“A chilling spectre at the table of justice”

July 31, 2017
From the introduction to Deborah Lipstadt’s book “History on Trial”:
 
‘[Following Deborah Lipstadt’s victory in the libel trial brought against her by David Irving,] most commentary in Britain was enthusiastic. But two professional historians dissented. Donald Cameron Watt wrote a column for the Evening Standard, published the afternoon of the judgment, that was headlined ‘History needs David Irving’. Watt said, ‘Show me one historian who has not broken into a cold sweat at the thought of undergoing similar treatment’ – similar to the trial’s exposure of Irving’s lies. The next morning in The Daily Telegraph, Sir John Keegan, an eminent military historian, said Judge Gray had “decided that an all consuming knowledge of a vast body of material does not excuse faults in interpreting it.”
 
Watt and Keegan wrote as if Deborah Lipstadt had initiated this trial. But it was David Irving who sued her, who forced her either to swallow his lies or spend five years of her life proving him to be what he was, a racist faker. How can we explain the reaction of Watt and Keegan? Was it fostered by resentment of an outsider, someone who was not a member of the club, who was Jewish, a woman?
 
Whatever informed their perverse response, it was a chilling spectre at the table of justice.’
(From Anthony Lewis’ introduction to Deborah Lipstadt’s book, History on Trial [Harper Perennial, 2006], p. xv. Some minor edits have been made.)

Update

July 13, 2017

Update

In the comments, “MehtaKultur” draws attention to a note produced by David Blunkett in the 2004 case of R v Kalayci, which claimed that the “wings” distinction was based on the UK government’s dealings with the IRA. Whilst the government had proscribed the Provisional IRA, it had not proscribed Sinn Féin for fear of undermining the Northern Ireland peace process. However, this has little to do with the reality of a foreign organisation such as Hizballah, which itself denies the “wings” distinction in strident terms.

 

Closing the loophole: time to clip Hizballah’s “wings”

July 7, 2017

This is a guest post by James Mendelsohn

On 18 June, just 15 days after the terror attacks in central London, the flag of Hizballah was paraded through central London at the annual Al-Quds Day March, without police intervention. This post argues for an urgent change in the law.

Introducing Hizballah*

Hizballah, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia group, was established in the early 1980s, with the initial aim of driving foreign forces out of Lebanon. Its bombing of French and American bases in Beirut in 1983 claimed 299 lives. It is best known for its hostility towards Israel, culminating in the ruinous 2006 war. More recently, Hizballah has supported President Assad in Syria.

Hizballah’s chosen salute and militaristic emblem require little commentary. Nor do the ominous 2002 words of its leader, Hassan Nasrallah. Nor does its track record of terrorist and criminal activity across the globe. However, Hizballah has also participated in elections in Lebanon since 1992. It won 10 seats in 2009 and holds government positions. It also provides social welfare. Consequently, Hizballah is not completely “proscribed” under current UK law.

“Proscription” and its consequences

Under section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (“the Act”), “terrorism” has a three-part definition. It comprises of: the “use or threat of action” involving (among other things) “serious violence”; “for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause”; which is “designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation”. This can include action undertaken overseas and/or which is designed to influence the government of countries other than the UK.

Under Section 3, an organisation is proscribed if it is listed in Schedule 2 – either as originally drafted, or as subsequently amended.

Section 13(1) makes it an offence for a person, in a public place, to wear an item of clothing, or to wear, carry or display an “article” (which clearly includes a flag) “in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation” (emphasis added).

On a plain reading of these provisions, Hizballah is clearly “proscribable”. Equally, it seems it should be an arrestable offence to display the Hizballah flag in public. The latter is not the case, however, because UK legislation distinguishes between Hizballah’s (supposed) “military” and “political” “wings”.

Hizballah’s “wings” – the current distinction

Hizballah was not included within the original Schedule 2, which comprised solely of organisations linked to Northern Ireland. The “Hizballah External Security Organisation” was added in 2001. In 2008, this wording was replaced by a reference to “[t]he military wing of Hizballah, including the Jihad Council and all units reporting to it (including the Hizballah External Security Organisation).” The other “wings” of Hizballah – its MPs, government ministers and social welfare activities – are not proscribed.

The consequences of the distinction

The consequences of this distinction were clearly seen on Al-Quds Day when, as in previous years, Hizballah flags and other articles were paraded through London. No arrests were made. Since all “wings” share the emblem, the police appear not to see its parading as constituting an offence under section 13 of the Act.

