The Right Revd Riah Abu El Assal, the retired Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, speaks candidly about how to achieve a just peace in Palestine and his frustrations with the Church of England for failing to engage constructively in the process.
Bishop Riah’s biography, ‘Caught in Between’ is available from Amazon
I am relieved to have completed an outstanding project – updating my Friends page of support statements repudiating the allegations made against me by the Board of Deputies. I am indeed blessed to have so many genuine friends.
One example reflects the tone of the other 40+ witnesses who spoke up on my behalf.
Antony Lerman was the sole expert witness at my tribunal. He is an international recognised expert on antisemitism. His succint comment posted on the Twitter feed of the Archbishop of Canterbury summarises his response to the tribunal decision.
“This disgraceful miscarriage of justice against someone who has never uttered a word of hate against Jews will be a permanent stain on the Church of England and the Board of Deputies.”
The Church of England’s own expert witness, who attempted to apply the discredited IHRA working definition of antisemitism (imposed coincidentally within days of the complaint against me by the House of Bishops without any synodical consultation), admitted under cross examination that he wasn’t an expert on antisemitism.
Mark is President of Friends of Sabeel Australia and a former Anglican clergyman. In this conversation Mark shares his frustration with the Church of England for the absence of a prophetic voice on justice for Palestine. For more information on the organisations Mark mentions see:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2)
“The central message arising from the tribunal is that the well-documented accusations of repeated antisemitic behaviour made over more than a decade have been dismissed! Only one allegation of antisemitism has been found to have substance – but that was dealt with quickly and effectively [in 2015] at the time by the Bishop of Guildford (as Jonathan Arkush accepts), Stephen apologising for his actions, recognising the deep hurt his actions had caused and stating publicly that his sharing of the material was ill-considered and misguided and that he “never believed Israel, or any other country was complicity in the terrorist atrocity of 9/11.”
“It is significant that not one word or statement from Dr Sizer has been shown to be antisemitic. There are none.” Stephen Hofmeyr KC
If you wish to read my witness statement, the expert witness report, the statements of witnesses, please follow the hyperlinks below:
As an Israeli Jew and the head of an Israeli human rights organization – ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – I am appalled by the very thought of bringing anyone, let alone such a principled person as Stephen Sizer, before a religious Tribunal. What, are we back to the Medieval days of the Inquisition? I can’t speak for the Church of England, but Jews, the British Board of Deputies, participating in a religious Tribunal?! The very thought is appalling. What has happened to us, Jews and Christians together? Are we willing to return to the dark processes of Tribunals with no legal underpinnings, no genuine evidence or testimony, conducted solely against people whose views we don’t like – besmirch and destroy people’s lives – just to prevent criticism of Israel? Is it really so easy, in the 21st Century, to persecute people for their religious and political views? Savonarola meets Trump?
The charges against Dr. Sizer are untrue and trumped-up – and you all know it. Antisemitism?! How do you possibly defend yourself against such a charge? In the intellectual and democratic world in which most of us live, Dr. Sizer has made a rational, well-researched case for his views and analysis presented in articles, books and lectures based firmly on academic research and religious history. But that is exactly the type of person for which Tribunals are necessary, since analyses like Dr. Sizer presents, unpopular in some partisan circles as they may be, cannot be dismissed in academic circles or barred in courts of law. They must be denounced in Tribunals with no moral, legal or intellectual authority, and as in all religious Tribunals, the person maligned and destroyed in order to somehow delegitimize his or her views. I am embarrassed for all of you – and downright angry at the Jews who participate in the dark proceeding of religious Tribunals.
