes to be taken seriously admits to holding irrational views (especially to themselves). Racists don’t sit there and say to themselves that they believe in nonsense, they find or invent pseudo-rational arguments which justify their irrational beliefs. Racists don’t try to convince others that their racism is founded on irrationality but genuinely believe that their grounds for hating are rational and objective.

    How many times, for example, must someone substitute the word “Zionists” in place of “Jews” before people of good conscience understand what is really meant? Are there really reasonable grounds for taking seriously someone who denies anti-Semitism because they use the word Zionist, rather than Jew? How is this different from an Afrikaaner who denies racism saying “I don’t hate them because they’re black but because they’re not white”?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for taking people at their word on the first occasion but Rev Sizer has authored so may outrageous statements where no such commitment “to be more careful” was made, that it strains credulity to draw any other conclusion. Perhaps I do him a dis-service, but Is it really mere coincidence that Rev Sizer’s contrition became apparent only after his boss became involved?

  21. Phil Groom says:

    I see a fascinating parallel here between CCJ v/s Stephen Sizer and the ASA v/s Cranmer: CCJ allege antisemitism; Sizer denies it and is eventually cleared by the CPS; now we have the ASA alleging homophobia against Cranmer, which Cranmer, of course, vociferously denies.

    Interestingly, very few people apart from myself were prepared to challenge CCJ’s allegations against Sizer: did not his own links condemn him, most seemed to say. With Cranmer, however, there’s been a snowball effect, with dozens of bloggers taking up Cranmer’s cause and reposting his allegedly offensive advert.

    It appears that even a hint of antisemitism is enough to make most Christians distance themselves from the accused, who is found guilty until proved innocent; but allegations of homophobia drive Christians to the defence of the accused.

    We live in a thoroughly topsy-turvy world…

  22. Stephen Duke says:

    Phil, I think Sizer was cleared of inciting racial hatred (or rather the CPS/Surrey Police were not confident that there was sufficient grounds for prosecution). It does not follow that Sizer is not himself anti-Semitic. Why did you think it necessary to defend him?

  23. Stephen Duke says:

    Sorry Phil, to make my question clearer, you seem puzzled as to why people would link to anti-Semitic content and label those who endorse such content as extreme. Given that according to surveys roughly 20% (in the UK at least, a higher proportion in continental Europe) hold anti-Semitic views, I’m puzzled as to why you would call those endorsing anti-Semitism as extreme? I’d say that based on the evidence, anti-Semitism is mainstream. What I mean is that 20% is not much less that the proportion of voters who vote for the Liberal democrats (23% in the 2010 election) and I don’t know anyone who would dispute the idea that the Liberal Democrats are a mainstream political party.

    Your notion that endorsement of anti-Semitic content is extreme seems, well at odds with reality. Given this context I am surprised that an anti-racist (which you seem to be) would be prepared to grant someone the benefit of the doubt, i.e. assume an innocent mistake. As per my earlier and lengthier post, is it not more reasonable to assume that these people fall into the approx 20% of people who (whilst not categorising their views as such) admit that they hold racist views?

  24. Phil Groom says:

    As with homophobia, so also with antisemitism, I think: there’s what one might call the ‘mild’ form, no malice intended, emerging, I suspect, either from an inability to place oneself in another’s shoes or from having placed oneself very much in another’s shoes to the point where one can no longer empathise with the other side.

    So, for instance, my impression is that Sizer has so identified himself with the Palestinians that he has inadvertently become somewhat desensitised to the Jewish perspective. I’ve read and reviewed his book Christian Zionism, I’ve exchanged various messages with him and I’ve come to respect him for the work he does: his aim is to be a peacemaker. There is no malice in him towards Israel or the Jews, to the contrary, in fact, he has only Israel’s wellbeing in mind; but he is more focused on the plight of the Palestinians and has, from time to time, it seems to me, not realised the way some of his posts are likely to be interpreted by those who are sensitive to anti-Jewish sentiments.

    I believe, as a member of CCJ myself, that CCJ were mistaken (albeit sincerely mistaken) in taking the matter to the police rather than engaging him in dialogue. Dialogue is CCJ’s forte, but on this occasion they failed.

    Of course, I could be wrong, but such is my analysis…

  25. soupyone says:

    I am not going to get into an argument over this, but Phil’s unconvincing statement needs reference to the original letter from the CPS.

    “Sizer denies it and is eventually cleared by the CPS”

    Rev. Sizer was not cleared, in the normal usage of that expression.

    Instead the CPS did not find sufficient evidence for a prosecution.

    There is a distinction, a clear legal distinction, there. A jury clears a person of a crime, not the CPS.

    And we would do well to remember what they wrote. I have transcribed a part of the original, which can be seen below

    “There appears to be little doubt in this case that the relevant link was posted by Revd. Stephen Sizer. The critical issue was whether not material on the web page of Ugly Truth amounted to a criminal offense.

    The advice from the CPS outlines that material may be annoying, offensive, this respect for what even disgusting, but may still fall short of being threatening, abusive or insulting.

    there is no breach of the criminal law…

    Mark Preston
    T/Detective Superintendent”

    So there was no breach of criminal law, that doesn’t mean it was offensive, stupid and ill-advised to link, for the third time, to questionable material.

    Those outside Britain may not understand this but, surprisingly, the Police in such circumstances put the bar fairly high before they will proceed with a prosecution against a man of the cloth, even if their actions were utterly reprehensible.

    Once more, Rev. Sizer was NOT cleared by the CPS. It was merely the case that they didn’t have sufficient material to proceed with a prosecution.

    I hope readers will appreciate the different.

  26. Phil Groom says:

    *sigh* … as I said, just a hint of something that might be construed as antisemitism and bingo, presumed guilty until proven innocent. That, thankfully, is not the way the law of the land works… and I hope readers will appreciate the difference…

  27. soupyone says:

    There is nothing that **might** be construed as antisemitic where the Ugly Truth website is concerned, plainly it is antisemitic, it hits you in the face.

    There is no hint, there is no plausible denial. The material is racist.

    Intelligent people should know to avoid racism, particularly when they are dealing with sensitive issues.

    To do otherwise, opens the question of their judgement, their motivation or common sense.

    As it happens I don’t think that Rev. Sizer is antisemitic, merely someone with exceedingly poor judgement, with an unfortunate habit of repeating the same mistakes, again and again.

  28. Stephen Duke says:

    I think we’re in agreement. I don’t think Sizer is a viscous racist but mild racism is still a problem and I think you are being overly generous in respect of saying someone is innocent until proven guilty when it comes to reading and/or linking to but not identifying racist material and I’ll explain why…

    Its very easy for intelligent people to identify something as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc, When someone links to material that falls into this category, without simultaneous condemnation, they are implicitly endorsing the content. Are you saying that persons who fail to do so should be presumed innocent on account of their stupidity or ignorance?

    In respect of Rev Sizer, if he is too stupid to recognise racist material, what does this suggest about any other judgements he may make? Are they worth listening to? The problem I have is that Rev Sizer is clearly an intelligent man and this is where we get to the heart of the matter; lots of otherwise smart people seem to discard their brains when it comes to Israel or Jews and when challenged do not admit to an error but rather attack those raising the issue. I don’t ask for perfection and neither does G-d but ought one not expect a much higher degree of humility and introspection from a man of the Church?

  29. Pingback: Rev. Sizer Links to Racism Material Again. « Soupy One

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