Some of the emblem-bearers – perhaps encouraged by the rally’s organisers – even affixed stickers expressing support for the political “wing”. Yet they also chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a rallying cry with clear militaristic overtones. This would appear to undermine any claim that they were supporting the political “wing” only. 

For and against the distinction

Arguments for maintaining the distinction are not persuasive. There is no consistent international approach: whilst some countries (and the EU) ban only Hizballah’s political “wing”, it is banned entirely in others, including the USA. If the reason was to facilitate UK government contact with Hizballah’s political “wing”, there was no such contact as late as 2013 (see paragraph 48.13 of this document). If the aim was to encourage Hizballah to disarm and wholly embrace democratic politics, this has clearly failed.

Most importantly, however, Hizballah itself has consistently rejected any notion of separate “wings”. An early document stated

“Our military apparatus is not separate from our overall social fabric. Each of us is a fighting soldier”.

In 2000, deputy secretary-general Sheikh Naim Qassem said:

“If the military wing were separated from the political wing, this would have repercussions, and it would reflect on the political scene. But Hezbollah has one single leadership, and its name is the Decision-Making Shura Council. It manages the political activity, the Jihad activity, the cultural and the social activities. . . . Hezbollah’s Secretary General is the head of the Shura Council and also the head of the Jihad Council, and this means that we have one leadership, with one administration.”

In 2002, Muhammad Fannish of Hizballah’s Political Bureau said that

“no differentiation is to be made between the military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah.”

In 2013, Hezbollah’s Political Affairs Official, Ammar Moussawi said

“Everyone is aware of the fact that Hezbollah is one body and one entity. Its military and political wings are unified.”

Hassan Nasrallah settled the matter beyond doubt with this 2013 statement:

“However, jokingly I will say – though I disagree on such separation or division- that I suggest that our ministers in the upcoming Lebanese government be from the military wing of Hezbollah!”

In the light of such clear statements, the distinction between the military and other “wings” maintained in UK legislation seems artificial and untenable.

Time to abolish the distinction

We end where we began. It seems unconscionable that just 15 days after the central London terror attacks, the flags of a terrorist group were paraded through nearby streets with impunity. Since the Al-Quds Day March, there have been calls from both Conservative and Labour figures (including Sadiq Khan) for the distinction to be abolished and for Hizballah to be proscribed in its entirety. It is to be hoped that the Home Secretary will now do so.

*The original Arabic term, meaning “Party of God”, can also be transliterated as “Hezbollah” or “Hizbullah”. “Hizballah” is used in UK legislation.

Update

In the comments on the cross-post of this piece on Harry’s Place, “MehtaKultur” draws attention to a note produced by David Blunkett in the 2004 case of R v Kalayci, which claimed that the “wings” distinction was based on the UK government’s dealings with the IRA. Whilst the government had proscribed the Provisional IRA, it had not proscribed Sinn Féin for fear of undermining the Northern Ireland peace process. However, this has little to do with the reality of a foreign organisation such as Hizballah, which itself denies the “wings” distinction in strident terms.

Some thoughts on Al Quds Day, Sadiq Khan, antisemitism and anti-Muslim prejudice

June 20, 2017

Some thoughts on Al Quds Day, Sadiq Khan, antisemitism and anti-Muslim prejudice

A guest post by James Mendelsohn

No decent person could fail to be appalled by last Sunday’s “Al Quds Day” march through the streets of London. The prospect of Hezbollah flags being paraded through the capital, so soon after the recent terror attacks, was always horrifying.

In these circumstances, it is entirely understandable that many called for the march to be banned; or, at least, for a ban on the parading of Hezbollah flags. (In the event, the flags seemed arguably mild in comparison with some of the chilling rhetoric from the front.)

It concerns me, however, that many have singled out Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, for failing to prevent the march from taking place, in spite of pleas for him to do so. As pointed out by the Campaign Against Antisemitism (“CAA”), and as acknowledged by Khan himself, the Mayor does not have the power to ban the march. Indeed, CAA explicitly notes that

“despite various calls from within the Jewish community for the Mayor of London to take action against this procession, he has no statutory power to do so and criticism of him for failing to exercise a power he does not possess is misplaced. Both the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime have been very helpful in facilitating contact with the right people within the Metropolitan Police Service, and we are grateful to them for their efforts.”

The only person with the ultimate power to stop the march would have been the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd. This has not prevented some from blaming Khan for failing to exercise a power he does not possess; and, in some cases, specifically linking this to fact that he is a Muslim. Here are just a few examples (typos etc in the originals):

Appalling but not surprising. We have a Muslim mayor, so God help us. 