Let me say this as plainly as I can. I have known Dr. Sizer for over twenty years. I respect his moral position on Israel. I certainly respect his academic work on Christian Zionism, one of the most insidious and antisemitic religious doctrines in modern history and profoundly anti-Israel (Israel exists to bring on the Christian End of Days in which virtually all Jews die or become Christians). I respect Dr. Sizer’s willingness to go beyond the comforts of parish life to engage critically in an issue of central concern to us all: how to prevent Israel from becoming the next apartheid South Africa, how to prevent Jews from becoming Afrikaners, and how to liberate the Palestinian people from the yoke of occupation and apartheid – causes Christians and Jews should be engaged with rather than outdated and discredited Tribunals. And while I don’t use Dr. Sizer’s faith-based language, I have never heard him utter a word that I would consider antisemitic. To accuse or “convict” him of such is truly medieval. It is all the more outrageous if you and your Tribunal are basing your judgement on the false and tendentious position represented by the IHRA assertion that any criticism of Israel is de facto antisemitic – a position disavowed by Kenneth Stern, who drafted the IHRA paper (only intended as a “working definition”), as well as by dozens of prominent Jewish and Israeli scholars and progressive Jewish and Israeli organizations.
Not only should Stephen Sizer be “acquitted” of such ridiculous charges, he should not have been brought before a Tribunal at all. I would have advised him to disassociate from this entire inquisitorial process completely – and I urge you to do so as well. Especially the Jews, for God’s sake!
The above Tribunal will be held Monday 23 – Friday 27 May 2022 arising from a complaint made by the Board of Deputies of British Jews against the Revd Dr Stephen Sizer in 2018. The Tribunal will be held at St Andrew’s Church Centre Holborn, Central London. If you wish to attend for one day or more, please RSVP to Mr Darren Oliver, the Registrar of Tribunals, as seating is limited. His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
A previous complaint by the Board of Deputies was resolved by conciliation in 2013. See below for further information about the previous complaint and its resolution:
Like other Western colonial-settler experiments, for over 70 years, Zionists have been systematically erasing the culture and history of indigenous Palestinians to justify their forced removal and the theft of their land. Ilan Pappe, in his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, calls this ‘memorocide’ and in The Palestine Nakba, Nur Masalha elaborates,
“The founding myths of Israel have dictated the conceptual removal of Palestinians before, during and after their physical removal in 1948… The de-Arabisation of Palestine, the erasure of Palestinian history and the elimination of the Palestinian’s collective memory by the Israeli state are no less violent than the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948 and the destruction of historic Palestine.”
This is why books such as Ancestral Journeys and Western Missions are so vital in recording the memories and eyewitness accounts of Arabs and Palestinians who experienced the arrival of Western colonialists to the Middle East, were co-opted into their wars, witnessed the rise of Zionism and then became refugees in the Palestinian Nakba. Anita Damiani-Shanley’s book will most certainly help perpetuate their heritage and rightful historic claim to Palestine.
Ancestral Journeys is however much more than the story of two families, one Arab and the other Scottish joined in marriage. It traces the influence of missionaries, archaeologists, traders and colonialists competing with each other for a share of the Near East as the Ottoman Empire met its demise. Richly illuminated with family photos, the three main chapters trace the ancestral journeys of Damiani-Shanley’s extended family from Scotland and Lebanon to Iraq and then to Palestine. A fourth chapter traces the role of the Anglican Church in Palestine.
Our reading today is from 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love” chapter. This is probably the most widely read passage at weddings. True, it’s the most beautiful description there is in Scripture about love – yet the context of the passage is not about marriage. It is about serving one another and when you think about it, that is what marriage is really all about.
I’d like us to examine this passage under three headings:
The motive is Love (12:31-13:3)
The quality is Divine (13:4-8)
The purpose is maturity (13:9-13). Continue reading →
“I am glad to commend Stephen Sizer’s ground-breaking critique of Christian Zionism. His comprehensive overview of its roots, its theological basis and its political consequences is very timely. I myself believe that Zionism, both political and Christian, is incompatible with biblical faith. Stephen’s book has helped to reinforce this conviction.”
To make John’s views on the Place of Israel more widely known I am reproducing his sermon here: Continue reading →