Well fancy that! And as the London Mayor IS a Muslim – well surprise surprise!

Khan is Muslim And he is using his job as a hobby horse which there must be rules against folks should ask for him to be investigated to see if he is using his post to influence people to his religion . If so that should be a sackable offence Split illegencies he should only have illegence to the crown while in a Job like this leave Islam at the door

A number of other examples are documented here.

To my mind, such comments are virtually indistinguishable from the traditional antisemitic libel that diaspora Jews cannot be trusted because they supposedly owe greater allegiance to Israel/Judaism/the worldwide Zionist conspiracy than they do to the UK/US/wherever. This libel has been expressed or echoed by various individuals/publications in recent years, including Oliver MilesPaul Flynn,  the New Statesman and the Daily Mail.

If it is unacceptable to make such comments about British Jews, it should be equally unacceptable to make such comments about  British Muslims. And no, I am not unaware of the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of Khan’s past relationship with Islamism; nor do I deny that his strong words on antisemitic hate crime will only be as meaningful as any actions that follow. One could say the same, however, about numerous other political leaders. To single out Khan for failing to exercise a power he does not have, and to link this to his Muslim faith, is as objectionable as (say) suggesting that “ardent Zionists” in public roles work against the interests of the UK or US.

Many who are (rightly) concerned about antisemitism fail to spot the similarities with some forms of anti-Muslim prejudice. This needs to stop.

PS these thoughts were originally expressed on Twitter, before the news of the horrific Finsbury Park terror attack. Following the attack, I tweeted some further thoughts here.

 

“See no evil”: Israel, anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, and British evangelicals (2008)

June 12, 2017

Evangelical Christians should be well-placed to stand against anti-Semitism. Not only do they have a Biblical mandate against anti-Semitism (Romans 11), they are also – uniquely – indwelt by God’s Spirit to enable them to obey His Word. Yet in recent years, as theological and political anti-Zionism has pervaded much of the church, features of classic anti-Semitism have entered evangelical discourse: tropes of Jewish wealth and power; conspiracy theories; even Holocaust revisionism. How should we respond?

They said what?
“Six million Jews in the USA have an influence that is out of all proportion to their numbers in the total population of 281 million. Through wealth, education, skill and single-mindedness over many years they have gained positions of power in government, business and the media. It is widely recognised, for example, that no one could ever win the presidential race without the votes and the financial support of substantial sections of the Jewish community.” (1)

“… in the 1930s the German Zionist Federation, the Stern Gang and Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of revisionist Zionism, were all sympathetic towards fascism, or collaborated with the Nazis.” (2)
“For allegations of Israeli complicity in the 9/11 tragedy, see…” (3)

The above quotes come not from the Iranian media or from a neo-Nazi rag, but from the pens of two British Christian anti-Zionist writers, Colin Chapman and Stephen Sizer. Are they voicing legitimate criticism of Israeli policies, or are they straying into anti-Semitism? And, if the latter is true, how are their fellow British evangelicals responding?

Criticism of Israel or anti-Semitism?
Both Chapman and Sizer carefully condemn anti-Semitism. (4) Sizer, in particular, has taken pains to emphasize that he is a mere “critic of Israel”, and not an anti-Semite. (5) Certainly, no-one should ever argue that legitimate criticism of Israeli policies is anti-Semitic. Yet nor should anti-Semitism be construed as mere “criticism of Israel”. Suggesting that Israelis were complicit in 9/11, or that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis, can scarcely be construed as mere “criticism of Israel”. When Sizer refers to supporters of Israel as “people in the shadows” (echoing, whether intentionally or otherwise, the language of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion), this seems to have little to do with merely “criticising Israel (6). Nor does the use of some highly questionable sources.

Questionable sources
Both Chapman and Sizer approvingly cite the American Jewish writer Norman Finkelstein (7). Yet Finkelstein’s 2003 book The Holocaust Industry has been described as “not a courageous expose by a marginalized dissident but a toxic stream of defamations, falsifications and fabrications aimed at his fellow Jews.” (8) Finkelstein supports Hezbollah and hosts anti-Semitic cartoons on his website.

In an article on his website responding to Melanie Phillips, Sizer cites Noam Chomsky, Israel Shahak and Uri Davis (9).  Sizer describes them as “leading Jewish academics”. Yet Chomsky wrote the foreword to a book by Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson (10). Shahak’s works can be found on Nazi websites; he once wrote that “A pious Jew arriving for the first time in Australia, say, and chancing to pass near an Aboriginal graveyard, must – as an act of worship of ‘God’ – curse the mothers of the dead buried there” and that “All modern studies on Judaism, particularly by Jews … bear the unmistakable marks of their origin: deception, apologetics or hostile polemics, indifference or even active hostility to the pursuit of truth” (11). Davis, as well as being an observer member of the PLO, helped to promote the anti-Semitic 1980s play Perdition, which alleged that Zionist leaders collaborated with the Nazis in perpetrating the Holocaust (12).

If Chapman and Sizer insist they are not anti-Semitic, why are they citing such dubious sources, without any qualification whatsoever?

Omitting context
Both Sizer and Chapman broadly approve of the UN’s notorious 1975 “Zionism is Racism” resolution and its 2001 Durban Conference against Racism (13). The 1975 resolution was passed shortly after the UN General Assembly had applauded an anti-Semitic speech by Idi Amin, and is described by the historian Paul Johnson as “the greatest triumph” of “professional anti-Semites” within the Soviet and Arab blocs in the UN (14). In 2001, Syrian representatives reputedly issued statements denying the Holocaust (15), while copies of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and literature glorifying Hitler were made openly available. 16 Neither Chapman nor Sizer, their purported opposition to anti-Semitism notwithstanding, gives any of these important contextual details whatsoever.

Evangelical plaudits
If it is concerning that Chapman and Sizer are making such claims and using such sources, it is no less concerning that both are (or least were) warmly admired by some leading British evangelicals.Chapman is widely respected as an Islamics scholar. The foreword to Sizer’s Christian Zionism was written by David Peterson, former Principal of Oak Hill College. The book was published by IVP, a reputable evangelical publisher, and drew plaudits from various British evangelical leaders including John Stott and Dick Lucas. IVP invited Sizer to write Zion’s Christian Soldiers? for a wider readership: though in some ways more moderate, this book nevertheless casts the Union of Jewish Students as an opponent of intellectual freedom and draws on various anti-Semitic sources (17). The book was again endorsed by various influential evangelicals, including Terry Virgo, leader of New Frontiers International, and the evangelist Rico Tice. None, to my knowledge, have condemned (or even noticed) the use of dubious sources and terminology, nor the mutilation of historical context. Sadly, it seems that some leading British evangelicals are blind to the evil of anti-Semitism – at least when it comes wrapped up in anti-Zionism. (Note: following a series of antisemitic incidents, Stephen Sizer’s books were finally withdrawn by IVP in 2016.)

What must we do?
I am sure none of these people or organisations are intentionally anti-Semitic – indeed some, including Steve Motyer and Phil Duce of IVP, have written openly philo-Semitic material (18). Nor should we expect reviewers to check every source or historical assertion (though we might hope that responsible publishers would). These evangelicals commend Sizer and Chapman because they concur with their theological views. But what comfort is that to those of us in the church who are Jewish, who recognise anti-Semitism when we see it, and who know what it has led to down the centuries?

Firstly, we must recognise the danger. Throughout history, anti-Semitic discourse has led to anti-Semitic actions. We cannot sit back and allow mainstream evangelicalism to become comfortable with anti-Semitic ideas, even where this happens unintentionally. Evangelicals have the freedom to criticise Israel or endorse theological supersessionism (though we ourselves may disagree with it); they have no right to use anti-Semitic terms and sources in the process.

Secondly, we must educate ourselves. We must be able to recognise where criticism of Israel stops, and where anti-Semitism begins. (The Engage website is highly recommended: https://engageonline.wordpress.com). We must then educate others.

Thirdly, we must speak out. Write to publishers and Christian newspapers. Challenge the use of questionable sources or of anti-Semitic terminology. Point these things out to our church leaders. We should not seek to stifle legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies or theological debate concerning God’s continuing purposes for our people; but nor can we allow anti-Semitic discourse to become mainstream within evangelical circles. Let us be quite clear: to criticise Israeli policies or to argue that the church has superseded Israel is one thing; to suggest that Israelis were complicit in 9/11 or that Zionists collaborated with Nazis is quite another. Some views may be merely political or theological; but some are downright racist and we must not tolerate them, whether they come from BNP spokesmen or from Christian writers.

References:

1. C. Chapman (2002), Whose Promised Land? (Oxford: Lion), p. 270. Chapman never explains or substantiates his claim that 2% of the US population is so indispensable, particularly as the majority of American Jews have traditionally voted Democrat.

2. S. Sizer (2004), Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? (Leicester: IVP), p. 243. Sizer cites a book by the extreme left-wing writer Lenni Brenner, one of whose books was reprinted by the Neo-Nazi Noontide Press.

3. Sizer (2004), P. 251 footnote 170, citing an article in a Scottish tabloid.

4. Chapman, ibid, pp. 245-250; S. Sizer (2007), Zion’s Christian Soldiers? (Leicester: IVP), p. 15.

5. See http://www.cc-vw.org/articles/wolf.htm and http://www.cc-vw.org/articles/spectator.htm (both accessed 21 April 2008)

6. See http:www.engageonline.org.uk
/blog/article.php?id=259 (accessed 21 April 2008)

7. Chapman, ibid, pp. 16, 81-2, 261, 264-5, 267; Sizer, ibid, (2004) p. 21.

8. E. Alexander & P. Bogdanor (eds.) (2006), The Jewish Divide over Israel (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2006), p.154

9. http://www.cc-vw.org/articles/spectator.htm

10. A. Dershowitz (2003) The Case for Israel (New Jersey: Wiley), p.213

11. http://www.ety.com/HRP/racehate
/shahakfw.htm (Accessed 12 May 2008)

12. http://www.weissmandl.org/Book_Text/Uri_Davis
/CrossingTheBorder_pt1.htm (Accessed 21 April 2008)

13. Chapman, ibid, p. 266; Sizer, ibid, (2004), pp. 208-9.

14. P. Johnson (2001), A History of the Jews (London: Phoenix Press), pp. 578-579.

15. http://www.jcpa.org/brief/brief2-5.htm; http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article.php?id=1026 (both accessed 12 May 2008)

16. http://www.palestinefacts.org
/bayefsky%20un%20article.pdf (Accessed 12 May 2008)

17. Have blogged on these at http://largebluefootballs.blogspot.com
/2008/04/overstepping-mark.html

18. E.g. S. Motyer (1997) Your Father the Devil? (Carlisle: Paternoster); S. Motyer (2002), Anti-Semitism and the New Testament (Cambridge: Grove Books); P. Duce, Not Fiction (Letters, Evangelicals Now, April 2006, p. 23)

Ben White inverts reality, justifies violent intimidation

November 4, 2016

On the Middle East Monitor site, the freelance journalist and anti-Israel activist Ben White has written this piece about the recent disruption, by pro-Palestinian students, of an event hosted by the University College London Friends of Israel Society, at which the Israeli activist Hen Mazzig was the speaker. Some reports of what happened are available here, here (£), here, here, here and here. A cursory glance of White’s article will show that he puts a very different spin of events, essentially blaming pro-Israel activists for “smearing” pro-Palestinian students, rather than blaming the latter for the violent intimidation of the former.

Ben White, of course, has previous: he has (among many other things) claimed to “understand” why people may be anti-Semitic; he has seemingly decried police action against those planning to blow up a synagogue; he has called for a boycott of an Israeli theatre company on the basis of Howard Jacobson’s face; he has recently defended Malia “Zionist-led media” Bouattia. Yet even by his standards, his recent MEMO article is an absolutely shocking piece of “journalism”. Four comments will suffice:

(1) In his third paragraph, White cites UCL’s statement, dated 28 October, which described the protest as “non-violent”. However, he neglects to mention that UCL issued an update to their statement on 30 October, stating that they had indeed received allegations of violence and intimidation. Since White’s own piece is dated 2 November, it is difficult to see how he could have been unaware of the update – particularly as it is available at the same link as the original statement.

(2) Some of the very articles that White himself links to describe, among other things, how a female Jewish student was assaulted (i.e.: held against a door for two minutes); how the Friends of Israel group was forced to move from its original venue to a different room, and how its members were chased across the campus by pro-Palestinian students; how the speaker had to leave out of a rear entrance for his own safety; how pro-Israel students had to leave in threes, under the watchful gaze of the police, and then had the words “Shame shame” chanted at them. By any reasonable standards, these things constitute the violent intimidation of pro-Israeli students, not to mention the suppression of free speech on a university campus. Yet White simply airbrushes these details out of his account.

(3) White quotes a veteran pro-Israeli activist as saying that “I cannot in all honesty say I felt particularly threatened or anxious. It was pretty much water off the proverbial duck’s back.” Tellingly, however, he omits the same activist’s very next words: “However here is the rub. It was very real and intimidating for inexperienced Jewish students, especially the freshers, who had never experienced such visceral hate and nor of course should have to.”

(4) In summary, it is hard to resist the conclusion that Ben White has no objection to the violent intimidation of pro-Israeli students (and others) – most of whom will be Jews and which will include many if not most Jewish students – on a UK campus. He would rightly be appalled if pro-Palestinian students received similar treatment from pro-Israeli representatives. And yet he wonders why he himself is so frequently accused of being anti-Semitic.

James Mendelsohn lives in Leeds. He teaches Law for a living.

IVP: three writers, double standards?

October 14, 2016

You’ve probably heard of Inter-Varsity Press (IVP), one of Britain’s best-respected Christian publishers. They have a long history of publishing lots of great Christian books.

Depending on your age, and how long you’ve been a Christian, you might remember Roy Clements, an influential pastor and author in the 80s and 90s. Many of his books were published by IVP.

In 1999, Clements resigned his ministry and left his wife, because of his relationship with another man.  IVP responded by withdrawing his books from the shelves, and they no longer sell them.  IVP now has a completely different management team, but it would be hard to imagine them responding differently today. They withdrew Clements’ books because of his personal conduct.

More recently, Australian theologian Peter O’Brien has hit the news. He’s written a number of books, some of which were, until recently, published by IVP in the UK.

Earlier this year, IVP investigated and upheld allegations of plagiarism which had been made against Dr O’Brien. As a result, IVP have released a couple of statements on their website, here and here. IVP recognise that Dr O’Brien did not intentionally commit plagiarism, but have nevertheless withdrawn the offending books, pulped the stock, and placed them out of print. In their own words, IVP rightly wish to “maintain the highest possible standards of academic writing and business practice.”

A third author, Stephen Sizer, is the vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water. He’s written two books on Christian Zionism (i.e. Christian support for Israel): Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? (2004) and Zion’s Christian Soldiers? (2007). Both books are published by IVP.

In October 2011, Rev Sizer posted a link, on Facebook, to a racist website called The Ugly TruthYou can tell it’s racist because it hosts images like these:

 

uglytruth3-stinkinguglytruth2-homerugly-truth-jig

To remove any doubt, The Ugly Truth charges Jews with “The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The daily murder of Palestinian children “for sport”. Harvesting organs from Gentiles at gunpoint. Economic exploitation/ruination. De-moralizing entire swaths of civilization through unchallenged Jewish domination of the media. The complete corruption of every political office from the president to the town dog catcher.”

Following this, the Board of Deputies of British Jews formally complained about Rev Sizer. This complaint was resolved when Rev Sizer entered a “conciliation agreement”, agreeing to have his blog and website monitored by three observers.

In January 2015, Rev Sizer posted an article on Facebook blaming Israel for 9/11 – a claim more usually made on racist sites such as The Ugly Truth. Following an investigation by the Diocese of Guildford, Rev Sizer was banned from using social media for six months and agreed to refrain from commenting on Middle East issues. His bishop, Andrew Watson, said, “It is therefore my decision that Stephen’s work in this area is no longer compatible with his ministry as a parish priest.”

In short, Rev Sizer’s personal conduct was so troubling to the Church of England that it forced his total withdrawal from any involvement with or commentary on Middle Eastern current affairs.

Rev Sizer’s academic work is also problematic.

These few examples raise questions about the academic standards of Rev Sizer’s work.

A much fuller description of Rev Sizer’s various offences – both personal and academic – can be seen in this 2011 piece by Rev Nick Howard – a piece which, to my knowledge, has never been refuted. If you’re still unconvinced, please read the article on pp.39-48 of this journal. It was written by Mike Moore, then General Secretary of Christian Witness to Israel. Moore outlines Rev Sizer’s numerous misrepresentations and misinformation, as well as his use of unreliable sources, distortions of historical fact, inaccuracies and omissions, questionable alliances, and endorsements from the far right.

You can probably see where this is heading.

Earlier this year, I contacted IVP to ask them why, given their stance on Roy Clements and Peter O’Brien, they continue to publish Rev Sizer’s books. I received some initially promising responses. IVP even said they would remove the words “excellent and informative” from their description of Christian Zionism, as a sign of good faith. They told me it was likely that the rights in the books would be reassigned to Rev Sizer, so that he could develop his writing as he wished. Following this, however, I was later told that IVP would not enter into further discussions, for contractual reasons. Last week, IVP told me that they would be unlikely to release a statement. They continue to sell his books; the words “excellent and informative” have been restored to the description of Christian Zionism. IVP have given me no explanation for this decision.

This leads me to make the following, simple point:

IVP withdrew Roy Clements’ books because of his personal conduct. They withdrew Peter O’Brien’s books because of concerns about academic standards. In Rev Sizer’s case, there are concerns about both. It is therefore hard to understand why IVP continue to sell and market his books. IVP seem to be operating a double standard which, surely, is difficult to reconcile with their stated desire to “maintain the highest possible standards of academic writing and business practice.” This grieves me.

If you also wish for IVP to consistently uphold their own high standards, please send a polite email to IVP’s Publishing Director, Steve Mitchell, at IVP@IVPBooks.com. You’re welcome to link to this piece. If you disagree with me, or have any questions, please feel free to comment below and I’ll try my best to answer. Thanks for reading!

Update:

A Christian contact of mine, who has had work published by IVP, has said he won’t support my “censorship campaign” (his words).
His phrase is misleading, for the following reasons. In no particular order:
(1) If IVP stopped selling Rev Sizer’s books, they would still be available for purchase from Amazon etc (at least until stocks ran out).
(2) At one point, IVP were talking about reassigning the rights in the books back to Rev Sizer, which would presumably mean he would be free to market and sell them himself. Ergo, no censorship.
(3) There is a place for a thoughtful Christian critique of Christian Zionist theology and politics. I am not against that. However, there should be no place, within Christian discourse, for insinuations of Israeli complicity in 9/11, Nazi-Zionist collaboration, citations of writers linked to Holocaust Denial etc (all of which are staples of modern anti-Semitism, some of which are currently being manifested in the Labour Party). Some evangelical writers, such as Peter Walker and Steve Motyer, manage to critique CZ perfectly well, without feeling the need to use anti-Semitic sources and claims along the way. IVP could usefully commission a new study on CZ written by (say) one of those two.
(3) The issue is not one of censorship, it is simply asking why IVP have not taken the same approach to Stephen Sizer as they have to Roy Clements and Peter O’Brien. It is they themselves who say that they wish to “maintain the highest possible standards of academic writing and business practice.”
(4) Stephen Sizer is free to write and publish what he wants (within legal boundaries of course). That doesn’t mean IVP have to continue to promote it, particularly given the standards they set for themselves.
James Mendelsohn lives in Leeds, where he is a member of Grace Community Church. He teaches Law for a living.

 

 

Does Stephen Sizer misrepresent Walter Riggans?

October 14, 2016

In this post, I will attempt to show that Stephen Sizer has misrepresented Scottish theologian Walter Riggans. He does this by claiming that Riggans says Christians should support both the existence and the policies of the state of Israel. Riggans does indeed say that Christians should support the sovereignty (i.e. the right to exist) of the state of Israel, but says that Christians should support Israeli policies only in accordance with biblical criteria, and not unconditionally. The post is divided into three parts:

Part A: what Stephen Sizer says Walter Riggans says

Part B: what Walter Riggans actually says

Part C: Conclusions

Direct quotes from Stephen Sizer are in blue. Direct quotes from Walter Riggans are in red. Emphasis is mine throughout.

Part A: what Stephen Sizer says Walter Riggans says

(i) On pp.19-20 of Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? (IVP: 2004), Stephen Sizer writes the following:

Walter Riggans, for example, elaborates on the relationship between theology and politics in Zionism:

A biblical Zionism, which is surely the desire of every Christian, will be fundamentally about God and his purposes. Thus Zionism, when seen in a proper Christian perspective, will be understood as a branch of theology, not of politics… The state of Israel is only the beginning of what God is doing for and through the Jewish people.

Sizer’s footnote states that this quote comes from pp. 91 & 93 of Riggans’ book The Covenant with the Jews (Tunbridge Wells: Monarch, 1992). The first two sentences quoted are from p.91; the third from p.93.

(ii) Sizer then writes the following:

[Riggans] goes on to suggest that Christians should not only support the idea of a Jewish State, but also support its policies: ‘…in the most modest of ways, I would suggest that Christians… must give support in principle to the State of Israel as a sign of God’s mercy and faithfulness, and as a biblical mark that God is very much at work in the world.’

Sizer’s footnote indicates that this quote comes from p. 21 of Riggans’ 1988 booklet Israel and Zionism (London: Handsell Press, 1988). This is incorrect – it is actually from p. 31 (no doubt a typo on the part of Sizer and/or his publisher).

Note that Sizer claims that Riggans suggests Christians should support Israeli policies; but then quotes an extract that says nothing about support for Israeli policies. Note, also, that Sizer is duplicating what he wrote at pp. 14-15 of this own PhD thesis. Part B, however, will show that Riggans nowhere says that Christians should support Israeli policies, but should be free to disagree about them and judge them on biblical criteria. 

Part B: what Walter Riggans actually says

(i) This is what Walter Riggans says on p. 91 of The Covenant with the Jews.

What we need to do is to find a mediating way between rejection of Israel and the full-blooded ‘Christian Zionism’, so-called, of those who see Israel as the key to all of God’s work in the world today. Modern political Zionism is secular, it is not centred on the desire to seek the will of God. A biblical Zionism, which is surely the desire of every Christian, will be fundamentally about God and His purposes. Thus Zionism, when seen in a proper Christian perspective, will be understood as a branch of theology, not of politics. This does not mean that there will be no political implications or applications, but support for any given decision or action in Israel will have to be judged in accordance with the full range of biblical principles, and not in some unconditional manner. In the same way there should be no such thing as unconditional support for every decision or action taken by the churches or any ‘Christian country.

The highlighted text, which clearly states that Christians should not give unconditional support to Israeli policies, is omitted by Rev Sizer (see Part A(i) above).

(ii) On p. 93 of The Covenant with the Jews, three paragraphs before the extract quoted by Rev Sizer (see Part A(i) above)), Walter Riggans writes this:

it is our responsibility and privilege as Christians: (a) to support the sovereignty of the State of Israel, even though we must be free to disagree with one another on the proper borders, government policies, etc….

Here, again, Riggans does not say that Christians are obliged to support the policies of the Israeli government. Stephen Sizer omits this clear statement. This omission is worse because Riggans is actually repeating a statement he makes previously, on p. 75 of The Covenant with the Jews.

(iii) On p. 31 (not p. 21) of Israel and Zionism, Walter Riggans writes this:

each Christian is free to make their own judgement about the decisions and performance of any Israeli government or agency… in the most modest of ways I would suggest that Christians… must give support in principle to the state of Israel as a sign of God’s mercy and faithfulness, and as a biblical mark that God is very much at work in the world.

The highlighted text makes Riggans’ view clear, that there is no obligation on Christians to support Israeli policies. It is omitted by Rev Sizer, even though it is on the same page as the extract he actually quotes (see Part A(ii)).

Part C: Conclusions

Walter Riggans repeatedly says that Christians are free to disagree about particular Israeli policies, that they should not support those policies unconditionally, but should weigh them in accordance with biblical principles. Rev Sizer, however, says that Riggans says Christians “should not only support the idea of a Jewish State, but also support its policies”. He is only able to do this by quoting selectively from Walter Riggans and ignoring those statements of Riggans that state the clear opposite. It is submitted that such a methodology falls far short of IVP’s stated commitment to “the highest possible standards of academic writing.”

 

 

Who was Dale Crowley?

October 13, 2016

Dale Crowley, who died in August 2016, is cited on pp.21-22 of Stephen Sizer’s Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? (IVP: 2004). Rev Sizer describes him simply as a “religious broadcaster”.

Crowley did indeed run a talk show called Crowley’s Spotlight on Israel. The show was taken off air in 2006 (warning: link to far-right site). This is what the respected religious affairs blogger Richard Bartholomew wrote at the time:

…a certain Dale Crowley was fired from a Christian radio station recently for publicly blaming Israel for Palestinian Christian woes. That firing may have been unfair, but it was no great loss: the fundamentalist Rev Crowley keeps company with unsavoury characters connected with the far-right Liberty Lobby and its Spotlight magazine.

In what way was Crowley connected with the far right?

Crowley contributed to The Barnes Review (“TBR)”, a journal and website of revisionist “history” that has defended Nazi Germany, denied the Holocaust, and promoted white nationalism. Its blog continues to discuss “the Jewish question” (note the swastika in the background). The Southern Poverty Law Center describes TBR as “one of the most virulent anti-Semitic organizations around.” Crowley participated in the Barnes Review conference, at which participants denied that Holocaust took place, and was a member of the journal’s board of contributing editors (see p.2 of linked journal).

Surely, therefore, it is concerning that Rev Sizer not only cited Dale Crowley but also described him as a mere “religious broadcaster”, without mentioning Crowley’s connection with the world of Holocaust denial and the American Far Right. It is also difficult to see how the citation of Crowley squares with IVP’s stated commitment to “the highest possible standards of academic writing.”

IVP homepage 10 10 2016

October 10, 2016

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